9 Reasons to visit Bristol this summer

Tamara Hinson 2 June 2018

Planning a summer staycation? You’re in luck—Bristol’s the place to be in 2018, thanks to a packed roster of festivals, museum openings and hotel openings. Here’s what to do and when.

St Paul’s Carnival

Image via Martins Kikulis

Slip on your dancing shoes, because Bristol’s famous St Paul’s Carnival is back with a bang for its fiftieth anniversary.

This colourful celebration of Afro-Caribbean food, culture, and history takes place on 7 July, when people from all over the world will flock to the streets of the St Paul’s neighbourhood.

The event first took place in 1968 but it’s been four years since the last carnival, so expect this summer’s bash to be one of the biggest yet.


Bristol Harbour Festival

Image via Destination Bristol

Another reason to love Bristol summers? The three-day Bristol Harbour Festival, which takes over a two-mile stretch of the city’s harbourside between the 20 and 22 July.

Over 200,000 people will attend the event, which is the largest free festival in the UK. There’s something for all ages, including an army of street entertainers, circus acts, street food stalls and live music.

The harbourside will also be packed with spectacular boats, from towering tall ships to Jack Sparrow-worthy schooners.


St George’s Bristol

Image via Bristol Business News

St George’s is one of the UK’s finest music venues and in April 2018 a £6m renovation was completed, with the highlight being the addition of a beautiful new pavilion designed by world-renowned architect Patel Taylor.

Look out for the spectacular glass sculpture in the foyer, apparently inspired by a sound wave. The renovation, which has seen the creation of new, multi-purpose performance venues and a café bar, has been a complicated process.

The Grade II-listed building, a former church, is famous for its Greek revival architecture, and the aim of the makeover was to increase accessibility and audience capacity without compromising its ornate architecture. If that doesn’t warrant a standing ovation, nothing does.


Being Brunel

This March saw the unveiling of Being Brunel, a museum dedicated to Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Rather appropriately, you’ll find it next to the SS Great Britain (the world’s largest ship at the time of construction), one of his greatest achievements (after Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge, of course).

The museum is packed with rare personal possessions on display for the first time, including a school report from 1821, a cigar case and, rather bizarrely, the last cigar he smoked.

You’ll also be able to check out where the magic happened—his Grade II-listed drawing office, which has been painstakingly restored to show visitors how it looked in the 1840s. “Cluttered” is the word which comes to mind.


UNESCO City of Film

Image via Nick Wall and Channel 4

Hollywood, read and weep. This year, Bristol’s contributions to the film world have been recognised with its new status as a UNESCO City of Film.

Not only is it home to Oscar-winning animators Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace and Gromit), it’s also the base for the BBC’s Natural History Unit and has been the backdrop for numerous films and TV shows, including Poldark, Doctor Who and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (try saying that after a mouthful of mash).

The title was also awarded in recognition of Bristol’s appeal to film fans, who flock here for year-round film festivals, pop-up screenings and cultural events.


Gromit Unleashed

Wallace and Gromit are back with a vengeance. Between 2 July and 2 September, statues of Aardman Animations’ most popular characters will descend on Bristol.

The arts trail, created to help raise money for Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s Hospital, will feature 60 sculptures of some of the animated masterpiece’s most famous characters, including Wallace and his rubber glove-wearing arch nemesis, Feathers McGraw (albeit in disguise).


Aerospace Bristol

One of the UK’s most exciting museum openings of recent years, Aerospace Bristol takes a closer look at the history of flight from the early years of aviation to the modern day.

You’ll be able to admire the Concorde Alpha Foxtrot (the last supersonic jet to take to the skies) and learn about all things airborne, including some seriously heavy duty weaponry (such as the fearsome Bloodhound Surface to Air Missile) and satellites, helicopters and fighter planes.

There are numerous interactive exhibits for younger visitors, who can even learn how to build the perfect paper aeroplane.


The Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin

Bristol’s hottest hotel news for 2018 is the unveiling of the refurbished Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin. Exact details are under wraps (so much so that the owners are refusing to reveal the exact opening date) although we’re assured it will be complete by the end of this summer.

An extensive renovation of one of Bristol’s most iconic hotels, the project will see the creation of beautiful, stylishly revamped suites and bedrooms. Guests will be able to relax in a chic new lounge bar, and the terrace will have fantastic views over the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Avon Gorge.


Where The Wall street art lessons

Image via Paul Murphy

This summer, why not channel your inner Banksy (without getting arrested) by creating your very own piece of street art?

Where The Wall, which organises the city’s famous street art tours, has recently launched street art workshops, which take place every Saturday and Sunday, and mid-week during school holidays.

The sessions focus on the use of stencils in street art, and you’ll also learn how this technique was used long before Banksy spray-painted his way onto the scene.