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Bath is not your typical English city, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site built strictly from a sand colored limestone unique to the area (known as Bath stone), giving it a greater sense of beauty than any other English city.
Its UNESCO status, which is quite rare for an entire city to be given, is partly due to its deep yielding history dating back to Roman times (almost 2000 years ago) when the city’s perfectly preserved Roman Baths were built.
However, the city is brimming with astonishing buildings, like Bath Abbey, The Royal Crescent and The Herschel Museum of Astronomy, as well as exciting things to do like punting and spa days, all of which are also proud parts of Bath’s heritage.
In this article, we list all the things to see and do that make Bath such a fantastic city, and all the reasons why you must go.
Explore Bath Abbey and the historic city center
Marking the center of this captivating city, Bath Abbey is one of the most prominent and visually stunning religious buildings in England. Although the abbey was originally built in the 700’s AD, the structure we see today was actually re-erected in the 1500’s in a medieval style, following the old church’s destruction on King Henry VIII’s orders. The sheer scale of the abbey alone is breathtaking, as it not only dominates the city center, but the skyline too. An equally historic-looking city center surrounds the abbey, but its cobbled streets have been transformed into a bustling shopping haven with everything from shops and restaurants to buskers and street performers.
Visit the Roman Baths
Located in the historic city center, the Roman Baths, which gave the city its unusual name, is widely known as one of Europe’s most magnificent and well-preserved ancient sites. The natural hot spring was transformed by the Romans into a regal rectangular thermal pool carved out of the limestone which the city is built upon, with typical Roman columns lining it on all sides. Surrounding the pool is the Bath House and Roman Temple, a religious temple that is now used as a museum to display the fascinating artefacts found at this ancient site, such as a gilt bronze statue of Goddess Sulis Minerva’s head.
Treat yourself at Thermae Bath Spa
Since Bath is world famous for its ancient thermal pool, what better place to take some me-time and indulge in a thermal spa experience.
Thermae Bath Spa is the only spa in England to use the mineral-rich water from the neighboring Roman Baths in its spine-tingling treatments, which include everything from massages and facials to aromatherapy.
Unlike the crumbling Roman Baths, Thermae is beautifully modern with state-of-the-art facilities like thermal pools, steam rooms and even an ice chamber. Due to the spa’s popularity, we recommend booking far in advance, but be sure to grab an evening slot so you can watch the sunset over the historical city from its spectacular rooftop pool.
Indulge in lunch at the Pump Room
The Pump Room is an 18th century function hall and restaurant incorporating a water pump which connects directly to the same thermal pool as the Roman Baths.
Anyone, who was someone, dined in the Pump Room in the olden days, and it even made a few appearances in a couple of Jane Austen’s famous novels, but now it is open to anyone lucky enough to reserve a spot.
The restaurant serves a deliciously British afternoon tea, consisting of a tower of finger sandwiches, scones, and sweets, served alongside a free-flowing stream of tea in a variety of flavors. You can even buy a glass of mineral-rich spring water from the pump itself.
Get festive at Bath Christmas Market
In the winter, Bath transforms into a magical winter wonderland as the air fills with Christmas music and the smell of mulled wine, and the streets fill with festive market stalls shaped like miniature alpine chalets.
Although cities throughout England host Christmas markets, there is none quite as beautiful as Bath’s because it surrounds the breathtaking Bath Abbey, which becomes illuminated at night like a bright star.
In the market you can buy all sorts of festive crafts, jewelry, and home ware, as well as delicious German foods like Bratwurst, crepes and other sweet treats. From day to night, the market buzzes with the calls of market sellers, the excitement of children, and the merriment of friends enjoying a taste of German beer.
Visit No.1 Royal Crescent
The Royal Crescent is perhaps Bath’s most famous (and pricey) residential road, characterized by a crescent-shaped 500-foot-long Georgian residence made from the iconic Bath stone featuring Ionic columns all along its facade.
The building is split into 30 grand terrace houses, which have been home to many notable names over the years, including Johnny Depp, but No.1 Royal Crescent has been transformed into a fascinating museum decorated to reflect what it would have looked like in the late 1700’s when it was first built.
Inside you can experience life like Bath’s richest residents by viewing everything from the servant’s quarters to the dining hall and master bedroom.
Ride a hot air balloon in Royal Victoria Park
Just a short walk from the city center, Royal Victoria Park is a refreshing 57-acre slice of peaceful greenery amongst the wash of the compact limestone city.
Its entrance is next to the Royal Crescent, which itself overlooks a neatly trimmed field where many people stop to rest and admire the street.
The multifaceted park offers something for everyone with quiet walking and cycling trails, vast fields shaded by trees, an aerial treetop walkway, a playground, a golf course, and an exotic botanical garden with an abundance of intriguing rare plant species.
The best way to see the park, however, isn’t by wandering through it, but by floating above it in a hot air balloon, which operate from within the park.
Watch a Bath Rugby home game
Although football is admittedly England’s favorite sport, we are also very proud to be a part of the Six Nations Championship, and pride ourselves on our country’s rugby prowess.
Meanwhile, the Premiership Rugby Cup is held each year for England’s most elite local teams, and Bath’s team consistently reaches the top spots, making it one of the most prestigious local teams in England. If there’s a home game playing when you’re in town, be sure to get yourself a ticket; the action-packed sport is thrilling to watch.
If you don’t manage to get a golden ticket, you’ll be able to catch the game at every pub and restaurant in the city, which will be brimming with excitement and tension as die-hard fans cheer their team.
Go punting on the River Avon
Bath is built snugly within a narrow meander on the River Avon, and being surrounded almost 270 degrees by the river, it’s a big part of the city’s heart.
There are a few restaurants and shops hidden along the river that are reserved for those ‘in-the-know’ and those who happen upon them. You’ll often find residents strolling and running along the river, or enjoying it from the ornate Pulteney Bridge or grassy banks of Parade Gardens, just across from Bath Abbey.
If you want to enjoy the river in true British style though, why not go punting along it? You can hire a punt (and other boats) from Bath Boating Station and glacially glide along the scenic river using the traditional punting pole.
Enjoy Bath’s scenic countryside
Bath is located in Somerset in the southwest of England, nestled amongst the tall hills, steep valleys, deep woodlands, and quaint country villages of the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty.
While there’s plenty to see and do in the city center, no trip to Bath is complete without taking advantage of the nature that surrounds it, and paths like Cotswolds Way, MacMillan Way and the Bath Skyline Walk, which begin in the city itself and attract hikers from far and wide, will certainly allow you to do that.
Along the way you’re bound to come across traditional pubs, grand estates and manor houses like Dyrham Park, and popular villages like Bradford on Avon and Castle Combe.
Wander around Bath’s best museums
Bath is home to a number of fascinating and insightful museums, but if you only have time for a couple, make sure the first one is the Herschel Museum of Astronomy.
This unique museum was the 18th century residential townhouse of William and Caroline Herschel, who were gifted astronomers and musicians famed for the discovery of Uranus, among other things.
The museum still resembles their home today, containing many of their personal belongings, including a telescope they built themselves.
The Holburne Museum, on the other hand, is a grand Georgian estate-turned-gallery holding the sensational personal collection of historical art and artefacts from avid collector Sir William Holburne during the 19th century.
Dine like a king at Bath’s best restaurants
Although Bath is a small city, it has long been renowned for its gastronomy scene with an exceptional range and selection of foodie establishments, which include cute independent coffee shops, traditional wood-cladded gastropubs, international cuisines from every corner of the globe, and even Michelin star restaurants.
From the city center to the riverside, you’re never too far away from good food. Sotto Sotto, a contemporary candlelit Italian restaurant hidden beneath vaulted ceilings, is the city’s best Michelin star restaurant, while The Circus serves the best British cuisine using only locally sourced food, and Hall & Woodhouse is the most stylish cafe/restaurant in Bath, although we like it most for its to-die-for Sunday roast.
About the Author: Emily Draper
Originally from the UK, Emily Draper has lived in Chile, with an Amazonian tribe in Peru, in a Wisconsin trailer park, and on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea. Considering herself, and the rest of us, as global citizens, Emily’s mission as a writer and journalist is to expand global consciousness of the fundamental importance of travel, culture, and diversity.