Shopping in Bath: The Best Boutiques

by Amy.Watkins

Independent retailers still thrive in Bath and the city is home to everything from trendy clothes and homeware shops to food markets and vinyl toy shops. Here's my guide to the best of the bunch...

Books

Bookworms should wiggle their way to the tranquil two floors of Mr B’s Emporium (John Street; + 44 (0)1225 331155; www.mrbsemporium.com/) to gorge on lovely books in the chilled-out shop where the staff will go out of their way to track down any book for you.

Topping & Company (The Paragon; +44 (0)1225 428111; www.toppingbooks.co.uk), at the top of town, is another feast of floor-to-ceiling books where you’ll also find author events taking place.


Gifts/Homeware

Milsom Street and Milsom Place have a handful of chic gift shops that are worth checking out. Vinegar Hill (Milsom Street; +44 (0)1225 339498; www.vinegarhill.co.uk) is part of a small chain, but sells vintage style homeware and knick-knacks like delicious-smelling Yankee Candles.

Also part of a small chain is Bloomsbury (+44 (0)845 270677; www.bloomsburystore.com) – which has a jewellery shop on Quiet Street and a gift/homeware shop and café on the corner of New Bond Street; head there for imaginative gifts like Tin-Tin lunchboxes and Orla Keily notebooks.

Furniture fans should try Walcot Street’s very own Scandinavian homeware shop Shannon for cool bits and pieces for the house (Walcot Street; +44 (0)1225 424222; www.shannon-uk.com).

Clothes

Along with all the high-street favourites (apart from Primark: come on Primark, come to Bath!), the city has quirky clothes shops and a clutch of cool vintage boutiques.

Amongst Little SouthGate’s growing section of independent boutiques is girly glam shop Pretty Eccentric (www.prettyeccentric.co.uk) selling clothes and accessories with an individual twist.

Pick up local and national designer gear at the British Designers Boutique (Milsom Place; +44 (0)1225 489009; www.fashioncapital.co.uk).

Vintage clothes, shoes and accessories can be found at Scarlet Vintage (Queen Street; +44 (0)1225 338677; www.scarletvinatge.com) and the Black & White dress agency (Broad Street; +44 (0)1225 789158).

Walcot Street and London Street, at its top end, is the best place to head for retro glamour – try Jack & Danny’s (London Street; +44 (0)1225 312345) or the easy-to-spot Yellow Shop (Walcot Street; +44 (0)125 404001).

On Saturdays the flea market at the old cattle market (open air car park near Walcot Street/The Hilton) is a great place to pick up kooky fashions or cool antiques.

Art and antiques

Walcot Street is the place to head for antiques, but for something a bit more modern try Rostra & Rooksmore Gallery for affordable art (George Street; +44 (0)1225 448121; www.rostragallery.com) and the Adam Gallery (John Street; +44(0)1225 480406; www.adamgallery.com), Bo-Lee (Queen Street;+44 (0)970492858; www.bo-lee.co.uk) or Edgar Modern (Bartlett Street; +44 (0)1225 443746;www.edgardmodern.com) for work by contemporary local and international artists.

Food

Bath was home to the UK’s first farmers’ market and you can get a taste of the West Country every Saturday at Green Park Station (www.bathfarmersmarket.co.uk) or head to the daily covered Guildhall Market for local cheese, meats and bread (www.bathguildhallmarket.co.uk).

Chandos Deli (which started in Bristol) has lots of local food (George Street: www.chandosdeli.com) and cheese-lovers should head to Paxton & Whitfield (Quiet Street; +44 (0)1225 466403; www.paxtonandwhitfield.co.uk) for dairy-based delights.

Kids

Little ones are not left out in Bath – they can also get kitted out in designer gear at Funky Bambini (Upper Borough Walls; +44 (0)1225 442441;www.funkybambini.co.uk). Pick up some wooden playthings at My Small World (Little SouthGate; +44 (0)1225 338668; www.mysmallworld.co.uk) and let them loose in the wonderland of games and toys at the Golden Cot (Abbeygate; +44 (0)1225 463 739; www.snooksonline.com).

Best of the rest

If you’re into crafty stuff, take a trip to Bijoux Beads (Abbey Street; +44 (0)1225 482024; www.bijouxbeads.co.uk) to pick up everything you need to make your own jewellery or traipse up Walcot Street to get material and sewing supplies at The Makery (London Street; +44 (0)1225 421175; www.themakeryonline.co.uk). Drop in on Fridays 10am-1pm to join in the Makery café crafts sessions and check the website for workshops.

Comic fans will be in their element downstairs at American Dream (next to the Yellow Shop on Walcot Street; +44 (0)1225 424881) and music lovers should head to Drop Records on Broad Street (+44 (0)1225 444577; www.droprecords.co.uk) to pick up the latest tunes on CD and vinyl.

Vinyl collectors of a different sort (especially Japanese toys) should check out Iksentrik (George Street; +44 (0)1225 316049; www.iksentrik.co.uk) for Munnys, Ugly Dolls and all kinds of weird and wonderful collectable toys.

For a truly bizarre shopping experience go to the delightfully eccentric Handsul und Gretel shop (Margaret’s Buildings; +44 (0)1225 464677; www.handsulundgretel .com) to buy Alpine inspired gifts and have a strudel in the café down below while you’re there.

Pop-up shops are starting to make an appearance in Bath, usually run by local clothes designers and craft collectives and staying for a few weeks. Keep an eye on Milsom Place for upmarket ones and around SouthGate area, where there are currently empty shops as businesses move into the new units.

So next time you’re in Bath, make sure you wander away from the main shopping drags to check out the best boutiques and independent retailers that give the city its unique character.

Shopping in Bath

For more advice, see Shopping in Bath.

Where to stay

For a full list of my recommendations of where to stay, see 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.