Bath is one of Britain’s most beautiful cities. Exquisite Georgian and Roman architecture, swish spas, and hipster hang-outs make it hard to resist.
Bath’s exceptional array of architectural wealth has earned the whole town an Unesco World Heritage Site status. It’s simple to see why. Bath is home to one of the best-preserved Roman bathhouses – located here because of hot springs that bubble up at a toasty 115°F (46°C) degrees. In the Royal and Circus Crescent, the town has some of Britain’s most majestic Georgian buildings.
Their development turned Bath into the destination for 18th-century society. That refined spa town tradition continues at Thermae Bath Spa, a luxurious old/new building combo that presents spectacular views of the cityscape from its unmissable alfresco roof-top pool.
This town’s history isn’t all about architecture. For many, Bath (including me) is synonymous with the English writer Jane Austen. The author of my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion, stayed here in the early 1800s and used the town as a setting for a couple of her novels. An exemplary introduction is the Jane Austen Centre, where guides in medieval costume and a Regency tearoom help bring the medieval time to life. Other heritage drawcards include No 1 Royal Crescent, which presents an insight into the furnishings behind the all-embracing semi-circular facade, and the excellent folk art collections of the American Museum in Britain.
Top Things to see and do in Bath
To the visitor, Bath is a pretty Georgian city with a lot of structure intact. Bath lost several buildings in World War 2. Still, much of the city remained unchanged. Most of what was bombed were rebuilt, initially with 60s architecture, which is now being restored by some incredible replica Georgian buildings and some more contemporary construction. While the Council has permitted large areas of 21st-century construction, these are generally on the city’s outskirts and built on previously derelict land.
- Roman Baths: Constructed by the Romans nearly 2000 years ago and later discovered by the Victorians, the Roman Baths are the absolute must-see tourist attraction in Bath. The baths are stoked by England’s only mineral hot springs, releasing over a million liters of hot water each day. You can walk the rooms that made up the baths, including the massive open air ‘Great Bath,’ see medieval, Roman, and Georgian architecture, and learn about the story of Bath Spa. The Baths are superbly maintained, and the displays are packed with eye-popping archaeology.
- Pulteney Bridge & Pulteney Weir: Robert Adam designed and completed this place in 1773 CE. It is one of only four bridges globally with shops across the full span on both sides and overlooks the majestic Pulteney Weir. Tourist trips by boat leave from the Weir during the summer weeks.
- The Royal Crescent: The Royal Crescent is a sumptuous semi-elliptical crescent of houses composed by John Wood and completed in 1774 CE. This was the first of Bath’s eight famous crescents, and its shape remains unparalleled. You can visit one of the houses which have been refurbished to match what it would have been like at the top of the 18th century.
- The small Building of Bath Museum: It is one of the enthralling museums in Bath. It proffers an excellent history of the Georgian city’s development, adorned with cut-away wooden models that give a more immeasurable insight than any book into Georgian houses’ structure and construction and their furnishings. It also houses an unusual collection of 18th-century builder’s tools. No queues, off the visitor track – but only seven minutes walk from the Roman Baths and set in a beautiful Georgian area of the town, this place is unmissable.
- Cycling: There’s something for almost every kind of cyclist in Bath. The rolling countryside and steep hills are wonderful fodder for the cyclist. Ask at one of the town’s specialist bike shops for advice; most staff members are keen cyclists themselves. The Bath and Bristol Railway Path jaunts through many villages to Bristol, thirteen miles (about two hours’ leisurely cycle) away. Outside the towns, the route is off-road, although, within them, it sometimes goes onto backstreets. You can go from the famous Bath Spa railway station to Temple Meads in Bristol without observing more than a few cars.
- Theatre Royal: In the Sawclose, the historic Theatre Royal, near the city center, started in 1805 CE. It offers a rich schedule of drama and other entertainment almost every day, ranging from mythical pantomime at Christmas to Ayckbourn, folk singers, pop, rock, opera, comedians, and Shakespeare. Performances often feature test runs of plays before they hit the West End of London. It is an excellent place for theater lovers.
- Eat: In two categories, Bath reigns supreme in Europe: cheese and coffee. Famous coffeemaker Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood has twice been selected UK Barista of the year and is currently ranked 4th globally. His coffees are available in Colonna & Smalls (with nice cafe snacks) and Colonna & Hunter’s (along with avantgarde food and craft beers in a hipster environment). The Bath Soft Cheese corporation based in Kelston offers four award-winning organic cheese, and its “Bath Blue” was adjudged excellent world champion by over 250 cheese judges from over two dozen nations in the 2015 Good Food Show Awards. You can purchase Bath Soft Cheese products in the Bath farmers’ market, from various cheese shops, and directly from the dairy’s cafe in Kelston just outside Bath.