Bath effortlessly makes its way onto many an ‘England Bucket List’. And, smoothly asserts itself as top choice for a ‘day trip from London’ itinerary. It’s beautiful, it’s convenient and it’s alluring – no wonder so many visit!
And one of the reasons it attracts over 6 million visitors each year is that there are just so many things to do in Bath, it’s a solid worthy contestant in terms of English cities worth visiting.
So, if you’re planning a Bath day trip and you want to make sure you don’t miss the best bits, we’re here with the low-down, top tips and secret spots to make the most of your time in Bath.
SO, WHAT IS BATH FAMOUS FOR?
Apart from it being the birthplace of Plasticine, ‘OK Computer’, Uranus, The Dyson, Mary Berry and crackers it’s probably more likely that Bath is most famous for its heritage as a Spa Town. Right back to Roman times people recognised the therapeutic merits of its thermal springs and today there are plenty of things to do in Bath related to its Roman past. But fast forward a few generations and the Georgians cottoned on to the same blessed subterranean liquid and started building the most glorious of spa towns attainable to both those with the money or the desire for better health.
There cannot be a more handsome representation of Georgian architecture and design than Bath in England. It’s stately and dashing and not hard at all to imagine one of famous resident, Jane Austen’s novels play out her scenes to the backdrop of this magnificent English city.
But how do you make sure you don’t miss out on the essence of Bath if you’re just here for a short while? Read on for our favourite bits of this famous historic city…
The Best Things To Do In Bath
Before we start with our list of what to see in Bath we do have a great hotel recommendation for you too – check out Hotel Indigo. Everything is brilliant about this central Bath hotel – the style, the details, the staff and the comfy beds! It’s also the perfect location if you’re coming from London to bath on the train. It’s a Georgian beauty and one of the nicest places you’ll find in Bath in our opinion. (If you book through our link we make a small commission at no extra cost to you and you help to fund our website – Thank You!)
Now back to our ‘Top Things To Do In Bath, UK‘ list…
1. BATH ABBEY
Visiting the Abbey should be one of the first things to do in Bath once you arrive – it’s right in the centre, it’s really impressive and when you climb the tower you’ll be able to get your bearings and catch a birds-eye view of the city you’re about the explore.
Sit a while and stare at the awesome fanned ceiling, the beautiful stained glass windows and the many carved angels in the knaves. Then take the 200-step climb up to the bell tower as part of a tour (tickets around £8 from the gift shop) and absorb one of the best views of Bath. It’s a really informative and interesting tour and to be able to see right into the Roman Baths from this vantage is quite unique!
*Check beforehand for changes to the tours due to Covid19
2. THE ROMAN BATHS
You can’t visit Bath and not at least acknowledge the reason this city is on the map in the first place – its therapeutic waters. However, at £20 a ticket to visit the Roman Baths, you might want to decide first if you have the time to do it justice.
There’s something quite emotive though about visiting a place that is almost 2000 years old and it’s really quite cool to walk the exact same worn pavements as the Roman’s did. And Queen Victoria! It’s one of the best-preserved Roman sites in the world and was once one of the Empires greatest religious spa’s.
3. THE PUMP ROOM
The Georgians were the next to recognise the restorative waters of Bath and quickly turned the city into England’s greatest social spot. The Pump Room was at the centre of Bath’s elite society and is still a great place to chanel your inner Elizabeth Bennet today.
Book a table for afternoon tea in Bath and dine in style under the grand chandeliers accompanied by live classical musicians, or just stop by for coffee and cake at elevenses. Then, for class in a glass, order yourself a glass of the mineral-rich water pumped straight from the King’s Spring Fountain. Alternatively, I find the Prosecco more therapeutic!
Open 9.30 – 5pm every day.
4. HAVE A ROMAN BATH IN BATH
Whilst you might be escorted off the premises if you were to jump into the pools at the Roman Baths, having a thermal bath is still possible elsewhere. Your Speedo’s would be more than welcomed at the Thermae Bath SPA just around the corner.
Located on Hot Bath Street (I know, right!) the Thermae Spa is Britains only thermal natural spa and prices start from £35 for a 2-hour session. Salus Per Aquam (or SPA for short) is Latin for ‘Health through Water’ and that’s certainly what you’d hope for with these 42-mineral-rich waters. Failing that, the impressive roof-top pool with views over Bath is a hit with everyone – especially those in Speedo’s with a camera-wielding girlfriend it seems!
If perchance, you are booking a luxury Bath weekend break and you’re happy to splash out, then we would highly recommend spending a night at The Gainsborough for a 5-star experience and access to their award-winning SPA – perfect for relaxing after a busy day sightseeing. This hotel is in the more high-end price range but for the best deals click here.
5. TRY A BATH BUN
AKA a Sally Lunn Bun, you have to try the famous Bath delicacy. It’s a brioche bun – part bread part cake – and you can go sweet or savoury. Very versatile!
Most people head for The Bath Bun Tea Shoppe or the Sally Lunn’s Eating House, but you could have a bun on the run – you can pick one up from most of Bath’s bakeries.
6. VISIT THE FAMOUS CRESCENTS
Bath born John Wood, the Georgian architect, was the inventor of semi-circular housing estates. This soon-to-be-famous bendy street style had its beginnings at The Royal Crescent and quickly replicated all across the city. In fact, you won’t only find them in Bath, England loved it so much it was copied again and again and you may have seen similar representations in towns such as Brighton, Bristol and Buxton.
So, how many crescents does Bath have? I think the official answer is 6. The aforementioned Royal Crescent is definitely the most notable one for sightseers but there’s no need to bypass the rest as they all bring their own slice of individuality. Lansdown, Cavendish, Camden, Widcombe and Norfolk are the remaining 5 but it wouldn’t be fair not to draw your attention to The Circus too : Not a semi-circle, but 3 equal crescents which create a whole. We like this particular street of Georgian town-houses the most for its central display of Oak trees and over 500 carvings at first-floor level – all representing something from the Arts & Sciences. When you stand in the centre it’s like you’re receiving one big Georgian hug!
7. EXPLORE BATH’S LITERARY CONNECTIONS
So, why is Bath so popular with the bookworms among us?
Well for starters, its most famous resident author, Jane Austen, immortalised the city in two of her greatest novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, and Bath celebrates its famous citizen in several ways. There are a few things to do in Bath related; You can visit her former home, the Jane Austen Centre on Gay Street for an incite into Regency living in this thriving Spa town. Or you can take a free Jane Austen audio walking tour around the city, which is actually a great way of catching all of the notable things to see in Bath but through the perspective of an Austen fan. Or how about a ‘Gin Austen’ cocktail at The Canary Bar on Queen Street?
But there’s even more for book lovers in Bath – a healthy handful of quirky bookshops to browse, including Topping and Company and Bath Old Books on the quaint little cut-through street of cute cafe’s and independents, Margaret’s Buildings. And, a few other famous Bath writers like the Shelley’s and Dickens also spent some time in Bath – you can have a read of some of their connection here. Ultimately, if Literature is your love, there is many a book-thing to do in Bath!
8. SEE THE FAMOUS PULTENEY BRIDGE
Why is Pulteney Bridge famous? Because it’s one of only 4 bridges in the world to have shops spanning the whole length on both sides, and it’s the only one in the UK. Bath’s own Frances Pulteney was an heiress to a large amount of land and estates in the area and the bridge was the only way to connect the family to the town.
It’s a beautiful Bath attraction and is best viewed from the side of the crescent weir. You can get a good view from the Parade Gardens.
And if you’re now asking where the other 3 bridges with buildings on them are, you’ll find them in Venice (The Rialto), Florence (Ponte Vecchio) and Erfurt in Germany (the Krämerbrücke).
9. BATH’S MUSEUMS
If you’re taking a day trip to Bath, you perhaps won’t have time for the museums but since the town itself is a bit of a gallery piece, it’s like an open-air museum in its own right. However, if you can fit more into your Bath itinerary then you have plenty of choices.
- Visit the Herschel Museum of Astronomy to see where Uranus was discovered
- The Bath At Work museum focuses on how Bathonians earned their earth-nuggets for the last 1,000 years
- Seeing as the postal service was invented in Bath, England, you would naturally expect to see a Postal Museum, right?
- The Holburne Museum is my favourite, with its swanky architecture (old blended with new) and miniature cameo’s. And for all you Bridgerton fans, the museum was used as the home of Lady Danbury!
- The Fashion Museum does what it says on the tin but perhaps is one of those places to visit in Bath without the boys?!
10. BATH’S GREEN SPACES
There are a good number of places to visit in Bath for a piece of calm. Right in the centre, just around the corner from Bath Abbey, are the Parade Gardens and a worthwhile visit if only to see the Pulteney Bridge from a garden perspective. Pleasure Gardens in every sense of the word, you’ll be fully entertained in this historical little gem – concerts on the bandstand, sculptural flower beds, cream teas in the cafe and children’s entertainment during the summer months.
Bath’s Botanical Garden’s at Royal Victoria Park are the perfect place for a picnic – landscaped in such a way that you’ll never struggle to find your own quiet corner amongst exotic tree’s and borders. If you’re thinking of what to do in Bath with kids then no doubt the reams of winding paths and secret corners will keep them entertained for a little while.
There’s also Henrietta Park for its pergoda’s and fountain, and Alexander Park for its elevated views of Bath.
11. SHOPPING IN BATH
If you’re coming from London to Bath for a day trip, shopping may not exactly be high on your list, but this quaint little city does have a few unique consumer highlights.
- Green Park Station is a collection of market stalls and independent shops selling original wares in an old train station setting. It’s also a great place to grab a spot of lunch at one of the street food vendors or restaurants.
- For the magpies among you, the area of Walcot Village (or Artisan Quarter) is a puttanesca of antiques, vintage and beautiful things you’ve just got to have! Start on Walcot Street then scuttle over to Broad Street for more undiscovered treasures.
- Obviously you can’t visit Bath without at least ducking into a few of the historical shops on Pulteney Bridge.
- A bit like the Neals Yard of Bath, Northumberland Place is a colourful mish-mash of cafes and boutiques on the narrowest of Georgian alleyways. Fast forward another British monarch and around the corner on The Corridor you get a real feel for Victorian arcade life.
12. THE BEST VIEWS OF BATH’S SKYLINE
‘Climbing up on Solsbury Hill, I can see those city lights’… So if you’re interested in the view that made Peter Gabriel’s heart go ‘boom, boom, boom’ in the cult 70’s classic, then take a hike up to the inspirational peak northeast of Bath. Solsbury Hill is a flat-topped hill, once an iron-age fort, and has amazing views of Bath – especially the north side and its crescents.
Alternatively, to the south of the city, there is a view of the Bath skyline just off Bathwick Hill in Bathwick Meadow. If you’re thinking of doing some walking in Bath you can actually use this view as a starting point to the National Trust’s 6-mile circular route around the whole of the city. Or you could just follow the first part east to the crazy Sham Castle, on the edge of Bath Golf Course.
13. OUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT IN BATH
If you only have one day in Bath you’re never going to fit in all of its culinary delights, but here are our recommendations to get you started…
(we’ve already mentioned some of these in our ‘Bath things to do’ list but we’ll list them here too for your benefit)
- Try a Sally Lunn bun, either from her tea shoppe or a Bath bakery
- Have afternoon tea at The Pump Room
- The Onion Bhaji wraps at Chai Walla on Monmouth Street are to die for – I would actually make a Bath day trip just for lunch here!
- Pizza is king in Bath. Perhaps as a leftover from when the Romans ruled Bath, the town outdoes itself for authentic Italian pizza. Try The Oven on Westgate Street and Dough on The Corridor.
- On a similar vein, there are a handful of good ice-cream stops too; Swoon on Kingsmead Square is a firm favourite.
- What do you get when China and Poland have a baby? Goulash Hirata buns! You can get these delicious parcels from Goulash at the Green Park Station market.
- We have long been a fan of the French restaurant Bistro Pierre’s – the first one was opened in our hometown of Nottingham – you can’t go wrong with their 2 or 3 course menu.
So there you have it – what to see in Bath and the places to go that will give you a real feel for this beautiful Georgian city.