Top things to see and do in Bristol in 2018

Bristol harbourfront (c) Harshil Shah / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0

Bristol harbourfront (c) Harshil Shah / Flickr CC BY-ND 2.0 - Credit: Archant

We look ahead to an exciting year in the city

St George's Concert Hall will be redeveloped for 2018 (c) Philip Vile / Destination Bristol

St George's Concert Hall will be redeveloped for 2018 (c) Philip Vile / Destination Bristol - Credit: Archant

Famed for its passionate character, maritime history and the acres of parkland that helped earn it European Green Capital 2015 status, Bristol has created its own distinctive identity. With what seems like a festival every weekend throughout the summer and a mile of markets at Christmas, there’s no off-season in the city. We’ve got you covered for what’s on and what’s new in Bristol for 2018.

Arts and Culture

Perhaps the biggest news for 2018 is that Bristol has just been named a UNESCO City of Film. The designation recognises Bristol as a key player in the national and international film industries and its contribution to the culture of film-making and the cinema. Bristol is home to Oscar-winning animators Aardman Animations (creators of Wallace and Gromit) and the BBC’s Natural History Unit, as well as pop-up screenings, film festivals, the Watershed Cultural Cinema and the Bottle Yard Studios – the largest film and TV studio facility in the West.

A city renowned worldwide for its burgeoning theatre scene, 2018 continues to be a time for transformation across Bristol’s performance venues. The UK’s oldest continuously working theatre, Bristol Old Vic will shake off its hoardings in the summer, to reveal a brand-new foyer area and accessible theatre.

Also ready for 2018 will be the redevelopment of St George’s concert hall. Catching a performance won’t be the same, with a fully accessible concert hall and brand new glass fronted extension and café. Even if you’re not going for a concert, stop in the new café and admire the three metre high glass soundwave sculpture, designed by Bristol’s own Luke Jerram.

Also beginning huge transformation projects are Colston Hall and Tobacco Factory Theatres. Although under major works, Colston Hall remains very much in-action, with a diverse programme of live music and comedy making its way across the city. The Tobacco Factory will begin a project to create a new flexible, multi-purpose studio space and upgrade its front-of-house and bar spaces.

The new Aerospace museum is open (c) Destination Bristol

The new Aerospace museum is open (c) Destination Bristol - Credit: sub

Things to see and do

Wallace & Gromit

The summer of 2018 will see another Aardman-themed arts trail by The Grand Appeal across the city. Previous trails include Gromit Unleashed, which scattered 70 unique Gromits all over Bristol in 2012, and Shaun in the City in 2015, which pulled off a similar feat with a flock of 120 spectac-ewe-lar sheep. A brilliant way to discover Bristol, the events and sale of the sculptures at the trails’ end raised over £6million for Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation.

Being Brunel

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Bristol’s favourite ship, the SS Great Britain sees a new museum open devoted entirely to the life of her creator. Being Brunel is set to open in February, and will allow visitors to immerse themselves in Brunel’s story, brought vividly to life with never-before-seen personal possessions, documents and artefacts, including his last cigar and cigar case, and his 1821 school report. The museum will be in Brunel’s Grade II* Listed Drawing Office where he originally designed and built the SS Great Britain and has been restored to how it would have looked in the 1840s.

St Paul’s Carnival

St Paul’s Carnival is back for a big 50th birthday bash in July. Expect colour, costumes and the best sort of chaos. The city is also home to Europe’s largest street art and graffiti festival, Upfest, which takes place in July. Last year’s pieces are covered over and replaced by stunning murals as the south of the city becomes a pop-up art gallery.

And more....

Cargo at Wapping Wharf (c) Jon Craig / Destination Bristol

Cargo at Wapping Wharf (c) Jon Craig / Destination Bristol - Credit: Archant

There’s a festival for every interest in Bristol, from circus to slapstick, cinema to cocktails. Keep an eye on the what’s on pages of to stay up to date.

Where to stay

Artist residence

Young, independent micro chain, Artist Residence’s arty bedrooms are created by artists in return for board. In Bristol, they plan to convert an old boot factory near edgy Stokes Croft and are expected to open in the summer. Street-art interiors, perhaps?

Avon Gorge Hotel

Perched on the edge of its namesake, the Avon Gorge Hotel enjoys a fabulous location overlooking the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Under the Hotel Du Vin brand, the stylish, new-look rooms are complete, and the restaurant, reception and terrace are still a work in progress due to be finished early in the year.

The Guildhall

Shrouded in mystery, The Guildhall is set to be Bristol’s first 5* hotel when it opens at the end of the year, or in early 2019. The 91-bedroom luxury spa hotel will be built around existing towers, pitched roofs, dormer windows and even statues of famous Judges, with each room having its own unique style and layout. There will be a rooftop swimming pool and the Crown Prosecution Service’s prison cells in the basement will be converted into unique changing rooms for the hotel’s luxury gym and spa.

What you might have missed...

Aerospace Bristol

If it’s been a while since you’ve been to Bristol, you’ve got a lot to catch up on. There’s the brand-new Aerospace Bristol museum, home to the final Concorde to fly, a beautiful extension at John Wesley’s Chapel ‘The New Room’, complete with café, education rooms and resource libraries.


Cargo at Wapping Wharf, a tempting shopping and eating district housed in recycled shipping containers and the sumptuous Harbour Hotel on Corn Street with an exclusive underground spa in the vaults of the old Lloyds bank building.

Don’t miss:

On screen

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and Stan & Ollie released in 2018, both shot on-location in Bristol.


Touching the Void, the first stage adaptation of Joe Simpson’s bestseller and BAFTA-award winning film. Directed by Tom Morris, the Old Vic’s artistic director.


The St George’s Bristol relaunch weekend on February 24 - 25, with live music, performances and more.

A Bristol first

Tobacco Factory Theatre’s first ever Factory Company season – shows produced by the theatre’s new in-house company of actors. Performances include Macbeth and Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge.