Why is Bristol famous for hot air balloons?

Situated in the south west of England, the city of Bristol is without a doubt the capital of hot air ballooning in the country. Not only is it home to an array of hot air balloon trip providers, but also hosts an annual hot air balloon festival that has become the largest balloon gathering in Europe. But what is it about the city that has nurtured this special relationship with hot air balloons?

History of hot air ballooning in Bristol

Balloon enthusiasts have been active in Bristol for years. The first foray into hot air ballooning took place in 1784, when an Italian artificial flower maker named Michael Biaggini created a model balloon that he exhibited at a three-day exhibition in the city. Unusually, his balloon was shown to audiences in Bristol under the roof of Cooper’s Hall as opposed to outdoors, where you might ordinarily expect to see a hot air balloon. Measuring 30 feet in circumference, Biaggini’s balloon helped to put Bristol firmly on the ballooning map.

Modern-day ballooning in the city

The hot air balloon community in Bristol has gone from strength to strength. Since 1979, Bristol has been home to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, which takes place at the end of the summer each year. This three-day bonanza started off with just a small handful of ballooning enthusiasts. Over the decades, the event has grown and grown. It is not uncommon for the event to welcome over 70 different balloons from around the world, as well as tens of thousands of visitors who come to make the most of the weekend.

A highlight of the fiesta is the special shaped balloon launches. These have seen balloons in the shape of Rupert the Bear, Sonic the Hedgehog, Steve the Minion; even fire extinguishers, drinks bottles and aliens have ‘taken to the skies’ over the city.

Bristol from the skies

A final element that makes Bristol the place to visit for ballooning, is the remarkable architecture of the city and the splendour of its surrounding landscape. From the skies over Bristol, you can take in the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the River Avon, along which forts from the Iron Age can be seen. Further afield, the south of the Cotswolds to the east and the Mendip Hills to the south enable balloon enthusiasts to make the most of their hot air ballooning adventure in Bristol.