Bath is one of the most charming cities to visit in the United Kingdom. The quaint, cobbled streets and Georgian era architecture are beautifully complemented by the tumbling waters of the River Avon, while the city’s famous underground hot springs are still put to good use even to this day. Bath is an old Roman city, and it’s a beautiful place to explore English history through the centuries before enjoying contemporary British culture in the present too.
There are many must see places in Bath, from the Roman ruins and intriguing museums to glorious green parks and a bustling city center. Of course, Bath has always been and still remains a spa town and there are plenty of places to relax and unwind after a hard day of sightseeing. To help you to plan your trip to this lovely English city here’s our guide on the best things to do in Bath.
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How to Get to Bath
Bath is found in south-west England, just 15 miles away from the city of Bristol which is found to the west and just over 100 miles away from London which is found directly to the east. The city is well connected by road and rail to the rest of the country and it’s easy to travel here from other major cities. There are regular trains from London with Great Western Railways and the journey time is only one hour and a half. This train line also connects Bath with both Bristol and Oxford, allowing travelers to easily create a southwestern itinerary that includes all of these popular cities.
Trains across the United Kingdom can be an expensive form of transport however and budget travelers may prefer to make use of the bus system. National Express has regular connections to Bath from London and Bristol and from various other cities too. Bus travel is usually much cheaper than train travel but it may not be as efficient.
There is no dedicated international airport to be found in Bath, however, Bristol Airport is incredibly close and is located just 20 miles away. From Bristol Airport there are international connections across Europe with many budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easy Jet while scheduled carriers such as KLM operate flights which can then connect onto routes across the world. London Heathrow Airport may also be a great option to fly into, particularly from outside of Europe. From Heathrow, there are dedicated bus connections to Bath when you land with National Express.
Bath is a relatively small destination by English standards and the city center itself is particularly compact. It’s easy to traverse most of the major sights and attractions on foot, however, there are also taxis, public buses, and a hop on hop off service available for visitors.
What to expect in Bath
When you visit Bath you may be wondering what exactly to expect from this ancient Roman city. Bath is a pleasant place to explore and whether you are interested in history or shopping or simply want to find a great place to relax then the city has much to offer for all tastes and styles. It’s easy to get around and you will find that it’s not so busy during the week. Weekends though can be a different matter entirely as it’s an incredibly popular short break getaway for people from around the UK as well as from abroad. If you can then it may be more enjoyable or at least more peaceful to visit the city on a weekday if your schedule allows it.
Bath is set up for tourism and you will find it easy to choose from the wide range of accommodation in the city. There are plenty of dedicated tours and activities to help you to enjoy the sights and the history while the tourist information office is always helpful and willing to offer great advice on the ground.
You will find plenty of ATMs in the city and plenty of money changing outlets too. The local currency is the British Pound and you will find that card and cash are accepted almost everywhere. Tipping is not a particularly British thing to do and Bath is no exception, however in the service industry – particularly restaurants or cafes – if you do experience impressive hospitality then it is acceptable but not expected to offer a tip when you pay the bill.
Places to visit in Bath
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths are one of the best-preserved examples of Roman architecture to be found anywhere in the United Kingdom. The ruins of this once popular bathing spot are the origins of the city itself. This is where Bath began with the thermal waters that led the Romans to build their spas and to populate the area. If you are wondering what to do in Bath when you first arrive then the Roman Baths are most definitely the best place to begin your tour. Learn about the city’s beginnings and then see how that legacy has shaped the Bath that you see today.
Royal Victoria Park
The Royal Victoria Park holds a special place in British history as this was the first park to be opened by Queen Elizabeth when as a princess aged just 11 years old she dedicated the park to the city. It’s a beautiful green space and a wonderful place to simply stroll around.
The Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is Bath’s best example of Georgian architecture and it’s found on a hill overlooking the Royal Victoria Park. This is the most iconic location in Bath, where tall Georgian style townhouses were built in the 18th century around a scenic crescent. Many are still lived in however No.1 Royal Crescent is a permanent museum which takes visitors back in time to experience exactly how these townhouses would have looked after their construction in the Georgian era.
Bath Abbey is a spectacular and historical building that dates back to the 10th century. It’s an excellent place to experience English history, even if you aren’t religious, and to admire the building work that has survived for so many centuries.
Jane Austen Centre
The Jane Austen Centre is dedicated to the famous English novelist who spent many years of her life living and working in Bath. The city has adopted Jane Austen as their literary hero because she drew much inspiration for her work from here and the surrounding areas. As well as exploring Jane Austen’s life and literary legacy the center also explores life in general during Bath in the early 19th century. It’s a fascinating insight into a side of the city’s history that is usually overshadowed by the more prominent and well known Roman era.
Pulteney Bridge is one of the most well-known bridges in England. The dramatic, triple archways and terraced sides feature in many paintings and photographs of the city because it is truly a wonderful and unique design. The bridge spans the River Avon and dates back to 1769. Unlike many other bridges to be found anywhere else in the world Pulteney Bridge is particularly unique because it was designed to accommodate rows of shops which were built on either side of the road that crosses the Avon.
Victoria Art Gallery
The Victoria Art Gallery is the premier location in Bath for art lovers. This great gallery showcases some of the best works from both local artists as well as more historic pieces dating back hundreds of years from across Britain and Europe.
Things to do in Bath
Enjoy a Spa Experience
Bath is, of course, famous for its Roman-era spas, but this is a historic legacy that has continued until this day. While the Roman ruins are no longer there for bathing in, the city does have more modern offerings waiting for travelers that make use of the geothermal waters under the ground. The most impressive is the Thermae Spa which can be one of the most romantic things to do in Bath. This excellent spa experience has several different levels and bathing areas, including an outdoor terrace where you can relax in the steamy waters overlooking the city’s skyline. A spa experience is a must-do activity when visiting Bath.
Bath Guildhall Market
The Guildhall Market is the oldest continually running market in Bath. This shopping area is full of charming little retailers and local products. You can find some great souvenirs here to take away with you after your travels to Bath.
The Theatre Royal is a wonderful location to catch a dramatic performance while staying in Bath. The theater dates back to the Georgian era, like much of the city’s architecture, and today it is still used to host plays and concerts throughout the week. The schedule changes but you might be lucky enough to witness everything from classic Shakespearean plays to contemporary theater performances.
Where to stay in Bath
Bath has a great selection of accommodation, particularly when it comes to mid-range and luxury offerings to visitors due to the city’s spa legacy. Backpackers and budget travelers will find less suitable options in the city and will want to book early to avoid missing out on the cheaper hotels and hostels.
The YHA Bath is possibly the most consistent and reliable budget option to be found in the city. Offering cheap dormitories and a few value budget rooms, the YHA is set in the grand interior of a historic mansion on the edge of the city center. The mansion is surrounded by green, well-kept gardens and considering this is a hostel, it’s a welcomingly elegant environment to stay in. There are shared kitchen and common areas as well as quick access to the city.
The Z Hotel makes for an excellent mid-range accommodation choice when visiting Bath. It’s found right in the city center just a short walk from all the major tourist attractions. The rooms are basic but modern, clean and well serviced. There is an onsite bar where you can spend your evenings winding down or you can explore the best restaurants and pubs of Bath which are all close by.
The Gainsborough is one of Bath’s most opulent and famous hotels. This is a highly regarded luxury option that in keeping with Bath’s historic legacy offers guests its own spa facilities, including a relaxing swimming pool that is fed from underground thermal waters and that’s decorated in a Romanesque style. There is a great onsite restaurant and bar and you will find the Gainsborough perfectly located in the center of Bath.
Tours to do in Bath
A great way to see the city is to jump on a Hop on Hop off bus tour. These bright red, open top buses are great value as they offer visitors transport around Bath, the freedom to explore in their own time, and information along the way.
Free Walking Tour
One of the best free things to do in Bath is to join a local free walking tour. The most interesting free tour in the city is run by the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides. These are dedicated locals with an intimate knowledge of the city’s history and intricacies. This tour is so free in fact that the Honorary Guides appointed by the Mayor are not even allowed to take any tips at the end of the two-hour walk. Tours are run daily in the mornings and afternoons and the meeting place is directly outside the Roman Baths in the city center.
If you would like to travel outside the city then Bath is an excellent place to join a tour to nearby Stonehenge. This world-renowned historical site is located just 30 miles away in Salisbury and is a must-see for anyone visiting the United Kingdom
Bath is located right on the edge of the Cotswolds. This is a huge area of outstanding natural beauty, where rolling fields and charming villages are found amongst the beautiful vistas. There are many tours leaving Bath that take visitors through the region’s highlights for a lovely day out in the English countryside.
Recommend budget tours in Bath
- Private South Wales Day Trip from Bath
- Private Stonehenge Avebury Lacock and Castle Combe Day Trip from Bath
- City Sightseeing Bath Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Bath City Tour – Private tour with a local guide born in Bath
- Stonehenge and Beer – Day Trip from Bath
- Stonehenge Private Tour – Afternoon Tour from Bath
- Bath City Tour & Hot Springs Experience – Day Tour from Bath
- Wells, Cheddar Cheese and Cheddar Gorge – Private Day Trip from Bath
- ‘Guilty Pleasures’ food and drink tour of Bath
- Sweet Canapes & Prosecco Traditional Boat Trip
- Small-Group 80 minute Bath Walking Tour and Avon River Cruise
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