Strictly speaking, there isn't a city centre in Bristol—the River Avon and floating harbours carve the centre up into various parts. But rather than being a problem, this has meant each area has developed a distinctly different feel—and what better way to spend your time here than discovering what these are?
Against the backdrop of the harbour are bars, restaurants, cinemas and art galleries (
Park Street, home to the historic
Ancient City/Modern Shopping
Corn Street, one of Bristol's oldest and most historic streets, was once the meeting place for the city's wealthy merchants, hence the ornate and grand buildings. These now house numerous bars and restaurants—some are rather mass-produced but others offer superb and refined dining, such as
Cotham and Redland
Clifton contains the grandest architecture and atmosphere in the whole city and to leave Bristol without seeing all it offers would be a crime! It's an absolutely gorgeous place and a wander round here leaves you with the impression that you've somehow stepped back into time. You can visit all its attractions—
Montpelier, St Paul's and Gloucester Road
Also close to the city centre, these areas are the favoured residence of the city's bohemians and "alternative" types. Parts are rather shabby and run-down, but let's just call that character! Of interest in Montpelier are Picton Street and York Road, site of a great Italian deli, a couple of cafes (
This area is characterised by its multi-culturalism and even has its own festival—Respect in the West—which celebrates its diversity. Home to a large number of Bristol's Indian, Bangladeshi, Afro-Caribbean and Somalian communities, it's a somewhat neglected area but well worth exploring. It houses
South of the River
Finally, over the river are Southville and Bedminster. Victims of a north-south divide, these areas are thought of by some as a cultural wilderness! Certainly, there isn't the grandeur of Clifton and the shopping is pretty poor, but don't write it off just yet. First of all, there are plenty of really cheap B&Bs round here, so you may well find yourself staying here if on a budget; secondly, it's only a fifteen minute walk into the harbour area of the city; lastly, the area itself is actually experiencing a bit of a renaissance at present. The acclaimed
For a small city, Bristol has an astounding amount of restaurants, pubs and bars. It's not just the sheer number that will surprise you but also the rich diversity on offer. The whole scene has exploded over the last few years, and the healthy competition between venues has seen places become slicker, more high-profile (reviews of Bristol restaurants are not uncommon in the national papers these days) and generally more discerning—which can only be good news for you, the visitor. So, go out there and consume!
Let's start at the top. For those times when only the best will do, take your pick from a number of posh eateries. Very highly regarded are Harvey's Restaurant, housed in ancient wine cellars, and the superb Lord's, situated in the unlikely but impressive surroundings of a former bank vault. Then there's the old fashioned elegance of The Glass Boat, yes, an actual boat moored on the floating harbour and in contrast, the startling modernity of the super-hip River Station. After a night of dining in one of these places your stomach will feel suitably self-indulged, even if your bank account is suffering!
If your budget doesn't quite stretch to this, there are plenty of places where you can get a fabulous meal for less expense in the city centre: Pan Asian fast food in trendy settings at Budokan, cosy informality at Portuguese A Cozinha, French cuisine(and belly dancing!) at Byzantium, or a tasty curry at Village Tandoori—the list is endless. If you don't fancy the formality of a restaurant, try somwhere that doubles up as a pub/bar—good examples being All Bar One, the infamous Renato's on King Street and the very trendy Severnshed.
If it's a quick and cheap lunch you're after, explore the area around St Nicholas Market, which has some great stalls selling anything from curry to crepes. And of course you can't move far in the centre without coming across a cafe. Some of the more outstanding ones include—former cafe of the year the Mud Dock and at the other end of the scale (in formality terms) the south west's first veggie cafe, Royce Rolls.
Don't just confine yourself to the city centre however. Many of Bristol's best restaurants are situated in the nearby suburbs. Go to Redland to sample the best fish in town at Red Snapper, or travel to the other side of the city to Totterdown to discover one of Bristol's best kept secrets at Glasnost - the place that looks like an austere Russian vodka bar but is in fact a model of Mediterranean warmth and classy cuisine inside. Montpelier is home to the acclaimed splendour of Bell's Diner and the hippie-chic of One Stop Thali. Then there's picture-postcard-perfect Clifton where you can dine in decadence and luxury at the Albion Public House and Dining Rooms (The), try a curry at Bombay Spice or a pizza at trendy Pizza Express.
If you're not quite sure what you want, take a stroll along lively Whiteladies Road, which is lined with all manner of places to eat, including Thai Classic, Quartier Vert and Planet Pizza. You can't fail to find somewhere that takes your fancy.
Pubs and Bars:
Bristol's nightlife has really begun to make a name for itself in recent years - places such as Oceana and Thekla have become increasingly popular for a wild night out on the town, as well as a number of other dance clubs that cater to the eager night owl. But leave it to Bristol to not stray too far from the English tradition. Most of the city's drinking is still done in the various pubs and bars peppered throughout the city. Generally speaking, head to the city centre if you want a full-on, noisy night-out drinking. But be warned, at weekends it's heaving and for those uninitiated in the ways of English drinking culture (think screeching girls, macho boys and uninhibited behaviour), it can be slightly intimidating, even if it is mostly good-natured.
There are a few main areas for those on a drinking mission: Around the harbour you'll find plenty of large pubs, such as E-Shed, and Brannigans. These cater for dressed-up youngsters and can suffer from the "meat-market" syndrome. Some notable exceptions around here are The Arnolfini and The Watershed and and Apple (The) -they will be equally packed but more trendy and arty and certainly less boisterous. But if boisterous is your bag, you'll be in heaven at nearby King Street, a cobbled street whose ancient pubs are steeped in nautical history, although if you want to appreciate these finer aspects, come only at daytime or early in the week Bar Med at the far end of the street remains the focus point for what seems like all of Bristol's youth. Corn Street is very popular, thanks to the wall-to-wall bars and pubs, such as The Slug and Lettuce and All Bar One, both catering for the city's smart, youngish drinkers. And Park Street and Whiteladies Road also see a lot of drinking action—there are plenty of bars along here, all willing to cash in on the student dollar, so to speak. All are packed and offer various degrees of sophistication, from the basic pack-em-in of The Rat and Parrot to the funky chic of Bar Humbug. The possibilities are endless, as long as you're young, pretty and have plenty of money in your pockets that is.
If it's a quiet boozer you're after, you may be better off heading to the outer edges of the city centre. Try the Hope and Anchor (complete with wonderful beer garden), just ten minutes walk from the centre; Bedminster in South Bristol is home to the acclaimed Albert, where you can catch live folk and jazz; the Stokes Croft area is home to the low-key and impossibly trendy The Bell; St Michael's Hill boasts some classic little boozers such as The Highbury Vaults and a walk around Clifton will reveal great hideaways. Don't neglect to try The Coronation Tap, if only because it's famous for selling the west country's favourite tipple - that's right, cider. A few glasses of their premium strength Exhibition Cider (only sold in half pints because it's so potent) and all those curious drinking rituals mentioned before, will suddenly become like second nature to you! It's even rumored that in his day the infamous pirate Blackbeard used to frequent this hot spot. So go and taste the cider that has tested the strengths of many men—but don't say you haven't been warned!
Below are a selection of tours that will give you a taste of what the city has to offer and an idea of its history. The Tourist Information Centre, in Millenium Square, has extensive and detailed information on various tours, including the city's Heritage Trail, a walk marked-out by brass pavement plaques which you follow around the centre. But why not try one of the following for starters?
What better way to explore a city famed for its maritime past, than by boat? The Bristol Ferry Company operate two round trips around the heart of the city (you can also buy single and return tickets from one stop-off point to another). In summertime, the ferries run about every twenty minutes and you shouldn't have to wait for one too long. Watch out for them coming up the floating harbour that leads past the Arnolfini and Watershed, and just hop on. In winter the service is less frequent, so check the timetables on boards by the water. The Hotwells Round Trip costs 4.80 pounds for adults and 3.20 pounds for kids and pensioners and takes 40 minutes. Starting at the City Centre (look for the yellow and blue Ferry signs along the quayside) it travels through the newly developed Harbourside area, home of the At-Bristol Complex (housing Imax, Wildscreen and Explore Centres) and glides past the historic ships, SS Great Britain The Matthew. Taking in the area of Hotwells, with its lovely waterside pubs such as The Cottage and Pump House, it then loops back and returns to the city centre. The Temple Meads Round Trip costs 3.20 pounds for adults, 2.50 pounds for kids and pensioners, takes an hour and covers much the same area, but also takes you up past the infamous club, The Thekla and swish restaurants The River Station and Severnshed (designed by Brunel and originally a railway shed) under Bristol Bridge and past the ruins of Bristol Castle, all the way past Victorian grandeur and modern offices, to Temple Meads Railway Station (a great way to arrive or leave the city if using the train!). Ask for a timetable when you embark. It contains a map, which gives you some good ideas about where to stop and explore and also tells you something of the history of the company and Bristol itself. Certain landing stages along the route have ramped access (these are clearly marked on the map), others can be problematic for wheelchair users—the starting point at the city centre is fully accessible.
A great way to see all the major tourist attractions for those pressed for time and a good way to get an overview of the city is the City Sightseeing - Bristol Open Top Guided Bus Tour. The tour runs daily from March 31st to September 30th and buses leave from the starting point every hour, from 10am to the last bus at 4pm (between July 24th-September 3rd, buses run every half hour). Round Trip tickets take you on one complete circuit of the tour (7 pounds adults, 6 pounds students, Old Age Pensioners and children aged 5-15 years). A 24 hour ticket means you can "hop on and hop off", i.e. start and end your tour from any of the bus pick-up points in the circuit and get off and on as many times as you like (9.00 pounds adults, 5.00 pounds students, OAPs and kids from 5-15 years old). Finally, single tickets offer a trip between one or two of the places included for 90p adults/50p child each stop. When you board, pick up a map of the bus's route, with stops and attractions clearly marked—very useful and also includes places where you can get on a ferry or a Bristol Packet Boat for a trip down the river. There is a commentary for you to listen to as you go along. The starting point is outside the Hippodrome, right in the city centre - look for the bus stop that has the letters Cj on it. The tour takes in the following places: Broadmead and the Galleries Shopping Centre area; King Street—home of the Theatre Royal, Britain's oldest working theatre and some great old pubs, such as the Llandoger Trow and The Old Duke (great for live jazz fans); through Redcliffe, home of the magnificent St Mary Redcliffe Church; all along the floating harbour area and past the SS Great Britain; up to the Georgian splendour of Clifton and its famous Clifton Suspension Bridge; along Avon Gorge and through the Downs to the popular and busy Bristol Zoo; finally coming back into town, passing City Museum and Art Gallery and trendy Park Street—look out for Cabot's Tower on the right, before delivering you back at the Hippodrome.
Once the second largest port in the country, this trail (a leaflet going into more detail is published by and available at the Tourist Office) gives you a flavour of Bristol's sea-faring past and takes between 2-3 hours to complete. Start at Bristol Bridge (at the end of Baldwin Street) in the city centre. On the left is Castle Park, which was surrounded by the River Frome and River Avon back in Anglo Saxon times and the site of a tiny port. In 1239 it was decided to divert the River Frome and a channel was cut to enable the river to flow into St Augustine's Reach, which flows right into the city centre. Cross the bridge and walk along the cobbled street of Welshback—a very busy area in the past, with many small boats ferrying produce around the area. A lot of trade was with Welsh merchants, thus the name. It houses a magnificent 19th century building built in a Byzantium style; now the trendy restaurant/bar Belgo's, but formerly a granary —the grain being loaded onto waiting ships. Walk to the end of Welshback, cross over the road and head left. Turn right at the next roundabout in front of St Mary Redcliffe Church (not strictly nautical, but well worth a look and built with rich sea-merchants money) and head up the slight hill, taking the first right into Redcliffe Parade. This Georgian terrace has the most amazing views over the floating harbours and beyond. Apparently Blackbeard, the violent robber of the high seas was born here in the 17th century! The steps at the end (look out for the ramp which was used to transport goods, by donkey, from the quayside) lead down to Bathhurst Basin. At the bottom of these on the right, are a series of caves cut into the rock. The sand cut from these was used for ship's ballast and also in the manufacture of the famous Bristol Blue Glass. Walk past The Ostrich pub on your left and either peek inside to see the caves in the wall here, or just soak up the nautical atmosphere—this part of the harbour is lined with small craft, longboats etc. Bathhurst Basin plays an important role in Bristol's development—because the Avon River had such a strong tide, it was damaging the ships docked in the city, so in 1803, a civil engineer called William Jessop began to create a 'floating harbour', which would keep the water at a level. Not only was the River Frome diverted, but also the River Avon, hence all the different branches of the floating harbour. Cross over the iron bridge infront of you and walk along with the water on your right. Continue until you meet the road and cross over Prince Street, to continue walking along the water. On your left is the Industrial Museum, housed in the transit sheds that remain from the old docks and displaying many exhibits of maritime Bristol. Continue along until you reach The Matthew and the SS Great Britain and visit the Maritime Heritage Centre here to find out more about them. Continue on, to pass the modern working marina and two lovely waterside pubs, The Cottage and The Nova Scotia—the latter also being the site of the only original Jessop-built lock to survive. The enormous red brick warehouses on the horizon, were originally tobacco warehouses. Cross over the small iron bridge to the other side of the water and stop outside The Pump House pub, which used to be an engine house that powered the swing bridge you've just crossed. You can catch a Ferry from here back into town. Check the Bristol Ferry Boat Company timetable for details, but in summertime, they call here about every twenty minutes. Once on the ferry, you will head back the way you came. Take a look at the tall tower on your left, on top of a hill in the distance. This is Cabot's Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate the voyage to Newfoundland by it's namesake John Cabot. Then turn to the right and gaze at the wooden ship The Matthew he went in! Past the new Harbourside developments, into St Augustine's Reach, all the bars, cafes and the Arts centre, the Watershed were once transit sheds serving the docks. Disembark and head for Narrowquay on the opposite side of the water. Follow this road and pass The Arnolfini on the corner—now an Art Gallery and cinema, but formerly a tea warehouse (tea, along with tobacco, was one of Bristol's lucrative trades) and a statue of the aforementioned John Cabot. Go round the corner and onto Prince Street, cross over at the traffic lights onto The Grove. This former soft-berth, called The Mud Dock, is now the name of a great cafe/bar situated here. Even Bristol's night life takes place on the river—look out for the Thekla night-club, situated in a large boat moored here and walk past the swish restaurant/bars, The River Station (an old harbour-police centre) and Severnshed (previously a transport shed). Cross over to The Hole in The Wall pub, whose spy-holes, according to local legend, were used to watch for marauding press gangs (mobs that kidnapped people and forced them onto ships to work) and was the model for the fictional inn featured in Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island". Turn left at the roundabout and turn into Queen's Square, crossing it and entering King Street. This cobbled street gives a real feeling for the city's sea-faring past, with its Merchant Venturers' Almshouses (intended for retired seamen), Theatre Royal (built with rich merchants money), Naval Volunteer Pub and the ancient, timber-framed pub, Llandoger Trow. You can almost hear the salty-sea dogs' tales! Walk to the end of King Street, to rejoin the cobbled street of Welshback, and from there back up to Bristol Bridge, from where you started.
Bristol's importance as a port in the late seventeenth century, unfortunately meant it was also involved in the awful business of slave trading. To find out more about the city's role in this shameful commerce, follow this trail (a leaflet going into more detail is published by and available at the Tourist Office), which takes approximately four hours. Start at the City Art Gallery and Museum at the top of Park Street, which contains a permanent exhibition about how the city became rich by trading slaves for tobacco, sugar and rum. Next door is a perfect example, the Wills Memorial Building (the large tower)—bequeathed to the University by the Wills family, who made a fortune in the eighteenth century by trading in tobacco, which was produced by slave labour in America. To see how rich merchants lived at this time, walk down Park Street and turn right into Great George Street, site of The Georgian House. This house/museum was once owned by John Pinney, a merchant who traded in sugar and ran slave plantations on the Caribbean island of Nevis - look out for exhibits showing Pinney and his black slave, Pero. On the corner of the same street is the home of Henry Cruger, who was Bristol's major in 1781 and who argued against abolition of the slave trade (his wife was the daughter of a successful slave-trader, which could have had something to do with it!). Back onto Park Street and passing number 43 (site of a now-demolished school for women, run by Hannah More who was a passionate opponent of slavery), you come to Bristol Cathedral at the bottom of the hill. Inside are monuments to various slave traders who owned ships transporting slaves from Africa to America. Turing left, on St Augustine's Parade, is a pub called the Horn and Trumpet, with a native American figurehead attached above the door. This celebrates the sugar industry in the British colony of Demerara. What it fails to portray however, is the violent rebellion of the slaves here (around 12,000) in the early eighteen hundreds. Next on the trail (continue along and turn left into Colston Street) is Colston Hall. Many streets and buildings bear the name "Colston" and they all refer to one Edward Colston. Thought of as a rich and charitable merchant (Colston Day is still celebrated every year by the schools and charities he gave his money and name to), he was also a sugar merchant in the Caribbean, and involved with the Royal Africa Company, who practically ran the entire slave trade itself. There has been talk of re-naming the hall, and some bands refuse to play there whilst it retains its moniker. Turn around and head back to the main road again (Colston Avenue!). Turn left, following the road along and in the middle of a traffic island on your right, you can see a statue of the controversial figure himself. Further along this road, on your left is The Three Sugar Loaves Pub, named after a nearby (now destroyed) sugar refinery. By 1760, there were 20 sugar refineries in Bristol, working with slave-produced raw sugar from plantations in the West Indies. Cross over the main road into Christmas Street, leading into Broad Street and round onto Corn Street. These two streets were the hub of mercantile life—a place for barter and discussion in the numerous coffee houses here. Look out for Tailors Court (down a small alley just past number 44 Broad Street), where wealthy William Miller, founding member of the 'Company of Merchants Trading to Africa' lived; The National Westminster Bank, whose founders were almost all traders to Africa; and the Corn Exchange, the busiest meeting place for merchants and traders. From Corn Street, take a left onto St Nicholas Street, turn left onto Baldwin Street and follow the road along until you see the floating harbour. Cross over the road onto the cobbled street that runs along the water, called Welshback. As you walk along here, take a look to your left. Over the water, peeping out between two large, modern buildings you can just see a small pub called the Seven Stars. It was here, in the late 1780s that Quaker Thomas Clarkson, who was involved in the anti-slavery campaign, visited the landlord (who reportedly refused to serve slave traders), to find out the level of opposition to slavery on the street. On your right you'll see a cobbled street called King Street, turn into this and look for the Theatre Royal, Merchant Venturers Almshouses and the Venturers House—all built with money made by merchants involved in the slave trade. When you come to the end of King Street, look over the roundabout to the left, at nearby Marsh Street - now a rather non-descript road, but once a favourite place for masters of slave ships to pick up their (often unwilling) crew, from the drunken patrons of the 37 taverns situated there. Turn around and head back up Prince Street and take any of the left turns into Queen's Square—again, a genteel area of the city, mostly built on the back of the slave trade—which was completed in 1727 when the trade was at its peak. From Queen's Square, head to the street called The Grove. Turn left and when you come to the roundabout, stay on the right-hand pavement and use the zebra crossing over to the enormous church in front of you. This is St. Mary Redcliffe. Local legend says that slaves were kept captive in the caves below here and true or not, it is certainly recorded that on the abolition of the anti-slavery bill in 1791, the bells were rung in celebration. A good time to remember Hannah More's feeling that "they are not Christians who infest Africa's shores, but are rather white savages ruled by lust of gold or lust of conquest".
Bristol has really come into its own over the last few years - this is now a city full of life and justly proud of its scene. Because it's quite a small city, it's managed to keep its own identity, which can be summed up in one word—mellow. Going out is generally a low-key affair in this city. That's not to say that there aren't clubs, bars and restaurants where you can glam it up with the best of them, but you definitely don't need to have your designer labels on before you dare venture out the door.
In the last few years Bristol has hit the headlines with home-grown talent, such as Massive Attack, Tricky and Portishead, all part of the so-called "Bristol Sound" and the music scene here continues to go from strength to strength. All tastes are catered for. If you're into classical, try St George's, for orchestral performances of the classic composers plus opera and jazz and even lunch time concerts. Also check out the Victoria Rooms in Clifton—home of the University's Music department—and Colston Hall in the city centre. Those looking for something less highbrow should visit the latter too, it caters for popular performers and big names also, such as The Supremes, Nanci Griffith, Paul Weller etc. For rock, pop, hip-hop, bands etc., there's a few venues to choose from. For alternative and fairly well-known bands try the Fleece and Firkin (The) pub, which hosts bands almost every night of the week. The larger Anson Room (part of the University) plays host to student-friendly bands and a number of smaller venues, such as Fiddlers in Bedminster, the Louisiana and the Bierkeller host regular gigs. World music, jazz, folk and blues fans can also take their pick of venues. The occasional big name will appear at Colston Hall (such as Doctor John), the New Vic Theatre, or St George's—look out for appearances from Bristol's own master-saxophonist Andy Sheppard—and smaller outfits regularly play at The Prom on Gloucester Road, the renowned Albert pub, south of the river and the Tantric Jazz Cafe in the city centre.
Then of course there's music to dance to! Bristol's club scene has undergone a renaissance in the last few years and there's a good choice of venues and club nights to satisfy most musical taste. For a glammed-up crowd and house and garage music, try either The Works or Oceana—both get packed with young things partying the night away. Well-known DJs regularly fill trendy Creation and Syndicate (The), both massive venues for you to get sweaty in. Even hipper, are the legendary Lakota and Thekla (the latter being a club-on-a-boat, moored on the floating harbour). For a more low-key night's clubbing, with all the vibe but less of the hassle, try the Tantric Jazz Cafe (as mentioned above), Cellar Cafe (a real find) and Dojo Lounge. And for a gay and lesbian scene, make your way to the Old Market area of the city and visit Castro's and Winn's.
Stage and Screen:
For those of us whose clubbing days are over, there's always the stage and screen to entertain, and there are enough art-house and mainstream cinemas and theatres to keep everybody happy. This is a city with an impressive theatrical heritage - Britain's oldest working theatre, the Theatre Royal, still stands in King Street and is the place to go for new productions that are on their way to the West End, by both well-known and up-and-coming playwrights, plus smaller, more alternative productions in their Studio and New Vic auditoria. For big-name shows, such as Dr Dolittle and The Phantom of the Opera it's a short walk from here to the Hippodrome, right in the city centre, where bus-loads of theatre-goers are a regular sight. For smaller and more experimental productions there's The Tobacco Factory, Bristol's newest theatre, situated in Bedminster and the Alma Tavern Theatre—a tiny space inside a pub. Celluloid fans can get their fix at either of the two art-house cinemas, the Watershed and the Arnolfini, each of which show the latest arty releases, foreign language films and hold occasional special events and festivals—the Watershed has the comfier seats though! Even more eclectic and alternative is The Cube - a tiny cinema that looks and feels like someone's living room. For general release films and your average blockbusters there's The Odeon in the city centre, the ABC in Whiteladies Road and three massive multiplexes - Showcase, and the two branches of Warner Village Cinema on the outskirts of the city(for comfy seats and American-sized screens check out the Vue at Cribbs Causway). Not forgetting the state of the art IMAX cinema, part of the new At-Bristol development, the south west's newest and biggest tourist attraction.
Bristol is firmly on the map of the country's comedy circuit. In north Bristol you can choose to go to Jesters Comedy Club on Cheltenham Road, which always has an entertaining line-up, and various special nights (student night, meal-deal night etc.) or The Bristol Comedy Pub, on Stokes Croft, which tends to be a slightly more hit and miss affair with semi-professionals, although it sometimes features the same comedians from Jesters, who just have to cross the road to here if they need more laughs. If the comedian has really grown in stature he or she will perform anywhere large enough, so watch out for performances by comedians such as Al Murray and Mark Lamarr at The Colston Hall, the Old Vic and occasionally, the Watershed. In south Bristol, try MadHouse (The), a venue above a pub in Bedminster—which hosts comedy nights every fortnight and features both big-names and up-and-coming new faces.
Kids have more than enough to keep them happy in Bristol and it's a very children-friendly city. Apart from the fact that just walking around provides numerous opportunities for diversions—think walking up Cabot's Tower, watching the boats at the harbour, getting a ferry ride around the city, playing on the swings at Brandon Hill, visiting the City Museum, crossing the Clifton Suspension Bridge and exploring the nearby Clifton Observatory and Caves. You could also take them to Windmill City Farm for a taste of the countryside, or to the ever-popular Bristol Zoo for some really wild life!
Bristol really comes alive in the summer and this is the time to visit if you fancy a festival experience. There's the urban madness of St Paul's Afrikan and Caribbean Carnival, a massive music and community event which draws a huge crowd and is getting bigger each year. The Harbour Regatta, two film and media events—Animated Encounters and Brief Encounters and the absolutely unmissable Bristol Balloon Festival. There's also the chilled-out, but buzzing vibe of the Bristol Community Festival at Ashton Court, which takes place in acres of green just over the suspension bridge, plus the granddaddy of all gatherings, the nearby Glastonbury Festival, just fifteen miles away.