Why you should visit Bath
Famous for its Roman baths, Georgian architecture and World Heritage status, Bath is one of Britain’s “loveliest little cities”, said The Times. The “only downside” to a place this pretty “is its popularity”. Visit outside of the “hectic” summer months and you’ll be able to see “Bath at its best”.
The UK’s “most beautiful city”, Bath is “agelessly elegant” and “damn near impossible to take a bad photo of”, said Anna Galbraith in The Gentlemen’s Journal. “Even in the October rain.” While there is “pomp and grandeur aplenty”, for “every tier of afternoon tea sandwiches”, there is an “experimental chef cooking up a storm”.
Home to English writer Jane Austen between 1801 and 1806, two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, were set in Bath, said Meehika Barua in Elle. In fact, this ancient Somerset city is pretty much the “go-to location” for many period films and series, including hit TV drama Bridgerton.
Top attractions: things to see and do
The largely intact Roman bath complex is the “most popular of Bath’s attractions”, said Anna Kaminski on Culture Trip. The Roman Baths are fed by mineral-rich hot springs and date back more than 2,000 years.
Thermae Bath Spa
Bathing is off-limits at the Roman Baths, but visitors can relax in the warm waters of the Thermae Bath Spa, said The Times. The UK’s only natural thermal spa, this “flashy” and “striking” steel-and-glass spa has saunas, steam rooms and an “amazing” open-air rooftop pool. “Book well in advance.”
Landmarks and buildings
Designated as the only city in the UK to be a World Heritage Site in its entirety, thousands of visitors flock to Bath every day to admire the “many historic landmarks that it boasts”, said Patricia Bech on A Luxury Travel Blog. Must-see landmarks include the Royal Crescent, a “spectacular” semi-circle row of terraced houses considered to be one of the “greatest examples of Georgian architecture”; the Bath Abbey, which is “striking from outside and within”; and the Pulteney Bridge, “one of the most photographed sites in the city”.
Bath Skyline walk
Devised by the National Trust, the Bath Skyline walk is a popular six-mile circular route which starts just a short stroll from the city centre and goes through meadows, ancient woodlands and secluded valleys. The view at the end is spectacular.
Shopping and markets
There’s plenty of places to get a shopping fix in Bath, with high street brands and independent outlets found across the city. A real attraction for shoppers are the many markets that are held throughout the year. Every Saturday you can visit the Bath Farmers’ Market at Green Park Station or the Walcot Antique and Flea Market. Green Park Station also hosts the Bath Vintage & Antique Market on the last Sunday of the month. The oldest shopping venue is the Bath Guildhall Market, which is home to around 20 stallholders.
Jane Austen and Bridgerton
Celebrating Bath’s most famous resident and offering a snapshot of life during Regency times, the Jane Austen Centre is a place “any Jane-ite should visit at least once”, said An Historian About Town. The guides, who are dressed in Regency costume, are “more than just regular employees” – they “truly love what they do”. Every year there’s a Jane Austen Festival held in Bath and in 2023 it will be from 8-17 September. Strictly Jane Austen Tours also offers visitors the chance to walk in the novelist’s footsteps.
Bridgerton in Bath
With much of Bridgerton’s filming taking place in the city, Bath played a “starring role” in the Netflix drama series, said the Visit Bath tourism board. Fans can explore filming locations with walking tours from BritMovieTours and Bath Adventures. Or you could plan a Bridgerton-inspired stay.
Hotels: where to stay
With a 9/10 expert rating, guests staying at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa can expect “elegant and individual bedrooms, first-rate food and an enticing spa”, said The Telegraph. No.15 by GuestHouse, The Queensberry Hotel, and The Gainsborough Bath Spa also got 9/10s in the paper’s round-up of the best hotels in Bath.
Just a 20-minute drive from the city, The Pig Near Bath is an out-of-town retreat located in the “rolling calm of the Mendip Hills”, said Condé Nast Traveller. It’s “a joy to sleep here”, with 29 pretty bedrooms turning a former family country house into a boutique hotel.
Where to eat and drink
The Olive Tree, located at The Queensberry Hotel, is the only Michelin-starred restaurant in the city of Bath. Talented head chef Chris Cleghorn brings an “innovative, personalised approach to the cooking” with colours, textures and flavours “used to full effect”, said the Michelin Guide.
There’s a “bumper crop” of independent places to eat and drink, said Olive Magazine. For vegetarian dishes head to OAK; for “upmarket fish and chips” The Scallop Shell; and for wild game and sophisticated Sunday roasts The Elder. According to The Telegraph, other restaurants to add to your must-visit foodie list include Clayton’s Kitchen, Cafe Lucca and Comptoir+Cuisine.
Aside from being a “gorgeous city with irresistible charms”, the best restaurants in Bath prove that it is “a foodie heaven as well”, said Rosemary Waugh in Time Out. The “go-to location” for afternoon tea is The Pump Room Restaurant, a perfect spot for “Austen-inspired daydreaming”.
Pubs and wine bars
There may be “more beautiful pubs” in Bath, but the “slightly scruffy” Pulteney Arms is a favourite with locals, said BBC Good Food. The Pulteney Arms has a wide range of real ales on tap and even has its own gin, Old Tom Cat Gin.
The Boater, a “cosy and intimate” pub, celebrates “the splendour of a well poured pint”, said Total Guide to Bath. Other must-visit boozers include The Grapes, a public house since 1792; The Raven, which specialises in real ales, fine wines and delicious pies; and The Canon, one of Bath’s most popular pubs.
Offering casual dining and cheap eats, cosy wine bar Corkage is a “great place” to try interesting wines, said BBC Good Food. Beckford Bottle Shop, a “trendy wine shop-cum-bistro”, offers food that is “designed to accompany the wines” rather than, as usual, “the other way round”, The Telegraph added.
Bath Bun or Sally Lunn?
If you’re keen to get “stuck in to all things local”, then why not try a Bath Bun or Sally Lunn – two of the city’s “best known sweet treats”, said Lorna Doran in the Bath Chronicle. The Bath Bun is “small and sweet and is laced with sugar and fruit”, while the Sally Lunn is “a lot bigger” than a Bath Bun and more like a plain French brioche or French festival bread. “It is baked to a secret recipe.”
Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House
To try one of Bath’s delicacies, head to Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House. Open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and pre-theatre meals, Sally Lunn’s building is one of the oldest houses in Bath and also features a museum.
Transport: how to get there
With parking at a premium in the city, the best way to travel to Bath is by train. Located at the south of the centre, Bath Spa Station is on the Great Western Main Line, just 12 minutes from Bristol Temple Meads and 1hr 20mins from London Paddington.
If you are driving to Bath for a day trip, then it’s wise to use the park and ride facilities at either Lansdown, Newbridge or Odd Down. The bus journey from all three sites is approximately ten minutes to the centre and adult return tickets cost between £3.10 and £3.60. Parking is free if you use the bus.
For visitors flying into the West Country, the nearest airport to Bath is Bristol Airport, a 45-minute drive away by car or around an hour by bus. London Heathrow airport is about two hours away from Bath by car.