Christmas in Bath: Why our city is Britain’s best

9 December 2022 | 7 min read | News
George Hartrey

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Bath is bloody brilliant. That’s not a particularly analytical take on what the city has to offer, but I’m certain I could sit here for hours paging my way through a thesaurus and still not find a better way to sum up this little old – and I mean old – town.

That’s what I think, what Mary Berry thinks, and what Nicholas Cage thinks. Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley thought so, William Wilberforce thought so, Julius Caesar thought so (probably), and King Bladud thought so almost 3,000 years ago. If anyone gets hold of Santa this year, ask him and I bet he’s on board.

Nothing beats this sensational little city at the foot of the Cotswolds.

It’s at its bustling and ebullient best at Christmas time, when more than 170 wooden chalets line the streets for one of the country’s finest festive markets. Independent vendors offer pancakes, puzzles and paintings, books, baubles and beauty products, cheeses, chocolates and so much more. But, for the 49 other weeks of the year, there are plenty of other gems in the city’s independent retail crown that make a visit more than worth your while.

I was born just down the road from Bath, so my prattling on about this place might seem a little biased. And so instead, I’ve asked the team – all of whom have all been drawn to Bath from further afield for one reason or another – to tell the world what their favourite shops and food spots in town are.


Magalleria (Upper Borough Walls)

A real hidden gem for print aficionados, Magalleria is home to one of the largest collections of fine, independent magazine collections. Founders Daniel McCabe and Susan Greenwood have done an incredible job of curating over 1,500 titles – a unique blend of both new and old – covering all sorts of niche interests, sourced from right across the globe. I highly recommend stopping by to browse, and if you’re lucky, you might even meet Enzo the elusive shop dog!

The Green Rocket (Pierrepont Street)

I couldn’t choose anywhere else but The Green Rocket – I can’t tell you have many times I’ve been there! An award-winning independent plant-based restaurant, sitting just on the edge of Parade Gardens, it’s the perfect spot for people-watching and grabbing a coffee, lunch or one of their homemade cakes. They don’t take reservations, so get there early as you’ll often spot a queue out of the door. Oh, and do pick up a copy of their cookbook too – the perfect Christmas gift!


Colonna & Small’s (Chapel Row)

This is my go-to for the finest coffee in Bath. They know their beans like nobody I have ever met, and create a coffee-buying experience that is unequalled anywhere in town. Every week the coffees change, and this is where the peeps who work there really earn their stripes. They guide you as a consumer to pick the right coffee that matches your taste preferences, which makes the process less of a transaction and something that is more personal and bespoke for you.

Paxton & Whitfield (John Street)

I like cheese almost as much as I like cake (and I love cake), and this place is simply wonderful. They have two small shops in London, but this is their only one outside of the capital and it feels like a huge slice of luck that it’s in our city! Whether you have a penchant for English or French, Irish or Italian, Spanish or Swiss, this is the place to come for the finest that Europe has to offer. It matters not a jot if you don’t know your Waterloo from your Ole Groendal, the peeps here can help you to make the right choice, as well as recommending the right biscuits to pair with it. Paxton & Whitfield is a proper artisan cheesemonger that you should try if you’ve not done so already.


Meticulous Ink (Walcot Street)

Hidden away at the top of Walcot Street, Meticulous Ink is a stationery store and printing workshop that is an essential stop when buying for anyone creative. Whether you’re looking for a personalised wax seal, want to sign up for Calligraphy lessons or just need to stock up on any kind of printed goodness (produced on their 1960s printing presses, of course) then Meticulous Ink is the place to be.

Rooted Café and Supper Rooms (Newbridge Rd)

Specialising in a variety of vegetarian and vegan dishes, Rooted is a family run business situated on Newbridge Road, just outside the centre of town. Be it breakfast, brunch, or a Sunday lunch, you don’t need to be vegetarian to enjoy the range of dishes offered there. Whenever friends and family visit Bath (whatever their dietary requirements) Rooted is a sure winner every time.


Refillable (London Road)

Refillable is an absolute favourite. It’s packed with the most delicious granola, every nut and seed you can imagine, yoghurt from Dorset, milk from Hartley Farm just up the road and a cornucopia of packaging-free goodies to cover your every need. They’re completely committed to being environmentally friendly and everything they offer has that feeling of luxury too. Highly recommended!

Walcot House (Walcot Street)

They just seem to get everything right. Walcot House serves the most delicious cocktails I’ve ever tasted, and their café is great for meeting friends or taking a quiet moment for yourself, with arguably the best coffee in town. The food is top-notch, and they manage a variety of atmospheres, from a convivial modern-British restaurant to a lively bar, cool café and a fun nightclub. They have something for everyone, and super-friendly staff, too.

…and, for what it’s worth, George

Topping & Company (York Street)

Okay, it’s not truly independent. Topping’s Bath store is one of four in the UK, but it is undoubtedly their flagship. Three levels of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves mean you can quite easily lose hours in there – I know, I’ve done it – and with free tea and coffee while you browse, why not set aside an afternoon to take it all in? I wasn’t a huge reader until finding Topping & Company, but now I’ll pop in just as I’m passing by and emerge with books I’d never heard of before walking up those steps. This is not your ordinary bookshop.

The Whole Bagel (Upper Borough Walls)

Realising that I’ve forgotten to bring lunch actually makes me pretty happy these days, because more often than not it means a quick jaunt down Milsom Street to get my hands on a bagel. Freshly toasted, packed with fillings and neatly wrapped in a brown paper package so delightful that I’m certain they’re the ones Rodgers and Hammerstein were referring to when they wrote The Sound of Music. Oh, and they’re less than a fiver too, which seems a rarity these days.