Perfect Guide to Bath – What to See and Do
- Roman Baths – Walk in Roman footsteps through one of the worlds oldest spas.
- Bath Abbey – A House of Prayer for all built in 1599AD.
- No 1 Royal Crescent – On the iconic Royal Crescent street of historic terrace houses
- The Circus – 5 minutes from the Royal Crescent is this architectural landmark.
- Pulteney Bridge – One of only four bridges in the world with shops on both sides.
- River Avon – Walk along the river at the city centers Parade Gardens
- Jane Austen Centre – A small museum devoted to the life of Jane Austen
- Bath Open Top Bus – Hop on hop off bus tour of Bath with two separate routes
- Assembly Rooms & Fashion Museum – Elegant venue run by National Trust & historical fashion museum
- Thermae Bath Spa – A public spa and bath facility just minutes from the Roman Baths.
- River Avon Boat Cruises – Board a vintage cruiser or boat for a ride up the River Avon
- Cotswold Chauffeur Tours – Book a private chauffeur driven tour to the Cotswolds
- The Bell Inn – Local pub co-owned by Robert Plant, Peter Gabriel and residents
- Tivoli cinema – Art Deco themed boutique movie theatre
- Jane Austen landmarks – Explore where she lived in Bath
When they discovered it’s therapeutic thermal springs in 75AD, the Romans put Bath on the map. Today the city is a World Heritage site best known for it’s stunning Georgian architecture, Roman baths and cultural panache.
Romans built a religious temple and the Roman Baths – Aquae Sulis – over naturally occurring hot springs. Although swimming in the original baths has been banned since 1978, you can still visit the site where bathing and socializing took place 2000 years ago. By the 5th century, when Roman rule in Britain ended, the baths became a ruin and were left undiscovered until 1878. By 1897 after extensive excavation and renovation they were in use once again.
During the Georgian era, bathing in the thermal waters was considered a restorative and curative pastime. The wealthy and elite flocked to the city and Bath became renown as the ultimate spa resort!
As you may know the novelist Jane Austen lived here during King George IVs’ reign, know as the Regency period. She stayed in Bath for the first time in 1797 and returned in 1799.
Whether you’re a Jane Austen fan, lover of Georgian architecture or looking for the perfect English town to visit on a quick hop trip, Bath won’t disappoint. Where else can you have afternoon tea, visit the home of Jane Austen and dip into a world class thermal spa all in one place!
It’s easy to make Bath a day trip from London. Here’s how.
Getting to Bath
One of the best ways to get to Bath is by train. Bath is one of those towns that is extremely walkable and the train station is right in the center of town. Traffic can easily get snarled and parking can be expensive so consider leaving the car at home.
London to Bath Spa – Fast non stop trains from London Waterloo and London Paddington station leave London for Bath about every half hour and the journey takes 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours depending on the train you catch. Book up to 12 weeks in advance for the best pricing. My advice? Don’t travel on Sundays!
Guide to Bath – Must See’s on a Day Trip
Fortunately Bath is quite compact and very easy to walk around. All of these sites are within 15 minutes walk of the train station.
1. Roman Baths
Tour the remains of one of the worlds oldest spas and walk in Roman footsteps. The Baths are no longer in use as a spa but are worth visiting to soak up the history of the Roman occupation.
Book Roman Baths tickets here.
2. Bath Abbey
Visit this living and active church built in 1599AD which is a place of prayer for all. Climb the 212 narrow stone steps to the top of the Abbey on a Tower tour to get a guided “behind the scenes” look at the church as well as take in incredible views over Bath. Not ready to climb? Light a candle for a loved one and enjoy the peace inside the abbey.
No admission fee for general admittance but donations are appreciated. Find fees for individual tours here.
3. No 1 Royal Crescent
Step back in time at No. 1 Royal Crescent a restored Georgian townhouse on the Royal Crescent. Immerse yourself in this capsule of what daily life was like during Jane Austen’s time.
No 1 Royal Crescent is the first townhouse on the Royal Crescent, an iconic landmark of 30 terraced homes built between 1767 and 1774. The house at No 16 is a hotel and all the others are privately owned. Initially called The Crescent, Royal was added at the end of the 18th century after Prince Frederick stayed there. He later bought No. 16.
Booking tickets to No 1 Royal Crescent
4. The Circus
Just 5 minutes from the Royal Crescent is another architectural landmark. The Circus was also designed by John Wood and completed between 1754 and 1768. This row of townhouses forms a circle with three separate street entrances with a circular lawn in the center.
During WWII a German bomb demolished several of the homes but each has been sympathetically rebuilt . Although the architect was known to have designed the Circus to echo the circular shape of Stonehenge, there’s no mention of the obvious similarity to a Roman circus shape.
5. Pulteney Bridge
Pulteney Bridge was completed in 1774 by the Pulteney family who wanted access to the land they owned on the other side of the river. It’s one of only four bridges in the world featuring shops along the length of the bridge as well on both sides. The bridge is 148 ft long and 58 ft wide.
The Bridge Coffee Shop has spectacular views down the River Avon across the weir below.
6. River Avon
Although the views aren’t particularly scenic, you can walk along the river on the south side – nearest the main city centre – by walking down into the Parade Gardens. There’s a small charge to enter the gardens. You can also cross over to the other side via Pulteney Bridge.
You can also access the River by crossing Pulteney Bridge. Look for the Riverside Walk sign next to the Map shop to the steps leading down to the riverfront. You’ll also find the Bath Rugby Club field here and several pubs and bars.
7. Jane Austen Centre
A small museum dedicated to the life of Jane Austen, the centre is a must stop if you’re an avid reader. Tucked away on a side street at 40 Gay St., the centre is a 10 minute walk from the Roman Baths. You’ll be sure to spot the statue of Jane outside and perhaps a gentlemen in character as well!
Although the centre does an excellent job of giving us a peek into Jane’s life, I find she remains as enigmatic as ever despite our best efforts to know her as well as we know her characters!
The guided tour, film and Jane Austen waxwork figure are lovingly recreated and the gift shop and tea room are also worth a visit.
Find out more about the centre and book tickets online.
8. Bath Open Top Bus
The Hop on Hop off bus tour of Bath has two separate routes to give you a quick overview of the city and it’s main attractions. Pick up the bus at the Grand Parade overlook to Pulteney Bridge opposite the Empire Hotel.
You’ll also find the entrance to Parade Gardens here.
Shopping in Bath
Of course Shopping is always a must when visiting Bath. Here’s my guide to shopping in Bath
Guide to Bath – Extras for a Weekend or Week Stay
Staying overnight or have a long weekend to spend with the girls? You’ll have more time for experiences like a spa day, cruise or mooch through the shops! Here’s a few additional stops you can add on your “what to do in Bath” list.
9. Assembly Rooms | Fashion Museum
The Assembly Rooms were designed by John Wood in the late 18th century as an elegant venue for dancing and socializing. Now function rooms they serve as a reminder of how dedicated Regency society was to having fun! Run by the National Trust, you’ll also find a gift shop and cafe here. Free.
The Fashion Museum is in the floor below and a separate museum devoted to historical and contemporary fashion from the 1600s to today. Channel your inner fashion designer and dress up in replicas of period fashion! Open to any age. Buy tickets online.
2. Thermae Bath Spa
Tapping into the same natural hot springs the Romans discovered, the Thermae Bath Spa is a public spa and bath facility just minutes from the Roman Baths. If you have two hours to spare, have a soak in the outdoor rooftop pool and take advantage of the Wellness Suite! Unless you’re reserving a treatment, tickets to the open spa can’t be reserved in advance. My recommendation is pick a weekday to avoid long wait times.
Across the way from the main spa is the Cross Bath, a smaller more intimate spa for up to 10 people. You can book up to 48 hours in advance.
3. River Avon Boat Cruise
On the other side of the River Avon, across Pulteney Bridge, board a vintage river cruiser ready to take you up the river for a tour or a pub lunch. Perfect on a sunny afternoon and a lovely way to see the city from the river. River Avon cruises and boat trips.
4. Cotswold Chauffeur Tours
If you’d love to get outside Bath to see the surrounding countryside, then consider booking a private chauffeur driven tour. The Cotswolds boast some of the most beautiful and charming villages in England; with cottages built of golden natural stone and impossibly pretty. Let your driver do the driving so you can relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery. Perfect for a girls weekend! Chauffeur tours.
5. Try a Local Pub
I first heard of The Bell Inn on a flight from Denver to London. It’s a quintessential British pub within 5 minutes walk of the Artisan Quarter on Walcot St just 15 minutes from the city centre. You may just rub elbows at the bar with one of its well known co-owners, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin or Peter Gabriel!
Why not pop your other half on a stool so that you can take advantage of some of the wonderful boutiques and shopping districts just steps away.
6. Tivoli Cinema
Ready to put your feet up and see the latest feature film in style? This art deco themed boutique movie theatre has velvet love seats and individual table service. Not to mention a posh cafe and bar.
7. Can’t Get Enough Jane Austen?
If you’ve been to the Jane Austen Centre and picked up the souvenir guide, you’ll find a map inside. Follow Jane’s footsteps around her favorite Bath haunts. See where the Austen family lived in Bath and where Jane may have visited family and friends.
- 4 Sydney Place – where Jane lived for 4 years from 1801-1804 (other side of the River Avon near Sydney Gardens and Holbourne Museum)
- 3 Green Park Building East (opposite Green Park near the train station)
- St. Swithins Church where her parents were married. Her father was also buried here. Jane is buried at Winchester Cathedral about 70 miles southeast of Bath.
If you’re an avid Austen follower, why not time your visit for the 10 day Jane Austen festival “celebrating all things Jane Austen”?
Look for my shopping recommendations here.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bath
- The Bell Inn – Cooperative classic British pub with character and history on Walcot Street
- Cote Brasserie – Chain restaurant but superb casual all day dining in a French inspired bistro at Milsom Place
- The Scallop Shell – Super fresh seafood in a casual atmosphere with rooftop deck away from the crowds at 22 Monmouth Place not far from Green Park
- Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House – Bath’s oldest house features the famous Sally Lunn bath bun. Beautiful old building very close to Roman Baths.
Afternoon Tea in Bath
Try No 15 Great Pulteney for eclectic charm, the Pump Room for refined elegance next to the Baths, The Royal Crescent Hotel or The Bath Priory Hotel for a delicious memorable afternoon tea.
Where to Stay in Bath
- Harington’s Hotel – Family run hotel tucked away on a side street right in the center of Bath. Guests say the shower, bed and breakfast are amazing. Rooms are a bit basic and the common areas a bit tight but if you want to be right in central Bath this is a reasonable option.
- Gainsborough Bath Spa – Directly opposite the Thermae Bath Spa this posh 5 star hotel has a contemporary luxurious vibe and the location is right in central Bath so walk to shops, pubs, restaurants and the Abbey. Oh and get a spa treatment too!
- Hotel Indigo – Bath – Loved this hotel, so quirky and beautifully decorated. You’ll feel like you’re in a chic country house. Smack in the centre of Bath, just a 5 minute walk from the train station. Location can’t be beat! This would be my pick.
- Abbey Hotel Bath – Another hotel that’s right in the heart of Bath just minutes from the train station, Parade Gardens and all that Bath has to offer. Quirky modern decor and comfy Hypnos beds!
- The Royal Crescent Hotel – If you’d like to imagine yourself as the heroine in a Jane Austen novel, The Royal Crescent should put you right in the mood. This splurgy 5 star hotel is smack in the middle of the famous Royal Crescent and oozes 18th century history and charm. With it’s own Bath House spa and scrummy afternoon tea, you may never want to leave!
Where to Stay in Bath
Find your home from home while staying in Bath and explore the lovely surrounding county of Somerset at the same time!
Festivals & Markets
Jane Austen Festival – September
Bath Christmas Market – November – December
Bath Fringe – late May, early June
The Bath Festival – late May
Best Time to Visit Bath
Bath is extremely popular with visitors from all over the world. My suggestion is try and visit during off season if you can; November, December, January, February and March excluding school holidays. If your visit is planned during one of the warmer months, buy tickets online ahead of time to avoid lines. Early morning is the best time to see Bath with fewer crowds.