Visit Bristol’s resident burgeoning trapeze artist, Anna Kilcooley unveils the wonderful, innovative and whacky world of circus in Bristol.

When many people think of circus, they think of the traditional big top, ladies in sparkly dresses and perhaps an acrobat atop an elephant. It’s a slightly aged image, sepia-toned from childhood and not a phenomenon for which Bristol is world-renowned.

Spilling out (or should that be tumbling?) of venues across the city are aerialists, hula-hoopers, jugglers and clowns. There’s a show for everyone to enjoy and a class for everyone to learn. There’s nothing like the thrills and spills of the circus to keep you on the edge of your seat (or out of it)!


Home to one of the UK’s very few flying trapeze rigs, Circomedia teaches complete beginners and professionals alike. Students can train here full time on the UK’s only fully accredited circus BA course, and there’s evening classes for adults, even if you’re completely new to circus. For youngsters there are weekly drop-in family sessions at their iconic Portland Square converted church venue, or a five day summer extravaganza for 4-17 year olds.


Image - Circomedia, Bristol

The Island

Bristol’s a fan of quirky pastimes in unusual spaces. The Island is the new name for the old Bridewell Street police station. Don’t worry, you’re not down in the cells, but up in the light and spacious first floor space. Get yourself ready for some aerial trapeze or silks with a circus fitness class on Wednesday or Friday.

Moscow State circus

Image - Moscow State Circus

Brunel’s SS Great Britain

From 22 July to 3 September, families can step back in time to a Victorian Circus Spectacular as Bristol’s own Cirque Bijou takes over the dockyard at Brunel’s SS Great Britain. There’ll be original performances every day throughout the summer holidays and families can get involved in free workshops in Brunel Square from 12-4pm. You’ll also find Cirque Bijou taking over Castle Park during the Harbour Festival for a weekend of family circus, street theatre storytelling and fun.

Yard Arts

Doing away with the traditional big top completely, at Yard Arts you can catch a show in a Geodome on the site of an old fuel station. As well as stunning circus shows, there’s burlesque and comedy, and some great family shows. Catch ‘Through the Summer’ by local troupe Lavrak from 14-18 June.

Yard arts

Image - Yard Arts, credit Craig Kirkwood

Circus City

If you’re a circus buff, Bristol’s the only place to be this October when Circus City Festival takes over. From 12-29 of the month there’ll be over 50 events across 50 venues – performances, talks, masterclasses, have-a-go sessions and workshops, as well as a packed half-term program.

Where to stay

Watching all this fantastic circus is going to be tiring. Luckily, you can have sweet dreams of strong men or leading ladies in the Full Moon hostel, which has a circus-themed room.  

If trundling caravans or a night under the stars are more your thing, Ennywevvers is the only city centre campsite. You can glamp with a double bed and a log burner if you don’t want to go for full canvas.

Shaena brandel

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Shaena Brandel


Education Centre

An internationally-respected centre of excellence of circus-theatre training in the heart of Bristol with courses for all.

Brunel's SS Great Britain
Historic Ship
Brunel's SS Great Britain

Step aboard the award-winning Brunel's SS Great Britain for a ship shape and Bristol fashion day out!

Circus City Festival Bristol
Circus City

Circus City - Bristol's biennial circus festival - is back this October (12 to 29) with something for everyone - theatre lovers, party animals, punks, swing dancers, science geeks, jazz fans...the list goes on an on!

The Full Moon Backpackers Hotel
The Full Moon Backpackers Hotel

The Full Moon Backpackers is perfectly located and provides a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Fully equipped with a range of room types and facilities and two of Bristol’s best loved bars.

Camping & Caravan Site

Bristol's only campsite. A haven for cyclists and ramblers, set off the beaten track in the lush and beautiful heart of St Werburghs. Camping and Glamping available.