This city is one of the Tourist Highlights of Britain – approximately 120 miles (193 km) from London and is not to be missed.
Bath nestles in a fold of the Mendip Hills on the banks of the River Avon. Most of the buildings are built of creamy Bath stone and there is no more glorious sight than to see Bath on a sunny day, the buildings glowing golden in the sunshine. Modern buildings have been kept to a minimum and traffic is encouraged to keep out of the city centre, leaving a pedestrian friendly environment.
It is worthwhile visiting the Bath TIC when first arriving in the City. There you can collect local maps, brochures on local attractions and book accommodation.
Bath is probably best known for its wealth of Georgian architecture, the novelist Jane Austen and the Roman Baths & Pump Room complex which is a World Heritage site.
The presence of Britain’s only hot mineral springs has attracted civilizations to this area for thousands of years. In Roman times, many important roads intersected at Bath and the establishment of a port near the mouth of the River Avon led to the building of an important Roman settlement there c 4 AD.
The Romans understood the health benefits of bathing in the mineral springs and built a huge complex of sluices and baths to make full use of the warm mineral springs which gushed from the earth at a constant temperature of 116°F. They also erected a temple at the springs in honour of the goddess Minerva. The Spa’s fame spread throughout the Roman Empire making it the equivalent of a modern-day retirement resort.
Make the Roman Baths & Pump Room your first stop in this historic city.
The mineral springs have always been the prime reason for Bath’s importance although in Medieval times it was an important wool centre. In the 1700's, Queen Anne visited to take 'The Waters' and once again Bath became fashionable. Bath became the centre of Georgian Regency social life. It is probably best described by Jane Austen in her novels.
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Magnificent Georgian Buildings
The wealth of surviving Georgian buildings makes Bath a calm, graceful place to visit, and easy on the eye. Admire the elegant curved streetscape of Royal Crescent and John Wood the Elder’s masterpiece The Circus.
Sometimes an elegant restrained exterior hides an opulent interior such as in the Bath Assembly Rooms which house the Fashion Museum, or the haunted Bath Theatre Royal.
The iconic picture of Bath features Robert Adam’s Pulteney Bridge, built in 1770, with the River Avon and weir in the foreground. The story of why this bridge has shops on it and how it came to be built is an interesting one.
In the centre of the city, close to the Roman Baths is Bath Abbey. Commenced in the 15th century on the remains of earlier Anglo-Saxon and Norman religious buildings, the Abbey is built in the Perpendicular style. It is the size of a small cathedral with some monuments of interest to American and Australian visitors. The Heritage Vaults contain relics from the Abbey’s earlier Anglo-Saxon and Medieval periods including skeletons.
Visit Bath's Art Galleries, Museums and of course distinctive Pulteney Bridge
For lovers of fine art the Victoria Art Gallery opposite Pulteney Bridge has an excellent collection of Old Masters. On the other side of Pulteney Bridge the Holburne Museum of Art houses Old Masters, fine collections of silver and porcelain, sculpture and antique furniture. It even has a piano used by Serge Rachmaninoff.
The Museum of Bath at Work provides a fascinating insight into Bath’s ‘fizzy drinks’ industry housed in the original factory and workshops. For philatelists there is the Bath Postal Museum.
When you are all ‘cultured out’ why not relax on the River Avon. Regular boat trips up stream leave from the east bank. If boating is not to your taste then perhaps a relaxing soak in the hot mineral waters at the Thermae Bath Spa in Bath Street is appropriate.
Fine Dining and good Pub Fare
Bath has a wide variety of dining options ranging from high class restaurants to convivial pubs. Try a real Georgian treat, a ‘Bath Bun’ at Sally Lunn Tea Room & Museum in North Parade Passage.
If you have any energy left join the Bizarre Bath Walk (a hilarious experience) or the Ghost Walks of Bath (spectral activities of long departed residents) or visit the Bath Theatre Royal. This theatre is home to several international festivals and touring companies.
For those who are interested in restored heritage steam railways, a visit to the Avon Valley Railway on the A431 about half way between Bristol and Bath is a must.
Plan Your Visit
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Local buses are not a viable option for tourists with a time limit, as they are infrequent both in Bath and for trips to surrounding small towns.
Upon arriving in Bath, the best option is to take an ‘open top’ double-decker bus tour. There are many pick up points, however the easiest to find is right outside Bath Abbey. Buy your ticket from the driver – this ticket lasts for the day and the traveler may get on and off the bus as required.
Stay on the bus for a full first run (approximately 40 minutes) to get a feel for the location of the sights you want to see and where it is easiest to walk! You can then get on and off the bus as required at the various points of interest and so reduce up-hill walks!
Ensure that you have sufficient small notes and coin for the correct fare as the drivers do not carry a lot of change!
Bus Tour websites
Bath Bus Company is part of the world-wide City Sightseeing Group. They can be accessed at their own websites:
Web: Bath Bus Company' External Link
Web: City Sightseeing Tour - Bath External Link
If you are interested in the following attractions and have two or more days in Bath, then it may be wise to use the open top bus tours on one full day for transport in the hilly areas to save wear and tear on you legs:
- Royal Crescent - Royal Victoria Park
- Holburne Museum of Art
The other day(s) can be used for walking between the inner-city attractions.
Taxis can be found outside the Abbey for longer journeys to such attractions as The American Museum or Prior Park Landscape Garden (a National Trust property).
- Getting to Bath from London
- From London by Train
Train Company: First Great Western
Departure Station: London Paddington
Arrival Station: Bath Spa station (has Disabled Access)
Journey time: Approximately 90 minutes
Ticket Web page: National Rail Enquiries External Link
- From London by Coach
Coach Company: National Express
Departure Point: London Victoria Coach Station
Arrival Point: Bath Spa Bus Station, Manvers St (near Train station)
Journey time via Bristol: Approximately 4 hours
Journey time via Swindon: Approximately 5 hours
Ticket Web Page: National Express website link External Link
- From London by self drive car
Approximately 1½ hours from London Heathrow Airport.
Take the M25/M4 from London and exit at Junction 18. At Junction 18 take the A46/A4 to Bath – a distance of approximately 11 miles. There is a variety of parking; however one of the easiest to access is the 'Cricket Ground' parking on North Park Road, off Pulteney Road. It is then just a short walk across the River Avon into the city centre, the Abbey and the Roman Baths.
- Parking Bath Tourism has an excellent parking map in pdf format on their website: Bath Tourism Parking Map External Link
Ensure that you do not park in restricted roads and/ or restricted time zones.
Google Maps - Bath