As much as I love Bristol, I also hold its slightly pompous and spoilt little sister close to my heart too.
Bath Spa is a mere ten minutes away from Bristol by train, and yet the inhabitants of both cities (yes, allegedly Bath is a city despite having no shops open past 6pm most evenings) rarely make the 13 mile trip between the two, except at Christmas to compare and chastise eachother’s Christmas markets.
I used to live in Bath, and think it’s a great place to spend a sunny lunchtime or relaxing weekend afternoon. Here are my top tips for Bath, whether you’re a resident in need of some new places to sample, or an outsider looking to explore it for the first time.
To be honest, if there’s one thing Bath excels at, it’s cosy places to have a coffee and a tasty snack. There are lovely cafes, delis and bistros tucked in to every cute street in the city centre; the highlights being Society Cafe, Wild Cafe, Chapel Arts Cafe. However, if you’re after something a little bit more special, my top tips would be…
Colonna & Smalls
A proud purveyor of speciality coffee, there is no better place in the West Country if you consider yourself a connoisseur of the coffee bean. The coffee shop itself is all very minimalist and modern – very much the place for freelance web designers tapping away on their Macbook Air, but luckily it manages to stay just the right side of cool without being exclusive.
Not just a location for finding obscure household artefacts and second hand books, the market also boasts more than a greasy spoon cafe – there are a couple of lovely food stalls as well as an American style diner that you can sit at and people watch.
Fine Cheese Co.
Obviously this place is impossible to beat when it comes to cheese cravings, but their cafe also has some of the best snacks in town – whether it be sausage rolls, gluten free cake or an insanely good selection of cured meats and olives – you can wash them back with a coffee or a sophisticated glass of wine.
Not the first thing you’d think upon visiting Bath, but this tiny sushi restaurant is a real find. Nestled in a tiny cobbled street towards the top of town, you can either pick from the conveyor belt or order from the menu – all of the dishes are extremely fresh, tasty and good value.
Being known mainly for its plethora of tourists and millionaire residents, it’s no surprise that finding an affordable watering hole in Bath usually presents itself as somewhat of a challenge. Most of the cosier pubs in town have by now been turned in to identikit gastro bars (better examples being The Porter, Hall & Woodhouse, The Griffin and The Cork) but there are still some treasures to be found…
Recently saved from the same fate as so many great pubs before it, The Bell is now a proud co-operative after 536 members of the local community managed to raise enough money to buy the pub. The minute you walk in you’ll see why so many people were desperate to keep it in its current form; whether it be the fine selection of local ales, the quirky interior, the magical garden out back or the fact that it boasts Bath’s only bar billiards table. Make sure you pay a visit to this Bath institution.
The Star Inn
A little-known gem, this pub is managed by Bath-based brewery Abbey Ales. It is a proud traditional pub and serves a selection of tasty free bar snacks alongside its many great ales and ciders; including quail eggs sausage rolls, filled sandwich rolls and a selection of cheeses.
Bath Brew House
The Brew House has its own brewery on site and in addition to its own fine ales also serves up a fantastic selection of guest beers from favourites such as Tiny Rebel, Wild Beer Co. and Moor Beer. It’s not just about the beer though – there is also a great menu including exciting items such as meat platters, spit-roast chicken and steak. They have their own smokehouse and barbecue outside in their huge back terrace, so no matter what the time of year you can expect a fine carniverous experience!
Another favourite of Bathonians, this pub prides itself on its brilliant beer selection and hearty menu. It’s the best pub to nip in to on a dark and rainy evening – you’ll struggle to find a cosier and comfier pub. The only downside is how small it is, but fear not, if you can’t find a seat you can nip a few doors down to The Salamander – owned by Bath Ales and also offering an impressive menu in a warming and wood-pannelled surrounding.
Not a city famed for its nightlife – Bath is not the place to call upon if you want to go clubbing. Instead, opt for the numerous cocktail bars dotted around town, and you won’t be disappointed.
Down some stairs on George Street, this cavernous bar has bundles of character and impeccably good cocktails.
The Canary Gin Bar
A dedicated gin bar, the decor is sultry and intimate, whilst the gin menu is extensive and impressive. Ask the bar staff for tips and you won’t come away disappointed.
A meze restaurant and bar in the vaults on North Parade, with a nice riverside terrace and some great food to accompany any drinks.
The Dark Horse
A friendly & cosy cocktail bar on Kingsmead Square, with frequent events, comfy chairs and lovely staff.
Another underground bar, this place winds through several vaults and has a sexy, glamourous vibe. It’s very popular, so make sure you book if you’re in a group.
As a final flourish, I thought I’d tack on some additional tips for places to explore alongside the usual haunts of Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, and The Crescent. Hopefully these will give you a bit more of a rounded picture of Bath, and then you can load up on food or drink from one of the places I’ve listed above!
Widcombe canal and locks
Despite only being a 5 mintue walk behind the train station, very few people know about the pretty canal walk that stretches from here all the way out of the city. I often walk along here at lunchtime to look at the boats and try to spot some wildlife (herons, ducks and even kingfishers are commonplace); there’s no more picturesque or tranquil part of the city, and it’s just a few moments walk from the city centre.
Green Park Station
An active railway station until the 1960s, this impressive building now hosts several good food stalls, as well as a Britain’s oldest farmers market every Saturday. If you’re food orientated and a fan of local produce, there is no better place to visit.
Originally a site occupied by houses just outside the city centre, this steep and multi-levelled park was created after a landslide in the 1870s. It offers great views over the city whilst also being a quiet place to sit, away from Bath’s crowds and mind-altering one way traffic system.
Happy Bathing; let me know your own tips for the spa city and any you may have for Bristol too!
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