ESCAPE LONDON: Artisan Spirit and Boutique Originality in Festive Bath

11/30/2017 05:02 am ET Updated Nov 30, 2017

At Christmas time, the ancient city of Bath glitters with a spirit of originality and holiday cheer—from the independent shops and artisan restaurants to the charming, one-off boutique hotels and limited-edition bars.

Winter pop-up Après-Ski Bar, in front of Bath’s Abbey Hotel
Photo by Abbey Hotel
Winter pop-up Après-Ski Bar, in front of Bath’s Abbey Hotel

The city of Bath is known for its historic architecture, natural springs dating back to Roman times, and romantic literary backbone, but it’s also the home to a crop of independent business that are invigorating this timeless city with new, homegrown heart and soul. It’s time to see the city in a whole new light:

Unapologetically artistic, No. 15 represents true individuality
Photo by No. 15
Unapologetically artistic, No. 15 represents true individuality

STAY: For a wildly unique boutique experience, your choice must be the newly open No. 15 Great Pulteney. From the outside, this discreet townhouse looks like something out of a Jane Austen novel, but inside you’ll find a riot of creativity and kitschy cool. Packed with outré art (think: tabletops crafted out of jewelry, hand-painted wallpaper, giant dollhouses, and walls decorated with a collection of kaleidoscopes), this hotel packs not only oodles of character but also a cool cocktail bar (where the menu is a deck of playing cards), a café, and what might be the most interesting spa in all of Bath.

One of Bath’s many one-off, independently owned shops
Photo by N. Trilivas
One of Bath’s many one-off, independently owned shops

SHOP: The holiday season is one of the best times to visit Bath because it makes Christmas shopping a breeze. First, hit the Bath Christmas Market for unique treasures that truly represent local commerce, as over 80% of stallholders are from Bath and the South West. Also, a remarkable 99% of all products are handmade in Britain or abroad with fairtrade accreditation.

There are also plenty of lovely shops to pop into all year round including Katherine Fraser for hand-woven textiles (don’t miss the chic Merino lambswool scarves); Bath Aqua Glass, an independent glass blowing shop-cum-studio; Meticulous Ink for fine stationery and paper products; Alexandra May Jewellery for one-off costume pieces; and of course all the the various antique and rare bookshops like George Bayntun.

A Bath original: the 28-year-old Fine Cheese Co.
Photo by N. Trilivas
A Bath original: the 28-year-old Fine Cheese Co.

EAT: Bath has an impressive array of farm-to-table, seasonal restaurants to choose from. If you need to warm up after shopping in the market, stop by Clayton’s Kitchen for traditional British fare with a seasonal twist (the daily soup—chestnut and white onion—was soul-restoring). Cheese lovers need to visit The Fine Cheese Co., a 28-year-old shop whose products are now sold all around the country. They sell an impressive array of artisan cheeses made from small country producers. Try the Affineur Walo Red Nosed Gold Label on a Bath Oval (what else?) biscuit. Described as a cross between a Gruyère and Parmesan, this cheese will make an excellent addition to any holiday cheese board.

Snuggly vibes at the winter pop-up Après Ski Bar
Photo by The Abbey Hotel
Snuggly vibes at the winter pop-up Après Ski Bar

DRINK: After all that salty, fresh artisan cheese and self-less Christmas shopping, you’re going to need a drink. (Tis the season to treat yourself!) Check out the festive pop-up Après-Ski Bar in front of the Abbey Hotel (sister hotel to No. 15). This warming, chalet-style bar decorated with a real fireplace and garlands of Christmas stockings, serves up hearty Alpine-inspired nibbles and tipples. The Après Apple cocktail (vodka, Fireball, cloudy apple juice, cranberry juice, grated nutmeg, and a slice of apple) is dangerously delicious.

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