The city of Bath is where I was born, and where I still live all these years later. I love it here and I’ve written this Bath guide to help visitors to really enjoy this city. There really is a lot of things to do in Bath, and it’s great combination of history and green spaces makes for nice variety.
If your looking for a UK city break, then Bath is a fantastic choice for one. And if your exploring the UK then Bath is a good addition any itinerary. Many people visit only for a day but if you can there are plenty of accommodation options so you can stay longer. This will give you the opportunity to enjoy more of the city beyond the city centre. And time to relax in some of Bath’s many parks! I’d advise at least 3 to 4 days to be able to see everything that I’ve included on this Bath guide. However you can find my recommendation for just one day towards the end of this guide. It packs a lot in!
As well as covering the main sights in this post I will look at some of other things that can be enjoyed in and around the city. I will also suggest some great places for food and drink here. Throughout I’ll give some of own thoughts and personal preferences about what to enjoy in the city. I’ll also end with my own local perspective on Bath, to give you some insider insight.
Located in the West Country, Bath is linked to London by train, the journey usually taking between 75 and 90 minutes. Its less than 20 minutes train from Bristol, which has direct trains to cities such as Cardiff and Birmingham. Bristol also has an airport which has many European flights. There is an airport bus which runs between Bristol Airport and Bath’s city centre.
Once in the city centre, it’s relatively easy to walk around. Its pretty small and there isn’t much distance between the attractions. If your heading out of the centre i’d advise taking a bus if it looks too far to walk. As it will be significantly cheaper than a taxi. The main bus station is next to the train station which is handy. There are numerous routes, check with your accommodation to see which buses you can catch to get there. The city does have quite a lot of hills so bear that in mind when making your plans. Personally I tend to walk into the city and take a bus when heading out of it.
If you do need to get a taxi you can either catch one in front of the bus station or book one by calling 01225 46 46 46 (V-Cars taxis). The UK international code is +44. You can’t hail a taxi in Bath, you either need to go to a taxi rank or book one.
The centre of Bath is situated in a valley, with the city expanding outwards onto the surrounding limestone hills. This means you can get great views across the city from many places on its outskirts. The River Avon runs through the centre of Bath. It connects to the Kennet and Avon Canal which I feature below.
Also, as I’m sure you’ll notice from my photos, the weather can be quite mixed here. We get some glorious sunny days and plenty of gloomy grey ones too. If your visiting in late autumn, winter or spring be sure to bring warm clothes. And pretty much all year round be sure to have a raincoat ready just in case.
One of the things that gives Bath it’s unique look is the use of Bath stone. Its a type of limestone that has been mined in Bath and nearby, and used in the construction of buildings here. Its also been used elsewhere in England and used to be transported along the canal for trade. It has a warm honey colour to it, so you can spot plenty of buildings made with it as you walk around Bath.
Acknowledging the slave trade
There is no doubt that much of the wealth that was involved in construction of Bath’s historical buildings was linked with the slave trade. I think as a person born in bath who has grown up here, I should acknowledge these links whilst presenting a guide to the city. So when you visit Bath, that’s something to consider when admiring the buildings here. For example Great Pulteney Street is a famous street here that many wealthy people have lived on. It was commissioned by William Pulteney, who owned several American plantations, so you can see straight away how wealth acquired from slavery influenced Bath. I will mention another example later involving the Beckford’s Tower too.
What to see and do in Bath
I’ve written this list of things to do in Bath based on ‘normal’ conditions when everything is open and there are no restrictions. Obviously because of the Covid pandemic there might be restrictions in place, so check before you travel. I have included website links for many of the museums featured here so you can check if they are open via them.
The Roman Baths
Bath started life thousands of years ago, with activity in the local area way back in the Mesolithic age. It was the Romans however who actually developed the city, in the first century C.E. (Note: from now on any dates I refer to are C.E.)
Back then Bath was named Aquae Sulis, which translates as ”the water of Sulis”. This was named for the local celtic goddess, Sulis. She was worshipped at the hot springs here and the Romans effectively combined her with their goddess Minerva. The springs in Bath became a religious site for Romans and Britons worshipping Sulis-Minerva, and asking for her favour.
Today you can visit the site of the Roman Baths to learn about their history and admire Roman artefacts. Whilst the original Roman temple was destroyed, a great effort has been made to uncover it and make it viewable again. There has been some amazing restoration work to turn the site into a great place to explore. Its really educational and there is a lot to see. The museum does a fantastic job of showing you how the Romans used the Baths and giving you an insight into life back then.
Thermae Bath Spa
For those interested in bathing in Bath’s waters today, you can visit the Thermae Bath Spa. This modern spa opened in 2006 after a 28 year gap where there was no public bathing site in Bath. Its located pretty close to the Roman Baths, though you will need to check availability before you go.
One of the most famous sites is the Bath Abbey. One of Bath’s big claim’s to fame is that Edgar was crowned first King of all England here in 973. He’d actually been King since 959, but this when the coronation happened. The abbey itself has been rebuilt since then, and is very different to what it would have been in 973. Its a very impressive building, both inside and out. Its certainly one of Bath’s most attractive buildings, and is a very popular spots for tourists taking photographs.
The Royal Crescent
Consisting of 30 terraced houses in a ‘crescent’ shape (think semi circle), the Royal Crescent is fantastic work of Georgian architecture. It was built between 1767 and 1775 and is one of the cities most notable landmarks. In front of the buildings and their private ‘lawn’ you find the Royal Victoria Park. No. 1 Royal Crescent holds a small museum about Georgian townhouse life.
Royal Victoria Park
This is fantastic green space in the heart of Bath. Its a great place for walk or a picnic. When it’s sunny expect to see many people there, playing football, having BBQ’s and so on. There’s a duck pond to look out for as well. There is also a large child’s play area here too, so if your visiting Bath with kids this is definitely somewhere to bring them. Its always full of excited kids on the weekends and holidays.
The name comes from Queen Victoria, who opened the park in 1830 as an 11 year old Princess. You can find an obelisk dedicated to her as you walk along the road running through the park. There is also a war memorial at one of the entrances, remembering those in Bath who lost their lives in the blitz during World War 2.
Whilst visiting the park be sure to checkout the Botanical Garden, which are in it’s north-west corner. Its full of interesting plants and if you come in the spring or summer you should see some nice flowers. There is a really interesting tree sculpture to find here too.
If you cross over the road from the botanical gardens (go through the northern exit) you find the Great Dell. It used to be a quarry so has a sort of dip in the ground, and the path around it’s northern side gives you a nice view over it. There are some huge tree’s here which are every cool. Some of them are North American in orgin, including a huge Californian redwood. Look out for a Star Wars reference on one of the benches too.
I often walk around Royal Victoria Park and enjoy vesting the duck pond followed by the gardens and then the dell. The latter is normally pretty quite, it seems to get overlooked by most visitors, but it’s definitely worth a visit.
This is another fine example of Georgian architecture. It was completed in 1768 and consists of a circle of town houses, with a green area in the centre. There are three entrances to the circle, and I think it’s layout adds to its architectural appeal.
Whilst Bath’s other architectural highlights tend to get the glory, it’s worth a stop by here as you walk around the city. Its surrounded by Georgian buildings, showing you the classic ‘Bath aesthetic’. The square itself has several benches and space where you can sit down, as well as a space for playing Boules. You can often see people playing here. There is also an obelisk in the centre of the square dedicated to Frederick, Prince of Wales. The square often hosts food markets and other events.
One of the few bridges in the world to be lined on both sides with shops, Pulteney Bridge is another architectural delight to be found in Bath. It was completed in 1774 and was inspired by 2 of the other bridges, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence and the Ponte di Rialto in Venice. On personal note, being from Bath it was exciting to visit those bridges myself and know how they influenced our city. There is a weir here that is a nice place to walk around and get pictures.
Empire Hotel Building
One of Bath’s most noticeable buildings is the old Empire hotel. Located between bath Abbey and Pulteney Bridge, it’s presence really dominates the area. It was built in 1901 and these days is a mixture of apartments and a restaurant. If you walk down by the River Avon, next to the Bath Rec and Sports centre, you can get a great view of the hotel. Its one of my favourite spots in Bath.
These pretty gardens are by the River Avon, and are a nice place to relax for awhile. There is a small charge for visitors, though B&NES Residents can get in for free with a discovery card (more on that at the end of this post). There central location and closeness to Bath Abbey and the Roman Paths makes them a good choice for a picnic lunch. They are a popular spot for photo shoots.
Prior Park Landscape Garden
These 18th century gardens are owned by the National Trust, and are a great place for a walk. Their are some nice views to be found here and it makes for a pleasant morning or afternoon. You can also find the Palladian bridge here, which is great to admire and take photographs of.
Museum Of East Asian Art
This museum is the only one in the UK ‘ solely dedicated to the arts and cultures of East and South East Asia’. It opened in 1993 and has over 2000 objects in it’s collection.
You can find out more on their website here: https://meaa.org.uk/
Fashion Museum Bath (part of the Assembly Rooms)
Found in the Assembly Rooms, this museum examines British fashion from the 16th century to the present day. It has a collection of dresses throughout this time, as well as an interactive area where you can try some on. You can find out more on their website: https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/
The Assembly Rooms themselves are a set of Georgian rooms, opened in 1771, that were used for balls and other social events. You can check them out today and they are even still hired out for private functions like weddings business events.
Kennet and Avon Canal
One of my favourite things in Bath is to take walks along the canal. The whole waterway actually stretches around 140KM in total, starting in Bristol and ending in Reading. Its great for walking, the part that passes through Bath has some great scenery and I think its well worth a visit.
A walk I like to do is to start at Widcombe lock, which is where the canal separates from the River Avon. Walk along the canal eastwards. Passing through Sydney Gardens (which I will cover below) carry on all the way to Bathampton. This is a village on the edge of Bath which has a couple of nice pubs where you can relax before heading back. This route takes you through a nice variety of urban and countryside canal scenery, which I enjoy.
If your feeling particularly adventurous, you could walk all the way from Bath to Avoncliff or even Bradford-on-Avon. It will take several hours, and you can take the train back. On the way you will find Warleigh Weir, a popular relaxation spot. You will also pass Dundas Aqueduct, which was opened in 1805 to take the canal across the River Avon and railway line.
Alternatively if its a sunny day and you fancy getting out of Bath then you could catch a train to the latter, which has several nice lunch spots. Then take a stroll down the canal to Avoncliff’s Cross Guns pub which has a great riverside location. Enjoy a drink here before catching a train back into the city.
Sydney Gardens and the Holburne Museum
The Sydney Gardens are the oldest public park in Bath, and one of the last remaining 18th century pleasure gardens in the UK. Its a nice place for picnic and a stroll.
In the park grounds are located the Holburne Museum, which is a museum focused on decorative fine arts. It was established in 1882, around the collection of Sir William Holburne. Its been at its present location since 1916. The building that houses it was previously a hotel.
Jane Austen Centre
This museum looks at the life and works of the novelist Jane Austen, who lived in Bath for awhile. It also covers the Regency era in which she lived. They also offer an afternoon tea experience in their Regency Tea Room. Their website is: https://janeausten.co.uk/
Victoria Art Gallery
This art gallery has a collection of decorative arts including paintings from the 17th century onwards. It regularly has exhibitions in it’s downstairs gallery.
Their website is here: https://www.victoriagal.org.uk/
Bath Skyline Walk
A popular walk around the east side of Bath, this gives you some great views across the city. It also takes you through some lovely fields and interesting woods, and is a great way to spend an afternoon. Directions can be found on the National Trust website, with the walk taking 3 to 4 hours normally. Along the way check out Sham Castle. It was built purely for decorative purposes, and is a popular photography spot.
Also known as Little Solsbury Hill, this is a great place to get views across Bath. The top of the hill is actually quite large and flat, so you can walk around it for awhile. There is a nice variety of vegetation here, have a look around to see what wild flowers you can find, Occasionally there will be cows grazing, so give them a wide berth if there are. Look out for birds of prey too. Interestingly this was once the site of an Iron Age Fort, between 300 and 100 BCE. The hill is also inspiration for the Peter Gabriel song ‘Solsbury Hill’.
The hill can be reached by foot or car from Batheaston, which is a village 3.2 km to the east of Bath. If your up for a challenge you can walk there from Bath city centre. Follow the canal which I have talked about earlier in this post. Use a map to make sure you turn off at Bathampton, by the George Inn. Start heading via Mill lane towards Bathampton Mill. There is a footpath which takes you through the fields and across the River Avon into Batheaston. Its currently marked in dark green on google maps and is easy to spot if you know to look for it. I’d recommend getting a bus back through, it’s a tiring walk especially if its a sunny day.
This is a great place to get a nice view over Bath. Its located just south of the centre, across the river and up the hill. The main viewpoint has a seating area set up so people can enjoy the view over Bath. There is also another viewpoint further along, which arguably is ‘better’ as it is less obscured by the tree growth. To get there cross over river via the pedestrian bridge which is next to the bus station. Head through the subway that takes you across the road, and then right followed by a quick left to head up the hill. From the ‘Holloway’ street (use a map to check it) there are some stairs which take you up to the park, they are signposted. The smaller ‘better’ view is found along the path heading towards the park, once you’ve climbed up all the steps and turned left.
The American Museum
The only museum of ‘American Decorative Arts’ outside of the USA, this is explores the countries cultural history. It has rooms decorated in different styles from varying points of the USA’s history. As well as other artefacts, artwork and information. There are lovely gardens here, that are well maintained and full of interesting plants and flowers. Many people visit regularly to enjoy the gardens.
The American Museum is actually found just off the Bath Skyline Walk, so you could easily combine the two if you have the time. Otherwise you can catch a bus up here. Its really near to Bath University and you can take the U1, U2 or U3 buses and get off just inside the university entrance. I advise using a map app (like google maps or maps.me) to make sure you get off at the right stop.
Beckford’s Tower and Museum
Built in 1827, this tower is up on Landsdown Hill overlooking Bath. The museum here examines the life of it’s namesake, funder and previous owner, William Beckford. Its connected to Lansdown Cemetery, where his tomb resides.
As I mentioned earlier, this tower is linked to the slave trade. William Beckford was a plantation owner and made a lot of money from slavery. yes he made money form other things too, but those direct slavery links can’t be ignored. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit the tower, as it’s a nice place to walk and is visually impressive. Its just something to think about.
You can actually read a statement from the Bath Preservation Trust here: https://beckfordstower.org.uk/a-statement-from-bath-preservation-trust/
You can also read comments from Bath’s MP during the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/czv6q52yk7yt/wera-hobhouse
A good way to walk up to the tower is to head from Weston and up via the Primrose Hill Community Woodland. Its a nice woods to walk round and has some interesting wildlife, including owls and buzzards. Once you’ve gone north from the woods towards the tower you can look back and see some fantastic views of Bath and the surrounding fields.
A more direct route to get to Landsdown from the city centre is to head up Landsdown Road. If you fancy a more scenic route then head up from by the golf course, along Cavendish Road. Then go up Winifred’s Lane, onto Sion Road and wind your way onto the top part of Landsdown Road.
Kelston Round Hill
If your staying in Bath for at least a few days then this is a nice walk you can do. It takes you out of the city and gives you some great views, especially over nearby Keynsham and Bristol. On a clear day you should be able to see the Severn Bridges and across into Wales. To get to it from the city centre walk via Weston Village and then up through the farmlands, there are designated pathways. I think it’s a great spot and enjoy walking here for a picnic lunch looking out across the land. Nearby is Kelston Village, where the popular Bath Soft Cheese Company shop is based.
If your looking on a map trying to figure out the way, my personal preference is to up via Deanhill lane, and then move onto the Cotswold way. You could also go onto the Cotswold Way near the RUH (hospital).
If you like to explore cemetery’s when you visit somewhere, Bath has some interesting historical ones that feature some great nature too. Two worth mentioning are Locksbrook cemetery and Smallcombe Garden Cemetery. The former is found in Weston, and has been around since 1864 . The latter can be done as part of the Bath Skyline Walk, its by Widcombe Hill. Its been around since 1856. Both have been closed for new burials for quite some time. Both are noteworthy for their War Graves. Smallcombe Garden Cemetery in particular as it has Commonwealth graves from the First World War. There are several people of historical interest buried there too, you can look on the cemetery’s website to find information about them.
Where to Eat in Bath
As with most cities in England, Bath has several of the big chain restaurants. You can find a couple of Nando’s, a Pizza Express, Las Iguanas and many others here. A good smaller chain to try is Giraffe, which has a nice range of food and is child friendly.
For those interested in trying some of Bath independent eateries there are plenty of great options.
Noodle Bath is one of my favourite places to eat. It does really great noodle soup especially, which as someone who has travelled around a lot of Southeast Asia I can definitely recommend.
Cafe Retro is a nice café that does great all day breakfasts, including vegetarian, as well as other food. You can check out their menu here: https://www.caferetro.co.uk/menus
The Raven, a Bath pub, does great pies in it’s upstairs area. Its a good place for lunch to grab a pie and a pint. Check out their website for more details and to download a menu: https://www.theravenofbath.co.uk/eat/
If your looking for nice restaurants to visit, and don’t mind paying typical UK restaurant prices, then I recommend Thai Balcony and Eastern Eye. The former does fantastic Thai food, the latter focuses on Indian cuisine. To be honest these are a fair more expensive than the other places listed here, I would only go to them ‘for a treat’.
All the places mentioned above have great vegetarian options. However if your looking for exclusively vegetarian places, then you can try Green Rocket Cafe. There are a few others but because of the Covid lockdowns i’m not sure where is and isn’t still operating, so I’ll update this post soon when I’ve had a look.
If your after the famous Bath Bun then head to: http://www.thebathbun.com/
And for Sally Lunn’s: https://www.sallylunns.co.uk/
Food on the go
If your looking for street food then check out Bath Green Park Station. Named for the old train station it used to house, it has several stands here selling a variety of food. There are often food stalls set up on Southgate Street too, down towards the bus station (by McDonalds and the Bath Forum, is your looking on google maps). There is often a vegetarian stand there named Vege Guru. Just off Kingsmead Square (which is very central) you can find Chai Walla which does Indian street food.
You can also get pasties from the Cornish Bakehouse which has two locations in the city centre, one near Pigeon Park and the other in the Corridor (opposite WHSmiths). I think they make for a good picnic lunch if you need something quick. Otherwise there are various shops around that do the usual sandwich’s etc.
Where to Drink in Bath
Their are large numbers of pubs in Bath that attract a diverse crowd. I’ll highlight a few here that I recommend.
My favourite pub in Bath is the Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms (aka ‘The Volley’). Its a small place with great bar staff and cool décor. A favourite of some friends is the whisky bar known as The Hideout. Its a bit pricey but a nice place. I always enjoy going there.
Other pubs in the city centre I think are good are Flans and the Pig N Fiddle, though they both get very crowded. I tend to go to those when I’m in larger group. There are several ‘Bath Ales Pubs’ around the city which do good local beers. The Salamander is the one I’ve been to the most, as it’s central and quite cosy.
I should of course also mention Bath’s oldest pub is Saracens Head, which has been going since 1713. Its good for watching sport and has lots of indoor space. If your looking for a central pub garden then try the Bath Brewhouse which always usually a good beer selection. There is also the Cork has loads of inside space and some outside seating too.
The Bell Inn is a little bit out of the centre but has a hippy vibe and a nice customer base. They put on a lot of live music and serve lots of real ales. It has a nice garden too. Out on the Lower Bristol Road, away from the city centre, you can find the Royal Oak. A lot of my friends drink there from time to time. It also has a beer garden so is good for sunny days.
There are several clubs in Bath and it’s worth noting local laws mean they must be located underground. Generally you will find their entrance is above ground and you head stairs to reach the main part of the club. The ones I will highlight here are Moles and Komedia. Moles is famous as a live music venue, and has had many popular bands pass through on their way to stardom. Komedia does gigs too, as well as comedy and other things. Both have popular club nights which are often packed out.
Shopping in Bath
Shop wise there are a lot of chain shops that are found all across the UK’s towns and cities. However there are some good independent shops too, though you will need to move off the main shopping street to find them. Therefore I’ve chosen to highlight a few here, to encourage you to support them when you visit.
If your a fan of tea then Tea House Emporium is a must. They have teas from all other world, and are great whether your shopping for yourself or for gifts.
Thai Balcony Mini Mart is found below the Thai Balcony restaurant, and offers a good selection of Thai and other Southeast Asian food. Its a great place to pick up ingredients for Thai curries as well as hot sauce, snacks like wasabi nuts and other similar items.
Walcott Street has a collection of Independent traders, as well as food places and more. There is a website dedicated to the street which you can check out here.
If you interested in markets then you can find a couple in Bath. There is one all year round in the Guildhall. There is another in Green Park, which has additional stalls at weekends. And there is also the Christmas market that runs for a couple of weeks every year. Bath is really busy during that time, so unless your coming specifically for the market I’d pick another time to visit.
If you want more shopping I suggest popping over to Bristol. You could also try Frome which isn’t far away, and has some nice independent shops.
My local perspective on Bath
Personally one of the main things I love about Bath is how easy it is to get into the countryside. The canal offers a quick escape from the city, and I honestly feel it is very underrated. Not just by tourists but by those living here too. Honestly, it’s really nice, go check it out.
Its great how walkable this city is and how many nice walks there are around the cities edges. The Skyline Walk is the obvious choice for anyone staying here for a few days but if you have longer consider some further jaunts around the cities edges. The amount of green spaces in Bath itself is fantastic and the number of pubs and cafes is great too. There is always plenty of options for meeting friends and family. Its also cool to walk round and see so many pretty buildings.
Bath is very much a student city and has been for quite some time. This can be quite divisive, as some locals take issue with the amount of students here. Personally I have no problem with the students, I think complaints about lack of housing and services are more of a nationwide political issue. In terms of you as a visitor to the city, this is mainly going to effect you if you go out drinking. Expect to see a lot of students out during term time, the city centre can get very busy.
I also feel that the cities’ proximity to Bristol is really useful. It means we can enjoy the feeling of a smaller city with the amenities of big city nearby. And as a travel fan, the access to Bristol airport is a big plus.
My recommendation for a day trip Bath
If you only have a short time in Bath then I’d recommend visiting The Roman Baths first thing and then doing a big walk around the city. Right by the Baths is the Bath Abbey, and near to there is the Empire Hotel and Pulteney Bridge. Have a look round here including from down by the rec (on the river) for the views. Then walk up to Queens Square and onto the Circus, before heading over to the Crescent and around Royal Victoria Park. You can have a picnic here if the weathers ok, pick up some food before you reach it though. The head down to the Holburne Museum for a quick look and into Sydney gardens, From there walk around the canal for awhile, before picking a pub for the evening.
If you have two days, then on the second day I would do the Bath Skyline Walk. You can visit The American Museum when you reach the Claverton Down segment of the walk. Visit for a couple of hours and then carry on the route.
A quick reminder for residents of Bath
If you live in Bath you are entitled to a Discovery Card. This gives you free entry into some of the attractions in the city, including the Roman Baths. So whether your a long term resident or have just moved here make sure you take advantage of it!
Thanks for checking out my guide to Bath. I hope you are inspired to visit.