We were far, far away from the Highlands of Scotland and it was 11 degrees, so, in the height of December, I’d basically call that abroad. Bath feels like an abroad city, in the most English-rose kind of way. If I had to compare Bath, I’d say it was a little bit like Edinburgh and a little bit like London’s Kensington. But different. We visited this bonnie city in December, a few weeks before Christmas. There are lots of festive things to do in Bath.
The roads to get to Bath from Scotland are a 10/10. In fact, driving on English motorways, in general, is a breeze. Bath is an enchanting city with a delectable charm. I had one of the coolest, most fascinating (and most terrifying) experiences in Bath at Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein. But more on that one later.
Things to do in Bath
The city of Bath was established by the Romans as “Aquae Sulis” meaning “the waters of Sulis.” Sulis is the Celtic goddess of healing and sacred waters. Bath’s own sacred waters percolate through limestone from a depth of 4,800 metres. Spectacular stuff.
Bath has been a luxurious destination since Georgian times when it became fashionable to “take the waters.” During this same period, architecture in Bath came into its own, forming the Royal Crescent and Circus, made from the honey-rich Bath stone. Bath’s architecture comes into its own at Christmas. Here are some of the best things to do in Bath at Christmas.
The Enchanted Garden of Light at The American Museum
The American Museum in Bath is the only Americana museum outside of the USA and showcases a diverse collection of art, folk, and cultural objects from between the 14th and 20th centuries. The building and surrounding gardens are beautiful in their own right, offering gorgeous views. But add the spice and magic of Christmas on a Winters evening, and darkness offers something else entirely. Something truly magical.
By night, the gardens of the American Museum come alive with a trail of wondrous light displays and spectacular illuminations. As for wandering through the fairytale gardens surrounded by sparkling lights in rich seasonal colours, I’d say that this was the star aloft the tree in Bath’s Christmas offering. Also, the hefty sausage roll/mulled wine combo in the cosy cafe afterwards was low-key everything.
No. 1 Royal Crescent
Built from Bath’s iconic Bath stone, the Royal Crescent was built during the Georgian architectural boom in the city. The museum; decorated and furnished to look as it may have been during the late 1700’s features historic pictures, objects, and furniture. These provide an insight into what life was like for the wealthy and their servants during that time. We visited No.1 Royal Crescent during 12 Tales of a Georgian Christmas and the house was decorated beautifully, with tales of times gone by in each of the exuberant rooms.
The servants quarter was my favourite though. It was tucked away in the depths of the house. Dried oranges and pine needles hung from the ceiling to dry, which would then have been used as Christmas decorations. There was also a Yule log in the open fire. It was atmospheric and reminiscent of Downton Abbey.
The Roman Baths are basically what I envisage for my future self; togas, rich turquoise piping hot waters, and pillars of hope entwined with a relaxed sense of self. The Baths have been developed multiple times over the centuries and today you can visit the many layers of Roman history.
The above-ground buildings date back to the 19th century, with statues of Emperors on the terrace. But the below-ground waterways are definitely the most impressive. There is also a collection of 12,000 Roman coins, the skeleton of a Roman man, and the bronze head of the goddess Minerva.
When we visited Bath at Christmas, you could even enjoy a prosecco or champagne by the side of the baths. Why not add some luxury to your itinerary of things to do in Bath?
Take The Waters at The Pump Room
Located in the Abbey Church Yard in Bath is the historic Grand Pump Room. This bustling restaurant has been at the heart of Bath’s social scene for over two centuries, boasting esteemed patrons such as Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
The Pump Room is adjacent to the Roman Baths, making it an ample place to taste the waters from the spa fountain after a visit to the Baths. Historically, “taking the waters” was known to cure a wealth of ailments. We never tried it on our visit so I can’t testify, but that’ll be something to look forward to next time. A Christmas visit to Bath really isn’t complete without a visit to the Pump Room.
Thermae Bath Spa
The Thermae Bath Spa, a historic attraction and relaxing spa which is powered by the region’s hot springs, should be at the top of anybody’s list when visiting Bath. I mean it could even be considered an outrage if you went to Bath without having a bath. The Thermae Bath Spa is Britain’s only natural thermal spa. The most impressive aspect is their gorgeous rooftop pool which wouldn’t look out of place in the Mediterranean or on a rooftop in Barcelona. The spa also has other facilities on offer including massages, steam rooms, and an ice room.
Easily one of the most famous and visited attractions in Bath is the Bath Abbey, so naturally, we had to see what all the fuss was about. As someone who absolutely loves gothic architecture and had previously only seen pictures of the Bath Abbey, I was very excited to get my camera out and see what I could capture.
The Bath Abbey it is a parish church that was founded in the 7th century. The Abbey is majestic both inside and out.
When we arrived in Bath, the Abbey was home to the “Museum of the Moon,” a temporary exhibition presented by Luke Jerram. Not only did it have, well, the moon… But lots of other Christmas events such as carols and story-telling, by moonlight. So lovely!
Bath Christmas Market
With me being obsessed with getting lost in a Christmas market and unearthing hidden gems, and the added atmosphere of Christmas time, I loved the Bath Christmas Market. When we visited, it wasn’t its usual size due to covid restrictions but it still hit the mark.
Callie and Corrie came with us on most of our excursions, and where we couldn’t take the dogs, one of us went and the other stayed with the dogs. But the Christmas market was one of the really good dog-friendly things to do in Bath at Christmas. They even had a sausage out of a sausage roll!
Go and explore the endless independent shops in Bath! Whenever we visit a new place, we always try and support local. We visited lots of little shops selling jewellery, art, textiles, cheeses, preserves and bits and bobs for the dogs. There is nothing better than wandering around the wee independents at Christmas.
Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most famous and terrifying tales in literature and is recognised all over the world. Therefore, we were not going to miss the opportunity to visit the first museum in the world dedicated to Mary Shelley. It was a fantastic day out! The museum has been decorated to look like an old, damp Georgian manor. The atmosphere is incredible throughout.
The collection at the House of Frankenstein has a wide variety of content and collectables featuring big Frank. But something I was pleasantly surprised about and absolutely loved was the history surrounding Mary Shelley. She was a fascinating person with a dark background. By visiting the House of Frankenstein in Bath, I learned that her background had a colossal influence on Frankenstein.
There is a panic room, a completely terrifying basement and SO much to read, it really is a must-visit. I must also clarify that this is indeed an immersive experience and you may never forget the basement…
After the basement experience, we went into the wee bar for some mulled wine and mince pies. Frankenstein, but make it festive.
Pulteney Bridge in Bath is another must for architecture lovers. A historic piece of Georgian architecture situated smack bang in the middle of Bath city centre and only a 2-minute walk from other attractions like the Bath Abbey. It was completed in 1774 and has been preserved well. If you want a place to take the perfect Instagram picture of Bath (or simply somewhere to cross the River Avon) then this is the bridge for you.
Bath is the biggest city in Somerset. We stayed for the majority of our visit to this region, however, it is certainly worth exploring the wider region of Somerset. Especially if you’re a fan of cider and cheese. The Cheddar Gorge caves are still used to mature cheese today! And what’s more Christmassy than a cheese board?
Overall, Bath is a fantastic place to visit for a city break, be it around Christmas or otherwise. The city is a World Heritage Site and the surrounding Somerset boasts beaches, green spaces, woodlands, lakes, and endless cottage core architecture. For more info on visiting this lovely city, check out these resources for planning your visit to Bath.