Bristol Balloon Fiesta, the Bristol hot air balloon festival
Europe's largest annual hot air balloon festival, the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, returns from August 10 to 13, 2023. With the event taking place just 15 minutes from Bristol city centre, you can take the opportunity to discover the best of the city at your own pace aboard a Tootbus panoramic bus!
What is the history of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta?
The inaugural Bristol International Balloon Fiesta took place on the weekend of September 7th-9th, 1979 at the renowned Ashton Court. The event has experienced consistent growth over the years and has blossomed into Europe's largest free annual hot air balloon festival.
With over 100 hot air balloons participating, the event now attracts a staggering 500,000 spectators over its four-day duration. It takes place at Ashton Court Estate in Long Ashton, at the west of Bristol.
What is the programme of the Bristol Balloon Fiesta?
The event starts on Thursday 1 August and runs until Sunday 13 August. Mass launches take place at 6am and 6pm, depending on the weather.
The festivities kick off with a massive, spellbinding balloon ascension at 6am. Balloons of various shapes and sizes soar gracefully through the town and across the magnificent countryside. This magical experience sets the tone for a typical day of festivities.
All day entertainment
Secure a spot around the ballooning arena to witness all the exciting action or venture out to explore Ashton Court Estate, where you'll find a wide array of 100 traders and activities catered to families and children of all ages.
Make your way to the Brizzle Kicks area, dedicated to children's entertainment, or visit the bandstand for live music performances. Weather permitting, the arena hosts various ballooning activities throughout the day.
For a delightful dining experience, choose from the diverse food options available from the traders and enjoy watching the hot air balloons inflate at 6pm for the evening ascent.
Come together around the ballooning arena and witness the captivating sight of balloonists getting ready for their flights. The baskets are carefully rigged, the burners are tested, and the envelopes are filled with air, creating an atmosphere of excitement and anticipation. Observe the balloons gently sway and adjust their positions as the pilots prepare for takeoff.
Keep an eye out for the signal from the flight director, indicated by the release of green smoke. This signifies that it is safe to launch the balloons, usually after 6pm, creating a breathtaking spectacle as they ascend into the sky.
One of the main highlights of the fiesta is the mesmerising Night Glow event, where balloons are inflated and illuminated to the rhythm of music after sundown. This enchanting spectacle takes place on the opening Thursday night at around 9:30 pm, accompanied by a spectacular fireworks display that adds an extra touch of magic.
Another Night Glow event, along with fireworks, takes place on Saturday night. For many, these Night Glows and fireworks are considered the pinnacle of the fiesta, leaving spectators in awe of the breathtaking beauty and vibrant atmosphere.
With its historical museums, maritime heritage, vibrant street art, parks and a wide range of activities, Bristol is a city brimming with creativity and cultural richness. Discover our selection of the 15 best restaurants in Bristol.