If you’re looking for a weekend getaway closer to home, look no further than the city of Bath.
Home to some of the grandest architecture in Britain (and that’s saying something), Bath is as visually appealing as it is exciting. This compact city is bursting with interesting sights and sounds, bringing its historic past back to life from Roman times straight through to the Georgian era, and then inviting you in with its many contemporary charms.
Fancy a long weekend in Bath? Here’s our essential guide to getting there and what to do when you arrive…
Getting to Bath
The simplest way to get to Bath is by train. The station is right in the city centre and just a short walk from some of the most popular hotels and restaurants in the city. First Great Western operates trains from London, and if you’re travelling from other parts of the country many will go direct to Bristol Temple Meads where you can change over and get to Bath in just 15 minutes.
If you’re arriving from further away, it may also be worth looking at flights. The closest airport is Bristol Airport, which is roughly 20 miles from Bath city centre. When you arrive, you can take a shuttle to Bristol Meads Train Station or alternatively catch the A4 Bristol Airport to Bath Bus Service, which will bring you directly into Bath.
Once you’re there Bath is very easy to explore on foot; the historic centre is compact and has several pedestrianized shopping streets that are ideal for wandering. If you want to go out into Somerset for the day the city has a good bus system you can take advantage of, or alternatively, you can book a place on a day tour from a local tour group – Mad Max is one of the most popular.
For a small city, Bath is not short on attractions. Start your journey at the famous Roman Baths – the natural hot springs are responsible for much of Bath’s growth and prosperity in the earliest years of its story, and you can hear the story of its history from the very beginning when you visit there.
Just around the corner, the more modern Thermae Bath Spa offers an opportunity to take a dip in Britain’s only naturally warm mineral waters. There’s also a rooftop pool, aroma steam room and world-class spa in the centre, and if you’re in the mood to treat yourself there’s no better place.
Next, jump back into Georgian Britain with a trip to the Royal Crescent. Bath’s most famous landmark is just as spectacular up-close. For a good picture, go early and stand in the small park across the street – you’ll get a great panoramic that captures the stunning curve that made the street famous. From there, stop in at 1 Royal Crescent. The residence has been lovingly restored to as it would have been during the period 1776-1796. It’s furnished with pieces from the time and the knowledgeable staff are ready to share incredible stories about life in the 18th century that helps bring the house to life.
On your way back towards the city centre catch a glimpse of Georgian high society with a visit to the Assembly Rooms – this popular entertainment venue was the place to see and be seen in Bath and its appeal is still evident today. Famous figures like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen were known to frequent the Assembly Rooms and rub elbows with high society.
And of course, any true Austen fan will know how significant Bath is to the author; she lived in the city for several years and her novels – particularly Persuasion – were heavily influenced by the place. If you want to learn more about her life and career, the Jane Austen Centre is a worthwhile detour. It’s just around the corner from the Assembly Rooms and can be visited fairly quickly if you’re short on time.
If it’s a sunny day, finish up on one of the river cruises that leave from Pulteney Bridge. Relax on the river as the boat winds through the countryside in Avon Valley to the historic mill at Bathampton weir and back again – it’s the perfect way to enjoy the fine weather (if you’re lucky enough to get it) and see the city from another angle.
What are your favourite things to see and do in Bath?