By Briana Seftel
Considered one of England’s prettiest cities, Bath is spoiled with gorgeous Georgian architecture, sparkling thermal spas and verdant countryside. One of the country’s most popular tourist destinations just 90 minutes from London, Bath is a popular day trip but certainly worth staying several days. If you’re seeking a bit of rest and relaxation with a touch of elegance, there’s no city quite like Bath.
What to Know
A compact city in southwest England, Bath has been a tourist draw for nearly 2,000 years. It was founded by the Romans who used the area’s natural hot springs to create a spa retreat. In the middle ages, Bath was considered the religious capital of Britain and the first King of England was crowned here.
In the 18th century under George III, Bath developed into an elegant town with the construction of grand squares and crescents in the Georgian style and honey-colored Bath stone. In 1987, the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When to Go
Like the rest of England, summer is peak season in Bath, and the city gets especially crowded during the months of July and August. For pleasant weather and fewer crowds, try visiting during the shoulder season (May, early June, September, and early October). While the weather can be dreary in the winter, Bath’s annual Christmas Market attracts visitors for its mulled wine and over 200 chalets selling handmade and local gifts. Rain is never unexpected in England so be sure to pack an umbrella!
How to Get Around
As Bath is a small city, it’s best to leave your car parked and explore the city on foot. Roads can become congested at busy times, so driving in the city is not recommended. To avoid traffic, try using one of the city’s three Park and Ride services.
Where to Eat
Bath is a foodie city, which means a good meal is never far away. From hearty pub grub to global cuisine to afternoon tea, dining in Bath is an adventure in of itself. Below are some of our favorite places to eat in the city.
- The Pump Room Abbey Chambers, Church St, Avon Phone: +44 1225 444477
- The Circus 34 Brock St Phone: +44 1225 466020
- Cafe Retro 18 York St Phone: +44 1225 339347
- Marlborough Tavern 35 Marlborough Buildings Phone: +44 1225 423731
- Clayton’s Kitchen 15A George St Phone: +44 1225 585100
- Cafe Lucca 1-2 Bartlett Street Phone: +44 1225 938282
- The Kingsmead Kitchen 1 Kingsmead St Phone: +44 1225 329002
- Bath Brew House 14 James St W Phone: +44 1225 805609
What to See
Immerse yourself in history at Bath’s top attraction and raison d’etre, the Roman Baths. Constructed around 70 AD, the complex is divided into four main parts - the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the museum. Dedicate at least a few hours exploring the historic baths, then taste a glass of minerally spa water at the Pump Room.
While majorly restored in the 16th century, there has been a place of worship on this spot for more than 1,000 years. With its soaring gothic towers and stained-glass windows, Bath Abbey looms large over the city. For spectacular views over the city and surrounding countryside, climb the 212 steps to the top on a tower tour (ticket required).
Built between 1767 and 1775, the Royal Crescent is made up of 30 houses laid out on a curve, and is the most impressive of Bath’s seven Georgian crescents. While most of the homes are private, No. 1 Royal Crescent was transformed from a private residence into a museum that gives a peek into Georgian life.
Crossing River Avon, Pulteney Bridge was completed in 1774 in a Palladian style and was inspired by Ponte Vecchio in Florence. It is one of only four bridges in the world with shops that span both sides.
Jane Austen Centre
Jane Austen fans should make a beeline for the Jane Austen Centre, which through exhibits and costumes explains how living in Bath affected the author’s life and work. The famous author of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806.
Tips and Tricks
If at all possible, visit Bath Monday through Thursday to avoid the weekend crowds.
Take a dip in a thermal bath at Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the water from the three natural hot springs in Bath.
The Bath Visitor Card gives you access to over 45 exclusive discounts at restaurants, shops, attractions and sightseeing tours in Bath.
The annual Jane Austen Festival is held in September and attracts thousands of Janeites from around the world.
Each evening in the summer, the Bizarre Bath takes visitors on a hilarious guided tour through the city led by local actors.
Located an hour away in Wiltshire are the monolithic standing stones of Stonehenge that have mystified travelers for centuries. Dating back 4,500 years ago, the World Heritage site is best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. Walk around the Stone Circle and explore the Neolithic houses next to the visitor center to truly experience this man made wonder of the world.
Travel tip: The closest train station to Stonehenge is in Salisbury.
Voted the best place to live in the UK by The Sunday Times for four straight years, it’s easy to see why Bristol would make a fantastic day trip. With a strong maritime history and a vibrant arts scene, Bristol is the perfect combination of old and new. Walk across the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge and tour the SS Great Britain, a steamship dating back to 1843.
Head north of Bath to Gloucestershire, where the majority of the Cotswolds is located. While you’ll need a car to explore this area, it’s worth spending a day hopping from one charming town to the next. Highlights include the Regency town of Cheltenham and the market towns of Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden.