Bristol is a city built for summer – lush pub gardens, al fresco eateries and more parks than you can shake a stick at. But how do Bristolians do summer? We’ve asked around and compiled some of our favourite things to do in Bristol when the temperature starts to rise.
Bristol is home to some truly cracking parks – here are our favourites.
In Bishopston, St Andrews Park is a Bristol staple. With lots of shade, playparks, toilets, a paddling pool and a decent mobile café, it’s perfect for a family day out. Thanks to its proximity to Gloucester Road, it’s a viable alternative to the pub and it’s not unusual for the park to be filled with people listening to music watching the sunset in the summer months.
(Photo This Bristol Brood)
Brandon Hill, although a bit of a challenge to summit, is the place to go for the best views of the city. It may be small, but it is home to multiple playparks, plenty of green space to picnic in, and the historic Cabot tower. Plus, it is about one minute away from the Berkeley Square Hotel, making it ideal for anyone staying with us there.
The Downs are the big green lungs of the city, 800 acres of green space next to Clifton and Redland. With panoramic views of the Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge, an observatory, public toilets, football pitches, playparks and an ancient Roman road, it’s easy to spend a whole day lounging on the Downs. Plus, it’s a perfect place for a picnic – why not treat yourself to some snacks from Clifton’s top delis?
Hanging out on Bristol Harbourside
Bristol’s iconic harbourside comes alive in the summer months. Not only are Bristolians spoiled for choice for quality eats at Wapping Wharf , but there are also some superb pubs along the water. Whether it’s ales aboard the Grain Barge, local ciders from the local favourite The Apple or spritzes on the terrace of the Arnolfini, chilling with friends and a drink on a balmy summer evening is an absolute Bristol must-do.
It's Festival Time!
Bristol is renowned for its volume of festivals – it’s one of the best parts of a Bristol summer. Each year, multiple festivals take place across the city, for food, music, and even hot air balloons. Although festival season is behind us for this year, it's never too early to start planning ahead.
Each year, Bristol’s harbourside comes alive with 120 hours of entertainment, across seven stages from spoken word to the latest Bristol musical talent, local dance performers, world class circus and on-water activity. And best of all – it’s free! Visit the Harbour Festival website for more info.
International Balloon Fiesta
Founded in 1979, this annual celebration of hot-air balloons is one of the biggest events in the Bristol summer calendar. The skies above Bristol are filled with colourful balloons peacefully drifting across the city. There’s mass ascents, sound-accompanied nightglows and food and drink stalls across Ashton Court. Find out more on the Balloon Fiesta website.
(Photo: Balloon Fiesta)
While those are two of the major summer festivals, there’s also still plenty going on earlier in the summer months. UpFest, Europe’s largest street art festival takes place every May – and while you’ve missed it, it’s still possible to take a tour round all the new pieces of artwork. Find out more on the Upfest site. July sees the return of Bristol Pride, three weeks of events like history talks, theatre shows, dog competitions – basically if you can name it, it’s probably happening! There’s a march through the city and a day and evening of free musical and entertainment events. To find out more, visit the Pride website.
Another big event in the Bristol July calendar is the annual St Paul’s Carnival, a joyous celebration of Bristol’s St Paul’s community. It’s a well-loved cultural event with its roots in the African Caribbean community of St Pauls. For tickets and more information, visit the St Pauls Carnival website.
There's also plenty of popular music festivals. Nass Festival celebrates the music which is closest to Bristol's heart- Drum and Bass. Nass is one of the biggest festivals of DnB and dance music in the UK, and also celebrates street art and skateboarding. Love Saves the Day is a two day music festival held in Ashton Court, which was headlined by Fatboy Slim and Years and Years in 2023.
Water Way to have a good time
Bristol is a maritime city and its harbourside is its beating heart. What makes Bristol so special is how much we use our waterways – and there’s nothing better on a warm summer afternoon than getting on the water.
Why not try paddleboarding with Bristol SUP in the floating harbour? Or take a trip up the Avon under the Suspension Bridge with Bristol Packet? If you’re peckish, there’s always Beese’s Tea Gardens a short boat trip away. For something less strenuous, there’s always exploring the water using Bristol Ferry Boats or finding out more about the history of Bristol’s most famous boat at the SS Great Britain museum. For a five star meal alongside a swim, visit the Clifton Lido, because you deserve to indulge sometimes.
Day Trips for Days
With the coast under ten miles away, there’s loads of spots to retreat to when the city is too hot and nothing will do but a dip in the water.
Portishead marina is a lovely place to spend an afternoon – especially at its open air pool, a heated 33 metre community pool.
(Photo: Portishead Open Air Pool)
Further down the Somerset coast is Clevedon with its beautiful Victorian pier, gorgeous sunsets across the Bristol channel and its Marine Lake.
(Photo: Clevedon Marine Lake)
Heading towards Bath, there’s Warleigh Weir, a privately-owned part of the Avon river that’s popular with wild swimmers. For more information, visit the Warleigh Weir Project site.
(Photo: Warleigh Weir)
Even further from Bristol is Farleigh Hungerford, home to the world’s oldest river swimming club. Its website has lots of information on how to get there and opening hours.