There is no better City than Bath to spend time in the weeks leading up to Christmas, and here’s why.
Christmas is Coming
It’s official. Nobody does Christmas better than Bath. Well, so says the Telegraph this week which put Bath first on its list of best UK Christmas Markets this year. For 18 days from 28 November the cobbled Georgian Streets around Bath Abbey willl be transformed by 150 fairy – lit wooden stalls, selling everything from mulled wine to cider, jewellery to decorations, roasted nuts to local cheese, cashmere scarves to wooden ties. Regularly cited as one of the best in Europe, it is a perfect confection of historic city romance, feel-good local artisanal shopping and pre-Christmas cheer. See yourself as a committed Christmas humbug? Prepare to be won over. As a Christmas loving local, the season doesn’t really begin until I see the familiar piles of lapboard fencing on the lanes around the Abbey, signalling the impending construction of our annual pop up Christmas village. It is the essential antidote to the nights drawing in, the visual cue that it is officially ok now to sing along to Fairy Tale of New York and Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
Keeping it Local Keeping it Good
Bath’s Christmas Market is the biggest Christmas shopping event in the West, and attracted 400,000 visitors last year. Some three quarters of stallholders are local to Bath and the surrounding area and last year, one chalet was dedicated to a different local charity each day for the duration of the Market, including Mentoring Plus and Bath Food Cycle, raising over £10,000 for local charities which can become particularly stretched over the festive season.
Have a mulled wine in hand…
..and stay calm and cheerful. The narrow lanes can become very crowded, particularly during the day. A good bet is to play it like a local – make a night or two of it, stay over, and cruise the market in early evening, when the stalls look their most magical, and the coaches have gone home, with a mulled wine in hand. Or visit the Apres Ski Bar at the Abbey Hotel on North Parade. An annual pre-Christmas pop up to accompany the market , it’s decked out like an alpine lodge, complete with cosy blankets and pretend snow and is a great place to drink in the atmosphere.
We’re not just a Christmas Market you know..
It’s a shame to leave when there is so much going on in Bath this time of year, quite apart from the Market. We do other things Christmassy really well too. Bath on Ice is back for its 8th year, from 15 November to 5 January. Royal Victoria Park, just a short walk from the Christmas Market chalets becomes home to an enormous 1000 square metre ice rink. If you are of an age where landing hard on your bottom from time to time injures only your pride, and that fleetingly (and I am no longer in that camp, sadly…) then timed slots are offered throughout the day and evening, and there are festive lights, music and food to distract you from the inevitable soggy bottom! There’s another Alpine Bar here rinkside - Moguls, though personally I’m more likely to grab another Gluewein on Milsom street and wave you on your way. If you are young (at heart or in the flesh) or have teenagers in your group, it is, I am sure, the place to be! Oh and did I mention the glow in the dark mini golf up at Victoria Park too, with its 18 hole mini course illuminated and fluorescent golf balls. Now that I might be tempted by..
It wouldn’t be Christmas without…
Handel’s Messiah, at Bath Abbey on 6th and 7th December. I’ve just seen that there are fewer seats available this year because of the Footprint Project (a post for another time, but look it up, it is an inspiring project of renovation with sustainability at its heart), so I must book quickly. IMHO it also wouldn’t be Christmas without viewing, at some point over the festive season “It’s a Wonderful Life”. But you can do that anywhere..
It shouldn’t be Christmas before….
You’ve fortified yourself with a mini break in a Spa City – this one, the one with the best Christmas market. Let’s be honest, Christmas can be overwhelming. We can exhaust ourselves in pursuit of the perfect celebration. A two or three day respite in our beautiful city might be just the thing you need to galvanise you for the weeks ahead. I’ve got just the itinerary for you: a restorative soak at Thermae Bath Spa – Britain’s only natural thermal waters, a candlelit tour of the Roman Baths, and a few hours of atmospheric Christmas shopping. Go home refreshed – and with the Christmas present list done and dusted. Ice skating purely optional.