Bristol is a great place to visit all year round, but I have to admit that summer in Bristol is something special. There’s a unique vibe over those summer months as the streets really come alive – there are festivals galore, green spaces, rooftop bars and, of course, the beautiful harbour to explore.
You’ll see locals soaking up the sun in the city’s parks, while tourists flock to its many attractions. I adore jumping on a train into the city for a bit of people watching from the comfort of an outdoor seat at one of Bristol’s independent cafes or restaurants, enjoying a refreshing drink or delicious meal before hitting the streets myself. I’ve lived in the area for almost a decade now and I still think I’ve only scratched the surface!
Summer 2019 looks set to be another corker for the city. I was recently invited along to a special event held by Visit Bristol, which ran through some of the great things to see and do in the city this summer. Here’s a taster of what’s in store this July and August.
Summer exhibitions in Bristol
Bristol is a very arty city – well, c’mon now, it’s the home of Bansky! All year round you’ll find exhibitions taking place in the city’s many museums, but there’s two taking place this summer that really stood out for me.
The first is called Space Steps: The Moon and Beyond. Open from the 5th of July to the 29th September, this exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with some iconic images. I love all things space, so I was also excited to hear they’re holding a load of talks and workshops. Beam me up, Scotty!
The second exhibition I’m hoping not to miss is at Bristol’s Iconic M Shed. Aardman Animations is one of Bristol’s most beloved exports, known for iconic creations including Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. This summer there’s an exhibition going behind the scenes of making the animated movie Early Man, which I think it’ll be great. I’ve already had fun at Aardman related events in Bristol, including creating our own stop-motion animations with the kids at interactive science centre We the Curious, so looking forward to this latest show.
Bristol’s biggest summer festivals
Bristol is brilliant for summer festivals – I find myself visiting the city during July and August more than any other time of the year because of the Bristol Comedy Garden, Bristol Pride, the Harbour Festival and the epic Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. And that’s only a few of the events taking place!
Only last weekend I was wandering around the Harbour Festival (rain be damned!), enjoying the sights, sounds and especially the food stalls. Queen’s Square becomes surrounded by stands with food from all over the world and I always end up buying and eating way too much delicious food – paella, pasteis de nata…I then end up sitting on the grass, snoozing the afternoon away.
For those after something a bit different I recommend going along to one of Bristol Zoo Garden’s twilight events, when you get to enjoy the zoo after hours. Perhaps you’ll finally get to see a sloth that’s awake! A couple of years back I also went to one of the zoo’s movie nights, where we watched The Goonies surrounded by the sounds of wildlife. Epic!
Other interesting, but slightly different events include guided tours of Arnos Vale Cemetery. I went along to its Makers of Bristol tour earlier this month and had a really enjoyable time learning about some of the people that made Bristol what it is today. If that kind of thing is up your street, head back next week for more info about the tour and what I learnt…
Another great annual event I recommend is Bristol Open Doors. This won’t be kicking off until September, but it offers – for one week only – the chance to go behind the scenes and tour some of Bristol’s most interesting buildings. This year I’m hoping to grab a spot on Bristol Cathedral’s tower tour. The tower is not usually open to the public, so it’s a chance to go somewhere very few people get to visit.
Food and drink in Bristol
Bristol has got a renowned foodie scene – something team member Karis knows as she also co-hosts a food podcast called At the Sauce (shameless plug alert). I’m always asking her to where’s good to eat and she’s introduced me to many places including Wapping Wharf’s Cargo 2 shipping container complex, where you’ll find cute indie restaurants like Sholay Indian Kitchen.
For more fine dining options there’s places like The Ivy Brasserie and Hotel du Vin’s Bistro, but if you want a ‘dirty’ treat, I recommend checking out Karis’ post about Bristol’s guilty foodie pleasures. Also, if you just cant decide what to have for dinner totally take a trip to Za Za Bazaar. This place is a massive (literally) buffet with stations offering different food from around the world.
There’s a Tex Mex station, an Indian station, a sushi spot and my favourite, an Asian section where they’ll make you a super fresh stir fry while you wait. The food’s tasty and the price is good value, so this is a family favourite when we go into the city with the kids. Drinks-wise Bristol has some great bars – I especially love the quirky, speakeasy bars like Hyde and Co, The Milk Thistle and Red Light. I also visited the Bristol Harbour Hotel’s Gold Bar for the first time recently and loved it.
For this summer only, there’s special pop-up I’d like to visit called Mojito Beach. This is actually an ‘urban beach’ that’s been created in the middle of the city’s shopping district. There are summer cocktails, Hawaiian beers and chilled music on offer as well as table tennis and outdoor games. Interested? You can find it at Broadmead, very close to Cabot’s Circus.
There are loads of things to do in Bristol’s city centre this summer, but beyond the city ‘proper’ there are many more beautiful places to visit. History lovers will really enjoy places like National Trust’s Tyntesfield, Sudeley Castle and Berkeley Castle, which is running a ghostly tour until October.
Then animal and nature lovers won’t want to miss a trip to Cheddar Gorge and Caves, Longleat and the Wild Place. This month the Wild Place is opening its brand new attraction, Bear Wood. This features a walkway that winds through seven and a half acres of woodland where brown bears live alongside European grey wolves. I can’t wait to visit.
Summer in Bristol – all the info!
There’s so much happening in Bristol this summer that it’s impossible for me to cover it all here. If you want to know about everything happening this summer in Bristol, you can find the full listings of what’s happening at Visit Bristol.
We regularly write about Bristol – highlighting new restaurants, bars, or places to visit. If you’d like some more info or inspiration on things to do in the city, not just in summer but all year round, why not check out these other posts?
And if you can’t find an answer to any questions you might have, simply give us a shout in the comments below and we’ll do what we can to help…
Featured and Pin image credit: Andy Maybury/ Visit Bristol