As you might expect from a place called Bath, this city is famous for its water. Its naturally hot spring water made it a favourite with the Romans, who built, of course, some baths. It’s also the backdrop to some of Jane Austen’s famous novels. Put all that together, and you’ve got a World Heritage Site straight out of a BBC period drama.
Ready to explore? Here’s what to do if you’re heading to Bath for a day or weekend trip.
1. See the beautifully preserved Great Bath
These Roman Baths have been one of the most visited places in Britain for more than 2,000 years. Go to see the Great Bath, the Roman Temple, and to taste the mineral-packed spa water which comes out of a special water fountain. The Beau Street Hoard is also worth seeing. That’s the 17, 577 Roman coins that were found under the new Gainsborough Hotel in 2007.
2. Have a soak in a rooftop spa pool
3. Visit Pulteney Bridge
The Grade I listed Pulteney Bridge is a real rarity. You’ll find shops, cafes and restaurants inside, and there are only four others in the world like it.
4. Walk all the way around the Royal Crescent
Bath is probably most famous for its Georgian crescents. You might recognise the Royal Crescent from period dramas, but even if you’re not a fan of those, you’ll probably like the views of Royal Victoria Park. Known as the best address in Bath, No.1 Royal Crescent was opened as a museum in 2013.
5. Learn about Bath’s history in a museum
Bath has got loads of museums, so keep these on your list for a rainy day.
- Fashion Museum. If you like the idea of seeing more than 100,000 pieces of clothing and footwear, and dressing up like a Victorian, this is the place for you.
- If you do go, your ticket also gets you into the Assembly Rooms. That was the entertainment centre of Georgian times, where you could dance, drink tea, play cards or just “be seen”.
- The American Museum is the only dedicated museum to American folk and decorative art outside the USA.
- The Museum of Bath Architectures opens between February and November each year. Inside, you can see a model of Bath. The exhibits are held in the classically-designed Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel.
- Or you can see even further at The Herschel Museum of Astronomy – into space. William Herschel first spotted the Uranus in the museum’s garden.
- The Museum of Bath at Work shows you how 2000 years of residents have earned a crust in the city. You’ll find out how Bathonians bartered with the Romans, and how the famous Bath Stone was mined.
- Finally, the Bath Postal Museum is a small, independent museum – and a good one if you’re interested in letters or stamps.
6. Head into an art gallery
First, there’s the Victoria Art Gallery, which houses portraits by Thomas Gainsborough. Or try the Museum of East Asian Art, home to a large jade collection among its east and south east Asian artefacts. The Holburne Museum is in Sydney Gardens, looking up Great Pulteney Street. It’s free to visit, and home to a collection of fine and decorative art, including paintings by Gainsborough and Stubbs.
7. Book tickets to a play or show
If you’re going for the weekend, you might want to look at what’s on in the theatre. Bath’s got a few, here are some to try:
- The Egg has shows aimed at young people. They also own a local pub, The Garrick’s Head, which does pre and post-theatre meals, or you can eat downstairs in The Vaults Restaurant at the theatre.
- For big names, the award-winning Theatre Royal Bath has produced more than 120 West End plays.
- The Old Theatre Royal was also once a Masonic Lodge and Temple, and a Catholic Chapel. It might not look like much from the cobbled backstreet outside, but step indoors and it’s a different story.
- Book into a magic show at Krowd Keepers upstairs at the Ale House Pub in Bath Spa. It only has 35 seats, so you’ll see some sleight of hand up close.
8. Eat and drink your way around the city
Tea houses, local beer, or a posh meal? Cocktails? Here are some options.
- For fine dining, visit the Bath Priory Hotel, Restaurant and Spa. The Michelin star restaurant has exceptional British food.
- Contemporary British cooking is also on the menu at the Olive Tree, this fine dining restaurant can be found underneath The Queensberry Hotel.
- Round the corner from the Royal Crescent is The Marlborough Tavern, a great gastro pub which also has a large beer garden.
- For curry, visit the award-winning The Eastern Eye, their Bengali cuisine gets rave reviews.
- You’ll have to try a Bath Bun – this sweet brioche-style roll is a famous delicacy – and many of the establishments claim to have invented a version of it.
- One of the most famous tea houses is Sally Lunn’s, which is also in one of the oldest buildings in city. Part tea room, restaurant, shop and museum, you might want to book as there can be big queues.
- If you want to try some local beer, Abbey Ales Brewery is the only brewer operating in Bath – their most popular cask beer is the Bellringer.
- They have four pubs under their banner, including the Coeur de Lion, Bath’s smallest pub.
- For cocktails try Circo Bar & Lounge or the Opium Bar – both take bookings if you are planning on visiting on a weekend.
9. Have a nice walk around Bath’s parks and gardens
Prior Park has lovely landscaped gardens along with some of the best views of Bath. The Palladian bridge is one of only four of this design in the world. And if you’re feeling fit, take the Bath Skyline stroll – it’s a six mile route. The Royal Victoria Park has beautiful botanical gardens for the grownups…and a massive, modern children’s play area, skate park, crazy golf and model boating pond for the kids. Or head to Alexandra Park on Beechen Cliff. It’s got wooded views across the city, boule, Petanque, playgrounds and picnic areas.
10. Get up close to some animals at Bath City Farm
Bath City Farm is free to visit, but donations are very welcome. As well as sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and pigs, they also have a pony you can groom. Visit the website to find out about special events and family activities. Or if you’ve ever fancied falconry, visit the West of England Falconry centre in the Midford Valley and have a go yourself.
11. Go on a walking or photography tour of the city
The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides offer free daily walking tours. They have 65 volunteer guides (with distinctive badges) who’ll take you around, whatever the weather. They were granted The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in June 2014, and don’t accept tips – they just do it for the city. You could also learn how to take some brilliant pictures on a photography tour. The Bath Photographer, Tony McNicol, has tours whether you just have a smartphone or are armed with the latest DSLR.
12. Take a boat tour along the rivers and canals
Bath City Boat Trips have 55 minute tours, including full commentary, along the River Avon. There’s also the historic Kennet and Avon Canal – you can hire boats by the day or for longer periods. Or if you fancy letting someone else do the hard work, try the Lady Lena. They do champagne and afternoon tea cruises along the canal.
13. Get a birds eye view in a balloon
You can fly over the city and as far as the Mendips or Cotswolds, by taking a balloon flight. Obviously this is weather dependent, so check out Bath Balloons for booking details.
14. Spend a couple of hours looking round the shops
We recommend a visit to Milsom Street. It’s scenic independent shopping at its best. Milsom Place also has more stores and restaurants under cover. Another historic shopping option is Bartlett Street. This is where you’ll find the Bartlett Street Antiques Centre, full of collectables and specialist dealers.
Bath Street is also a good place to admire the architecture while you shop. The Fine Cheese Shop in Walcot Street has an extensive array of cheeses behind the counter, as well as a serving street food from the shop. Look up at the Stone Faces in the street while you’re passing, there are more than 30 handcarved in a Great Wall of faces. Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights is also worth a look – it’s an award winning independent bookshop.
15. Browse the markets
The Bath Street Food market, based at SouthGate, happens twice monthly (except in peak summer season and Christmas). On Sundays at Green Park Station covered market, you’ll either find the retro stalls of BathVA Markets or the Bath Artisan Market. There’s a Farmer’s Market every Saturday. And as for Christmas markets, Bath Abbey has 150 chalets in place throughout December.
16. Time your visit with a festival
The charity Bath Festivals organises two of the city’s major events: Bath International Music Festival and the Independent Bath Literature Festival (and the children’s literature festival). The music festival usually takes place in May and June. It focuses on classical music, as well as jazz, world and folk.
There is also a separate Bath Fringe Festival which runs at the same time. September sees the whole city travel back to the Georgian period for the Jane Austen Festival. Expect bonnets, fans and breeches around the city centre. For food, The Great Bath Feast is the city’s culinary celebration, and takes place in October. There’s also the Bath Beer Festival, or if you really want to spice things up, try the Bath Chilli Festival.
If you’re feeling inspired, we have plenty of hotels in Bath and the surrounding area.
Don’t forget, you’re also within an hours drive to one of the country’s most popular heritage sights – Stonehenge.
It takes just under an hour and a half to get to Bath from London on a fast train via Great Western Railway.
If you’re driving, it’s around two and a half hours from London (depending on traffic). There’s plenty of parking in Bath, and as the city centre isn’t too big, you should be close to the major attractions.
Visit Bath Car Parks website to see live updates on the parking so you don’t have to drive round aimlessly.
Do you have any Bath tips?
If you live in Bath or are maybe a frequent visitor, then we’d love to hear what you think the best Bath bits are.
Tell us your favourite things to do in Bath by leaving a comment below.