The city of Bath, set in the valley of River Avon in the county of Somerset, is only 100 miles west of London. This makes it an easy day trip by car or train from the city. If you’re looking for a special day out, the world-renowned city of Bath is unique unto itself. Famous for the Roman Baths and stunning Renaissance and Georgian architecture, you’re sure to have the perfect day in Bath and I’ll show you how.
Bath’s natural thermal springs are what gives the city its name and people are drawn to the waters for their medicinal properties, first discovered by King Bladud in 836 BC. The healing waters cured him of a skin disease that had seen him ostracized and the healing stories continue even today.
The Romans were the first to make the pilgrimage to Bath in the first century AD and named the city Aquae Solis or “Waters of the Sun.” But they weren’t the last as over 100 films and TV productions have taken place in the picturesque town since 1931. As you can see, history is the very foundation of Bath.
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The 15th century Abbey, Pump Room and Roman Baths are right in the heart of the city, which is easily walkable. Because of this, you’ll be able to see all the highlights in just one day, but you might find yourself drawn back to this mesmerizing city for a whole weekend. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, Bath is a vibrant city with first-rate restaurants, museums, theatres, shopping, along with ancient historic landmarks.
1. Visit the Famous Roman Baths
Once one of the most lavishly religious spas in the world, The Roman Baths are still to this day fed by thermal underground spring water, Britain’s only natural hot spring. Contrary to what I first thought, you don’t go to the Roman Baths for a spa day, but to see the ancient baths, its architecture and ruins. Make sure and book tickets ahead of time so you don’t miss out on the 2,000 years of history in this magnificent structure.
When the Romans settled in Bath in 70AD, they built the city around the baths that actually exist beneath the city streets, in order to control the water, which was considered to be sacred. The baths themselves became a place not only for bathing, but for socializing as well. Today you’ll experience the baths in the open air, but in those days in would’ve been enclosed with a roof.
The sections intact in the complex are amazingly well-preserved and provide deep history into how the Romans lived and socialised. You’ll explore change rooms and plunge pools, as well as artefacts including jewellery and coins that were thrown into the water to “please the Gods.” Throughout your tour, you’ll see intricate mosaics, stonework and monuments.
The Roman Baths also have an interactive museum for all ages. And there’s even an opportunity for you to sample the mineral-rich spring water or have afternoon tea in the Pump Rooms! The Romans Baths will give you a taste of the royal vibe that seems to be spread all over Bath.
Tip: Follow the audio guide for interesting Roman anecdotes.
2. Marvel at the Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey is England’s last great medieval church, formerly a Benedictine Monastery. Begun in 1499 by Bishop King and dissolved in 1539, it now serves as a parish church and welcome sanctuary in the heart of vibrant Bath. With awe-inspiring architecture and a vast history, Bath Abbey welcomes thousands of visitor each year.
There are multiple tours you can partake in, evening climbing the 212 steps of Bath Abbey Tower for amazing city views or you can just take some quiet time and marvel at the famous fan-vaulting and stained glass within the ancient walls of this still working church. The 18th century Bath Abbey Heritage Vaults are worth visiting as well, where they have exhibitions of over 1600 years of abbey history.
There’s no entry price to wander around the abbey, however, donations are accepted and appreciated. And of course, there are no tours on Sundays as it’s a day of worship so plan your day trip accordingly.
3. Explore the Shops in the City Centre
Bath has one-of-a-kind shopping for the fact that it’s set against the backdrop of Georgian grandeur. The central streets are jam-packed with independent and high street, well-known brands. You’ll feel luxurious just walking through one of the most stylish shopping destinations in the UK, surrounded by gorgeous ancient buildings towers.
However, my favourite shops are always food-related! The fudge kitchen serves up some of the most delicious fudge. Their staff are so fun and welcoming. Watch them make the fudge through the windows or go in and try some of the flavours they have on offer.
For those of us who don’t have milk, they have non-dairy versions available too.
4. Indulge in the Excellent Restaurants & Bars
There’s no doubt you’re going to get hungry during all your sightseeing in Bath. Or perhaps you fancy a glass of wine, gin or rum? Throughout the city you’ll find no shortage of classy restaurants, bars and pubs to satisfy all your heart’s desires and your belly! I’ve listed a few places I’ve personally visited and recommend to make your day absolutely perfect in atmospheric Bath.
- Beckford Bottle Shop – The Beckford Bottle Shop is a contemporary wine shop with a Bistro next door. It’s a great place to try and buy wine, along with cheese, charchuterie and small plates.
- Canary Gin Bar – The Canary Gin Bar is the Bath Distillery Gin Bar. With elegant gin cocktails galore or Bath Gin from Teapots, this is a must-visit for gin lovers of all kinds.
- Fidel Rum Bar – If you prefer rum over gin, then you definitely want to stop at the Fidel Rum Bar for a wide selection of flavoured rums.
- Bath Pizza Co – Calling all pizza lovers! Don’t miss the Bath Pizza Co, placing #2 at the UK National Pizza Awards.
- The Dark Horse – The Dark Horse has high-class drinks and service with a high focus on their unique artwork.
- Garrick’s Head – The Garrick’s Head Pub & Dining Room is located next to the Theatre Royal, with lunch & dinner served at the bar, terrace or beautiful dining room.
- Chequers – Chequers has chic cocktails and classic British cuisine, with the best Sunday roast in town.
5. Take in the Sights at Pulteney Bridge
Pulteney Bridge is just behind Bath Abbey and is one of the most photographed bridges in Britain and you’ll see why. I always feel as though I’m on a movie set when I come upon these scenes. It really feels like a fairy tale land and when you’re standing on Pulteney Bridge and find you can’t stop taking pictures, you’ll get it.
The remarkable stone bridge named for Frances Pulteney was built in Palladian style in 1769, with built-in shops lining either side. Not surprisingly, it’s one of the only bridges in the world built in this way. The 18th-century landowner, William Johnstone Pulteney was the wealthiest man in Great Britain at the time and named the bridge after his lovely wife.
Pulteney Bridge is also located just upriver from the Pulteney Weir. Pulteney Weir is a unique v-shaped barrier built in the river in the 1970s to help prevent flooding.
Explore the area around the bridge by popping into the quaint shops and even take a boat ride down the River Avon to the village of Bathhampton and back again. With only a ten minute walk from the city centre, make sure and fit the Pulteney Bridge into your schedule. For the best pictures, get a bit further away for the full views.
6. Appreciate the Architecture at the Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is just that; a sweeping 500-foot curvature forming a crescent, that contains a row of thirty terraced houses. All of these refurbished, luxury Georgian townhouses are identical and were built in late 1700s, with 114 Ionic columns. The Royal Crescent is an architectural marvel that can’t be missed driving or walking through the city.
The No. 1 Royal Crescent is the first building at the eastern end and is of national and architectural importance, serving as the headquarters of the Bath Preservation Trust as well as being a historic museum. Explore what life was like in Georgian domestic life for Bath’s fashionable residents, both above and below the stairs. The furnished, authentic room displays give you a real sense of what it must have been like in these residences between 1776-1796.
Fun Fact: If you’re a Bridgerton fan, the Royal Crescent is a must-see as it was home to the Featherington family.
7. Get Bookish at the Jane Austen Centre
Bath’s most famous resident author, Jane Austen, has a permanent exhibition at the Jane Austen Centre. If you’re a writer or avid reader, you’ll find this display simply fascinating. The Centre showcases how much of an effect living in a Georgian city had on her writing and her life as a whole.
Tour around the building and its exhibits, which of course revolve all-around Jane Austen herself. It’s a unique experience where costumed actors give an introductory talk and then lead you on to your own self-guided tour.
Jane made Bath her home from 1801-1806 and published two of her six novels while living there. You’ll find Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were inspired by her time in Bath. Explore this interactive, immersive experience. And when your tour is complete, pop into the gift shop and have a cup of tea in the Regency Tea Room.
8. Relax at Thermae Bath Spa
The height of my Bath experience was at the Thermae Bath Spa, which is a properly great way to end your day before heading home, and it’s just off the city centre. If you time it just right and are there during sunset, it will be an experience you won’t soon forget! At the spa, you’ll bathe in two incredible baths that are fed by naturally warm, mineral-rich water. This is the modern answer to the ancient baths.
The Minerva Bath is the larger of the two baths and is named after the Roman Goddess of Health and Wisdom. This indoor bath is complemented by an invigorating whirlpool and soothing jets along the inside wall of the bath for further relaxation. Have a swim or stay in one place and melt away into the healing thermal waters.
If you decide to add on any extras to your visit to Thermae, you’ll be led into the Wellness Suite. Within the suite, you’ll be delighted to find an Infrared Room, a Celestial Relaxation Room, two Aroma Steam Rooms and an invigorating Ice Chamber. You really can’t go wrong with any of these options!
Once you’ve completed your time indoors, the lift will take you to the open-air rooftop pool. This is where the sunset magic takes place, but at any time of day, you’ll have epic views of Bath. The water felt warmer to me up on the rooftop and the air seats and bubbling jets added to the magical ambience of the steam floating above the water. Spend this time in your day relaxing your muscles and mind.
Make your reservations in advance for the Thermae Bath Spa as they tend to book up quickly.
So as you can see, Bath is one of the most memorable cities to visit in all of the United Kingdom and it’s an extra-special day trip from London. With majestic buildings and ancient Roman bathhouses, Bath’s history makes it a wonderful place to spend the day.
As in London, one of my favourite things to do in Bath is to just walk around and admire the architecture, and I recommend doing just that if you’re short on time. But hopefully, you’ve seen that Bath has so much to offer and you can hit all the hotspots on foot in just one day. I hope you’ll be inspired to go back time and again!
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.