Bristol International Balloon Fiesta is back! After two long years away, it is finally returning to paint our skies with a palette of hot air balloons, of all shapes and sizes. Not everyone can make it down to the Ashton Court Estate, however. With no shuttle buses this year to transport people about – the Fiesta is encouraging everyone to walk or cycle – access is harder than usual. Luckily, Bristol is infamous for its hilly landscape, which at this time of year becomes an advantage for those seeking stunning views of the city skyline. You’re probably going to spot hot-air balloons wherever you are this weekend. But we’ve picked out some of the best vantage points to see these iconic festival launches.
Ashton Court Estate
Is this too obvious? Possibly, but it’s true. There is nothing that can match being up close with 100s of balloons taking off together. It’s why the festival attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. It’s truly a dazzling spectacle that’s bound to hit new heights this year. Of course, intense crowds and arduous travel aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But if you can handle them, then it’s our number one choice for experiencing the Fiesta.
Clifton Observatory and The Downs
We’re combining these two, otherwise Clifton could take up half the list before we’ve mentioned anywhere else. Clifton Observatory has one of the most iconic sights in Bristol, overlooking the Suspension Bridge, with a straight view all the way to Ashton Court Estate. Balloons and Bridge in one photogenic, Bristolian marriage. It’s maybe only bettered by The Downs. Offering similar views, but with the Avon Gorge added in – although you will be a little further away
The oldest park in Bristol and home to Cabot Tower, Brandon Hill offers a panoramic view of Bristol. It offers stunning views no matter what direction you’re facing. Its running stream and flowering faun, which attract butterflies and bees throughout the summer, make it a gorgeous spot for a picnic. It’s a great option to catch the Fiesta if you’re up near Park Street too. Just point yourself South West and soak up the sights.
If you’re in East Bristol, there aren’t many options to spot hot-air balloons. Your odds of a good sighting are far slimmer than your Western and Southern neighbours. But, we understand if you don’t want to cross the city. That’s why we’re suggesting heading to Troopers’ Hill. Recognisable by its hilltop chimney, it offers an excellent view of the entire city. Meaning you can witness the whole skyline light-up with balloons.
Still wanting to hit the pubs or do a bit of shopping this weekend? Don’t worry. Odds are you will spot at least one balloon wherever you are. But the harbourside is your best bet in the centre for catching the action. Many hot-air balloons are bound to pass overhead. And with its vast skies, there will be plenty of photographic opportunities. The Apple or Arnolfini Café Bar offer great outdoor seating so you don’t miss the celebrations.
It doesn’t have the vantage points of some of the other parks in Bristol, but Victoria Park does put you a lot closer to the action. To be honest, if you’re in the area then we recommend heading to Ashton Court Estate as it;s only a 15 minute cycle away. We understand, however, that this isn’t possible for everyone. You’ll still grab some nice sightings from this large grassy space. It’s a lot quieter too!
Out towards the airport, Dundry Hill has a squinting view of Ashton Court Estate but provides a sweeping vista of the rolling countryside. Stretching for two miles east-to-west, there are many gorgeous walks around for those looking to get out-and-about this weekend. It’s a perfect location to see hot-air balloons too as they fly away from the city, as well as views of the Barrow Gurney Reservoirs. The lushest location for balloon-spotters.
A hot-air balloon
This is cheating a little, yes, but nothing beats a hot-air balloon ride. Being 1,000 feet in the air, with flames gushing above and wind in your hair, it’s a view nowhere in Bristol can beat. Letting you soak up all the land below. Expect most hot-air balloon rides to be booked up this weekend, however, but that shouldn’t stop you going any other time of the year. Hot-air balloons are for life not just for Bristol International Balloon Fiesta. If you’ve got a fear of heights, however, maybe just skip this and stick to the above options…