The city of Bath has more museums in just one square mile than most larger cities can boast altogether. Bath is home to a great number of museums which offer a wealth of remarkable stories and bring the city’s history to life. Here's our guide to Bath's fantastic museums…
Bath’s Ancient History
Bath was founded upon natural hot springs with the steaming water playing a key role throughout its history. Lying in the heart of the city, the Roman Baths were constructed around 70 AD as a grand bathing and socialising complex. It is now one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world. Named one of the country’s top three Large Visitor Attractions at the Visit England Awards in 2017, the Roman Baths are one of the city’s most popular attractions.
Following your visit to The Roman Baths, head to the adjoining Pump Room Restaurant, for a glimpse of Georgian Bath. Enjoy a Bath Bun or afternoon tea in what was once the heart of the Georgian social scene.
For another glimpse of Bath in the Georgian era, visit the magnificent Assembly Rooms. The Ball Room, Octagon, Tea Room and Card Room were used in the eighteenth century for dancing, music and card playing, tea drinking and conversation.
An adventure around Georgian Bath wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous Royal Crescent. The foundation stone of No.1 Royal Crescent, the first house to be built in the crescent, was laid over 250 years ago, and the house is now a museum, which offers a unique insight into the famous crescent’s history. Prepare to encounter many surprises as friendly, knowledgeable guides positioned in each room of the house reveal the secret history of the house and its former residents and guests.
Bath’s Famous Residents
Famous Bath resident Jane Austen is celebrated at The Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street. Head there for a snapshot of what it would have been like to live in Regency times. The centre explores how the city impacted upon Jane Austen’s life and writing in much-loved books such as Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.
Jane Austen was not Bath’s only famous resident. In 1781, William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus while observing from the garden of his home in Bath. This house is now the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, where you can discover Herschel’s workshop, his music room and a charming eighteenth-century formal garden.
For a taste of Bath’s culinary history, visit Sally Lunn's Historic Eating House and Museum. Sally Lunn’s top-secret bun recipe is only available to try in Bath, and you can get a glimpse of her life in the downstairs museum.
Discover How People Used to Live in Bath
Housed in the Assembly Rooms, the Fashion Museum chronicles the story of fashionable dress over the past 400 years. There’s also a dressing-up room, where you can try on Georgian and Victorian fashions.
Discover 2,000 years of Bath’s working heritage at the Museum of Bath at Work. From Roman tourism to eighteenth-century building, Victorian engineering and modern high technology, you will find it all.
Bath has played a vital role in the development of communications and improving the British postal service. The Penny Black, the first-ever pre-paying postage stamp, was first sent from Bath by the daughter of the postmaster of Bath, Thomas Musgrave. Learn about the city’s postal history at the Bath Postal Museum, which features colourful, frequently changing exhibitions, interactive games and quizzes, models and collectables, and historic 'talking heads' video characters.
Visit the Museum of Bath Architecture for an insight into the city’s rich architectural history and the men who transformed a provincial town into the world-famous Georgian Spa. The museum demonstrates how classical design influenced the buildings and illustrates the construction of a house from the cellars to the rafters.
History Beyond Bath
The finest collection of Americana outside the United States of America is housed on the outskirts of Bath city centre, in the American Museum in Britain. First opened in 1961, the museum takes you on a journey through America’s history through its remarkable collection of decorative arts. The museum also holds regular events for the whole family. For those using public transport on their visit to Bath, the museum runs a regular shuttle bus from the city centre.
The Museum of East Asian Art is the only UK museum solely dedicated to the arts and cultures of East and South-East Asia. The museum houses a collection of over 2,000 objects from East and South East Asia, boasting a particularly impressive collection of Chinese art, spanning from 5,000 BC to the present day. Displays include ceramics, jade, lacquer and metalware and reveal the finest achievements in East Asian craftsmanship.
The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution is an educational charity, which specialises in the promotion and advancement of science, literature and art. BRISI hold a programme of talks, discussions and exhibitions on science, the arts and current affairs, as well as ensuring the maintenance and exhibition of their extensive collection of books, fossils and artefacts.
Galleries in Bath
Situated at the end of Great Pulteney Street, The Holburne Museum is steeped in history. Originally designed as a hotel, the Holburne now houses a collection of fine and decorative art, with continually changing exhibitions on offer alongside the museum's permanent collection.
Victoria Art Gallery has an exciting and varied programme of exhibitions, as well as a stunning permanent collection from Turner and Gainsborough to the moderns. The gallery also runs a host of free family activities and events in the school holidays.