In this paper we present a method to deposit thin films of bismuth with sub-nanometer surface roughness for application to diamagnetic levitation. Evaporated films of bismuth have a high surface roughness with peak to peak values in excess of 100 nm and average values on the order of 20 nm. We expose the smooth backside of the films using a template stripping method, resulting in a great reduction of the average surface roughness, to 0.8 nm. Atomic force microscope and X-ray diffraction measurements show that the films have a polycrystalline texture with preferential c-axis orientation. On the back side of the film, fine grains are grouped into larger clusters. Cantilever resonance shift measurements indicate that the Young's modulus of the films is on the order of 20 GPa. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.