Bristol has a vibrant music scene beating behind the doors of its many characterful venues. From musical legends in revered concert halls, to 25-piece Samba bands strumming under Banksy-covered walls, from indie hangouts to gigs afloat an old German boat, these music and arts venues cater for all tastes. 

Many of the city's pubs run open mic nights and local gigs throughout the week, and you'll also find a varied programme of music and performance at The Folk House, Fiddlers and more. The O2 Academy Bristol hosts some of the world's best-known bands, while the city's brilliant selection of record stores regularly put on intimate live music nights.

Here are 10 of our must-boogie-in music venues in Bristol.

Crowds in the Bristol Beacon foyer

Image - Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon (formerly Colston Hall) is the largest concert venue in the South West and Bristol’s home of music. Run by the charity Bristol Music Trust, audiences have been enjoying live music here since 1867. 

Over the last 152 years, Bristol Beacon's story has been bound up with the story of music itself: the seismic shifts in sounds and styles that have defined modern culture have played out – in spectacular fashion – on its stage. From impressive choirs and orchestras to grandees of the swing age; from the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll to the great family tree of genres they inspired.

Some of the world’s biggest music stars have performed on the main hall stage, including The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Motorhead and Bob Dylan. The iconic foyer has made Bristol Beacon an architecturally significant and striking addition to the city skyline and adds a modern twist to the distinctive Bristol Byzantine façade of the Victorian building.

The venue is currently undergoing a once-in-a-generation, multi-million-pound redevelopment, but is still presenting music across the city and in the foyer space. 

Exterior of the Bristol Beacon

Image - Bristol Beacon

St George’s Bristol 

Standing proud in a leafy setting beneath Cabot Tower is one of the country’s finest concert halls. A decommissioned church, St George’s Bristol is renowned for its classical concerts and also welcomes an impressive variety of world, folk blues and jazz artists. With phenomenal acoustics and a unique atmosphere, this music venue is a little known marvel to non-Bristolians.

As well as running a vibrant programme of over 200 events each year including family concerts and talks, St George’s is also a charity that promotes quality music to a range of audiences. A multi-million pound extension to the building introduced a new pavilion-style space for exhibitions, performances and the new café bar, where you can stop for some exquisite food and drink ahead of whichever world-class show you’re there to watch.

Credit Evan Dawson

Image - St George's Bristol, credit Evan Dawson

Lakota

Part of Bristol’s nightlife for close to three decades, street-art encrusted Lakota is the last remaining slice of the Stokes Croft Brewery and an old coroner’s court, and is part of the Stokes Croft Conservation area too. Inside, its warehouse-style innards contain several dance floors wound round a tall, central atrium.

The sound of drum and bass, jungle, dub, dubstep, techno, house and disco all regularly fill the five rooms, with a mega list of renowned acts having played here – everyone from Eats Everything and Carl Cox to Stormzy and Congo Natty. Psy-trance is also no stranger to its door, with the psychedelic ‘Tribe of Frog’ playing regular belters here.

DJ and crowd at Lakota Bristol
Image - Lakota

Trinity Centre 

The Trinity Centre is cemented in local music history as one venue where the ‘Bristol Sound’ evolved in the late eighties. It’s been hosting live music even further back than that though, since 1976, and is still thriving as an independent venue today. Housed in a landmark building that was once the Holy Trinity Church and is now Grade II listed, artists and gig-goers alike love the excellent acoustics and atmospheric setting.

An always eclectic programme is chock-a-block with cutting-edge performers, with Gorillaz, Public Enemy and the Prodigy among the notable names of past headliners. Alongside showcasing musical talent, Trinity Centre is a community hub and puts on all manner of other events – on any given day you might stumble into a dance workshop, circus show, roller disco or theatre performance.

Trinity Centre - Grade II listed former church, now music venue

Image - Trinity Centre, credit Sarah Koury 

The Canteen

Street art legend Banksy’s Mild Mild West reigns high above The Canteen’s outdoor space. Once a ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ kind of establishment thanks to its uninspiring exterior, the venue has become a thriving hub of the community within Stokes Croft, invigorated by greenery, artworks, twinkly lights and people.

Home-grown and touring musicians from all genres of music play free gigs to the crowds five nights a week. Anything from a chilled out mid-week solo blues artist to a wild skankin’ Latin-funk hip-hop orchestra! Be sure to add to the donation bucket that gets passed around the crowd if you're enjoying the show. 

Choose your tipple and enjoy some great grub while you listen or before you boogie on down. Laid-back, creative vibes and a sense of responsibility radiate from the foundations and that shows in the all-veggie menus as much as the musical offering. The Canteen also has links with No. 1 Harbourside and The Old Market Assembly, both of which also double up as restaurants and venues for gigs and other performances.  

People sat at tables in The Canteen

Image - The Canteen

Motion Bristol

Rated #14 in the Top 100 Clubs in the World by DJ Mag in 2020, superclub Motion Bristol has a stellar reputation in the electronic music world. A converted skate park in central Bristol, its distinctive surroundings, old warehouses, cobbled courtyard, cavernous main room and riverside terrace make it a uniquely Bristolian place to party.

Over the years, the venue has welcomed some of the world’s leading DJs and artists. On the listings you’ll find epic electronic club nights, festivals and all day raves, the confetti-filled bingo party night Bingo Lingo and much more. Also nestled within the site is the Marble Factory which hosts all kinds of live music, from heavy metal bands to pop acts. 

Motion

The Old Duke

The Old Duke on Bristol’s cobbled King Street is named after musical legend 'Duke' Ellington. In keeping with its namesake, it’s famous for the traditional live jazz music that’s played there every night of the week.

The pub, with its lamp lit, peeling interior plastered with old band posters and newspaper cuttings, heaves with people each night – particularly at the weekend. From musos to students, the Old Duke remains as unpretentious as it is popular. Their creaky stage is also home to a weekly open mic night, a Sunday afternoon traditional jazz set and an annual Jazz Fest on August bank holiday. 

Carlos_Blanco

Thekla

Once a German sea-faring vessel, the Thekla now resides by the Mud Dock in Bristol harbour under a different pretext. Initially brought to Bristol as a cabaret theatre by a couple of eccentrics, in the 90s she was re-born as a nightclub. Bristol’s most famous street artist, Banksy, took to her steel hull, painting his famous Grim Reaper just above the waterline. It was removed to save it from deterioration and now lives in the M Shed museum, just across the water.

Thekla’s floating hulk today remains one of Bristol’s oldest and best music venues, for the experience alone. Hosting a range of nights, the ship’s underbelly throbs with anything from house music to break beats, indie, soul and regular club nights. Cosy up with sweaty, gig-going punters in winter or chill on its wide wooden decks, with Bristol’s multi-coloured, sparkling Harbourside as a backdrop.

Thekla

The Fleece

No-frills and down-to-earth, The Fleece has been a legendary live music venue in Bristol since the 80s. Housed in a stunning Bristol-esque building, a short walk from Temple Meads train station, it has a rich history of live music. Many big-name bands have graced its stage over the years – Oasis, Queens of the Stone Age, Radiohead, White Stripes and Amy Winehouse to name a few.

Hosting live music seven days a week as well as club nights, it’s very popular with tribute bands, music lovers and students. Insider tip: pop yourself in a spot out of the way of the pillars, which can spoil the view. 

The Fleece, Thomas Street Bristol

The Louisiana

Sitting pretty amidst pastel-coloured houses, down the road from Wapping Wharf, is 19th century pub The Louisiana. A former seafarer’s hotel, the pub’s balconied exterior was apparently styled on an 18th century paddle-steamer and is more reminiscent of classy Clifton Village than Bristol docklands.

Inside, The Louisiana sprawls across several levels, hosting bands in one of its cosy rooms as well as acoustic shows in the cellar. Bristolians come to support the local music scene, serious fans trek from London, all flock for the chance to see the next big thing in an intimate location. The venue is indie and folk music inclined and has some big names under its belt, with its list of past acts reading like a music hall of fame – Muse, Kings of Leon, Coldplay and Elbow are just a sprinkling of bands that have played here. 

Jeremy-Fennell

Ready to get gigging? Discover upcoming shows at these venues and many more in our concert and gig listings. 

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