Bristol Festivals 2024: Your Ultimate Guide to Fun!

Bristol, or Brizzle as it’s often affectionately referred to by locals, has well established itself as a jewel of the west for those living in and travelling to the region.

A city full of things to do and see, places to eat and drink and events to visit, it is firmly on the map as somewhere to spend time to either pass a few hours or to make a day-trip or short break out of.

One such pull is the varying events and festival in Bristol, spanning a whole host of interests and industries at all times throughout the year.

The first music festival held in the region was the Ashton Court Festival which launched back in 1974, giving local artists and bands the chance to perform alongside nationally-recognised headliners.

It grew throughout the years and remained free for many until government legislation was introduced resulting in security fencing and compulsory fees.

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Bristol Best Festivals

Perhaps the most famous of Bristol festivals is the traditional Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, pictures and videos of which are shared worldwide amongst media outlets and publications.

The annual four-day (and still free!) festival enjoys crowds of 100,000+ daily and is one of the largest such events in Europe. It’s certainly something that everyone in the UK should try and see at least once!

The Bristol Harbour Festival is another such family-friendly event gaining vast popularity, aimed at celebrating the heritage and ongoing importance of the city’s harbour and maritime industry. Festivities take place city-wide and ships and boats visit from all over the continent during this time.

The newest Bristol festival is Forwards Festival, an international music-themed event that looks to blend a cutting-edge line-up from the latest names in emerging artists with a platform for social purpose and timely debate on current affairs. Still growing and set across the Bristol Downs, this event is surely likely to prosper in the years to come.

festivals in bristol

Bristol’s Famous Festivals

There are fewer things synonymous with Bristol than the balloon fiesta and its pirating history! Check out some of the most famous of the city's festivals that draw tourists and locals alike, year on year.

bristol harbour festival

Harbour Festival

If you’re looking for an event that’s city-wide and sure to have something for everyone, Bristol Harbour Festival is the place for you. Set in Bristol since 1971, when it originated as an attempt to save the city’s docks from being filled in (a success, of course!), it is typically held across a weekend either at the end of July or the beginning of August.

Traditionally themed to celebrate the heritage and importance of Bristol’s docks, harbour and maritime industry, it now has broadened a little in its horizons to offer events of all types; albeit most of them still take place quayside, or on or near the waterfront of Bristol harbour.

Venues are both on-land and not, with several sea vessels mooring nearby. Boosted by the council to engage communities across the whole city, the impact of Bristol Harbour Festival is felt everywhere locally with dance acts, interactive theatre, music gigs and international circus acts touring all over.

This is one of the most family-friendly festivals in Bristol with interactive classes and lessons for people of all ages, a dedicated children’s area and a BBC Radio Bristol stage.

Entertainment of previous years has included VV Brown, DJ Derek, Beth Rowley and the Hot 8 Brass Band.

bristol balloon fiesta

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta

The most famous Bristol festival is, of course, the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. Taking place in the city’s large Ashton Court estate, this annual four-day festival remains free and is an event for hot air ballooning teams from around the world to bring their balloons and participate in mass ascents.

As many as 100 hot air balloons take off at any one time, making for a breath-taking view that simply can’t be seen anywhere else in the UK; and makes it one of the largest hot air ballooning events in Europe.

First held in 1979, this Bristol festival has grown in popularity and now attracts crowds of 100,000+ people per days.

Mass launches are scheduled twice a day (at 6am and 6pm), dependent on the weather conditions throughout the event. On the opening Thursday night of the Balloon Fiesta, the ‘Night Glow’ event sees balloons and inflate and glow to music after dark (usually about 9:30pm), followed by an impressive fireworks display.

Where weather permits, this is often repeated throughout the weekend to allow more visitors the chance to enjoy it.

The hot air balloons created for the Balloon Fiesta are made up of a variety of custom shapes, primarily made by local manufacturer Cameron Balloons who are based just down the road in Bedminster.

Previous balloons have included characters such as Bertie Basset, Rupert the Bear, Stuart the Minion and a Tesco trolley!

Previously scheduled in September, the event frequently faced cancellations and delays due to autumn weather. As a result, organizers now start the event in August every year.

bristol light festival

Bristol Light Festival

Another one of the famous and free festivals in Bristol is the Light Festival. Filling the city with colour showcasing light art, this event takes place in the evenings and nights of February when the skies are dark and this vibrant, playful art form can really shine.

Each year, the Bristol Light Festival features world premier works as well as some of the UK’s best light art talent; all set in specific locations across the city.

Visitors simply need to wander the city’s streets in the evenings to see the art come to life and take advantage of the retail and hospitality businesses in the area at the same time.

Several of the installations are interactive and all are accessible to all, providing you can get out of the house to see them!

bristol pride

Bristol Pride Festival

The Bristol Pride Festival is a vibrant celebration of the LGBTQ+ community in Bristol. This annual event, typically held in July, showcases a diverse array of activities including a colourful parade, live music, dance performances, and community workshops. It serves as a platform for advocacy and unity, highlighting the importance of inclusivity and equality.

The festival attracts thousands of participants, creating a lively and welcoming atmosphere that honours the spirit of pride and freedom.

Events include: film, spoken word, club night, comedy and a whole host of great performances across the city.

bristol music festival

Bristol Music Festivals

The Bristol music scene is always buzzing with gigs in its many small venues. The music festivals have really taken off in recent years though with new ones emerging constantly!

Take your pick of the varied options below, with something to suit everyone.

loves saves thes day festival bristol

Love Saves The Day

Love Saves The Day is a Bristol music festival spanning a wide variety of music genres from electronic to indie.

The festival happens at Ashton Court, the same venue as the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, over a weekend in May. Organizers transform the site into a festival ground with various stages, street food trucks, and fairground rides.

From its roots in 2012, this festival has switched locations several time to accommodate its ever-growing size and now hosts some 50,000+ people each day!

The music featured at Love Saves The Day tends to be emerging DJs and artists from urban scenes; several of which have gone on to become very famous, including Stormzy, who played his first ever festival gig here.

forwards festival bristol

Forwards Festival

Team Love, who are behind the Love Saves The Day event, and AEG combined to create Forwards Festival, an inner-city music festival taking place on the Bristol Downs every September.

Across two-days, musical artists and bands play across two main stages alongside The Information; a space for activism, debate, examination and understanding on a variety of current affairs and cultural issues.

With a programme of activists, artists, writers, politicians and inspirational experts in this space, Forwards Festival provides a facility for conversation as well as music.

dot to dot festival bristol

Dot To Dot Festival

One of the more unusual festivals in Bristol is Dot To Dot Festival, an event that takes place across various venues in the city as well as in Nottingham and Bristol. All artists play one city on one day and travel to the others for the following day.

One wristband gets you entry in to multiple venues across the city and it makes for a really fun day wandering around town listening to bands in all kinds of spots!

It's a true music lovers event with real diverse talent and lots of up and coming bands performing.

valley fest bristol

Valley Fest

Valley Fest, held near Bristol, is the best tasting festival in the South West, a celebration of community, music, and organic farming.

In August, this family-friendly festival takes place against the scenic backdrop of Chew Valley Lake and features a variety of musical acts, offers local organic food, and hosts engaging workshops.

Emphasising sustainability and local culture, it offers a unique blend of entertainment and education, making it a delightful escape into nature and creativity for attendees of all ages.

Plan ahead by checking out the music lineup and make sure to book onto some of the food experiences, classes and tasting menus to enjoy the full extent of what is on offer.

Bristol Food Festival

Bristol Food & Drinks Festivals

For a city with such an amazing gastronomical scene, it's no surprise that Bristol hosts a few cracking food and drink festivals!

The Foodies Festival up on the Downs is our top pick, and definitely worth booking tickets for to experience some incredible cooking and to chill out with friends in the sunshine.

bristol foodies festival

Foodies Festival

The Bristol edition of the chain Foodies Festival takes place in May and combines a line-up of celebrity chefs providing cooking and baking demonstrations alongside famous musical artists and bands such as Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Scouting For Girls, Toploader and Natalie Imbruglia.

Masterclasses in cooking, baking and mixology make up for a busy day for festival-goers who can dance the night away at the end of it. There’s also a bookshop on-site, a dedicated kid’s zone and a whole host of tastings to take part in!

bristol beer festival

Bristol Beer Festival

CAMRA Bristol Beer Festival takes place annually in November with 100+ beers and ciders served through City Hall, College Green.

Festival-goers don’t need to be CAMRA members to attend, although tickets are cheaper if they do, and the programme includes live music and entertainment alongside the various breweries and street food venues serving.

Each ticket includes an exclusive commemorative pint or half-pint glass for the event, and attendees purchase all drinks using a drinks token system.

in cider indoor festival


Three days of indoor festival fun - All you need to bring is a towel, a big smile and money for the bar! The ticket price includes chalet accommodation, meals, live music, entertainment and leisure facilities.

The In Cider Festival in Bristol is a vibrant celebration of cider and live music. Held annually in February, it showcases a wide range of ciders, complemented by an eclectic mix of musical acts.

This indoor winter festival offers a cosy, fun atmosphere, making it a unique event for cider enthusiasts and music lovers.

bristol comedy gardens
Bristol Comedy Gardens

Another one of the varied festivals in Bristol combining food and drink with fun is the Bristol Comedy Gardens.

Set up across the Downs every June, this event allows visitors to browse the vast selection of bars and street food vendors (all with vegetarian and vegan options, and all accepting card) before sitting down to an afternoon and evening of comedy from big names such as Nish Kumar, Aisling Bea, Suzi Ruffell, Phil Wang, Joel Dommett, Ardal O’Hanlon and Al Murray.

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