Bath is often said to be the most beautiful town in Britain. A great base for a holiday, a popular weekend break destination and even visitable as a day trip from London, the city has lots to offer its visitors.
This website is an insider’s guide, designed to be a useful resource for holidaymakers planning to stay in Bath. Here you’ll find details of the best things to see and do in Bath, as well as recommended excursions from Bath and tips on walks, getting the most from your stay, how to see Bath on a budget, and where to stay – including the best country house hotels nearby.
If you’re a Bridgerton fan inspired by the enticing scenes of Bath in the series, here’s a special guide to the city’s attractions, and a walking tour to discover filming locations:
Bath is visually stunning, and a popular day trip destination for tourists. But an afternoon trailing around the main museums or sitting on an open-top bus won’t give you much more than a fleeting and superficial impression of the historic town. Bath is a unique destination with layers of historical associations and a mellow atmosphere that is all its own, and to really appreciate the city you need to stay more than a few hours. With a wealth of restaurants and things to do, it’s a great destination for a long weekend. And once you include a couple of interesting excursions or walking trips in the countryside around, it’s easy to spend a week without exhausting the enjoyable possibilities of Bath and this corner of Somerset.
For overseas visitors planning a UK vacation, Bath can make a good base. The area around here is charming and quintessentially English, and London is less than an hour and half away by train. So it’s possible to to spend a couple of days exploring the hectic big city during an extended stay amid Bath’s more peaceful charms. And if you really want to get to know England, you’ll find many of the country’s different facets all within a short distance of Bath, from chocolate-box villages to historic harbours.
The brief facts: Bath is a city (population approx. 100,000) located in the south-west of England, not far from Bristol. The earliest documented inhabitants were the Romans, who indulged themselves in Bath’s thermal springs (unique in the UK). Bath’s second high-profile era was the eighteenth century, when the town was a hugely popular resort for royalty, aristocracy, gamblers and rakes. In between ‘taking the waters’ at the Pump Rooms, and attending colourful assemblies, Bath’s Georgian tourists indulged in all manner of intrigues, and the kind of superficial lifestyle described by one-time resident Jane Austen.
What to see in Bath
In the eighteenth century Bath was re-designed as an outdoor showplace for Georgian society. Almost the entire town centre is a coherent and attractive harmony of honey-coloured limestone terraces. Among the town’s architectural highlights are its series of curved and panoramic crescents, and Pulteney Bridge, where you can pause to shop while crossing the river Avon. The historic centre is easily and best toured on foot, and keen walkers can also enjoy scenic explorations of Bath’s hillside crescents, its river and canal paths, and panoramic footpaths on the slopes around the centre. Bath has several fascinating galleries and museums devoted to subjects ranging from the town’s Roman past (a trip to the Roman Baths is unmissable) to the history of costume.
What to do in Bath
As well as sightseeing, Bath offers a good range of cultural and entertainment options. Few towns its size could boast such a cosmopolitan atmosphere, and there’s lots to do for almost every interest in and around the city, from garden opera performances to rugby matches. The Theatre Royal sees major touring productions, while there are several other venues and cinemas for plays, gigs, films, comedy and other entertainments. The smarter streets are dotted with chic boutiques, art and antique shops, classy wine bars and good restaurants, some specialising in locally-grown food, while the mainstream shopping options include the usual high-street brands and popular restaurant chains. There are festivals in Bath throughout the year, and plenty of outdoors summer events.
Bath is a compact little city, in a bowl-shaped valley between low hills on the edge of the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As soon as you reach the boundaries of the city you’ll find attractive and unspoilt green countryside, dotted with pretty villages and crossed by networks of rural footpaths, making this a great destination for walkers. Further afield are a number of attractive smaller towns, including Bradford-on-Avon and Frome, and throughout the region are elegant stately homes and gorgeous gardens to visit. Nearby Bristol, the Somerset coastline and the Cotswolds offer additional variety for travellers exploring the area. Although cars are useful for exploring widely, a lot of the best destinations locally can be visited using public transport, which I detail on this website, along with footpath suggestions.