Bath

For other places with the same name, see Bath (disambiguation).
The 18th century Pulteney Bridge by Robert Adam

Bath is a historic Roman and Georgian spa city. It is a World Heritage Site, situated 100 miles west of London and 15 miles (25 km) south-east of the nearest big city, Bristol. Bath is famous for its hot springs, Roman period baths, Medieval heritage and stately Georgian architecture. Set in the rolling Somerset countryside on the southern edge of the Cotswolds, Bath (population 80,000+) offers a diverse range of attractions for its 4.4 million visitors each year: restaurants, theatres, cinemas, pubs and nightclubs, along with interesting museums, and a wide range of guided tours.

Understand

History

Bath is among the oldest of England’s principal tourist destinations and has been welcoming visitors for centuries. The three hot springs within the city were sacred to the Celtic goddess Sulis, whom the Romans later identified with the goddess Minerva. Bath first achieved its status as a sacred spa site with the growth of the Roman settlement Aquae Sulis around the thermal springs. The Roman period saw a vast complex of baths constructed - the remains of these were re-discovered in the 18th century and helped fuel Bath's modern revival as a luxury resort.

Bath was a prosperous city in the Medieval period, the site of an Abbey and Cathedral (under the Bishop of Bath and Wells). The Reformation under Henry VIII saw some uncertainty emerge in Bath's future, although the reign of Elizabeth I saw the first revival of the town as a spa resort. It was during the Georgian period, however, that Bath came once again into its own. Exceedingly fashionable, Bath was laid out in stately avenues, streets and crescents, encrusted with Neo-Classical public buildings.

Bath suffered a significant amount of damage during air raids in World War II. The prestigious crescents and terraces were relatively unscathed and restored where necessary, but some of the more minor Georgian and Victorian streets were demolished both after the war and during a later ill-conceived phase of development known now as the "Sack Of Bath". Consequently some modern buildings pop up in unexpected places, and the locals are generally very opposed to any major building developments that are put forward. In 2011 some of those works are substantially complete with a brand new shopping centre near the railway station recently opened.

Read

Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is traditional reading before a visit to Bath. Austen spent some time there, and her novel is a satire of the social life of the city at the time. Many of the sites she mentioned are still able to be visited in the city today.

Get in

By plane

Regional Airports

These smaller airports provide a much more sedate experience than the London ones. Check in queues are shorter, there are fewer people about, and it's much clearer where you have to go and what you have to do. Less stress and fewer delays than the London ones.

Bristol International Airport is situated 20 miles from Bath and boasts scheduled flights from many major European cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Paris and Prague (but not London). By public there are three main options for reaching Bath.

  1. Catch the Flyer bus service from the airport to Bristol Temple Meads station, then the train from there to Bath; expect the journey to take about one hour, and longer between 4PM and 6PM when Bristol's roads are congested.
  2. Air Decker direct bus from the airport to Bath railway station. Every thirty minutes from early until late. Journey time is about 55 minutes.
  3. Taxi (about £40) and get to Bath in about 40 minutes.

Southampton Airport is under 2 hours from Bath by train,and connections are good. It is served mainly by the budget airline Flybe, flying mostly to European destinations.

Cardiff Airport Exeter Airport and Bournemouth Airport are also served by low cost airlines and are within a couple of hours driving distance of the city.

London Airports

The alternative is to use one of the London airports and travel on to Bath by train, car or bus. The most convenient are:

By train

A train pulling through the Bath Spa Station

Wikivoyage has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom.

  Bath Spa is a Victorian station on the Great Western Railway designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The station is located in the city centre. It has regular inter-city and regional train services from Bristol, London, Reading, Salisbury, Southampton, Weymouth and Swindon. From London, you should travel from London Paddington station, trains run approx every 30 minutes, journey time about 1 hour 30 minutes. Train times (from any location) can be found on the National Rail Planner or by calling 0845-748-4950 from anywhere in the UK. There is a taxi rank outside the station, and the bus station is adjacent. The station is staffed from 06:00-20:30 however the ticket office will only sell advance tickets between 08:00 and 18:00 (ignore the times on the national rail website they are wrong) There are no luggage lockers in the station; Bath Backpacker's Hostel in Pierrepont Street, which is just a few hundred feet from the station, will look after left luggage for the day for £3.00.

Oldfield Park is a stop in a residential suburb a mile or so from Bath Spa in the Bristol direction. Don't leap off the train here with all your luggage thinking you're in the middle of town!

By car

Get off the M4 at Junction 18, follow signs for about 10 miles. Use the Park-and-Ride facilities!

It is very easy to get lost in Bath, as a lot of it is one-way and there's a traffic system that prevents you driving from one side of the city to the other. You have to go out on an unofficial ring road and re-enter the city. Furthermore, the high population density, the lack of a city bypass and the low capacity of the old narrow streets means that congestion is often horrendous. In particular, on Saturdays the car parks will all be full, and the roads will be blocked by people queueing to get into these car parks, a problem made worse since the opening of the new Southgate car park. At peak times, it can be quicker to walk from the edge of Bath to town, rather than driving and finding somewhere to park. The short answer - don't drive in Bath.

Parking in central Bath is better than it used to be as there's a big new underground multi story under the Southgate Shopping Centre. Most of the smaller long stay car parks will be full by 8:30AM during the working week so you have to get in early. Major central multi-storey car parks are based underneath the Southgate Shopping Centre, Walcot Street, Manvers Street (near the train stations) and Charlotte Street (off Queens Square). Average 2010 rates are around £3 an hour - or the more prohibitive pay and display in central bath at £1.30p per 30 minutes in the most convenient street locations. Many parking bays are "residents parking only" so check before leaving your car. Traffic wardens are very efficient so don't even think of parking on a yellow line or going over your time limit. On Sundays and between 7PM and 8AM other days most parking is free, however check machines for exact details.

The best way to drive into town is to use the park and ride facilities when travelling into Bath for the day. You can park for free and then take a bus for £2.20 per adult return (round-trip, discounts exist) right into the city. The only downside to this is that the last bus leaves at 8:30PM, so you can't use this service if you're staying in Bath late.

By bus

Bath's bus station is close to the railway station and buses to most destinations outside the city leave and arrive at this location.

Get around

Most locations in Bath are easily walkable from the city centre and stations. Bath's roads can be quite congested and driving is not particularly to be recommended for local journeys, but is probably the best way of seeing the surrounding region.

By foot

Some of Bath's shopping streets feel like pedestrian only areas - but aren't. Have a quick look round before you follow everyone else out into the road and, if you're driving, expect pedestrians to walk out in front of you.

By public bus

Typically for British public transport, public buses are at best adequate. A popular 'Park and Ride' bus system operates from a ring of car parks around the outskirts of the city (Newbridge, Lansdown, Claverton Down and Odd Down). They will take you to the city centre, or to a number of the cities schools. Note that Bath's buses are often quite expensive, compared with other cities. If you are going to be taking more than 1 return journey or 1 single journey in a day, it is recommended to ask the driver for a day pass instead which gives unlimited travel on that bus company's buses in Bath. This costs around £3.70 per day. Note that there are several bus companies operating, such as WessexConnect and FareSaver, but the most useful for tourists will be buses operated by First.

By tourist bus

Tour buses complete an enjoyable circuit of main attractions - these can be picked up en route or at the main bay at 'Bog Island' (for the Skyline tour) or next to the fountain near Bath Abbey (for the city centre tour). When you see something you like just hop off at the next stop, have a look round, and hop back on the next one that comes along. Attractions en route include the historic Royal Crescent, The Circus - and some tour bus companies include a route up the winding Ralph Allen Drive past the impressive Prior Park Gardens. Tickets cost £11.50 for both the 40 minute Skyline tour and the 45 minute City Centre, hop-on, hop-off service.

By taxi

There are taxi ranks outside the train station and the Abbey, and Kingsmead square. Taxi firms are well advertised locally. The drivers know the city well and will entertain you with (often cranky) stories.

See

Landmarks

Roman Baths and the Abbey

Come out of the Roman Baths and you will see:

Come out of the main Abbey door, turn right and follow the pavement round the corner past the statue of "The Lady With The Pitcher". Pass some bookshops and a shop selling Bath Aqua Glass and cross the road to the entrance to Parade Gardens. Then follow the road to the left to see:

Cross Pulteney Bridge to see:

Go back in the direction of the Parade Gardens to catch a Hop On Hop Off Tourist bus to take you to:

The Royal Crescent - Georgian town houses
One of the windows in Bath Abbey

Parks

Bath's parks are ideal for a summer picnic although local by-laws prevent the drinking of alcohol outdoors. Topless bathing used to be frowned upon but is becoming the norm as the regenerating city becomes more cosmopolitan. The Council maintains all parks to a high standard.

Museums and galleries

A collection at the Museum of Costume

Do

Tours

There are numerous guided tours, walking tours, and audio tours of the city available. Options range for historical tours to ghost tours to pub crawls; you will find leaflets for these in most hotels, bars, and restaurants.

The 'Mayor of Bath Honorary Guide tour' is fantastic for a free pleasant two hour walk around the famous Georgian city of Bath with the Mayor of Bath's Corps of Honorary Guides. This has been going since the 1930s, and visits many famous historic and architectural places within the city, delivered by enthusiastic Bathonians. Every day of the week, see for more information.

Bath also makes a great base for day trips to the surrounding countryside. There are also tours that go to Stonehenge and places like Avebury, the village of Lacock, Castlecombe, and other surrounding villages throughout the Cotswolds. Just go to Tourist Information next to the Abbey for brochures or to book a tour.

Theatre

Rugby

Bath Rugby Club - Professional Rugby Union club playing in the top league of English Rugby, the Aviva Premiership. Bath also participate annually in a secondary competition, the Anglo-Welsh Cup, and regularly compete in the Heineken Cup against other top clubs from across Europe. Atmospheric city-centre ground on the banks of the River Avon right by Pultney Bridge. Games roughly every other weekend from October–May. Ticket prices for games run between £15-35 depending on seating/standing location. If you're visiting on a weekend, watching a match is very much recommended.

Cinema

The Odeon - is the biggest and newest cinema for the biggest and newest films. It opened in 2006.

The Little Theatre - shows arthouse and foreign films alongside the newest releases in an intimate environment.

Bath Film festival - runs from late October to mid November.

Concerts

Not many of these I'm afraid. Bath hasn't really got a suitable venue. Bands sometimes play at the Pavilion, or the Rugby Ground but it's a poor show from the city that once held The Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music. Some major classical events are held in Victoria Park but they're far from frequent. Jazz music every Thursday and other live music occasionally at St James' Wine Vaults in the north of town near the Royal Crescent. The Bell Inn on Walcot Street has live music on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Sunday lunchtime, always free and busy.

The city is pretty good for local and up-and-coming bands, though. The Porter Cellar Bar has live music 5 times a week, for example; and its sister club Moles has live music too.

Golf clubs

Bath Golf Club - Excellent, free draining hilltop course. Not overly long but a good challenge for the mid-handicapper. Always in great condition. Located at Sham Castle, near Bath University.

Tracey Park Golf Club - Appealing 27 hole parkland course between Bath and Wick (Bristol). The Crown course is superior to the Cromwell course, which has some newish holes. Nice clubhouse.

Lansdown Golf Club - Narrow fairways are a feature of this hilltop course next to Bath racecourse: can get windy.

Entry Hill - Municipal, nine-hole learners course. Not bad now that the trees have grown up. Superb views over Bath.

Cricket clubs

Visitors to Bath wanting to enjoy a summer afternoon watching cricket have some lovely grounds that welcome spectators for Saturday and Sunday fixtures:

Bath Cricket Club - Nestled in the 'bowl' beside the River Avon, the Bath Cricket Club has an imperious setting. The church on South Parade offers a picture perfect background. Located on North Parade, five minutes walk from the train station. Bath Cricket Club are one of the stronger regional league sides.

Lansdown Cricket Club - Former early 1970s home of Viv Richards, Lansdown Cricket Club is an equally attractive ground at the upper end of Bath. Located at Combe Park, next to the Royal United Hospital (near Weston village). Bus number 14 runs to Weston from Bath town centre).

Football (Soccer)

Football generally plays 2nd fiddle to Rugby Union in Bath, although there are one non-league club in the city:

Bath City Football Club - City play in the fine surroundings of Twerton Park, a traditional 'English Style' football ground and well worth a visit. They have just been promoted to the Conference, the 5th tier of English football. Average gate is around 800 and rising. Typical ticket prices are around £10 per adult and £4 per child.

Walking

Bath is a small city surrounded by lovely countryside. The National Trust's Bath Skyline Walk provides excellent views of the city - or you can simply wander along the canal for 40 minutes to The George Inn at Bathampton for good food in a delightful setting.

Get wet

Bath is the only place in Britain where you can bathe in hot natural waters. You can't leap into the Roman Baths but you can pamper yourself at the Thermae Bath Spa across the road. The "Thermae Bath Spa" is a modern spa in the heart of Bath one block over from the original Roman Baths. It is a four story day spa, that uses the "healing waters" to sooth and relax. The waters are filtered but remain warm in the indoor and outdoor roof pool. A great way to spend an afternoon or evening relaxing in the warm waters looking out over the city architecture. They offer everything from massages to a "kraken stove" steam bath but just spending a couple of hours soaking in the indoor pool, steam baths and roof deck outdoor pool is great fun.

Read a detective novel set in Bath

Two authors have written a series of detective novels set in the city: Christopher Lee's started with "The Killing of Sally Keemer" and Peter Lovesey's first was "The Last Detective". You can buy them in Waterstone's bookshop at the top of Milsom Street.

Learn

Bath is home to the University of Bath, a very well respected institution that focuses on the sciences, engineering and social sciences. Bath University has world-class sports facilities used by British olympic athletes. It is located at the top of Bathwick hill, about one mile east of the city centre.

Bath has recently acquired its second university called Bath Spa University. The main campus is in a rural setting at Newton Park to the west of the city.

As with most tourism-heavy cities in the United Kingdom, Bath has a selection of Language Schools, and colleges for international students. Some of these institutions include International House, Words4Work and Bath Academy.

Work

The Ministry Of Defence was a major local employer until 2012. The city has a large technology, finance, and property sector. Outside that Bathonians are generally employed in lower paid tourist, retail and dining industries. The universities and hospital are also large employers. Future Publishing, a large magazine and media company, has many offices in Bath.

Buy

The 2010 Southgate Shopping Centre is constructed in a mock Georgian style and features a selection of mid-to-upper range clothing chains plus some pretty good places to eat. It is opposite the railway and bus station but offers little of interest for the tourist as it provides predominantly mainstream retailers available in many high streets in Britain. This was a historic area up until the 1960s when it was demolished due to persistent flooding problems.

Boutique shopping can be found in the North part of the centre, notable for its art and antique showrooms. Head up Milsom Street to George Street and beyond. Bath claims to have one of the highest percentages of independent shops in any British high-street. You will enjoy wandering around but you're unlikely to buy much. There are no "must have" souveniers to buy in Bath.

Walcot street to the North East of the centre has been designated the "artisan quarter" by the Council and has a number of independent stores.

Eat

For its size, Bath has an excellent choice of eateries for any budget and taste. Mainstream restaurant chains are present as well as many independents. Within the city centre there are Italian, French, Thai, Nepali, Indian, Spanish, Turkish, Japanese and fusion restaurants. There are also specialist fish, steak, and gourmet restaurants. Most pubs sell food at lunchtime and in the evening. The list below is far from exhaustive:

Lunch

Sally Lunn's, exterior view

Dinner

Indian Restaurants

Bath is well served in this department. Generally all of them are good and two are exceptional:

Thai Restaurants

Fish Restaurants

Snacks & treats

Fast food

Head to Kingsmead Square for burgers, kebabs etc. The following are a cut above the post-pub takeaways and are highly recommended:

Local specialities

Drink

Bath, has a huge array of pubs and bars to choose from, ranging from the very traditional pubs serving real ale to the typical trendy bars:

The Salamander, exterior view

The most notable pubs:

Other notable pubs are:

Notable bars are:

Country pubs near Bath

There are many great pubs in the countryside around Bath. The following have been selected based on a real sense of history and/or a great place to sit outside in the summer months:

Nightclubs

Considering the size of this small city there are a reasonable number of nightclubs to be found, in no small part helped by the city's substantial student population. Most club nights cater to mainstream tastes, while serious clubbers tend to travel further afield to the larger cities of Bristol and London. Posters and fliers advertising more specialist nights can be found in locations such as the walls inside the town's independent fast food outlets. A unique aspect (for better or for worse) of Bath's nightclubs is that many of them are located in the cellars of old Georgian buildings and can weave through the ground like mazes.

Water

You can drink the hot Bath mineral water in the Pump Rooms in the Abbey Churchyard. It costs about 50p and is served from a fountain in the restaurant area. The experience is unforgettable: it has a unique taste due to the minerals that the Romans believed had health benefits for the drinker. This is an unmissable experience!

Sleep

Typical Georgian architecture of Bath, as viewed looking north-west from Bathwick Hill

Accommodation in and around Bath ranges from budget hostels and smart, comfortable self-catering homes, through elegant bed and breakfast and guest houses, hospitable farms and inns, to top-of-the-range hotels.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Stay safe

Overall Bath is a very safe city to visit; the large number of tourists and university students generates a friendly and vigorous feel to the city. Bath city centre is lively and bustling until late on Friday and Saturday evenings, although things get rougher around kicking out time late at night. Women would be well advised to avoid wandering around alone at night. The common problem for tourists is the occasional groups of homeless beggars around the parks and abbey - you may see them drinking lager and shouting abuse, which can surprise many first-time visitors. However, they're not pushy when asking for money, and argue amongst themselves rather than getting passers-by involved. Accept it as a byproduct of a city that attracts tourism (and therefore money), and it's no problem.

The river between Pultney Bridge and the weir looks good for a spot of swimming when you're young and fit. It is actually very dangerous, and every year people die doing it. Warleigh weir is good if you're looking for a swim - about 3 miles along the canal.

If you're a keen cyclist, there's a wonderful Bath-to-Bristol cycle path at your disposal. However, please be aware that there have been robberies and attacks on this stretch of cycle path in 2008. Police have made arrests, but it's something you should consider if planning to make the journey.

Connect

Telephone

Bath's landline area code is 1225. Dial 01225 from within the UK or +44 1225 from outside the UK.

To find out more about what to do and see, and where to stay in Bath, contact Bath Visitor Information Centre: 0906 7112000 (50p/min) or see: www.visitbath.co.uk

Internet

Bath Library (in the Podium Shopping Centre) offers Internet access at £3.60 an hour for non members.

There are a couple of small Internet cafés across the road from the train station. Many cafés and pubs offer free wireless internet access for your laptop, such as Wetherspoons or Bell Inn on Walcot Street where you can plug your laptop in free of charge. Many pubs also offer paid wireless internet, including the Saracen's Head and St. Christopher's Inn. Also try the Adventure Cafe on George Street.

Cope

Local press

There are various online sources which publicise local events, but probably the best thing is to pick up The Bath Chronicle (published weekly on Thursdays), or a copy of Venue Magazine (analogous to London's 'Time Out') from a newsagent. Venue is weekly (except around Christmas/New Year), costs £1.50, and new editions are usually available on Wednesdays.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 25, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.