Around 250,000 people attend the Bristol Harbour Festival every year – a nautical extravaganza with live music, dancing, circus acts, food stalls and entertainment. It’s not only the biggest event to take place within the city’s boundaries, it’s also got one of the most diverse programmes for anything held in Bristol. Stretching from Brunel’s SS Great Britain all the way into the heart of the city, Queen Square and Millennium Square, this free family-friendly event is one of Bristol’s favourite summer festivals.

Read on for seven highlights to look out for at this year's Bristol Harbour Festival (20-22 July):

Dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - join in the dancing at Bristol Harbour Festival

  1. Celebrate Bristol’s maritime heritage

Bristol Harbour Festival’s maritime programme sees elegant tall ships gliding into the Floating Harbour, on-water stunts and demonstrations, participation events such as the cardboard boat race and the huge festival fleet whose bunting and masts make a wonderful spectacle.

Bristol HArbour festival

Image - Bristol Harbour Festival cardboard boat race, credit Plaster

  1. Friday night launch gig

Bristol Harbour Festival kicks off with a huge Friday night concert in the Lloyds Amphitheatre presented by Colston Hall. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, hip-hop royalty Grandmaster Flash and a set from London’s Trojan Soundsystem are all on the bill. The venue will also host great Bristol bands from down the years with Moonflowers, Yola Carter, Bristol Reggae Orchestra, Black Roots, Gurt Lush Choir and many more providing the beats across the weekend.

Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Gig Lloyd's Amphitheatre, Bristol Harbour Festival, credit Bristol City Council

  1. Power8 Sprints

A new and exciting addition to the programme this year is the Power8 Sprints which will see rowing teams from across the country competing in fast and furious action on Sunday afternoon. Bristol’s crew will take on teams from Cambridge, Exeter, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford on the 350m course. Racing in eights - the blue riband event of The Olympics - the teams will demonstrate their technical skills and raw power.

Power8s Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Power8s on The Matthew, Bristol

  1. All the fun of the circus

This year Bristol has been selected as one of the Six Cities of Circus for the international celebration of 250 years of Circus as an art form – making it the perfect place to watch breath-taking, gravity-defying circus acts assembled by Cirque Bijou to perform in Queen Square. Expect to see jaw-dropping feats and plenty of world-class performers as well as participatory events. Immersive experience, Circus 250 Caravan will allow visitors to get a peek into the life of a big top performer.

Circus - Bristol Harbour Festival

Image - Circus skills in Millennium Square, Bristol Harbour Festival

  1. Dance village in Millennium Square

Head to Millennium Square and you’ll be treated to some of the city’s best dance acts laying on a programme of groovy and funky moves that will get you itching to get down and boogie! Over at the Cascade Steps stage local Jelli Records have got together some top-notch bands and solo artists to keep you tippity-toe-tapping all weekend.

Dance village harbour festival

Image - Dance village Harbour Festival

  1. Discover new bands

In search of exciting new music? Pop over to floating music venue Thekla, which is hosting two stages showcasing exciting new bands.

Bristol Plays Music, the charity which runs Colston Hall, has also been unearthing new young talent from across the city and their acts will be performing on the Discovery Stage. Your eardrums are in for a treat with even more music at Brunel’s SS Great Britain, The Grain Barge and the Redcliffe Wharf Bandstand.

Brunel's SS Great Britain

Image - Brunel's SS Great Britain

  1. Street food

Cathedral Walk will be the place to catch a multitude of street poets, and Queen Square will be alive with enticing aromas and flavours from dozens of stalls thanks to the ever-popular continental food market. Seek out scrummy crepes, authentic paella or some exquisite cheese as well as handmade bespoke gifts and crafts.

Queen Square Bristol Harbour festival

Image - Queen Square, Bristol Harbour Festival

Bristol Harbour Festival takes place from Friday July 20 to Sunday July 22. For the full programme of events visit

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Bristol Harbour Festival
Harbour Festival Bristol 2014 (41)

This annual free dance, music and arts extravaganza returns to the Harbourside from 19-21 July 2019 for a weekend of family activities, music, circus, food markets and visiting vessels.

Colston Hall Bristol
Event Venue
Colston Hall Foyer - CREDIT AARDMAN

Colston Hall is Bristol’s largest concert hall, presenting concerts and entertainment by major names in rock, pop, jazz, folk, world and classical music, stand up comedy and light entertainment.

Queen Square
Municipal Park
Queen Square - Copyright Destination Bristol

A magnificent Georgian park area in the heart of Bristol, surrounded by trees and cobbled streets.

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

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

The Grain Barge
The Grain Barge

Friendly bar/restaurant on historic converted barge in a beautiful Harbourside location.