So much has been said and written about the Roman city of Bath that it’s hard to know quite where to start. One thing for sure is that it does not disappoint. Set at the southernmost tip of the rolling Cotswold Hills it’s so well hidden geographically that you won’t realise you’ve arrived until you’re actually there.
Perhaps most famous for its Roman baths, now almost 2000 years old, the city has been an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, thanks to its rich architectural heritage. Its Georgian buildings are incredibly well-preserved (you won’t want to miss a trip to its Royal Crescent) and there are some first-rate museums for a culture fix.
There’s a real independent spirit to the city reflected in the wealth of shops, businesses, pubs, cafés and restaurants. We’ve highlighted some great ideas for your visit so read on to see what’s on offer.
Inspired by both the Colosseum in Rome and Stonehenge, John Wood the Elder designed this stunning circular set of town houses, all originally built around a reservoir (now a grassed area). Constructed in the Classical style, the terraced houses are divided into three sections, all with stone columns and decorative carved emblems– see which you can spot. Truly unique and not to be missed!
Relax in pleasantly warm thermal waters at this beautifully re-designed spa in the heart of the city, just as the original inhabitants of Bath did 2,000 years ago. A stunning mix of the old and the new, you’ll find here several baths, a roof-top pool, a wellness suite, treatment rooms and a café restaurant where you can while away a few hours or a whole day. The visitor centre fills in some of the history – it may well be that these were the largest baths outside Rome and people came from far and wide to reap the benefits of their healing properties.
An impressive expanse of parkland with plenty to keep everyone occupied as well as top-notch views of the Royal Crescent, the city and surrounding countryside. With 57 acres you’ll find activities to suit everyone whether you’re after a quiet spot in the shade to enjoy a picnic or recreation for all the family (there’s a fantastic adventure playground, a skateboard park, tennis and mini golf). Colourful flower beds, mature trees and a botanical garden are all easy on the eye and so well looked after by dedicated staff.
Terrific, independent bookshop with an extensive range of discounted books, covering any topic you could think of. There’s a particular focus on art but if you’re looking for books about Bath and the local area then this is a good place to start. Famous local resident, Jane Austen, is not overlooked either. Lots of books for the kids into the bargain.
Calling all Jane Austen fans! One of Britain’s most celebrated authors spent two periods of her life in Bath, the latter from 1801 to 1806, and this fascinating centre pays tribute to her legacy. Inside a charming Georgian townhouse, you’ll come across a permanent exhibition on her life in the city and learn about what inspired her to write novels such as ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’. You’ll be taken on a short tour by knowledgeable guides and then have plenty of time to look around yourself. See Jane Austen as she really looked (albeit as a waxwork) and take the opportunity to dress up in Regency clothes. Open all year round except Christmas and New Year.
Conjuring up what it might have been like to take tea in a Regency parlour, these charming tea rooms are a great place to stop off particularly if you’ve been to the Jane Austen Centre. Choose from a variety of options covering sandwiches, scones, cakes and other snacks, all made with local ingredients wherever possible. You can even take ‘Tea with Mr Darcy’ although we can’t promise he’ll be there in person!
This small and sleek coffee shop is the place for all discerning coffee drinkers in Bath. Friendly, award-winning staff are more than happy to assist you on your quest to discover the perfect cup of coffee. You can experiment with all sorts of flavours, influenced by what is available seasonally – you never need to drink the same cup twice. Nice assortment of light snacks, pastries and cakes to savour too but coffee is definitely the main event.
One of the country’s leading historic sites, the incredibly well-preserved Roman Baths are an awe-inspiring sight, particularly when illuminated at night from mid-June to August. Hot thermal springs rise at this very spot as they have done for millennia and although it’s no longer possible to bathe here, you can get a very real sense of what it might have been like in times gone by, particularly if you use the free, informative audio guide which really brings the story to life. There’s also an interactive museum, full of fascinating artefacts, and you can’t leave without taking a sip of the waters – an acquired taste but full of health-boosting minerals. Open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Probably the most famous tea shop and eating house for miles (the Bath bun, or Sally Lunn bun, was first baked here), this picturesque dining spot is found in one of the oldest buildings in Bath. Steeped in tradition, the menu is truly one-of-a-kind in that you can enjoy the Sally Lunn bun as part of almost anything you order, whether it’s savoury or sweet. There’s even a small kitchen museum on the site of the original bakery showing where Hugenot refugee, Sally Lunn, first worked in the 17th century (free if you dine).
Step back in time to the 18th century and pay a visit to this gorgeous townhouse located at one end of this majestic Georgian crescent. You’ll find the interiors laid out exactly as they might have been in the late 1700s with period furniture, furnishings and other objects from the time. An interesting and varied programme of exhibitions, events and lectures enhance the experience. Georgian themed books, games and dressing up for the kids. Open all year round except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
These peaceful gardens right by the River Avon offer the perfect respite from all the clamour of the city streets, for which it really is worth paying the small entrance fee. You’ll find magnificent views of the Abbey and Pulteney Bridge from here as well as a riot of colour in the summer thanks to the immaculately maintained flower beds all around. At the heart of the park stands the bandstand hosting a number of concerts during the summer months. Why not grab a deckchair, lie back and simply appreciate the music.
Housed in the renowned Assembly Rooms where inhabitants of the 18th century would have gathered, this wonderful museum hosts a wealth of exquisite clothes from Shakespeare’s time right up until the present day. An audio tour comes with the admission price to help you find your way around and tell you the stories behind the clothes. Don’t miss the fun dressing up area for both kids and adults to experience what it would have been like to wear the clothes from Georgian and Victorian times – cameras at the ready! Open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
Scandi style and locally inspired contemporary design come together in this fantastic lifestyle store. All the products are made to be long-lasting and from sustainable sources – and just look amazing. Everything you see is carefully selected by the keen eye of the owners. Whatever you may be looking for to enhance your home, you’re sure to come across it here.
Set inside a former magistrates’ court and police station in the centre of the city, this restaurant has always been known for producing tasty, brasserie-style food at reasonable prices. Set foot inside this elegant property with its exterior of Bath stone and you’ll find a big, airy dining space with a lively atmosphere. Enjoy a pre-meal cocktail from their extensive selection and try the seasonal specials menu. Mouth-watering afternoon teas too. Dine outside on the terrace in the summer and delight in the superb views of the Abbey.
With a superb mixture of painting, sculpture and decorative arts covering 500 years of art from all over Europe, this impressive gallery is definitely worth a trip. Its permanent collection has some gems including works by Gainsborough and Turner and there are imaginative temporary exhibitions which change regularly. Plenty of art relating to Bath with useful descriptions to help you get more of a sense of the city, how it developed and how artists were inspired by it. Open every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
For all things tea-related, this beautifully laid out shop is the place to go. The traditional-looking shelves are packed with over 160 flavoursome teas in colourful tins – you cannot fail to be tempted to make a purchase. You’ll also track down a wide-ranging array of teapots, cups and saucer and strainers should you need the means to make the perfect cup. Coffee lovers are not ignored as they have a considerable range of beans to choose from. Tea tasting workshops are on offer too – you’ll be an expert before you know it.
Located in a former Grade II listed cinema, this live entertainment venue puts on over 400 shows during the year. Live comedy show, Krater, is on every Saturday night if you’re up for a laugh while music, club nights, cabaret, film screenings and touring comedy take place at other times. Take advantage of the excellent meal deal if you’re there for a comedy show or cabaret. There’s also a cosy café on site - a good choice for lunch with all-day breakfasts, light bites and sandwiches available Tuesday to Saturday.
More splendid Georgian architecture, plus the added attraction of being able to take a sip of the waters, make this worth a quick stop if you’re not going to the Roman Baths as well. Be warned though, you might find the highly-mineralised taste a tad unusual. Live classical music makes a soothing accompaniment to your visit and if you’re looking to eat, there’s the elegant Pump Room restaurant on hand for breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea.
You can’t fail to be impressed by this stunning, Grade I listed house as you stroll up the path towards it. Inside you’ll unearth a real treasure trove of fine and decorative art and at its heart, the collection of Sir William Holburne which he left to the City of Bath on his death. You can also discover more about Bath’s history through the paintings and objects on display as well as taking in the regularly changing temporary exhibitions. Looking out on to the pretty gardens is the Garden Café serving up delicious, seasonal dishes. Open daily.
Billed as ‘the only museum of American decorative and folk art outside the United States’, this interesting showcase was created to introduce the British to the diversity of American history and culture from the past 300 years. Set in a magnificent Georgian house, and perched on a hilltop on the edge of Bath, you’ll be enchanted by the reconstructions of rooms shipped over from America which really bring history to life. Lots of hands-on activity means that kids will love it here too. There’s also the Orangery Café and Terrace with its amazing views – so captivating you won’t want to leave.
Freshly made Italian ice cream using local milk and cream – what could be nicer! This family-run business is the genuine article – a proper Gelateria in the heart of Bath. Customers absolutely love the yummy selection of flavours making it incredibly difficult to choose just one. But then you could have two or three scoops. Delicious crepes, hot chocolates, coffees, milkshakes and more besides.
Not just a garden but a whole landscape conceived by Capability Brown and full of remarkable architectural features. There’s a very rare Palladian bridge, a former ice-house, a magical summerhouse and a Gothic temple amongst other delights. You’ll be amazed by the breath-taking views over the city from up here as well. Kids will love the natural play area where they can climb a tree or build a den. Take a picnic or buy coffee and cake from the Tea Shed.
Somewhat unusually housed inside a former Real Tennis Court, this quirky museum about the population of Bath at work covers 2000 years of local history. The main event is the reconstruction of a Victorian engineering and soft drinks factory, complete with original machinery. Engaging staff bring the exhibits alive and audio guides (free-of-charge) are on hand to enliven your visit further. Programme of events including films and lectures. There’s a self-service café on hand if you want to take a break. Open 1 April to 31 October.
Bustling yet elegant is one way of describing this well-rated restaurant serving modern British cuisine. Settle down for breakfast or lunch and you’ll also be entertained by live classical music from the Pump Room Trio or a solo pianist. Why not treat yourself to a delicious afternoon tea with a number of tempting choices available including, of course, the ‘Jane Austen Tea’ – if you’re able to clear your plate you’re doing better than we could!
Everyone adores this fabulous, innovative book shop which customers return to again and again. Take a comfy seat and lose yourself in what feels like your own personal library with expert advice on hand from staff who are totally devoted to books. In fact they are more than ready to rise to the challenge of finding you something you will not be able to put down. Indulgent book browsing at its best - highly recommended!
Tucked away close to The Circus, this charming, independent restaurant has an outstanding reputation. Its decorative parquet floor, high ceilings and muted colours on the walls give a feeling of space yet the atmosphere remains intimate. You’ll encounter a menu full of delicious, unfussy dishes where the fresh seasonal ingredients really shine. The quality of the food is matched by a super selection of wines and beers to accompany your meal. High standards of service from knowledgeable staff. Vegetarians are not left out with some scrummy choices too.
A varied programme of theatrical productions and arts events are the draw at this lovely 17th century theatre. Despite the constraints that come with a building of that age, there’s a good view of the stage from almost anywhere in the main auditorium with its grand decor. Everything from large-scale productions direct from the West End to the best of local talent should mean that there is something for everyone to enjoy. Perfect for anyone seeking a dose of culture!
Award-winning, informal brasserie housed in a former railway station serving lunch, dinner and Saturday brunch. On the menu you’ll come across modern British cooking from talented chefs, all perfectly cooked with ingredients mostly from suppliers in the South West plus a variety of specials to keep the menu fresh. Live jazz to accompany your meal from Wednesday to Saturday evenings adds to the buzzing atmosphere.
Now here’s something very different to try if you are going to Bath in November or December – glow-in-the-dark mini golf! Not only can you visit this challenging and entertaining course on any day throughout the year but it now comes particularly alive in the winter, with heavenly fairy lights and colourful lighting giving it a magical quality. Glow-in-the dark balls and well-lit holes help you keep on track. Of course you can ice skate too. Why not make an evening of it and do both (though not at the same time). Fresh pizza and hot chocolate will keep you toasty.
This stunning Abbey church has been through so much over the centuries – wars, religious conflicts and architectural changes– yet it still stands proudly at the heart of the city. The current building is mostly from the early 17th century with further additions in the 19th century while the interior was completely remodelled in the late 19th century by Sir George Gilbert Scott, including his awe-inspiring stone fan vaulted ceiling. On the west front you’ll find the renowned ‘Ladder of Angels’ dating from the early 16th century, a design said to be dreamt up by the then Bishop of Bath.
Burgers for every occasion to just make you happy seems to sum up the ethos behind this small chain of US burger restaurants. Despite the American heritage, the experience is tailored towards the British market with the use of British beef, stilton and local craft beers on the menu. You can create your own burger and there are yummy veggie choices too. Industrial interior with comfortable seating. If you love a good burger then you shouldn’t be disappointed.
Fancy the chance to slow down a gear or two and see the city from a different perspective? Then start at Pulteney Bridge and follow this splendid waterway on foot or on bike. You can stop for a picnic or at one of the pubs along the way if you’re feeling peckish while kids will love the hustle and bustle of activity around the many locks. You can even sit back and let someone else do all the work by taking a boat trip with one of several companies operating on the canal. A fun day out.