Are you visiting Bath, England for the first time? We recently visited Bath, the only city in the United Kingdom designated a UNESCO World Heritage City. We were charmed with its location and the residents of southwest England. Known for its 18th-century Georgian architecture and natural hot springs, there are plenty of things to see and do in this town. In no particular order, I give you 9 things to do in Bath, England.
Mayor of Bath’s Guides Walking Tour
One of my favorite things to do in Bath was the Mayor of Bath’s Guides free walking tours. It’s a group of volunteers who show people around the city of Bath and it’s completely free (they don’t even accept tips!) But they do accept compliments. Our guide, Bill, a former headmaster said to, “Think of Bath as a cake. I’m going to give you a slice of it.” From 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. our group followed Bill along the cobble stone streets of Bath. He said that the natural warm springs attracted people to Bath. “It’s the Las Vegas of the 18th Century.”
With its Neoclassical architecture, Bath is known for its limestone. It has a natural load bearing strength. “The biscuity walls of Bath is what sells it,” according to Bill. We walked the gravel path via Royal Victoria Park and learned the business of night soil. We walked by the Jane Austen Centre, wandered along Green Street and learned a little about the natural baths.
Thermae Bath Spa
Steeped in history, The Cross Bath dates back to 1783. The Roman-era baths are one of the key reasons people come to Bath, England. Prince Bladud is the legendary founder of Bath. According to the myth, Bladud accidentally discovered the magical powers of the waters when his pigs rolled in the hot mud. The pigs had leprosy and were cured after they came out of the steaming mud. Bladud himself suffered from leprosy, and so applied the mud from the “healing waters” to his own skin – and was cured, as well. Legend has it that he went on to found Bath.
While I have no idea of this legend is true, I know that my husband and I enjoyed taking the natural waters in Bath. I recommend that you book your spa appointment in advance. My Thermae Bath Spa review will give you a first-hand look into the experience.
Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea is one of my favorite things to do in Bath! I love the art of afternoon tea and travel. Sitting down to enjoy each other’s company and disconnect from the cell phone is a digital detox program in itself. While there are many places to enjoy afternoon tea, The Royal Crescent Hotel offers tea with champagne, sweet or savory afternoon tea, vegan afternoon tea and children’s afternoon tea.
Kennet & Avon Canal
The River Avon and the canals are an important part of Bath’s transportation system. The Bath locks and tunnels date back 200 years ago when the Kennet and Avon canal formed a link in the trade route between London and Bristol, transporting Bath’s famous limestone to the capital of England. Today, visitors to Bath may walk along the canal, or hire a narrow canal boat for a holiday on water.
Sally Lunn Bun
While admittedly not the most gourmet food item that I tasted during our holiday in Bath, the Bath bun is known throughout England. Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House & Museum is one of the oldest houses in Bath. Built in 1482, the small museum houses the actual kitchen where Sally created the first Bath bun, a semi-sweet bread that is best toasted and shared with several people.
I also tasted a Bath bun at afternoon tea at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa. Dating back to Victorian times, the tradition of inserting a sugar cube into the Bath bun was a sign of wealth and is still done, to this day, at The Royal Crescent afternoon tea.
Jane Austen Centre
On our Bath walking tour we passed by the Jane Austen Centre. This small museum chronicles the life of Bath’s famous author. Rumor has it that Jane actually preferred country living and thought the Bath residents rather high on themselves. Nonetheless, I enjoyed watching the movie Pride and Prejudice while staying at The Royal Crescent Hotel and I understand that the TV edition of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was filmed at The Royal Crescent.
Dining in Bath
From local pub fare to multi-course tasting menus, I love eating out when I travel, not only to taste the regional cuisine, but to meet the locals. To that end, we enjoyed a gastro pub meal at The Marlborough Tavern. The next evening we sampled the 6 course tasting menu prepared by Executive Chef David Campbell. The AA 3 rosette Dower House restaurant on the Royal Crescent Hotel grounds also offers a child-friendly menu.
Hot Air Balloon
My husband and I had a magical moment walking beside the River Avon near Pulteney Bridge in Bath. I was taking some pictures and two hot air balloons floated into my view finder. I’ve taken a hot air balloon ride in Calistoga and Temecula Valley wine country and I was fortunate to write about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta for Diablo magazine, but I have yet to take a hot air balloon ride in Europe. Have you had a chance to ride in a hot air balloon? This is one of the 9 things to do in Bath that I need to check off my bucket list.
Visit Stonehenge and Cotswold villages
Arguably, taking a full day tour to Stonehenge, the Cotswold villages and Avebury Stone Circles is not one of 9 things to do in Bath. However, the all day sight-seeing tour originates in Bath, England. Mad Max Tours offers affordable and educational Stonehenge small group day tours to some amazing stone circles, Cotswold villages and film locations in the English countryside. We traveled by train to Bath, so it made sense to sign up for a van tour when were this close to some UNESCO World Heritage sites. Our tour departed and returned from the Abbey Hotel on North Parade Road, near the Sally Lunn Museum. Check the website for pricing and times.
Need to Know:
We stayed at several Air B & B’s, as well as The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa during our visit to Bath.
Insider Tip: We flew non-stop from Oakland International Airport to Gatwick International Airport on Norwegian Air. We stayed for a couple of nights in London to ease into a different time zone and see the UK city. We took the Great Western Railway from Victoria Station to Bath, with one train change. The cost of our ticket was $98.79 with advance purchase, your price may vary. For additional insider tips follow luxury travel writer @Nancydbrown on Twitter or Instagram @Nancydbrown
If You Go:
For more information on the city of Bath, Visit Bath is the official tourism site.
9 Things to do in Bath article and all photography by Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown.