Bath’s cultural scene is brimming with options. You can mull over a masterpiece at one of the city’s excellent galleries or delve into Bath’s history amongst the fine selection of famous museums. All year round, they’re right up there with some of the best attractions in the city. However, if you’re staying with us in spring or summer, the city’s culture calendar is chock-a-block with great events and festivals to keep you busy.
Housing an incredible collection of contemporary and historic clothing, The Fashion Museum is truly one of a kind. It began life as the private collection of Doris Langley Moore, who was one of the pioneering historians of female fashion. She left her entire collection to the city of Bath. It now attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, including locals, fashion students and tourists.
Housed in Bath’s magnificent 18th century Assembly Rooms, it consists of over 150 fully dressed mannequins that chronicle the ebb and flow of fashion over the past 400 years. Best of all, there’s a dressing-up area where you can try on some of the collection, including hats, coats, corsets, dresses and bonnets.
On the other side of the River Avon, standing resplendent in the Sydney Pleasure Gardens, you’ll find The Holburne Museum. It was the city’s first public art gallery and holds an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, jewellery, objects, books and more. The former ballroom has been stunningly laid out for a banquet, with a spread of silver and bone china fit for a king, all displayed beneath a mesmerising crystal chandelier. As far as paintings go, you will find masterpieces by the likes of Gainsborough and Turner.
In all honesty, the grounds are worth a visit all on their own. The Sydney Gardens were often walked by Jane Austen, who lived nearby in Sydney Place, where the film adaptation of Persuasion was filmed. Plus, The Holburne Museum has starred in popular period dramas, such as The Duchess and Vanity Fair.
Another fascinating collection housed in a marvellous listed building is The American Museum. It’s based in Claverton Manor, less than half an hour’s drive from our Trowbridge hotel. Just like The Holburne Museum, it’s worth paying a visit to Claverton Manor solely for the gardens. Set into the Avon valley, you’ll enjoy incredible views while you walk around. There’s also a colonial herb garden, and the Mount Vernon Garden is a direct recreation of George Washington’s.
When you’ve had your fill of the estate’s great outdoors, inside the manor house you’ll find the finest collection of Americana outside of the United States, including a 200-strong selection of quilts. The museum covers every aspect of American history; it’s great if you want to learn about the Founding Fathers, Native Americans, the abolition of slavery and the American Civil War.
If you enjoy a spot of stargazing and you’ve got an hour or two to kill, pay a visit to the Herschel Museum of Astronomy on New King Street. The lovely Georgian townhouse was the former home of astronomer and musician William Herschel and his sister Caroline. It’s been fully restored and transformed into a museum to celebrate their lives’ work and achievements in music and astronomy. Considering it’s just a couple of minutes’ walk from our Bath City Centre hotel, we reckon it’s one of the must-see stops in Bath. You can take a look around Herschel’s music room and sit in the gardens where he discovered Uranus in 1781 using a telescope he’d built himself.
Last on our list of museums in Bath is Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House. It’s one of Bath’s oldest houses, birthplace of the world-famous Sally Lunn bun, and has an oven that dates back to the 1100s. If you’ve never tried a Sally Lunn bun, then you can’t leave Bath before you do. They’re large, sweet buns, similar to brioche and a bit like a teacake. They’re unique and are still made from Sally Lunn’s original, secret recipe. Try one for yourself and see what you think.
At the west end of Pulteney Bridge, you’ll find the Victoria Art Gallery. It’s a decadent building originally designed to be used as a public library, but now it houses an important collection of works from more than 2,000 artists, including oil paintings from the likes of John Nash, Grayson Perry and Thomas Gainsborough.
Best of all, the permanent collection is free to visit, and the location couldn’t be more convenient. Plus, the ground floor houses two ever-changing exhibits that are sure to be of interest.
As far as Bath’s private galleries go, there are three we’ll mention here. All offer a good selection from both local and international artists, and cater for all budgets. In the Artisan Quarter, you’ll find Gallery & Barrow on Walcot Street. Near The Circus, on Bartlett Street, there’s David Simon Contemporary. And a couple of streets down from The Royal Crescent, Quest Gallery is also a good option.
If you’re staying at one of our Bath hotels during May, our top tip is to make the most of The Bath Festival. Founded in 1948, it has 70 years of pedigree bringing some of the best musicians in the world to the city. Its line up caters to the city’s diverse taste in music, with genres ranging from pop music through to jazz, classical and world music. What’s more, in 2017, it merged with the Bath Literature Festival so it’s now a multi-arts event championing contemporary fiction and celebrating all manner of literary genres through several days of talks, workshops and debates.
If you’re in the city in June, you’ve struck lucky, as it’s the month when Pub in the Park comes to Bath, taking over Royal Victoria Park to bring the people of the city some of the finest gourmet food the UK has to offer. We’re not joking, Pub in the Park offers seriously good eating from the best chefs in the country, including hotshots with Michelin stars to their name. Here’s the draw, though – every dish only costs a few pounds. It’s your chance to eat high-end food at high street prices. Plus, you’ll be able to wash it all down with a hefty helping of live music.
Meanwhile, July is the month of Bath Carnival. Every year, it adopts a different theme and takes over the city with street parties, creative workshops, dance classes and much more. Expect colourful costumes, lively music, friendly people, plus a whole lot of dancing, particularly at the popular Party in the Park in Sydney Gardens.
As we mentioned on our Bath entertainment page, the Bath Comedy Festival takes over the city in spring, with events at over 25 venues, including the Assembly Rooms, Bath Abbey, The Forum, Theatre Royal and Komedia. In total, more than 150 comedy acts perform over the course of the festival. They range from rising stars of the circuit to household names like Jon Richardson.
It’s not every day you find exquisite neo-classical Palladian architecture surrounding some of the world’s most important Roman remains. Book one of our Bath hotels today and admire the period elegance and Bath’s array of unique sights and attractions.
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