Nightlife in Bath: a cultural guide

by Amy.Watkins

Lovies, laughter-louts and lounge lizards can all find something to scratch their cultural itch in Bath.

Touring plays featuring famous thespians, up and coming stand-up comics and alternative films all make an appearance in Bath’s cultural scene.

Theatres

Theatre-lovers will be in their element as the city has five theatres, including the beautiful Theatre Royal, which is one of the oldest in the country. The Main House showcases touring plays with well-established actors. Last-minute reduced price seats can be purchased 30 minutes before curtains-up and standing tickets can be purchased for £4 from 6pm (noon for matinees) on days when all the seats are sold. (Sawclose; +44 (0)1225 448844; www.theatreroyal.org.uk).

Around the back of the Theatre Royal is the more avant-garde Ustinov studio where plays-in-progress, innovative comedy and inventive drama are shown in a more intimate theatre (back of Theatre Royal; +44 (0)1225 448844; www.theatreroyal.org.uk). In the Theatre Royal’s side entrance you’ll find the colourful space of the egg – a brilliant children’s theatre that shows plays designed for little theatre-goers (+44 (0)1225 823409; www.theatreroyal.org.uk).

At the Mission Theatre on Corn Street (+44 (0) 1225 428600; www.missiontheatre.co.uk) the Next Stage Theatre Company puts on plays and the space is used as an arts centre for the local community.

Just outside the city centre is the small Rondo Theatre in Larkhall (get the number 7 or 709 bus or park in the Somerfield car park), which hosts music, comedy and dramatic events (St Saviours Road; +44 (0)1225 463362; www.rondotheatre.co.uk).

Cinemas

The Odeon multi-screen Kingsmead Complex shows big Hollywood films (James St West; +44 (0)871 22 44 007; www.odeon.co.uk), but head to the Little Theatre tucked away on St Michaels Place to see alternative and foreign films in squashy seats with a glass of wine in hand (St Michaels Place; +44 (0)871 704 2068; www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/The_Little/ ).

Comedy/cabaret

Housed in a beautiful old Art Deco style cinema, Komedia (sister space to Brighton’s famous cabaret venue) hosts comedy, music and sing-along film events. They really cater for hen parties and big groups, although they have some interesting rockabilly/Motown club nights, so the weekend comedy nights are expensive and can be hit and miss (Westgate Street; +44 (0)845 293 8480; www.komedia.co.uk/bath/). A better, and cheaper, option is to visit the Comedy Cavern in the Porter Cellar Bar on Sunday nights to see up and coming comics (George Street; +44 (0)1225 4024104; www.comedycavern.co.uk). Also worth a visit to see comedy, music and burlesque is the oak-floored Chapel Arts Centre (Lower Borough Walls; +44 (0)1225 461700; www.chapelarts.org).

More nightlife

You can also find advice on Bath nightlife here: Nightlife in Bath: Bath in the Dark.

Where to stay

You can see my full list of recommendations here – Bath Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Bath.

Amy.Watkins

There’s no place like home...but I had to go all around the world to appreciate that my birthplace Bath, a beautiful Georgian town stuffed full of history, was worth writing home about.

I’m a freelance travel journalist, specialising in cruising, so I spend a lot of time at sea eating ginger biscuits to stave off seasickness and praying for good weather. On dry land I live in Bath and write travel features for UK newspapers such as the Mail on Sunday and Independent on Sunday, and have written for magazines including Wanderlust, Sunday Times Travel, Cruise International and BBC Countryfile.

I was born and bred in Bath and grew up picnicking in the pretty parks as a child and sneaking into local pubs to taste Somerset scrumpy as a teenager. I moved back in 2005, after a few years travelling, and now enjoy altogether more grown-up pursuits; dining out in Bath’s eclectic restaurants, crying with laughter at local comedy clubs, drumming my fingers at one of the many music festivals or being inspired by the literary greats that loved the city. I couldn’t bear to live anywhere that wasn’t Jane-Austen approved, constructed out of golden Bath stone and didn’t have its own bubbling hot springs or Roman ruins.

 

My Bath

Where I go for a coffee: When I want a little taste of continental living I head to Same Same But Different. Tasty tapas bar by night, Same Same is also perfect for enjoying a quick coffee in the morning – either outside on narrow Bartlett Street or inside the snug dining room.
 
My favourite stroll: Most streets in Bath are a pleasure to stroll down, but for the bigger picture I head to Bath Racecourse at Lansdown. Prospect Stile is part of the epic Cotswold Way trail and is the perfect place to get great views of Bath’s superb architecture and even Bristol and the Westbury White Horse on a clear day.

Bath books: Bath’s social scene was so famous in Jane Austen’s era that she was inspired to write about the city that she called home in Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. Movie directors love Bath’s period buildings and the city was a backdrop for both film versions of Persuasion as well as Vanity Fair and The Duchess.

City soundtrack: Neighbouring Bristol, just down the M4, was the birthplace of trip-hop with Portishead, Massive Attack and Tricky leading the way. Bath is home to Goldfrapp; listen to their second album Black Cherry (recorded in Bath) for a taste of the city – a little bit retro, but with a modern twist.

The most breathtaking view: Rather than cramming into Thermae Bath Spa in the day, when all the coach parties are in, go at night instead and enjoy a quieter view of the illuminated abbey and city from the outdoor rooftop pool. Winter evenings are the most magical when your breath mixes with the steam and you can feel the natural heat of the spring waters.

The best place for peace and quiet: On a weekday outside of lunchtimes Victoria Park (or Vicky Park) is surprisingly tranquil and you can bag a picnic spot with the Royal Crescent as a backdrop. Or head to quieter Henrietta Park to check out the calming water feature and take a deep breath of the beautifully perfumed flowers in the garden for the blind.

Shopaholics beware: Although the big guys are trying to muscle in with the new SouthGate development, Bath remains a haven for boutiques – from classy clothes on Milson Street, to art galleries on George Street and the creative quarter of Walcot Street with its vintage clothing and kooky homeware shops.

Don’t leave without: Getting into hot water – whether it’s relaxing at the modern Thermae Bath Spa, dipping your toe into the city’s history at the Roman Baths or braving a glass of warm spring water at the Pump Rooms.