Bath has been firmly stamped in the minds of the British public, and nowadays across the globe, as being one of the most important cities marking Britain’s cultural identity. Visitors to Bath can experience quintessential British culture, face Britain’s history head-on, and delight in a wonderful culinary scene, in addition to relaxing in the famous thermal baths that give the city its name.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about visiting the magical town of Bath, England!
History Of Bath
“I really believe I shall always be talking of Bath” – Jane Austen in her novel Northanger Abbey.
Austen couldn’t have been more accurate! Indeed, ever since Bladud, legendary king of the Britons supposedly cured his pigs of leprosy in a hot spring and subsequently founded this city in 863BCE, people have travelled from all over to relax and recuperate in the waters.
From the Romans to the Georgian elite, Bath became the place to see and be seen. Elite society, of whom Austen mingled, waltzed nights away at The Assembly Rooms, paraded The Pump Room in search of eligible husbands while strolling in pleasure gardens like The Sydney Gardens.
Bath is rich in historical facts like these, and they seem more like wild fantasies than attainable reality. However, to this day millions of travellers desire such wild pleasures.
The timeless beauty of the honey-hued Georgian architecture, romantic cobblestone streets to the survival of the Roman Baths, the Assembly Rooms, and much more means that these images of the past are accessible.
Best Time Of Year To Visit Bath
From a local’s perspective, the best time to visit Bath is between September and October.
The summer months are often inundated with thousands of tourists and a plethora of large tourist busses. The streets are full, there are queues into top sites running for miles and it is almost impossible to relax.
If you head over in September, the weather is still mild, streets are deserted (better chance of capturing that Instagram photo), it is easier to gain quick access into all the best places, and eating out is a breeze.
How To Get Around Bath
The most convenient way to reach Bath is by train, especially if you’re coming from down south from places like Cornwall or London. This way you’ll get a direct train journey for affordable prices or catch a National Express coach that travels into Bath every day.
If, however, you’re driving to Bath there are several car parks around the city, all of which are affordable and easy to get to.
When in the city, walking is the most convenient form of transport, as busses and cars cannot drive up the highstreets and everything is within walking distance. However, if you’re coming into town from one of the many hills in Bath, there are local busses that run every 20-minutes into the city centre.
Top Things To Do In Bath
1) Bath Abbey
Proudly located in the centre of Bath city is Bath Abbey.
Steeped in history with staggering architecture, the church imposingly dominates the scene and hypnotises thousands of people to visit daily. To enter is free, although they do welcome donations (usually £2) and the Tower Tours cost a small fee and only run between 10 am-4 pm.
Climbing the 212 steps up to the top of the tower is a must as it offers a visit to the bell chamber, the chance to sit behind the clock face and to witness unrivalled rooftop views of the city.
Inside the Abbey, one can see extraordinary examples of Norman Perpendicular Gothic architecture and architectural evidence dating back to the Anglo-Saxon.
The Abbey is still a place of worship and therefore might be closed for service. If this is the case, check the door times or Abbey’s website for when it will reopen.
2) The Roman Baths
Quite possibly the ‘it’ attraction in Bath, the Roman Baths shouldn’t be missed.
As one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world, you’ll find an interactive museum filled with artifacts and videos of Romans as well as archaeological excavations of the original baths. With a pinch of imagination, you’ll be transported back in time and will experience Roman life for yourself.
Tickets start from £14 but with them, you get an audio guide, an optional guided tour and the opportunity to try the natural spa water.
3) The Pump Room
To enjoy Bath like an 18th century English Lady, you’ll need to head to the Pump Room to try their wonderfully delicious afternoon tea. Its opulent interior design speaks volumes of the aristocracy who once socialised here.
If you’re a fan of Jane Austen, then you’ll be delighted to know this was the building she, and other elite members of society, met, enjoyed lavish entertainments and gathered to drink the therapeutic waters.
4) The Assembly Room & The Fashion Museum
The Assembly Rooms was another centre of Georgian social life. The two-tiered chandeliers and stunning pillared balconies provide a glimpse into the place where many attended grand balls and sought eligible husbands.
On the lower ground of the Assembly Room is the Fashion Museum and it holds a display of contemporary and historic dress, tracing Bath’s history through objects and clothing.
Open every day of the week, tickets start at £8.55 for adults and £6.53 for children.
5) The Crescent & The Circus
If you’re looking for a little bit of celebrity head to the Crescent and the Circus.
These are probably the most iconic landmarks in Bath and are a row of terraced houses laid out in a crescent shape. Its exterior has remained unchanged since it was built in the 1700s and has been home to many celebrities, including Nicolas Cage and Johnny Depp!
If you’re looking for a little history, you can visit No1 Royal Crescent. Now a museum, it has been remodelled to resemble a Georgian Town House and the interior gives a sense of how the wealthy lived.
6) Milsom Street & Pulteney Bridge
Bath city has some of the quaintest and quirkiest independent shops in the United Kingdom. Head to Milsom Street for some of the more expensive shops while Pulteney Bridge has more unique shops lined on both sides.
This is significant because it is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops on it, with one of the others being in Florence. Bath has everything from designer outlets, craft shops to unique bookshops. A perfect location for a little retail therapy.
7) The Holburne Museum Sydney Gardens
While in Bath it is imperative you visit The Holburne Museum. It was originally a Georgian villa-style hotel, but now houses a collection of 17th-18th century paintings.
From Thomas Hoare to Sir William Holburne, The Holburne Museum is your gateway into British art. It’s free to enter but they again welcome donations.
Right behind the museum is Sydney Gardens. Here you can walk around a garden paradise, take in the lovely river and see where the elite once went for entertainment, public breakfasts, orchestras and fireworks.
8) Prior Park
Prior Park is one of Bath’s best-kept secrets. Hidden among many houses, this 18th-century landscape garden is bewitching.
Situated slightly on a hill, Prior Park Garden offers exceptional views of rolling hills, winding woodlands and Bath’s Georgian rooftops.
Here, you’ll see an exquisite Palladian Bridge and a grand mansion that is set against an idyllic pastoral landscape. It was originally designed by Ralph Allen in 1734 to show off his wealth and the famous Bath Stone; the golden-hued stone that now builds every house in Bath.
9) Thermae Bath Spa
The healing waters in Bath have been famous for centuries. While it is no longer possible to bathe in the Roman Bath’s healing waters, the Thermae Bath Spa offers similar relaxing ways to improve your health.
For a reasonable price, you can enjoy the rooftop thermal pool, panoramic city views or unwind in their wellness suite, featuring steam rooms, a relaxation room and an ice chamber. You can also enjoy dinner in your robe in the Spa’s on site restaurant for a unique experience.
Day Trips From Bath
While there is so much to see and experience in Bath city centre, it is really worthwhile heading out to the surrounding areas and explore the true English countryside.
Under 40 miles away from Bath, Stonehenge is one of, if not the most famous prehistoric monument in the world. It should not be missed during your visit to Bath.
The stone circle at Stonehenge has a history reaching back 4,500 years and is a spellbinding piece of architecture. Here, you’ll also see Neolithic Houses and discover the tools and objects of everyday Neolithic life.
To get to Stonehenge, you can take the train or bus from Bath Spa train station to Salisbury, but you will need to take a bus from Salisbury to Stonehenge. You can also buy admission tickets in advance.
The easiest way to get to Stonehenge is to drive from Bath directly to Stonehenge or hop on a bus tour guide.
Stratford Upon Avon
Just a few hours by train or car is the birthplace of the legend William Shakespeare. No mention of England, or the United Kingdom, would be complete without some reference to Shakespeare.
He is considered the best British writer of all time and has given us sonnets, plays to read, performances to watch and films to devour. Without him, Britain wouldn’t be in Britain. That being said, a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon will be time well spent.
Start your day at Shakespeare’s Birthplace, a beautifully restored 16th-century half-timbered house. Continuing on the journey of Shakespeare’s life, head to Shakespeare’s New Place; his home in retirement.
Here, you’ll find statues from his well-known plays, such as Hamlet pondering life with his skull. Then head to the Church of Holy Trinity where you can visit Shakespeare’s grave.
While at Stratford make sure to check out Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (this is the former home of Shakespeare’s wife), Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.
If you’re lucky enough you might get to see one of the best productions of Shakespeare’s plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company and if not, check out their exquisite shop and café.
Getting to Bristol is the easiest day trip from Bath. Head over to Bath Spa Train Station, get on a train to Bristol Temple Meads and you’ll be in the city centre in under 20 minutes.
Being a university city, Bristol is a vibrant and electrifying place to visit. For things of historical importance head to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery (entry is free), and here you’ll find geology, Eastern art, Bristol’s history, natural history and famous, as well as modern, paintings.
For more art, you can go on a Banksy street art walking tour with a guide around the city.
Bristol Cathedral should definitely be on your list. Founded in 1140 and consecrated in 1148, it was originally St. Augustine’s Abbey but later became the seat of The Bishop of Bristol.
For more historical sites head to Brunel’s SS Great Britain Ship, Cabot Tower, Tyntesfield (a serious must) or for something more modern, Bristol Zoo or one of the many quirky book shops.
For other day trips, be sure to read our full article on 10 Places To Not Miss In Southwest England!
Salisbury & Salisbury Cathedral
Much like Bristol, Salisbury is really easy to get to by car, bus and train. Besides shopping and eating in one of the many renowned restaurants there is so much to see and do in Salisbury.
The obvious choice would be to visit Salisbury Cathedral. Considered to be one of the leading examples of Early English architecture, the cathedral is exquisite and awe-inspiring in itself, but it is also home to the four original copies of the Magna Carta and the oldest working clock in the world.
Right next to Salisbury Cathedral is Mompesson House; an 18th-century house which was originally home to Sir Thomas Mompesson, MP for Salisbury. The Salisbury Museum and Arundells (former home to Prime Minister, Edward Heath from 1985 to 2005) are also great to visit.
Where To Stay In Bath
Bath’s city centre is littered with quaint B&B’s, quirky hostels and elegantly preserved manor hotels.
Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel
Set in sweeping and beautiful gardens of which include fountains, ponds and a terrace, the Macdonald Hotel offers guests celebrity treatment with world-class service and an award-winning restaurant. The spa features a swimming pool, outdoor hot tub, and a fitness centre.
It is a 10-minute walk from Bath Abbey (city centre) which means the hotel makes for the perfect city-country experience. Spending your day surrounded by nature and tranquillity, then spending your night under the neon lights of Bath’s energetic nightlife.
Lansdown Park Hotel
The hotel itself is a magnificently preserved Georgian mansion and was designed in collaboration with the Country Living Magazine.
With the country lifestyle in play, everything was designed with comfort in mind and all the 55 rooms have comfy sofas and cosy beds. The restaurant overlooks the garden and serves fresh local produce in the à la carte breakfast menu and the classic dinner dishes while the bar is open all day and has an extensive drinks menu.
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
If the Bath hotel scene had to be known for anything, it would be its Royal Crescent.
While slightly more expensive, guests can stay in one of the Crescent’s elegant houses.A 5-star hotel, with a history that spans more than 250 years, staying here is certainly a luxurious experience.
With a fully equipped gym, a truly relaxing spa and a secluded landscaped garden, the hotel offers guests the closest thing to time travel. The bedrooms are decorated in an 18th-century style while modern comforts, such as WIFI and TV, make you feel even more pampered.
Anabelle’s Guest House
For the best B&B in the city, head Anabelle’s Guest House.
Located near the Roman Baths, the B&B is a quick walk to the Bath Abbey, Pulteney Bridge and The Circus. The rooms are clean and kitted out with a wardrobe, TV and free toiletries. If you’d like a continental breakfast it is an additional £4 per person.
YHA Bath Hostel
For those backpackers or travellers on a budget, YHA Hostel is perfect for you.
The building itself is a visually striking Italian-style mansion with private gardens, laundry facilities and a restaurant. Each morning there is an option for a hearty breakfast and in the evenings a home-cooked meal.
Guests also have the option of using the large shared kitchen facilities. There is a TV lounge overlooking the garden with comfortable sofas while the bar serves a variety of drinks and the WIFI is available in public areas.
Where To Eat In Bath
Bath’s fame and close association with the British elite has given rise to an exquisite array of cuisine. From local delicacies to exotic Asian dishes, visitors experience not only a taste of history but are transported around the globe, with a promise of returning home.
Some local dishes to look out for are Bath Buns (sweet dough covered in sugar and currants), Bath Oliver Biscuits (which compliment cheese perfectly), Bath Chaps (pork tongue wrapped in pork cheek, marinated in brine and herbs, then rolled in breadcrumbs), and the Bath Soft Cheese.
Sally Lunn’s Eating House
This eating house has its roots deep in history. According to legend, Sally Lynn, a Huguenot refugee arrived in Bath in 1680. Here she worked in a bakery and produced the now-famous Sally Lunn Bun; a light, brioche-style bun.
Not only does this restaurant serve this local favourite but the building itself is one of the oldest houses in Bath, featuring a kitchen museum in the basement that shows the original kitchen used by Sally Lunn.
Open for Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, the menus serve local and authentic dishes. Perfect for a quintessentially English experience.
For an exotic flavour head to Koh Thai restaurant. Not known to many tourists, but a popular choice among locals, Koh’s is a place where the irresistibly rich flavours of Thailand are brought to the tiny streets of Bath.
Located on Broad Street and open Monday-Sunday, the menu includes mouth-watering curries, seafood platters, well-known delicacies such as Chicken Satays and Spring Rolls to unique desserts and fiery cocktails.
Regency Tea Room
For those of you searching for a little history or a quintessentially British afternoon tea experience, the Regency Team Rooms is perfect.
Located on the top floor of The Jane Austen Centre, the tea rooms have a lovely period atmosphere where the staff are decked out in regency fashion while the menu serves cakes, sandwiches, scones and toasties named after Austen’s characters.
Especially popular are the ‘Tea with Mr Darcy’, ‘Lady’s Afternoon Tea’ and ‘Crawford’s crumpets’.
Hall and Woodhouse
If you’re looking for a restaurant that allows four-legged furry friends, then Hall and Woodhouse is your place.
Built-in the 1960s and originally designed as an auction house, this restaurant has a stunning bar with alcohol bottles vibrantly on display. The rustic, brown décor and open space make for a charming and relaxing atmosphere, perfect for a quick lunch, celebratory dinner, or just a few drinks.
The normal, vegetarian and vegan menus also make this the ideal inclusive dining experience.
Evening Hangouts and Bars
There are a number of places to explore during the evening if you’re looking for somewhere to hang out or a bar to enjoy the night away.
Among the best places to go to is The Hideout, with its wood interior and walls decked out with whiskey, cocktails, draught beers and a range of spirits.
Bath Wrap Up
With so much history, culture and culinary delights, Bath is an intoxicating, exciting and unique city to visit. There is an abundance of quintessential English experiences to be had, a plethora of hangouts to enjoy a drink and several day trips to the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Bath, England. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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