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Published July 11th 2017
Looking for a bespoke shopping trip? This market nails it
The Guildhall Markets are Bath's longest established shopping venue, and there has been a covered market at this location since the 18th Century. This covered network of stalls offers a huge array of different products, and has the feel of a long established family business. The market stallholders are always relaxed and friendly, and despite being located at the hub of the city, have a calm quietness that is very endearing. The market building adjoins Bath's Guildhall, which is a very popular and picturesque wedding venue, and is immediately opposite 'The Corridor', another long-established shopping location in the city. It also lies in the shadow of Bath Abbey, if you are navigating using landmarks.
The Guildhall has two entrances, but I recommend entering via the gilt and black front entrance, opposite 'The Corridor'. A tiled and stall-fringed passageway opens up in to the main atrium of the market, and stalls then loop around the interior in a circular shape. There are well over twenty permanent stalls in the market, ranging from sewing and embroidery goods to specialist coffee and leather work shops. I always make a Bee-line for 'Skoobs' book stall, which is an extraordinary bookshop. Essentially a fortress of books built around a kiosk, the owners stock an incredible range of titles, and somehow remember exactly where everything is. They also buy books, and so this guarantees a constant replenishing of interesting reads.
The Market boasts two cultural icons of Bath, one ancient and the other modern. To the right of the entrance one can see 'The Nail', which is a slate-topped column which was the site of 18th Century market deals. Prompt and binding deals were made on this platform, which has given rise to the phrase 'paid on the nail' (swiftly and fairly). A hanging plaque goes in to more detail about this artifact. The second focal point is a lifesize pig sculpture, an oroginal participant of the 2011 'Pig Trail', where artistically painted pigs were displayed for all to see. Find this chap at the centre of the market, underneath a glass-roofed circular room. Spread around the pig's trotters today you can find flyers and brochures advertising gigs and events across the city, with one of Bath's finest coffee shops immediately behind it.
There are so many lovely stalls to peruse here, and there really is almost everything a person could need, all beneath one roof. Speaking of which, the indoor nature of the market is very appealing during rainy weather, and it is perhaps most special to go to the markets when it is wet, as the rain tinkling on the roof is a wonderful sound. Another positive is the truly disabled-friendly nature of the market. One one level, wide passaged and with ramped access throughout, it is very wheelchair-friendly.
As ever with Bath, the building itself has some wonderful historical detailing, and so glance upward if you would like to see building from times past. I think the longevity of the market is perhaps its greatest charm, in a city which has a great deal of temporary or seasonal market attractions. There is a community of market holders and the people who come to buy from them, and these are special bonds. Long may they remain so.