There are so many museums in Bath that it would take a month to explore them all. I’ve spent the last week visiting several of them, but I’ve got a lot more to go! There are the museums and galleries that you might expect, a few more unusual, and a surprising number of small museums…
Art and Architecture in the Bath Museums
Art lovers should start with the Victoria Art Gallery, housed in a purpose-built Victorian building beside the Pulteney Bridge. It contains more than 1,500 artworks, with an extensive British collection including paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and Walter Sickert. Then there is the Holburne Museum, home to a private collection with 18th century art and artefacts, and much more (read more about the Holburne Museum here.) And the Museum of East Asian Art is a small, family-friendly, collection of artefacts spanning 7,000 years.
So far as architecture is concerned, you could almost regard the city itself as a sort of outdoor museum! I would certainly recommend walking around to see it for yourself before visiting the museums. When you are ready to learn more, the Museum of Bath Architecture is an excellent small museum that focuses on the design and construction of Georgian buildings. And No 1 Royal Crescent is a house that has been furnished and decorated as it might have been in the 18th century. Of course, gardens were an important part of domestic architecture, and you can also walk around the Georgian Garden at the rear of No 4 The Circus.
Jane Austen and Georgian Bath
One of Bath’s most famous residents was Jane Austen, who briefly lived here and featured the city in her novels. Start with the Jane Austen Centre, to get an understanding of how Bath influenced her writings, before exploring some of the places frequented by her heroes and heroines. The Assembly Rooms were a popular meeting place in Jane Austen’s time, and still used for events today. In the basement of the Assembly Rooms is a Fashion Museum where you can see how people (mostly the upper classes) dressed through the ages.
And you can take lunch or afternoon tea in the Pump Room, beside the Roman Baths. This was where fashionable people once came to drink the spa water, and you can even try a glass of the water for yourself. (Read more about Jane Austen and her association with Bath here.)
The Postal Museum is very small, but interesting because it helps to explain how Bath became such an important place. It showcases two men – Ralph Allen and John Palmer – who were influential local figures as well as being central to the development of the UK postal service. And the Roman Baths, where 18th century visitors took the waters, are a reminder of the city’s importance long before Georgian times.
The Small Museums of Bath
Apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned, there are numerous small museums in Bath. One of my favourites was the Old Theatre Royal and Masonic Hall (read more about it here). But I have still to visit the Herschel Museum or the Museum of Bath at Work, or the very many others.
I will be adding more museums to this list as I get round to visiting them. But it will be a while until I’ve seen them all!
Thanks to Visit Bath for arranging entry to many of these museums.
This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.