8 reasons to visit Bristol before the year ends

As the nights draw in, swap hibernation for cultural stimulation on a visit to Bristol. With beautiful countryside close by for bracing walks plus a varied mix of film festivals, theatre, outdoor pursuits and festive events, you’ll want to be out exploring everything the city has to offer.

1. Enjoy classic comedy



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Laugh yourself silly at the annual Bristol Slapstick Festival (18 – 20 January 2019), the UK’s biggest celebration of silent and vintage screen comedy. Past events have featured a stellar cast including Jo Brand, Lee Mack, Tim Vine, The Goodies, Ade Edmondson and Lucy Porter, music in all styles by world class performers plus the funniest actors and scenes from more than a century’s output of international cinema and TV. It’s the perfect antidote to January!

Bristol Slapstick Festival - various locations

2. Hit the streets in search of world-class art



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Street art tours are a Bristol ‘must-do’ experience, with professional artists guiding visitors around the city's ever-changing urban outdoor galleries. Be whisked around the city by Where The Wall, who run Bristol Street Art Walking Tours all year-round, plus Banksy and Historical Harbour Walking Tours

Graft will show you some of the key graffiti spots in central Bristol, or discover 1,000 years of the city’s fascinating history while seeking street art on a Blackbeard to Banksy The Ultimate Bristol Walking Tour

Prefer exploring at your own pace? Download the Banksy Bristol Trail by Cactus Apps to assist you on your Banksy quest.

Where the Wall

3. Get out on the water



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Explore Bristol’s historic waterways on a paddleboard with SUP Bristol's expert instructors to guide you. Work those muscles as you glide past Brunel’s SS Great Britain, drift below Clifton’s rainbow-coloured houses and float alongside The Matthew and M Shed cranes. For something especially different how about incorporating yoga? Best start practicing your downward dog and sun salutations now!

SUP Bristol

4. Discover new culture hubs



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Be one of the first to see the final stage of Bristol Old Vic's £25 million transformation – a brand new full-height, glass-fronted atrium that will reveal the exterior walls of the beautiful Georgian theatre to the street for the first time from late September. Bristol Old Vic's autumn season has kicked off with a fantastic line-up of innovative theatre. See what's on and what's coming up.

St George’s Bristol also relaunches in September with a bold a new café, bar and multi-purpose space housed in an architect-designed structure that extends historic concert hall. The concert hall’s inaugural week-long Bristol Keyboard Festival – the first festival of its kind in the UK - begins on 30 October 2018. Expect a jam-packed programme of piano, synths and harpsichord, from the traditional to the adventurous, plus a family event.

Bristol Old Vic

5. Watch classic movies



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Bristol Film Festival (27 October – 2 November 2018) cleverly matches movies with Bristol settings to enhance your film-watching experience in a thrillingly original way. Freak yourself out while watching Alien in the eerie Redcliffe Caves as part of their ‘Horror In The Cave’ series. Or enjoy a gothic classic like Interview with the Vampire in Averys wine cellars while sipping French and American wines - a spooky build-up to Halloween.

For something a bit more niche, Wildscreen (15 – 19 October 2018) is the world's leading international festival celebrating and rewarding excellence in wildlife film-making.

Bristol Film Festival

6. Celebrate a Hollywood legend (and local hero!)



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Born in Bristol in 1904, Archibald Leach (Hollywood superstar Cary Grant’s real name!) began his career at Bristol Hippodrome before leaving for the USA. To celebrate the life and work of one of its most famous sons, Bristol holds a biannual Cary Grant Festival (23 – 25 November 2018) to entice new audiences and recreate the golden age of cinema-going. 

Watch screenings of Grant’s best-loved films, take a walking tour of places associated with the actor and listen to expert-led panel discussions and lectures during the weekend-long festivities. 

Bristol Hippodrome

7. Uncover one of the finest collections of temperate trees and shrubs in the world



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Autumn wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Westonbirt Arboretum. Make the most of their most magical season between the third week in October and first week in November to see the flaming Japanese Maples and yellow Black Walnuts at their colourful best. Come Christmastime, don’t miss the Arboretum lit up with illuminations of another kind for their Enchanted Christmas event.

Westonbirt Arboretum

8. Experience Christmas Victorian-style



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Turn the clock back over 100 years to see how Bristolians would have celebrated the Christmas season in Victorian times. The Victorian Christmas Weekend (9 – 10 December 2018) at Brunel’s SS Great Britain is a Dickensian dream. Expect a rag tag mix of Victorian characters sharing their seasonal stories and snow! 

Families can make traditional Victorian Christmas cards, meet Mr Brunel (the man who engineered the great ship itself), step into the shoes of a Victorian sailor and climb the rigging. 

Or head out of the city to take in the atmosphere of grand, gothic Tyntesfield House as you watch the Gibbs family and servants make their festive preparations. Look out for Christmas crafting, special night time openings, Christmas concerts in the chapel as well as seasonal food and craft markets.

For further ideas and inspiration to plan your visit now, see visitbristol.co.uk

SS Great Britain
23 Dec 2019(last updated)