The picturesque city of Bath is one of England’s top destinations. Lined with quaint cobblestone streets, Bath is Britain’s only designated World Heritage listed city – famous for its 18th century Georgian architecture and ancient Roman Baths. The Royal Crescent, one of Bath’s major attractions, celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2017 – what better time to visit this charming city and enjoy the celebrations. Check out our list of recommendations of fun things to do this year.
Located in Somerset (about 100 miles west of London), Bath is only a 90-minute journey by train from London’s Paddington Station. If you’re staying in London and are interested in visiting Bath for the day, there are some fun Guided One-Day Trips that you can take. We’ve included a few of these options at the end of our article.
Here are 10+ Fun Things To Do in Bath during this celebratory year:
1. Visit the ancient Roman Baths
The historic city of Bath takes its name from its Roman-built baths – the oldest Roman remains in the U.K. and one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world. The Roman Baths is the only mineral spring in the country and is the city’s most popular landmark, conveniently located in the center of Bath. Allow plenty of time (1-2 hours) to tour this ancient spa complex, learn about its history and get a feel of what life was like during the Roman era. Audio Self-Guided Tours and Public Guided Tours (on the hour, every hour starting from the Great Bath) are included with admission. We recommend taking a guided tour.
The historic Great Bath, a massive steaming pool filled with hot spa water where the Romans once bathed, was a tour highlight. It’s quite a sight, especially on the day we took our tour because it was pelting with rain. But no worries… as you can see from our pictures above, the perimeter of the baths are covered and most of the tour is inside. Tunnel Tours (where you can explore the hidden Roman, Georgian and Victorian history of the Roman Baths) are also available on select dates – these tours must be booked in advance.
At the end of your tour, enjoy sampling a small glass of their famous natural “warm” Spa Water, containing 43 healing minerals. Free tastings are available to visitors throughout the day at the fountain (pictured above) in the Pump Room. The stunning 18th century Pump Room restaurant is one of Bath’s most popular venues for afternoon tea and includes live entertainment. For coffee and more casual dining, visit the Roman Baths Kitchen (housed in a Georgian townhouse) located opposite the main entrance in Abbey Church Yard.
2. See The Royal Crescent and The Circus – stunning Georgian architecture
The Royal Crescent
Bath is famous for The Royal Crescent (pictured above) – a crescent-shaped row of 30 terraced houses built between 1767 and 1775. Believed to be the very first crescent built anywhere in the world, it’s one of the country’s greatest examples of Georgian architecture. As mentioned above, 2017 is a very special year as The Royal Crescent celebrates its 250th anniversary.
Nearby the historic Royal Crescent sits another famous rounded landmark – The Circus. The circular area consists of three curved segments of townhouses reminiscent of Rome’s Colosseum. Both The Royal Crescent and The Circus are popular tourist attractions and make great backdrops for a photograph. Looking at these landmarks from above, they’re shaped like a giant key (a crescent curve, a straight line and a circle).
The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa
If you’re looking for a historic place to stay for a night or two, check out the luxury 5-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa (inconspicuously nestled in the center of the Georgian crescent at No. 16, as pictured below). We had the pleasure of spending a few nights here and it was a magical experience – click here to read our blog article and see pics of this beautiful hotel. It’s conveniently located within easy walking distance to the center Bath so it’s easy to get around and tour the area, using the hotel as your base. They also have an incredible spa that includes an indoor Relaxation Pool, Vitality Pool, Himalayan Salt Infused Sauna and a Steam Inhalation Room – sheer bliss!
3. Tour Bath Abbey
If you’re a history buff, you won’t want to miss a visit to Bath Abbey – it dates back to Anglo-Saxon times. Its magnificent architecture and place of worship draws thousands of people from around the world. Start by taking a photo of the Abbey’s West Window – it’s a work of art.
Guided Tower Tour
If you have time, we highly recommend that you take the 45-50 minute Guided Tower Tour (maximum 16 people) to learn more about this historic Abbey.
Note: To reach the top of the tower, you’ll need to climb 212 steps via two spiral staircases, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and take it slowly. And make sure you’re well hydrated. Don’t worry, there are a few places where you can rest on the way up – however, to reach the halfway point and take a breather, you’ll need to climb the first 120 steep, narrow, winding steps (pictured below) to the Ringing Chamber. Then it’s another 50 steps to the Bell Chamber – and finally (along low and very narrow hallways), 42 steps to the top of the tower.
Tour highlights include a visit to the Ringing Chamber (watch short video above) and Bell Chamber (10 bells still ring today for services and special occasions), standing on top of the Abbey’s spectacular stone fan-vaulted ceiling (made from local Bath stone), and sitting behind the clock face (get an up-close view of the mechanism used to wind the Abbey clock). You may get lucky when in the Bell Chamber to hear the bell ring – it rings on the 1/4 hour, then a little more on the 1/2 hour, a little more on the 3/4 hour and more again on the hour. And yes… it’s very loud!
The climb to the top of the tower is worth it – you’ll get a magnificent panoramic view of the city! Tours are available daily year-round, except for Sundays and during services, special events and bell ringing. If you get Francesca as your tour guide, be sure to say hi from us! Tickets available at the Abbey shop on the day only.
4. Walk Along the Scenic Bath Skyline (Self-Guided Walking Tour)
If you have the time and you like to walk (we love it!), don your wellies (Wellington boots) and take a relaxing self-guided walking tour of Bath’s beautiful countryside. Bath Skyline (Bath’s most popular walking trail) takes you along a scenic six-mile circular path surrounding the city center. Enjoy the tranquility as you stroll through hidden valleys and woodlands, public gardens and along the canal. See beautiful wildflowers, archaeological sites and stunning vista views along the way. Pick up a map of the Bath Skyline Walk at the Bath Tourist Information Center. Note that paths can be steep in places. And if it’s rained recently, it’s recommended that you wear boots or wellies as it can get muddy along the grass paths.
5. Visit the Jane Austin Centre
Jane Austen fans won’t want to miss a visit to the Jane Austin Centre. Recognized as one of the greatest writers of English literature, the museum chronicles her life and works. Bath was home to the famous author from 1801 to 1806 and was the backdrop to two of her novels – Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. It’s no surprise that my favorite, Pride & Prejudice, is her most popular novel. Did you know that since October 1833, Jane Austen’s novels have never been out of print? Seems fitting that in mid-2017, Jane Austen will be the new face of England’s £10 note, replacing Charles Darwin.
Take a free audio walking tour and enjoy exploring the permanent exhibition at your leisure or take one of the guided tours and watch the short film to learn more about Jane, her family and her life. Plan on spending at least an hour at the museum.
After the tour, treat yourself to a traditional cream tea in The Regency Tearoom (located upstairs on the 2nd floor). Before leaving the museum, stop by the gift shop and pick up a Jane Austen-related souvenir or a gift – we like the “Keep Calm and Read Jane Austin” magnets. The Jane Austin Centre is located at No. 25 Gay Street (in an original Georgian townhouse) in the heart of Bath.
6. Eat a Toasted Bun at Sally Lunn’s
No trip to Bath is complete without stopping by Sally Lunn’s historic and authentic English eating house (it’s one of the oldest houses in Bath) for one of their famous buns. Choose from a savory snack or a sweet treat topping – both are so good, you’ll want to take one (or more) home with you. FYI… they last up to four days and can be frozen.
Note: Don’t let the “half” Sally Lunn toasted bun (as featured on their menu) fool you – the half is plenty big enough… as you can see from the pictures below. We both shared a half of a savory bun: Welsh Rarebit (tangy toasted traditional cheese sauce dish from the 1700s with homemade chutney) and a half of a sweet bun: Cinnamon Butter (spread with their famous cinnamon butter, toasted and topped with cream) – and we were stuffed!
Located in the heart of Bath, Sally Lunn’s is open daily for morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, pre-theater and dinner. Their Old Bakery Museum is open until 6pm daily.
7. Eat a Raven Ale Pie at The Raven
The Raven is so popular, it took us three visits before we could get a seat there to eat one of their famous hearty crusty pies… but it was well worth the wait! Now we can see why everyone raves about The Raven – a traditional English pub that’s truly a hidden gem in the heart of Bath.
The delectable Raven Ale Pie (West Country beef, onion, carrots, Raven Ale, green peppercorns and thyme), with the Raven Ale and red onion gravy and chunky chips (fries) is the best meat pie we’ve ever tasted… period! The Raven offers a variety of hot savory pies with a choice of three deliciously rich gravies to accompany them. If only there was a place like this in San Francisco… we’d be there every week! Not into pies… no worries. The menu includes a variety of sumptuous entrees, including puddings.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, the pub is also a fun place for drinks – they offer a great selection of ales, lagers, ciders, spirits and wines. The Raven is located at 6-7 Queen Street in the heart of Bath. Open daily for lunch and dinner. We highly recommend eating a Raven Ale Pie here next time you’re visiting Bath – be prepared to wait during peak dining times, even in the off-season.
8. Relax and Rejuvenate in the Thermae Bath Spa
Pamper yourself at this natural spa just like the Celts and Romans did centuries ago – in England’s only naturally warm, mineral rich waters. Thermal Bath Spa is conveniently located in the heart of Bath – close to Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. Take a dip in the indoor Minerva Bath. Relax and rejuvenate in the stunning open-air rooftop pool overlooking the city – the views are breathtaking. Thermae Bath Spa also features steam rooms and luxurious spa treatments. Open daily, except for Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.
9. Walk across the Pulteney Bridge
Pulteney Bridge is considered to be one of the world’s most beautiful and romantic bridges, especially at night when it’s illuminated. For the best bridge views at a distance and the crescent weir (u-shaped waterfall below the bridge), stand along the Parade Gardens.
Inspired by Italy’s Ponte Vecchio in Florence, this historic bridge also has little shops built into it. The famous and much photographed Pulteney Bridge crosses the River Avon, right in the center of the city (within easy walking distance from Bath Abbey). As you’re walking along the street, it blends right into the bridge – it’s hard to see where the road ends and the bridge starts (as pictured below).
10. Enjoy Shopping in Bath
Downtown Bath is filled with a variety of wonderful little shops, boutiques and galleries – and everything is within easy walking distance. Explore popular shopping areas like Milsom Place, SouthGate and Walcot Street – and discover hidden gems along the way as you walk down Bath’s little side streets.
11. Take one of these Fun Guided One-Day Trips to Bath from London
- Stonehenge and Bath Day Trip from London
Take a fun Guided Day Trip to Stonehenge and Bath from London. Travel through the English countryside to Stonehenge – one of the most magical and awe-inspiring sights in England. The ancient stone monument is over 5,000 years old. Learn about the history of Stonehenge (how and why it was built) from your knowledgeable and friendly tour guide as you admire this prehistoric stone monument. The next part of your tour takes you to Bath, one of the most charming cities in England – famous for its elegant Georgian architecture and magnificent Roman Baths. Spend the afternoon here exploring the city at your leisure – admire the beautiful Georgian architecture of The Royal Crescent and The Circus, tour Bath Abbey and the shop at the famous Pulteney Bridge. A ticket upgrade gives you the option of touring the Jane Austin Visitor Centre or the historic Roman Baths, the best preserved Roman spa from the ancient world.
- Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath Day Trip from London
If you’re a history buff, you won’t want to miss a visit to Stonehenge, Windsor Castle and Bath during your next trip to London. Take a fun Guided Day Trip to three of England’s most iconic and popular destinations (all in one day) and see for yourself what makes each of them so magical. Start your day exploring Windsor Castle (the oldest and most famous castle in the world and home of the Royal family) and tour its elegant State Apartments and St. George’s Chapel – and if you time your visit right, you might even be lucky enough to see the Changing of the Guard. From there, continue on your journey through the scenic Wiltshire countryside to Salisbury and get an up-close view of Stonehenge – one of the world’s most famous ancient monuments. Then take a panoramic tour of historic Georgian Bath and visit its famous Roman Baths.
- Private Viewing of Stonehenge including Bath and Lacock
This is one of the most popular Stonehenge tours. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step inside the “inner circle of stones” – without the crowds. Choose from a morning or afternoon tour for early or late access to the site. Depending on the season, you might get lucky and see a sunrise or sunset over Stonehenge.
– Morning Tour (Early Access to Stonehenge)
After seeing Stonehenge, the tour continues on to the quaint 13th century village of Lacock where you’ll take a guided walking tour and see some of the movie locations shown in “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” and the TV version of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”). Enjoy breakfast (at your own expense) at Lacock’s 14th century pub, The George Inn. Then it’s on to the delightful city of Bath where you’ll tour the famous ancient Roman Baths and visit Bath Abbey.
– Evening Tour (Late Access to Stonehenge)
Leave London for the Georgian city of Bath and visit its magnificent Roman Baths and historic Bath Abbey. Then, visit the lovely ancient city of Lacock and have fun exploring the area. Enjoy dinner (at your own expense) at The George Inn before leaving for Stonehenge for your ‘private viewing’ of the ancient monoliths after all the daytime visitors have left.
NOTE: This tour sells out quickly, so book early if you don’t want to be disappointed.