Roman remains, Georgian architecture and stunning outdoor spaces, it’s not hard to see why Bath is one of the United Kingdom’s most visited cities. With people travelling thousand of miles to visit this city of culture and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the Avon Valley in the southwest of England, it’s charming streets and aged stone walls combined, tell the stories that span thousands of years but if a weekend in Bath is all that you have, here are its must-see attractions.
The Roman Baths
The city’s Roman Baths are nothing short of iconic and are one of the most popular attractions in the entire of England. Overflowing with steamy warm water from the valley’s thermal springs and encased in some of the most extravagant and well preserved examples of Roman architecture in existence, they truly are an experience like no other.
Comprising The Sacred Spring, The Roman Temple, The Roman Bath House and The Museum, the Roman Baths date back to the 19th century and are visited by more than a million tourists each year. If you fancy experiencing some thermal baths for yourself, head to nearby Thermae Bath Spa for some pampering. You’ll also get excellent views over the city from the rooftop pool.
I’d advise visiting early morning or just before closing. This place gets busy and there will be queue’s!
The Abbey is rarely out of sight in this city and no visit to Bath would be complete without venturing inside. Located right next to the Roman Baths, the Abbey is the site of the coronation of the very first King of England, King Edgar, back in 973AD. This coronation set the precedent for the coronation of all future Kings and Queens of England. Today, the abbey stands, impressive as ever. It could have been a very different story however. After the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539 thanks to good old King Henry VIII, Bath Abbey lay in ruins for more than 70 years until it was finally repaired in 1616.
For some of the best views over the city, head to the rooftops on a tower tour. Make sure to check tour times though as I can safely say they are not open on the weekends, having always visited when they are closed! Visiting the Abbey itself is free (although a small donation is suggested) but you will need to pay a £6 fee for a Tower Tour. For information on visiting please click here.
The quaint cobbled streets of Abbey Green lay just a stone’s throw away from The Baths and are the perfect backdrop for an afternoon’s exploring.
The Medieval square which was originally built as a courtyard to Bath Abbey has been transformed over the years from a functional gated community into a hub of independent shops and restaurants enjoyed by both tourists and locals alike.
Just like the rest of the city, Abbey Green’s history is central to its attraction, quite literally in this case. The square is still home to what is thought to be one of the oldest architecturally planted trees in the world.
Further Reading: The Most Beautiful Villages In The Cotswolds
Jane Austen’s Bath
A visit to Bath would be lacking without learning about the life and work of one of the UK’s most famous writers. The Jane Austen Centre and Assembly Rooms pay tribute to the literary legend and her undeniable connection to Bath. Not only was the city an inspiration for two of her most famous novels, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, it was also her home for a time and this is a unique opportunity to see it through her eyes.
Both museums transport visitors back to Georgian England with exhibitions on everything from food to fashion, making them must-visits for a weekend in Bath. The Assembly Rooms is part of the vast collection of National Trust properties so don’t forget your membership card! If you don’t have one then it is well worth signing up as there are a number of fantastic properties surrounding Bath which are also worth a visit.
If you visit the city in September you are in for a treat as this is when the annual Jane Austen Festival is on. Expect to see many a person dressed in period costume wandering the streets. If this is of interest find more information on the festival here.
Sally Lunn’s House
Legend has it that The Bath Bun (the city’s famous brioche-based delicacy) was first made right here in one of Bath’s oldest houses by a French refugee who narrowly escaped execution in her hometown.
Her story is one of many you’ll discover inside this historic little townhouse in the centre of the city. Below ground, in its modest cellar, you’ll find ruins from as far back as 1137.
This place is immensely popular with tourists so can get a little busy. Worth it though for a slice of history.
The Royal Crescent
30 towering townhouses make up The Royal Crescent, a classic landmark that’s become synonymous with the city of Bath. The grade I listed buildings frame the pristine lawn of Royal Victoria Park and span 538 feet from end to end!
No. 1 Royal Crescent, once the home of Henry Sandford in the late 18th century is now a museum and a must visit destination on a weekend in Bath. Decorated and furnished just as it might have been during his time, the rooms are beautifully set out with historic furniture, pictures and objects that bring that era back to life. For more information on prices and opening times, click here.
In keeping with the theme of impressive architecture, The Circus is another of Bath’s masterpieces and only a couple of minutes walk from The Crescent. It’s become affectionately known as the sun to The Crescent’s moon on account of its rounded shape and is equally as breath-taking as its semi-circular counterpart.
The Circus, originally called King’s Circus, was designed by the architect John Wood. It consists of three curved segments of Grade I listed townhouses, forming a circle with three entrances. It is said that if you stand in the middle, on the right spot, that everything you say echos. I didn’t find the right spot, but let me know if you have more success!
These ornate buildings are typical of the gorgeous architecture you expect to see in Bath and have been home to many famous people over the years. Most notably, Thomas Gainsborough who lived at number 17 between 1759 and 1774 and used the house as his portrait studio. Another, more recent, famous face to have lived at The Circus is Nicholas Cage.
Further Reading: Sezincote House – An Indian Palace In The Cotswolds
Musical theatre fans might recognise Pulteney Bridge from a famous scene in Les Miserables. Fans of Keira Knightley might also recognise it from the movie adaptation of The Duchess (A great story to read by the way if you grab yourself the book!).
First designed by Robert Adam back in the 1700’s, it boasts stunning views of the River Avon and is lined with even more of the independent shops and cafes the city has become renowned for. In fact it is one of only four bridges left in the world to have shops across the entirety and on both sides. If you’re a keen photographer like me, visit around sunset. The reflective glow from the water is nothing short of magical. It is no wonder that it is one of the most photographed spots in the city.
Have you had the pleasure of spending a weekend in Bath? Is there anything else you feel should be on this list? Please comment below and share your thoughts.
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