Small and festive with a thriving independent restaurant scene and a Georgian cityscape arguably prettier than any depicted on an advent calendar, if you have little time but want to feel spoiled, Bath is an ideal UK city break in winter.
Where to stay: Opened earlier this summer, The Gainsborough Bath Spa is the city’s newest five-star hotel and
the only one with a spa that has natural thermal water on-tap. The spa is the hotel’s big selling point; much quieter
than Thermae Bath Spa opposite (thermaebathspa.com), though be warned that hotel guests only have limited access to its steam rooms and pools unless they book a treatment. Bedrooms are smart and comfortable but they can feel a little dark; we like 301 where windows on two sides let in plenty of light, as well as rooftop views over Bath’s honey-stone buildings.
Eating in: Johann Lafer at The Gainsborough houses a trio of spaces, with two wings leading off a masculine main area dressed with rows of wenge-style tables. For more atmosphere, book a table behind the glossy floor-to-ceiling wine cabinet, where chalky blue walls, a dramatic black fireplace and circular tables add glamour. The menu’s east-meets-Southwest fusion dishes have been designed by Michelin-starred Austrian chef Johann Lafer and are meticulously executed by his protégée, Georg Schneeberger. Highlights include roast rack of Wiltshire lamb with a Szechuan pepper crust. Cheese lovers won’t want to miss the selection of West Country favourites supplied by aptly named local company Pong. Our top picks? Nettle-wrapped Cornish yarg, Farleigh Wallop goat’s cheese with thyme, and Bath blue.
Eating out: Festive menus can be underwhelming if you’re veggie, but not at Acorn Vegetarian Kitchen. Meat-free food here means exquisite cooking and presentation – think seared braised fennel with pistachio pâté, chickpeas in a smoked tomato sauce, green olives and a saffron lemon gel – and there’s always a well-crafted house cocktail (plum Bellini anyone?) on offer.
What to do: Go now and, until 13 December, you’ll be able to enjoy one of England’s prettiest Christmas markets while you’re in town (bathchristmasmarket.co.uk). Dominated by the city’s floodlit Abbey, its stalls are housed in a cluster of wooden cabins, and 70% of the foods and crafts on sale are locally made. Look out for Tea People’s single-estate teas, Somerset pomona, Bath gin and pungent Wyfe of Bath cheese.
The damage: Double rooms start at £242 room-only (thegainsboroughbathspa.co.uk).
More info: visitbath.co.uk
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