Summer in Bristol

24 Jul 2019 - Francesca Colangelo

Everybody knows that Bristol is the place to be at any time of the year, but summer is when Bristol really comes to life! The sun comes out and the city is buzzing with people sitting along the riverside, dangling their legs over the water, and hot air balloons fill the sky with colours.

There are lots of fun activities you can enjoy in Bristol in the warmer months. Here are our top 10 things to do in Bristol this summer. So read on, and, perhaps even suggest some more!

1. Head to the Harbouside

Bristol harbour

During the summer months, the Harbourside is the city’s hottest hangout. Here, people gather to have a drink and catch up with friends after a day at university or at work.

With markets, waterside bars and restaurants, plus some of the city’s best museums and galleries playing out from the water’s edge, the waterside is the place to be when the sun is shining.

The stretch of the river next to Pero’s Bridge is a popular place for people to sit or stroll, especially when the sun’s out. Take a stroll around the water’s edge and find out about the story of Bristol and its people at MShed Museum and at the Brunel’s SS Great Britain. Art lovers should be sure to pop into the Arnolfini – one of Europe’s leading centres for contemporary arts – while science fans should visit We The Curiouswhich has the UK’s only 3D Planetarium

The Harbourside is where Bristol’s annual Harbour Festival, an highlight of Bristol’s summer calendar, takes place every year. The Bristol Harbour Festival is an annual free dance, music, entertainment and arts extravaganza which stretches from both ends of Bristol Harbour. This year is scheduled to take place between 19th and 21st July, so there’s no much longer to wait. Get ready for a weekend filled with fun!


2. Enjoy water activities

water activities

Summer in Bristol revolves around the water and there is some serious active fun to be had around the harbour. Even better than being riverside, you can get out on the water itself on one of Bristol’s boat tours and river cruises. A ferry boat tour through the centre of Bristol is a great way to get acquainted with the city – or simply to get a different perspective on iconic landmarks.

For a longer excursion, the Bristol Packet Boat Trip Company offers river tours and harbour cruises. A visit to the beautiful Beese’s Riverside Bar and Garden by boat should be on your list of  things to do in Bristol this Summer!

Another way to explore the city from the water is on a stand-up paddle-board, or on board a kayak or a canoe. You do not need to be a water expert to try paddle-boarding, kayaking or canoeing.  The AllAboard team will teach you all the secrets for a successful ride.

3. Visit picturesque Clifton Village

clifton village

Clifton Village is Bristol’s most charming spot. True to its name, it has a lovely village feel, and is a perfect place for a summer day!

Head up there by bus number 8 from the city centre and explore all the village’s pretty streets filled with fancy shops, boutiques, delis and cafes .

You can spend hours here sitting in the sunshine and people-watching with your coffee, cake or drink.

Make sure you save time to swing by the impressive Royal York Crescent and to walk across the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  The Clifton Suspension Bridge is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, you’ll catch great views from 100 metres above the city of Bristol. Visit the Clifton Observatory if you feel touristy or, beat the heat at the outdoor pool of Clifton Lido. They’ve also got spa facilities, including a sauna, steam room and massage room.

4. Take a street art tour

street art in Bristol

Hometown to one of the world’s most famous street artists, Banksy, Bristol is a riot of colours and one of the best cities for street art.

Just by walking around the city you’ll encounter plenty of great works painted onto the city’s walls. But to better understand the context, you should consider booking onto a guided street art tour.

Find a Banksy and other famous graffiti walking through the streets of Bristol’s Stokes Croft neighbourhood, which resembles an outdoor gallery, full of colourfully painted walls. There are also some particularly nice murals on and around Picton Street in Montpellier and all along Gloucester road.

Another neighbourhood where you’ll find famous street art is Southville, just south of the river and the city centre. Local, national and international street artists meet here every year in occasion of Upfest, the largest Street Art & Graffiti Festival in Europe and, as a result, the whole area is covered in colour and art all year round. Walk through the neighbourhood, making sure you look up and down every side street you pass by and, if you are lucky enough, you may even see some mural live painting!

Stokes Croft, Gloucester road and Southville are very unique and vibrant areas full of character. You will be spoilt for choice with the many independent restaurants, pubs and bars in the areas. Go out and explore!

5. Relax in the countryside right on your doorstep

Railway passage in Bristol

The nice thing about Bristol is that the countryside is right there on your doorstep, and you can get a taste of it without really leaving the city.

You can do thia by walking to Leigh Woods National Nature Reserve: a beautiful 2 square-kilometer woodland on the south-west side of the Avon Gorge under the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

If you prefer cycling to walking, you can go for a bike ride and be in the countryside in minutes. There are many well marked cycle paths in Bristol. A really popular one follows the old railway line and, in 13 miles, takes you to Bath through peaceful countryside, and bluebell-covered slopes.

Don’t own a bike? Don’t worry! You can borrow one from UWE Centre for Sport or you can try a yellow Yo-Bike and you’ll get your first ride for free! Another option is to rent your wheels for the entire academic year with the UWE Bristol Bike Loan Scheme.

Those who love the great outdoors will have plenty to explore at Ashton Court Estate with its 850 acres of woodland and grassland to ramble through. Ashton Court has something for everyone; whether you are on foot or two wheels, there’s so much to explore and lots of wildlife to discover. Aside from looking around and taking in the incredible scenery, there’s also plenty of room to play sports. In the summer it’s full of flowers and daisies, and, if you’re lucky, you might even spot a deer!

6. Pack a picnic

Picninc and relaxing in BristolThere’s no better way to mark the start of the warm summer months than with a picnic with your friends.

There are many beautiful green spaces in Bristol where you can  relax and enjoy a delicious picnic. College Green is the perfect place to organise a picnic if you are looking for a place very close to the city centre. This centrally located park has plenty of grassy areas to put a blanket down and eat your food while lying at the bottom of the stunning Bristol Cathedral. If it’s a really hot day, cool down with an ice-cream form the nearby Swoon.

For a picnic with a view, it doesn’t get much more beautiful than the scenes from the top of Brandon Hill Natural Park. A fairy-tale tower, Cabot Tower, sits in the middle of this green oasis just next to a pond; climb up its small spiral staircase and admire all the Bristol’s landmarks and the Bristol’s colourful houses. f you don’t have the time or inclination to cook, get your picnic goodies on the fly from Pinkmans  which is just up the road. Combine your picnic in Brandon Hill with a visit to the nearby Bristol Museum and Art Gallery. Situated at the top of Park Street, next to the tall Wills Memorial Building, this museum hosts a free collection of art in a magnificent building.

Built around a former church whose ruins can still be seen, and right alongside the tranquil waters of the city harbour, Castle Park is another perfect spot for an outdoor picnic with your friends.Castle Park is conveniently located close to the centre, meaning you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to stocking up on goods for your picnic.

7. Dine al-fresco

Wapping Wharf

The perfect place to eat this summer in Bristol, while making the most of the sunshine, is the newly developed Wapping Wharf quarter: a vibrant cluster of shipping containers housing outdoor restaurants, bars and shops. You could spend days eating your way around all the restaurants at Wapping Wharf! The area itself is a wonderful location to sit and soak up the best of Bristol’s atmosphere in a picturesque waterside setting.

Another ideal place for food lover is the Harbourside Street Food Market. Amazing street food traders descent on Broad Quay and turn the Harbourside in a busy and bustling market every Wednesday, Thursday and weekend. This is the perfect spot to sample all types of international food, in addition to British specialties.  Eat your food on the Cascade Steps and soak up the atmosphere of one of Bristol’s most picturesque scenes.

There’s also a taste of the world to discover in the city’s old town, at the oldest and best-loved market in Bristol: St Nicholas Market, better known as ‘St Nicks’. This vibrant and buzzing market place can be found in the hear of the old city, in Corn Street. There is a range of different cuisines dotted around the high ceiling hall. Once you’ve filled up on food, browse all the stalls selling handmade giftware.

For a unique experience, why not have a drink or some food on a boat? Along the harbour you will find permanent moored boat restaurants and pubs: Three brothers, Under the Stars, the Glassboat Brasserie, the Apple, the Grain Barge to name just a few. Try them all! After all, what better way to get a flavour for a city than by eating and drinking your way through it?

8. Go to a farm in the heart of the city

farm animals in Bristol

Summer is one of the best times of year to visit St Werburghs City Farm, a beautiful organic farm with more than 300 edible plants, as well as sheep, pigs, and ducks in the heart of Bristol.

Apart from watching the farm’s animals, you can take part in the daily activities and workshops in the vegetable and herbs community garden, as well as sample delicious dishes made of the farm’s fresh ingredients at the cozy farm cafe`.

9. Watch a film at the open air cinema

open air cinema in Bristol

Did you know that in Bristol, you can watch a movie under the stars? Get some popcorn and a blanket and head to Bristol Zoo Gardens if you want to watch a film surrounded by gorillas and lions, or to Blaise Castle Estate if you like the idea of a movie screen just next to an old castle.

Too late for any of these? For the first time, Ashton Court’s beautiful mansion house will be playing host to an end-of-summer outdoor cinema experience.

Alternatively, if you like watching sporting events, opera and ballets on the big screen head to Millennium Square in Bristol’s City Centre.

10. Go to the Balloon Fiesta

Air Balloon fiesta in Bristol

There’s something magical about the sight of a lone hot-air balloon floating along the horizon. Multiply that by more than 100 and you’ve got the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, which is celebrating its 41st anniversary this year.

Held over four days in August at Ashton Court Estate, the Fiesta truly is a sight that can only be seen in Bristol.

You’ll see over 100 hot air balloons taking off at dawn and dusk, as well as the famous Night Glows, when the balloons light up the sky in time to music. Alongside the fantastic site of hot air balloons filling the skies you will find a large number of great trade stands, fairground rides and entertainment.

The event takes place at Ashton Court but once the balloons are up in the air, the fiesta can be seen right across Bristol.