There’s nothing Bristol loves more than an opportunity to get outdoors for some good music, great food and maybe a pint or two of cider in the sun. Some of its summer festivals are now world famous, such as the International Balloon Fiesta and the Harbour Festival. But there’s plenty more going on, from comedy shows to street art – whether the sun decides to play along or not.

Avoid any inkling of Glastonbury FOMO, because Bristol is where it’s at for festivals this summer. Here’s our top festival picks for the coming months...

Bristol Comedy Garden, Queen Square - 14-18 June

Shappi Khorsandi

Image - Shappi Khorsandi, Bristol Comedy Garden 

Comedy Garden returns to Bristol’s leafy Queen Square for five nights of giggles. This year’s stellar line-up includes the hilarious Greg Davies closing the show, randomist Ross Noble, ventriloquist Nina Conti, Mock The Week regular, Sara Pascoe and a whole host of chuckle-worthy comedians. Some shows are already sold out, but if you hurry you may still be able to get in on the act...

Bristol Sounds, Lloyds Amphitheatre – 21-24 June

Bristol sounds

Image - Bristol Sounds, credit Paul Box

There’s nothing quite like rocking the night away on Bristol’s beautiful Harbourside on a balmy summer’s eve. Bristol Sounds takes place from 21-24 June, kicking off with Bonobo supported by Jens Kuross. Indie rock band British Sea Power will get crowds going for the main act, Manic Street Preachers on 22 June, followed by Craig David on 23 June and ending with Hacienda Classical on 24 June the day after they open Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage. If you’re not ready to go home after all of that, an after-party has been announced at Bristol’s legendary club, Lakota on Saturday 24.
Tickets are available from Songkick.com, BristolTicketShop.co.uk, Gigantic.com and Seetickets.com

Bristol Pride, Lloyds Amphitheatre and Millennium Square - 30 June-9 July

Image - Bristol Pride Parade

This annual celebration of LGBTQ+ Bristol looks set to be a scorcher. During action-packed Pride Week there’ll be theatre, comedy nights, parties, art exhibitions, gaming events and quizzes. Belinda Carlisle is the main act for the new Bristol Pride Presents Friday event in Lloyds Amphitheatre (7 July), then on Pride Day (8 July) there’ll be a big Parade March round the city, followed by festival performances by Busted and many others on the Harbourside's Main and Cabaret stages plus an official after party at the 02 Academy. The Bristol festival, which is the largest free Pride in the UK, is set to be a wonderfully colourful event, filled with fabulous outfits and plenty of merriment.

Grillstock Bristol 2017, Bristol Harbourside – 1-2 July

Grillstock

Image - Grillstock, credit Plaster

Homegrown Grillstock festival is the original celebration of barbecue culture in the UK. The massively popular weekend of meat, music, mayhem will this year be headlined by magnificent rock band, The Darkness. Other main stage acts include Hayseed Dixie, Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show and Goldie Lookin’ Chain. And of course – there’ll be plenty of top barbecue street food to tuck into, plus a mega cook-off to see who will be named Grillstock’s King of the Grill 2017.

Bristol Harbour Festival, the Harbourside – 21-23 July

Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Plaster 

This annual dance, music and arts extravaganza on the Harbourside has everything you need for a weekend of nautical family fun. Launching the Bristol Harbour Festival weekend on 21 July, Colston Hall will present a celebratory party of orchestral proportions. The 20-piece Outlook Orchestra will perform a 100-minute live mix, coupled with a full live set by UK rapper and producer Roots Manuva. There'll be plenty of live music throughout plus a circus zone, dance village and much, much more. There'll be plenty to keep the little ones entertained too, from baby racing to storytelling and have-a-go aerial trapeze. Full listings are available at the festival.

Upfest, Bedminster  – 29-31 July

Inkie

Image - Ship Shape and Bristol Fashion by Inkie, credit Plaster

Everyone knows Bristol – the home of Banksy – is the place to come for street art. So where better to hold an urban paint festival? Last year 300 artists from across the globe descended on Bedminster in south Bristol to leave their own unique mark. This year Upfest are teaming up with Ashton Gate Stadium to create a brand new area which will host the largest collection of live painting at the event this year.  The venue will also host the longest painting surface for the festival to date with 50 artists painting on a 200m stretch, alongside a New York Style Subway Train. There's lots for kids to do too, including Morph making sessions in association with Aardman, so bring them along!

Cinema Rediscovered – 27-30 July

King Kong Suspension Bridge

Image - King Kong on Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Tom Vincent of Aardman Animations for the artwork and Bristol Archives for the original picture

Now in its second year, Cinema Rediscovered brings digital restorations, contemporary classics and some rarities from the archive and presents them again, often to viewers who’ve never seen them on the big screen. Watershed, Clevedon’s Curzon Cinema and The Cube Microplex are all involved in screening masterpieces. The festival boasts a jam-packed programme - highlights include Aardman Animations’ Peter Lord presents 1933’s King Kong on 35mm, the English premiere of Mark Kidel’s new documentary Becoming Cary Grant and India on Film strand, including Satyajit Ray's The Music Room presented by film critic and historian David Robinson.

Valley Fest, Chew Valley – 4-6 August

Image - Valley Fest

Valley Fest: family-friendly fun in a field. Get those dancing wellies on for Argentinan-Swedish singer-songwriter, José González, award-winning hip-hop producer DJ Yoda, and many more. There's a big food focus too with demonstrations from local chefs, producers and farmers; a gourmet organic Midnight Feast and a giant communal picnic. Amid this beautiful setting in the Mendip hills there'll also be family-friendly activities, including arts and crafts workshops and kids raves where they can polish up on their DJ skills. Smashing.

Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, Ashton Court Estate – 10-13 August

Baloon fiesta

Image - Bristol International Balloon Fiesta, credit Paul Box

Probably the most famous event in the Bristol calendar, the Balloon Fiesta offers four days of family fun. From sunrise to sunset there’ll be balloons lifting off of all shapes and sizes, from a whopping 150 balloon teams. There'll be dawn ascents, night glows and even champagne flights – be quick and you might be able to book yourself one.

See our tips for vantage points, getting to the fiesta and more in our special balloon blogs.

The Downs Festival – 2 September

Downs Festival

Image - Massive Attack at The Downs Festival

Rounding off Bristol's summer of festivals in superb style is The Downs Festival. Last year’s phenomenally successful event, headlined by Massive Attack, was the first major music event on The Downs in over 15 years. The festival returns to this stunning location on 2 September and is set to be a corker - this time with Elbow headlining the main stage. The sizzling line-up also includes blues musician Seasick Steve, De La Soul, Soul II Soul and The Districts. Taking to the second stage will be Groove Armada, David Rodigan MBE and Bristol’s own Roni Size.  
 

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