Bath is one of my favorite cities in the UK when it comes to organise a week end away. I went there three times already and each time brought me to see different things. Bath is extremely rich historically and culturally and its Roman Baths attract numerous tourists every year. This is no wonder the city became a World Heritage site in 1987. Let me present you my best picks to make the most of Bath in a few days…
The Roman baths in Bath
Firstly, I have to say that every time I visited Bath the weather was awesome (even when forecasts were dramatically awful), therefore my first advice to those planning a trip to Bath is just to keep faith: the sun will hopefully be with you…
Speaking of roman baths in this city already sets the stage: Bath is an old city. It became a spa with the name Aquae Sulis (“the waters of Sulis”) c. 60 AD, when the Romans built a bathhouse complex and a temple dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis-Minerva. However, hot springs were known even before then.
The Roman baths are located in the heart of Bath, near the Abbey. They are one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman spas and are encircled by 18th- and 19th-century buildings.
It is composed of four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and finds from Roman Bath.
If you want to enjoy the visit, I highly recommend to buy fast-track tickets online (you will even get a 10% discount) to by-pass the usual queues.
You will get interesting audioguides with every visit (even kids loved theirs!). The museum also organises family events, to enable kids to discover Roman times in a funny way. So, lots of great initiatives to make everyone’s happy!
The website is really well-designed and you will get lots of information (and videos) from there to prepare your visit.
Now that is for the ancient spas… but Bath also has modern baths: The Thermae Bath Spa.
In Thermae Bath Spa, you can either enjoy a bath in natural thermal waters on different levels of the building (the highlight being the open-air rooftop pool -amazing- with an amazing view over Bath) or relax in the Wellness Suite with one of the several spa treatments and packages on offer.
Just be aware that if you book a treatment in advance you’ll be able to avoid the queue to enter into Thermae Bath Spa, but if you just want to use the spa facilities, you’ll have to queue for a possible long time due to the high popularity of the place (tourism, hen do parties etc). Whatever your option, this venue is really worth it (even though it can be crowded at week-ends).
Bath walking tour
Bath is a very pleasant city to walk through. You will enjoy its lovely streets, narrow lanes, big and small squares, and musicians on almost every corner in high season.
Bath has everything a big city can provide you with, but at the same time you can feel the quietness of a provincial area… I love wandering there, especially as the streets are not really organized (rather meandering) and I quite like getting lost in them.
If you want to soak in the atmosphere of Bath walking, here are my must-visits:
1. The Abbey: founded in the 7th century and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries, it is one of the largest examples of “Perpendicular Gothic architecture” in the West Country. The interior is quite impressive …
2. Pulteney Bridge: designed by Robert Adam in a Palladian style and completed in 1774, it takes on all its originality from having shops built across its full span on both sides. When you are on it, you don’t feel like being on a bridge, it just appears like a shopping street.
3. The Avon riverside: once you are on Pulteney Bridge, use a passage there to go down on the riverside.
The Avon river surrounds Bath’s town center and at that point it offers a lovely view of Bath and the nearby park.
4. The Royal Crescent: located on the top of Bath, this typical Georgian architecture crafted from Bath stone is one of the city’s highlight.
The Royal Crescent is a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent designed by the architect John Wood, the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774.
5. The Circus crescent: built by the same John Wood, the Younger, this similar place (but not as impressive though) is a historic street of large townhouses forming a circle with three entrances (below)…
Bath and Jane Austen
Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806, at a time when the city was a thriving spa resort, popular with fashionable society.
I was not particularly familiar with all Jane Austen’s books, as I read some of them when I was a teen and did not take the time to read them again since then. The Jane Austen Center gave me a great opportunity to learn about her life, personality and work.
You can organize different kind of Jane Austen experiences in Bath: either visit the Jane Austen Center, join in the Jane Austen Festival (International 10 day celebration each September), or book one of the many Jane Austen tours online.
Just sharing this interesting “language of the fan”, just in case you don’t resist the temptation to step back into the past and need some good advice … 🙂
Five irresistible shops
One of the reasons to fall in love with Bath are the unexpected shops there, selling a variety of products ranging from old toys to handcrafted objects and you can’t help snooping around in search for a perfect souvenir…I had a few shops in mind when organizing my trip to Bath, and was seduced by them all. Here are my recommendations:
1. The silver shop:
An amazing shop run by passionate people. It is composed of a jewellery room and a gift area. You can only be seduced by the large choice of delicate and original creations there, and the welcoming staff will guide you in choosing one gift (or more).
2. Bath Aquaglass:
I have been fascinated by glass blowing since I was a kid. Looking at people creating a glass object with such dexterity is still a wonder to me. If you go to the studio you can attend a glass blowing demonstration, even a course to practice yourself. And the shop is full of lovely artistic glass items you can bring back with you …
3. Graham and Green:
Now that you know my appetite for homeware and furniture shops, here is a must-see shop ! A delight for the eyes, a source of inspiration … everything is good to take with you!
4. Mr B’s Emporium book shop:
Ahhhh my dream book shop. If you love books, you will fall in love with this place! If you hate them, you’ll change your mind straight away!!
This is an awesome place: visitors are welcome to serve themselves a hot drink while exploring the books (and enjoy the comfy sofas and chairs), reviews of books are displayed on every shelf to help you choose your next literary discovery and if you are still uncertain about what to read, the staff will have the pleasure, passion and kindness to guide you. Have you ever experienced this ever ??
The kids’ section is so attractive every little reader would want to stay in here all afternoon… I love this place. LOVE it. And went back home with a wagon of books for the whole family to read, read, read …
5. Charlotte Brunswick chocolates
That’s for chocolate lovers: a famous shop with good looking and mouth-watering chocolates!
Charlotte Brunswick is said to have been the first and finest chocolatier in Bath in the 18th century. Apparently, her ideas and personality still inspires the chocolates currently made. Will you give it a try?
Delicious foodie places
There are no good city tours without good places to eat and drink along the way!
First, a coffee lovers’ unmissable place: Colonna & Small’s. Here, everything is about “exploring the flavour of coffee”.
Counting a few UK Barista Champions among the staff, this place is an institution in Bath! With a selective choice of coffees from around the world, this small but design coffee shop (with a small garden) was a great discovery. Tasty coffees, rich flavors: sure, it’s a good start for all busy days !Then, a selection of two spots to enjoy a lunch on a terrace:
1. The Provenist, a great place for those who care about what they eat!
As we went there on a balmy day, we chose a big salad and a invigorating smoothie to eat outside, and enjoyed the quietness of the place.
The Provenist is part of British interiors brand Neptune, whose shop is next door as part of a concept “eating-shopping at the same place”. In this store, you will find furniture and lovely decorating ideas (I had PLENTY, but sadly out of reach at the moment).
2. Cafe Lucca: I found it by chance, googling “restaurant – terrace – bath”. It was heaven.
Good fresh food (Mediterranean influenced food, my treat), nice staff, and a next door home furniture shop “The Loft” as part of a whole concept (again, indeed). It looks like this duo “food-shopping” is very trendy in Bath !
And AGAIN could have bought EVERYTHING…
For the afternoon break, and also to combine a foodie visit with a cultural venue, we went to Sally Lunn’s, the oldest house in Bath which owns a secret recipe to make amazing buns.
We ate the famous bun, in its savory and sweet versions, and found it really good actually. In between the french brioche and bread, quite light and nourishing at the same time. Most surprising is the size of the bun: gigantic! You’re only served half of it with salad and it’s largely enough!
The place is very popular though and the place really tiny. We were lucky enough to find a table for two…
Downstairs is the small “museum” and shop, where you can buy the buns. If you can’t resist (we could not), there is a special offer (4 for 3 buns) …
Another great place I look forward to visiting one day is the Pump Room: the iconic restaurant in the heart of Bath, a “striking neo-classical salon” with a fountain for drinking the hot Spa water! They are said to offer amazing afternoon-teas … You can also have breakfasts and lunches there, but you definitely need to book in advance!
If you are looking for a place to sip amazing cocktails for the happy hour, head to Be at One and take any cocktail on the list, they’re great (if you run out of ideas try the Espresso Martini, you might end up asking for another one…).
If you are more of a wine lover, I have also a suggestion: Le Vignoble.This is a great place with a lounge and a large selection of good wines, beers and ciders. Tasting classes are regularly organized if you want to discover the fine art of drinking …
For dinner, here is a restaurant I am still planning to visit one day (a good reason to go to Bath another time): Chez Dominique, for its exquisite award-winnin cuisine and its location over Pulteney bridge.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and found inspiration here. If you are soon to explore Bath, please share your experience and opinion here!
To go further:
Roman baths: Abbey Church Yard, Bath, BA1 1LZ
The Thermae Bath Spa: The Hetling Pump Room, Hot Bath Street BA1 1SJ
Bath Abbey website
Jane Austen Center: 40 Gay St, Bath BA1 2NT website
The silver shop: 25 Union Passage, Bath BA1 1RD website
Bath Aquaglass (Glass blowing studio): 105 – 107 Walcot Street, BA1 5BW website
Graham and Green: 92 Walcot St, Bath BA1 5BG website
Mr B’s Emporium: 14-15 John Street, Bath, BA1 2JL website
Charlotte Brunswick: 3 Church Street BA1 1NL website
Colonna & Small’s: 6 Chapel Row, Bath. Website
The Provenist: One Tram Yard, Walcot Street, Bath, BA1 5BD
Cafe Lucca: 1 Bartlett Street Bath, Avon BA1 2QZ
Sally Lunn’s: 4 North Parade Passage, Bath BA1 1NX website
Be at One: 11 Brunel Square, Bath BA1 1SX website
The pump room website
Le Vignoble: 12/13 Milsom Place, Bath BA1 1BZ website
Chez Dominique website