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 known best for stunning Georgian architecture, Roman baths and cultural panache.
Romans built their religious temple and Roman Baths – Aquae Sulis – over the 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 two thousand years ago. By the 5th century, 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
The absolutely best way to get to Bath is by train. Bath is one of those towns that is extremely walkable and the train station is smack dab in the center of town. Don’t even bother to drive on a busy weekend!
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!
What to See/Do on a Day Trip to Bath
If you only have a day to visit Bath, you can easily take in these highlights. 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 online to save 10%. Buy a Museum Saver Ticket to see the Baths, the Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery. Single admission weekday ticket starts at £14.40 ($19.)
2. Bath Abbey
Visit this active church built in 1599AD. 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. Adult ticket is £8. ($11.) Not ready to climb? Light a candle for a loved one and enjoy the peace inside for a small donation.
3. No 1 Royal Crescent
Still missing Downton Abby? Step back in time at No. 1 Royal Crescent and immerse yourself in this capsule of what daily life was like during Jane Austen’s time. Adult entry price is £10.90 ($15.)
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 (see below) and all the others are privately owned.
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 form 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 know 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 with shops on both sides and length of the bridge. The best views of the bridge are from the Grand Parade and Parade Gardens just to the south of the bridge.
6. River Avon
Walk along the river on the south side – nearest the main centre – at the Parade Gardens. You can also cross over to the other side via Pulteney Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, look for the Riverside Walk sign to steps down to access the riverfront. You’ll also find the Bath Rugby Club field here and several pubs and bars.
7. Jane Austen Centre
This small museum is devoted to the life of Jane Austen and if you’re an avid reader, you’ll enjoy visiting. Tucked away on a side street the centre is a 10 minute walk from the Roman Baths at 40 Gay St.. It’s easy to spot the statue of Jane outside and perhaps a gentlemen in character as well!
You may wonder if you’ll learn all about Jane’s life, but 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. Admission is £10.80 ($14.) with a 10% discount for booking online.
8. Bath Open Top Bus
Hop on hop off bus tour of Bath has two separate routes that give you a quick overview of the city and it’s main attractions. Pick up the bus where you at the Grand Parade overlook to Pulteney Bridge.
Here’s my complete guide to shopping in Bath
What to See/Do on an Overnight Trip or Girl’s Weekend to Bath
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.
1. 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. These public rooms now serve as function rooms and 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. 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 online to save 10%. Single entry starts at £8.55 ($12.)
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. With two hours to spare, you and your friends can 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 you’ll be able to 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 what better way to see a different side of the city? River cruises.
4. Cotswold Chauffeur Tours
If you and your friends would love 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; 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 my flight from Denver to London. It’s the quintessential British pub and within 5 minutes walk of the Artisan Quarter on Walcot St. You may just rub elbows at the bar with one of its well known co-owners, Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin or Peter Gabriel! Pop your other half on a stool while you take advantage of some shopping time.
6. Tivoli Cinema
Ready to put your feet up and see the latest Emma 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 while in Bath and where Jane may have visited family and friends.
Most notable addresses:
- 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”. 2020 dates are September 11-20.
All of the shopping resources you need are here.
Where to Eat and Drink in Bath
The Bell Inn
Cooperative classic British pub with character and history on Walcot Street
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
Experience the ultimate indulgent experience; hot tub and sauna session, prosecco and afternoon tea at No 15 Great Pulteney on this special offer.
Where to Stay in Bath
Affordable Regency Vibe
- Grays Boutique B&B – 15 minute walk uphill from the center of town
- Country Living Lansdowne Grove Hotel – Perched up on one of 7 hills – views and history!
- Harrington City Hotel – Boutique hotel on a side street in center of Bath
Luxury Spa Vibe
- Gainsborough Bath Spa – The only hotel with access to Bath’s natural thermal waters
- No 15 Great Pulteney – Independent boutique hotel in town
- The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa – Charming historic hotel situated on the Royal Crescent
Short Term Rentals in Bath
Dates to Remember
Jane Austen Festival – September 11-20, 2020
Bath Christmas Market – November – December
Bath Fringe – May 22 – June 7, 2020
The Bath Festival – May 15-24, 2020
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.
Have fun planning your trip to Bath and enjoy a lovely time!