Heritage open days, the Tour of Britain, film, coffee and beer festivals, dramatic new looks for leading arts venues are among the goodies served up for the start of autumn in the city.

1. Dance the night away at the Downs Festival (1 September)

This one-day outdoor music festival on the Downs is set to see off Bristol’s outstanding summer of festivals with a bang! On the bill are Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Paul Weller alongside Orbital, Goldie & the Ensemble, Basement Jaxx DJ’s and The Heavy. The sizzling evening line-up for the timber Information Stage also features Bristol’s Soeur, Swimming Girls, Harvey Causon and Liverpool’s Paris Youth Foundation. Party on!

Downs festival

Image - Downs Festival

2. Get buzzy at the Bee and Pollination Festival (1-2 Sept)

Find out all about how important the work of insect pollination is whilst strolling around the beautiful University of Bristol Botanic Garden. 

3. Gear up for the Tour of Britain Stage Three (4 September)

Bristol will host the third stage of the prestigious Tour of Britain, which features the world’s top riders. The route features a short, sharp, out-and-back leg into the North Somerset hills, including the climb of Cheddar Gorge, along the Portway and up the steep Bridge Valley Road, finishing on Clifton Down, following a 125km circular route.

4. Caffeine up at The Coffee House Project (7-8 September)

The Coffee House Project is Bristol’s first coffee festival; a caffeine-fuelled celebration of the best cup-of-Joe-related talent that Bristol and the South West has to offer. Founding partners and event specialists, Louisa Parry and Sofia Simou have lived and breathed coffee culture around the world, but found nowhere quite like their home city of Bristol. Held at The Passenger, the event will shine a spotlight on local, artisan roasters, independent food and drink retailers and home-grown baristas. Over 50 exhibitors are expected, including Clifton Coffee Roasters, Girls who Grind Coffee and Extract Coffee.

Coffee House Project

Image - Louisa Parry and Sofia Simou, Coffee House Project

5. Grand Pier Gin Festival (8 Sept)

Grab your passport and journey around the world in a variety of gins, from local specialities, to flavoured gins and craft batches. There’s a jam-packed schedule of masterclasses, talks and live music throughout the day, plus the chance to do some all-important sampling.

6. Whisky Bristol Underground (8 Sept)

Those who are partial to a wee dram should clear their diaries for Bristol Whisky Underground, which returns to one of the city’s most atmospheric spaces. Venue Loco Klub’s underground caverns beneath The Passenger Shed feature Brunel-built railway arches and make the perfect place to sip a Whisky or three. Guests can learn more in creative master classes, try whiskies from major brands and independent bottlers, tuck into tasty street food, listen to Whisky experts and tap their toes along to live music.

Loco Klub

Image - Loco Klub

7. Bristol Thai Festival (8-9 Sept)

Experience a taste of Thailand on Bristol’s waterfront. Tuck into Thai food, unwind with a traditional Thai massage, and watch Muay Thai boxing, Ladyboy shows and Thai dancing during this two-day festival.

8. Rock out at The Skyline Series (7 & 9 Sept)

Get your air guitars out at Ashton Gate Stadium when Garbage (7 Sept) and The The (9 Sept) for The Skyline Series take to the stage.

9. Unlock the City: Bristol Open Doors (14-16 Sept)

Bristol’s Open Doors offers the keys to the city for a weekend with a chance to get behind the doors of over 100 fascinating landmark buildings and curious spaces, which are usually hidden from public view. Organised by The Architecture Centre, the weekend offers a mix of drop-in and bookable events including guided tours, talks and visitor experiences that get under the skin of the city. Visit the subterranean cellars of Avery’s Wine Merchants (celebrating their 225th anniversary), explore the architecture of the Floating Harbour on a guided stand-up paddle boarding tour with SUP Bristol Instructors, delve into the workings of the Clifton Suspension Bridge or climb the bell tower of St Mary Redcliffe Church!

Clifton Suspension Bridge_Angharad Paull

Image - Clifton Suspension Bridge, credit Angharad Paull

10. Blood, Booze and Buccaneers (1, 5 & 8 Sept)

Well shiver our timbers, this new walking tour of Bristol docks will change your view of pirates forever! Extraordinary new revelations about Bristol-born Blackbeard, the world’s most famous pirate, are promised during the gripping 2.5 hour jaunt, as well as dockside hostelry visits.

Blood booze and buccaneers

11. Free art sessions for kids at RWA (1, 8, 15 Sept)

Get all the family scribbling and sketching for free at the Royal West of England Academy. Often inspired by the current exhibitions, these sessions are designed for kids and grown-ups to take part in together.

12. Film festivities at Encounters Festival (25-30 Sept)

The UK’s leading short film and animation festival and Bristol’s biggest international film event Encounters celebrates talent, innovation and the art of the short film with entries from all over the globe. Building on the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Film, Encounters 2018 will be partnering with Sydney’s Flickerfest and the Galway Film Fleadh to present a joint programme of screenings, events and parties during the festival week in Bristol. Find out where Encounters' Festival Producer Dave Taylor-Matthews likes to eat out in the city.

13. Rolling in the ales: Bristol Craft Beer Festival (14-16 Sept)

Relocating to Lloyd’s Amphitheatre on Bristol Harbourside for 2018, this three-day carnival of craft beer brings together over 35 craft brewers and hundreds of beers, many of them brewed on the doorstep. Look out for Bristol microbreweries Arbor, Bristol Beer Factory, Good Chemistry, Left-Handed Giant, Lost & Grounded and Wiper & True – just a few of the inventive independents behind Bristol’s growing reputation as Britain’s first city of beer. Not just for ale aficionados, non-beer lovers will find an array of artisanal drinks including ciders, whiskey, wine and gin too. Add great food, live music and Floating Harbour views for an epic weekend. Cheers!

Bristol Craft Beer festival

Image - Bristol Craft Beer Festival

14. Jog on in the Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon (23 Sept)

The Simplyhealth Great Bristol Half Marathon returns as part of the Great Run Series. Over 10,000 runners take part every year – there’s still time to enter if you want to give it ago or just pop along to cheer the participants along. You can find course details here.

15. Head to the theatre 

Bristol Hippodrome's programme starts with The Carpenter’s Story (1 Sept), a musical one-nighter celebrating the stellar career of pop duo, Richard and Karen Carpenter. Performances also include Teletubbies Live, Jurassic Park in Concert and two nights of stand-up with Dara O Briain.

Bristol Old Vic's autumn season kicks off with the first stage adaptation of Joe Simpson's best-selling memoir Touching the Void (8-29 Sept), which charts his struggle for survival in the Peruvian Andes and is directed by Tom Morris. Be one of the first to see the final stage of the theatre’s £25 million transformation – a brand new full-height, glass-fronted atrium that reveals the exterior walls of the beautiful Georgian theatre to the street for the first time (Sept 24). In addition, a new state-of-the-art studio theatre will complement the 18th century main auditorium (renovated in 2012), as well as a new ‘1766 Bar and Kitchen’.

Tobacco Factory Theatres presents Henry V by William Shakespeare (12 September - 6 October), a wonderful production of this classic play.

St George’s Bristol relaunches in September with a bold, contemporary extension. The £6.3 million project adds a new café, bar and multi-purpose performance, exhibition and event spaces housed in a striking architect-designed structure that extends the Grade II* listed concert hall. Their theatre season kicks off on September 6 with former ‘BBC Young Musicians of the Year’ Nicola Benedetti and Laura Van Der Heijden, alongside celebrated conductor Alpesh Chauhan, and joined by Bristol Ensemble.

We challenge you not to sing along when Girl Power: The Spice Girls Experience hits The Redgrave Theatre. Expect stunning costumes and signature choreography for a fully spiced-up night. 

16. Stay somewhere special

The new-look Avon Gorge Hotel – now part of the Hotel du Vin family – launches in September. With awe-inspiring views of Clifton Suspension Bridge, the extensive refurbishment of this traditional Victorian hotel has transformed the rooms, restaurant and bar in line with Hotel du Vin’s distinctive brand.

Avon Gorge by Hotel du Vin

Image - The Avon Gorge Hotel by Hotel du Vin

  • For even more ideas and inspiration for things to do in Bristol in September, head to our What’s On pages.