The 9 Best Museums In Bath
Bath is a city in the English county of Somerset that people have a tendency to get steamed up about. Blessed with abundant natural thermal waters, Bath has been a revered spa town since the days of the ancient Romans.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, Bath has also recently received a second accolade from the UNESCO organization when it was deemed to be one of the greatest spa towns in Europe.
As well as being architecturally interesting even when you’re not into architecture, Bath is located in one of the most scenic parts of England and that’s northeast Somerset. It's an area of the country that has inspired authors and artists for centuries. They've all made their indelible impression on the city, as did the Romans, and you can discover theirs and the city's history in Bath's many museums.
Bath is quintessentially English, so visit it and you'll find yourself wandering through parks where afternoon tea is served on cafe patios, immersing yourself in the warm spa waters of the historic baths, or boarding a barge to navigate the Kennet and Avon Canal.
You can't do any of these activities comfortably if you're carrying a suitcase, so leave your baggage at a Bounce luggage storage facility in Bath. It'll be stored in a secure luggage locker and you'll be able to fully appreciate Bath and all this beautiful city has to offer without spoiling the feeling of wellbeing it's rightfully reputed to induce.
The Best Museums In Bath
There are some museums in Bath that are absolute must-visits as they'll give you an insight into the city and its past that's both enlightening and educational. The museums in Bath celebrate everything from literary greats to fashion to art and architecture so you're bound to find one that will keep you enthralled for hours.
Jane Austen Centre
While Jane Austen wasn't born in Bath, after spending time there, she used Bath as a backdrop for two of her well-known works. The city has embraced the author as its own and the Jane Austen Centre is dedicated to her life and works. They do it in true Regency style too.
Visit the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street in Bath and you'll take a leap into the late 18th century as you're shown around by guides dressed in period costumes. It's definitely a different way of delving into the history of the Regency era of England and you can make it feel even more real by donning a costume yourself.
While you're at the Jane Austen Centre don't miss indulging in a traditional English afternoon tea in the Regency Tea Room. It's as good as the one served at the Ritz in London and beats even the best street food in Bath hands down.
There is a small entrance charge to the Jane Austen Centre. The centre is open six days a week from ten until five and it's advisable to make a prior reservation which you can do via the official website.
Walking into the Roman Baths in Bath is like walking onto a film set. The opulent building in Abbey Churchyard is not only an ancient thermal spa but an archeological museum with thousands of artifacts from the Roman era including coins and curse tablets on exhibition.
The immense baths themselves were discovered during a dig in the late 19th century and the water still flows from the Sacred Spring through the same pipework into the baths and then out to the River Avon.
There is a charge to view the baths and the museum and all visitors must pre-book a timeslot online before arriving. It's easy to get here via the Bath Spa Railway Station and a five-minute walk. Sadly, bathing is not permitted due to the poor quality of the water. If you want to experience a thermal spa while in Bath you can do that at the Thermae Bath Spa on, the very aptly named, Hot Bath Street.
American Museum and Gardens
The American Museum is housed in a stately manor house, Claverton Manor, on the outskirts of Claverton village near Bath.
The museum collection was originally the private property of an American psychiatrist who hoped to promote American culture to British people.
The exhibits occupy three entire floors of the grandiose 19th century built manor house. Some pieces such as the Shaker furniture are displayed in rooms reconstructed to look like they're in an American home. There are also extensive collections of fine and decorative art and patchwork quilts.
The American Museum opens Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 4 pm. Online booking is not available so tickets need to be purchased at the gate. The entrance fee includes access to the impeccably manicured gardens as well as the museum.
Fashion Museum Bath
You'll discover just how much clothing and footwear trends have changed since the 1700s to the present day when you have a look around the Fashion Museum.
Walk into the Fashion Museum in the Assembly Rooms on Bennett Street and it's like walking into the clothing section of a period-inspired department store, but on an even grander scale.
During the 50 years it's been open, the Fashion Museum has accumulated over 100,000 different items of apparel that range from vintage lingerie to satin shoes to elaborately embroidered gowns with bulging bustles. The more modern fashion eras haven't been forgotten either and the collections also contain items from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
The Fashion Museum opens six days a week from ten until five. Entrance tickets should be purchased online before arriving.
The Holburne Museum is an art gallery in the Sydney Pleasure Gardens on Great Pulteney Street. The museum is housed in what was a hotel and is surrounded by lavish gardens where Jane Austen once strolled. The original building has been extended so it now has modern as well as historic parts.
The collections at the Holburne Museum were started by one man, Sir Thomas William Holburne, and after his demise, his family donated the pieces to the city for public viewing. The collections are not restricted to paintings and sculptures, but also contain beadwork, ivory, furniture, and silverware.
Entrance tickets must be purchased online in advance and are valid for the entire day so there's no limit on the amount of time you can spend browsing.
Victoria Art Gallery
The Victoria Art Gallery on Bridge Street in Bath is a public art gallery and one of the few museums in the city run by the Bath and North East Somerset Council.
Housed in one of the city's many listed buildings, the museum contains varied collections of paintings and sculptures by famous British artists such as Gainsborough and Constable plus prints and caricatures.
The Victoria Art Gallery opens to the public from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am until 5 pm. There is a small admission charge and visits must be pre-booked in advance.
Herschel Museum of Astronomy
The Herschel Museum on New King Street in Bath was the home of two avid astronomers, William and Catherine Herschel.
William's major discovery was Uranus which he spotted in the heavens in the late 1700s. The house is pretty much as it would have been during the Herschels’ life and is furnished with original items including his telescope. There is also a beautiful music room where the Herschels’ antique instruments are showcased.
There is a nominal charge for admission to the museum during its regular opening hours which are ten to five from Tuesday to Sunday. Entrance prices are higher during the peak months of July and August. Prior reservations are not required.
Museum Of Bath At Work
The Museum of Bath at Work traces the history of the people of Bath and the jobs they were employed with from Victorian times onwards.
The museum is housed on two floors of a converted indoor tennis court on Julian Road. One of the main exhibits is a complete reconstruction of a vintage soft drinks and water bottling factory, an ironmongers, and an engineering workshop plus offices and a store. There are also exhibits of cars manufactured by a local company and an original Bath chair which is a type of wheelchair.
The museum is open seven days a week from the beginning of April to the end of November when it closes for the month of December. From January to the end of March the museum only opens at weekends.
Museum of Bath Architecture
No matter where you go in Bath you can't help but notice the architecture. To find out more about what you're seeing, visit the Museum of Bath Architecture.
The Museum of Bath Architecture is housed in a castle-like building on The Vineyards which was once a chapel. Most of the old buildings in Bath date from the Georgian period of the 18th century and that is the era the museum concentrates on.
The museum exhibits scale models of streets, displays on building techniques and the famous Bath stone used in their construction as well as collections of workmen's tools.
NB: The Museum of Bath Architecture will remain closed until the end of 2022 for renovations and will reopen for visitors in 2023.
Best Free Museums In Bath
There are currently no museums in Bath with free admission. If you were thinking that visiting a museum might be one of the best free things to do with kids in Bath, then you'll need to think again.
Adult entry prices to the museums in Bath vary between £5 to £20. Children's admission prices are usually in the £5 range though some museums do offer family discounts, so it's worth checking those out before making your final purchase.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Bath, other than going sightseeing under your own steam, your options are pretty limited so consider taking a walk in the park.
Best Museums In Bath City Centre
Without a doubt, one of the best museums in Bath's city center is the Roman Baths. It is totally unique. This thermal spa is in such excellent condition that you'd be hard-pressed to find a similar example in Rome or even anywhere in Italy. Add to that the impressive archeological collections housed in the Roman Baths Museum and you’ll find it worthy of the admission price. The Fashion Museum makes for a fascinating visit, too.
Are There Any Cheap Museums In Bath?
The museums in Bath with the lowest admission prices are as follows: Jane Austen Centre, American Museum and Gardens, Fashion Museum, Victoria Art Gallery, and Museum of Bath at Work.
Although you won't find any free museums in Bath, they're still worth dipping your hand in your pocket and dishing out a tenner or so to visit. Museums like the Roman Baths are one-offs and you don't need to be a follower of fashion to be wowed by the collections at the Fashion Museum.
The museums in Bath, like the Jane Austen Centre and the Museum of Bath at Work, will truly transport you into bygone eras although whether you choose to slip into a period costume or not is entirely up to you. It does make history more fun though and you'll get a great souvenir photo of your visit.