Bath is a charming mid sized city easily visited from London in a day. The best part about visiting Bath is that you can see thousands of years of history packed into one place, all accessible on foot.
If you’re short on time, take the train to Bath rather than the bus. Though the bus is considerably cheaper, it takes twice as long as the train. Trains to Bath Spa Railway Station depart regularly from London’s Paddington Station, taking on average an hour and 25 minutes. I recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time at the trainline.com. Round trip tickets start at £50, depending on the time of day and the day of the week. Peak hours and days are the most expensive.
What to do in Bath
A self-guided walking tour of Bath
Once you arrive at Bath Spa Station, take a leisurely stroll towards the city’s historical center, just a ten minute walk from the station.
Head down Church Street, a lovely cobblestoned alleyway full of some of the city’s most historic tea shops, including Sally Lunn’s, a 17th century bakery housed in the oldest dwelling in Bath, famous for their baked sweet buns. Read more about the history of Sally Lunn’s here: sallylunns.co.uk
The Roman Baths
Just down the road situated right in the city center are the Roman Baths, one of the most well preserved ancient baths in the world. This 2,000 year old spa complex, founded by the ancient Romans, is where the city derives its name. Arrive early so you don’t waste time waiting in line. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time to save time and money as well. You’ll spend an average of 90 minutes touring the baths, after which you can check out the historic Pump Room, a great place for afternoon tea. Or, opt to have tea at one of the less crowded tea rooms centered around the baths. Tickets to the Roman Baths start at £ 16.65 (weekdays) for adults. Read more about the Roman Baths and purchase tickets at the official website here https://www.romanbaths.co.uk.
After visiting the baths, head around the corner to Bath Abbey, a magnificent gothic style cathedral dating back over a thousand years to the Anglo-Saxon era. Entrance tickets are available at the Abbey Store, starting at £8 for adults. https://www.bathabbey.org. You can pay a little extra for a guided tour if you’re not pressed for time.
Afternoon tea at The Hands Georgian Tearooms
After touring the abbey, head through the large courtyard outside, called the Kingston Parade, for an early afternoon tea at the Hands Georgian Tearooms. This beautiful 160 year old tearoom serves a traditional afternoon tea right in the middle of the historical old town.
If the weather is nice you can sit outside and enjoy a spectacular view of the Roman Spa and the Abbey, which gives the tearoom’s outdoor courtyard a feeling of ancient Rome. The tearoom serves a reasonably priced afternoon tea of sandwiches, scones and desserts accompanied by your choice of tea. Read more about the history of the tearoom, which was once a dairy, on their website here http://www.handstearoom.co.uk and check out my review of the tearoom here.
The Jane Austen Centre
After a leisurely afternoon tea, head up the road to the Jane Austen Center, just a ten minute walk from the historical old town. A life-size statue of the famous writer greets visitors as they enter.
The centre is housed in a Georgian era registered house near to where the writer once lived with her father and sister. It’s a wealth of information about Jane’s life, complete with a short presentation upstairs about her legacy and a small museum downstairs containing photos, letters and other artifacts from her life. Pre-purchased admission is £10.80 for adults, or £12 at the door. https://www.janeausten.co.uk.
Every year the Jane Austen Festival brings thousands of visitors to the city eager to participate in the Georgian era inspired parade and the costume ball held in the author’s honor. For more information about the festival visit their website here: https://www.janeaustenfestivalbath.co.uk.
Located on the upper floor of the Jane Austen Center are the Regency Tearooms, where afternoon tea is served by a wait staff dressed in Georgian era costumes. If you plan on having tea here arrive early as the tearoom doesn’t accept reservations for small parties. https://www.janeausten.co.uk/regencytearoom/
Continue retracing the footsteps of Jane herself by heading north to the Circus, a beautiful collection of Georgian-era row houses. Designed by father and son architects, John Wood the Elder and John Wood the Younger, the design of these stately homes reflects the circular nature of Stonehenge, a major influence to the duo.
The Royal Crescent Park
Just up the road from the Circus is the Royal Crescent Park. This breathtaking park will definitely transport you back to the era of Jane Austen. You can rent chairs to sit in and enjoy people watching, or take a stroll in the park as Jane herself once did while living in the city.
The Royal Crescent
The park faces a row of 30 historical Grade-1 listed Georgian townhouses designed by John Wood the Younger during the 1760’s. These stunning homes once housed the city’s wealthiest merchants as well as prominent members of the aristocracy who often used them as vacation homes.
No. 1 Royal Crescent
You can take a tour of No. 1 Royal Crescent, a historically preserved Georgian home complete with a costumed footman waiting outside. Admission is £10.90 for adults. https://no1royalcrescent.org.uk
The Pulteney Bridge
Head back down towards the city’s historical center for a stroll along the River Avon. The Pulteney Bridge, built in 1773, is the main river crossing in town. The bridge was designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam, who was inspired by the Palladian style of the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence. The bridge features the unique characteristic of being one of only four bridges in the world to have shops span both of its sides.
The Pulteney Weir
Visible from both sides of the river is the immense Pulteney Weir, a low dam constructed in 1603 to help prevent the Avon River from flooding during heavy rains.
The Avon River Walkway
Just on the other side of the bridge is the Avon River walkway. Take a short stroll down the river to enjoy some lovely views of the city from the eastern bank. Along the way you’ll pass St. John the Evangelist’s Church, a Gothic style church constructed in 1861, which features the tallest spire in town. https://stjohnsrcbath.org.uk
Where to eat in Bath
Same Same But Different Cafe
Head back across the bridge and up the road for a pre-dinner drink at one of Bath’s charming sidewalk cafes clustered around George Street. Same Same But Different cafe serves cocktails, small plates and other beverages in a quaint sidewalk setting. http://same-same.co.uk
For dinner, head west on George St. to Clayton’s Kitchen, a farm to fork restaurant run by Michelin starred chef Robert Clayton. This award winning restaurant has been serving excellent modern British cuisine in the heart of Bath since 2012. Dishes are prepared with locally sourced ingredients that reflect the seasons.
The service is warm and friendly and the dishes give you are great taste of the local cuisine. During my visit I had the fresh caught black bream filet and the Wiltshire lamb loin, both springtime dishes served with seasonal vegetables grown in the area. Check out their seasonal menus on their website here: https://www.claytonskitchen.com.
After dinner walk back down through the city center towards the train station, taking in as much of the city’s charming ambiance as possible before heading back to London on the evening train.
You can find more information about the city of Bath (places to stay, where to eat and what to do) at their official tourism site here https://visitbath.co.uk.