Bath for Book Lovers

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Jane Austen Festival. Photo: Stephen Shellard

The elegant Georgian streets of Bath are full of historic and cultural sites, including plenty of literary gems that will bring a smile to the face of any book lover. If you love reading, head to this city for beautiful bookshops, high-profile literary events and cocktails inspired by the city’s most famous novelist, the one and only Jane Austen.

How to experience Bath for book lovers


Bath's Topping & Company Booksellers is a beautiful haven for book lovers. Elegant ladders lean against the floor-to-ceiling shelves which line a series of welcoming nooks dedicated to different reading topics. The shop stocks an array of gorgeous and enlightening tomes, both fiction and non-fiction, and the friendly staff will even brew you a pot of tea or coffee to sip while you browse. Be warned, it's almost impossible to pop into Topping & Company without buying something. Check their website to see upcoming events, including talks with a wide range of authors.

Still feeling the need to buy more books? Head to Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, a quirky and welcoming independent bookshop on John Street. The staff here really know their stuff and clearly love to read; they are always on hand to help with recommending great books. Mr. B’s is also home to regular events, including Book Group evenings and the ultimate indulgent bookish experience - the Reading Spa. Book this luxurious literary pampering session and you will be introduced to a pile of books specially selected to suit your reading tastes.

Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Books from outside

Mr. B's Emporium of Reading Books

Literary Festivals

Taking place every Autumn, Bath Children’s Literature Festival is the largest festival in Europe dedicated purely to children’s literature. The festival attracts some of the most famous children's authors and illustrators from the UK and the rest of the world, with past contributors including David Walliams, Malorie Blackman, Chris Riddell, Jacqueline Wilson, Michael Morpurgo, Judith Kerr, and Neil Gaiman. It’s a brilliant event for the whole family. Historically, the Bath Literature Festival has been a highlight of the year, but in May 2017 this will be superseded by a new multi-arts festival, The Bath Festival. This new event will focus on literature and music, promising a host of exciting events for the book-lovers of Bath. Award-winning Brooklyn author Colm Tóibín, renowned physicist Jim Al-Khalili, and crime writer Sophie Hannah are already booked for the inaugural festival.

Famous Authors and Characters

Many people come to Bath simply to visit the one-time home of Jane Austen, beloved author of Pride and Prejudice. The famous novelist lived in the city for five years at the beginning of the 19th century and Bath also features prominently in her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The city still has many delights for Austen lovers today. To begin your Austen tour, visit the Pump Rooms and the Assembly Rooms, both of which feature in Austen’s novels and are now open to the public. After this, take a turn around the Jane Austen Centre, located in an original Georgian townhouse on Gay Street. Here you’ll find costumed characters and exhibitions offering insights into Austen’s life and writing as well as a great gift shop. If all that isn’t enough to sate your Austen obsession, you can download the free 'In the Footsteps of Jane Austen' audio tour of the city, try a themed cocktail at the Canary Gin Bar (Wickham Mule anyone?), or time your visit to Bath to coincide with the annual Jane Austen Festival in September.

The front door to the Jane Austen Museum

Photo Credit: Graeme C99

Other famous authors who have lived in Bath include Frankenstein author Mary Shelley and her husband, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. If you’re a Charles Dickens fan, you’re in luck - the Great Expectations novelist was a frequent visitor to Bath and set his novel The Pickwick Papers in the city. Before this, Richard Brinsley Sheridan wrote his famous play The Rivals while living in Bath in the 1770s. Now considered Sheridan’s masterpiece, the play satirizes the fashionable society that frequented the city in the 18th century and is still often performed today. Finally, Baroness Orczy’s famous dashing fictional hero Sir Percy Blakeney from her novel and play The Scarlet Pimpernel supposedly lived at Number 15 in Bath's famous Royal Crescent, a beautiful curved row of grand houses looking out over a smart lawn. A firm favourite with tourists visiting the city, the impressive Royal Crescent is well worth a visit to imagine what life would have been like in the days of Baroness Orczy, the Shelleys or Jane Austen.

Reading Spots

If you’re a lover of literature, what you really need is somewhere to curl up with a good book. Bath can be busy with tourists and shoppers but there are still some lovely peaceful spots where you can settle down to read the day away. During the summer, grab a bench in Bath’s oldest park, Sydney Gardens or settle down in the pretty Botanical Gardens in Victoria Park. If the weather isn’t nice enough for that, lose yourself in your book at the elegant Society Café on The Corridor, Sam’s Kitchen Deli on Walcot Street or Colonna & Small’s where you can enjoy a really top-notch coffee to complement your reading.

Are you a book-lover who lives in Bath? Tell us what you love about the city in the comments section below…