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Are you longing for an unforgettable getaway to one of Britain’s most desirable cities? If so, then a trip to Bath is exactly what you need! This stunning English city has an illustrious history that dates back to Roman times, making it one of the most fascinating places in Europe. Its charming streets are full of unique shops, cafes, and pubs that feel like stepping into another world. This post will provide you with everything you need to know about planning your trip to Bath, as well as all the best free things to do once you get there! So come join me on a tour of one of Britain’s most treasured destinations.

5 reasons why you should visit Bath

If you are still deciding whether to invest the time to read this article, let me give you a quick snapshot of why Bath should be on your bucket list when you are next in the UK!

  • It’s architecture! Bath is one of the most beautiful cities I have been to in the UK. You could spend hours walking the many streets of Bath, gawping at the stunning Georgian architecture. It is a photographer’s paradise too, with so many unique buildings to capture. Definitely one of the top free things you can do in Bath!
  • The Roman Baths! Built around the only naturally occurring hot springs in the UK, the Roman Baths are one of Britain’s best examples of Roman history. And why not treat yourself to a spa treatment while there?
  • Bath has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and in 2021, it became one of the eleven cities on the transnational World Heritage Site list: “Great Spa Towns of Europe”.
  • It has been inspiring artists for decades! Jane Austen used to live in Bath in the 19th century, and Charles Dicken was also a frequent visitor to the city. Bath is also the place that inspired Mary Shelley to finish “Frankenstein”.
  • The cakes! There are no end of charming coffee shops dotted around the city with the most delectable cakes. I’m sure the coffee is good too, but as a non-coffee drinker, I don’t feel I can cast judgement on that. But the cakes…..

And if those reasons haven’t convinced you, then I’m sure these photos will!

Fun Fact about Bath

  • Uranus was discovered in Bath by British astronomer William Herschel, in his back garden, through a telescope he had made himself!

Where is Bath?

A map of the UK with an arrow pointing to where Bath is
Map courtesy of Bath Heritage

Nestled in the South West of England, Bath is the largest city in the county of Somerset and is one of the most southerly points within the Cotswolds. It is conveniently located with excellent transport links from Bristol and London. Bristol is only 11 miles away, while London is less than 100. In fact, writing that has made me think of a new challenge. How about walking from London to Bath? It won’t be the first time I walk to Bath. In 2020 I completed the Cotswold Way, which is a 100-mile footpath connecting Chipping Campden in Northern Cotswolds with Bath in the Southern Cotswolds.

How to get to Bath

Bath is a well-connected city with great transport links. Of course, how you get there depends on where you are coming from, but hopefully the below gives you some ideas.

By Rail

The Bath Spa Railway Station is located in the heart of the city and is very well connected to several parts of the country. There are direct trains from London Paddington (80 minutes) and Bristol Temple Meads (15 minutes). Even if travelling from further afield, like Birmingham or Oxford, it is still an easy journey with a single change. The Trainline App is the best App for booking train journeys as it works out all the changes for you.

By Coach/ Bus

Travelling by coach to Bath is yet another very convenient (and often far cheaper) way to get there. Most major cities around England are well connected to Bath by coach. For example, London Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick Airport, and the London Coach Station all have regular coaches running to the Bath bus station.

There are also several local buses operating routes in the areas, which makes it ideal for exploring nearby villages and towns.

By Road

If you are coming by car, then Bath is located just a few miles off Junction 18 on the M4 Motorway and not far off the M5 motorway too.

Please note that Bath operates a Clean Air Zone (CAZ), meaning certain vehicles will need to pay a fee if entering the city. You can find out whether your vehicle is exempt from the charge on the Bath Council page. This is also where you can pay.

To avoid the charge, you can always choose to park in one of Bath’s Park and Ride stations. Parking is free if using the bus service. You have three Park and Ride Options:

Landsdown in the North of Bath. – The postcode is: BA1 9BJ.

Newbridge in the West of Bath – The postcode is: BA1 3NB.

Odd Down in the South of Bath – The postcode is: BA3 8PA.

The return bus fare from each of those locations is £3.20 Monday to Friday and £2.50 at the weekends. The journeys take approximately 10 minutes from each.

Free parking in Bath

If you decide to drive into the city centre, there are a few options for free parking; however, with the exception of Bath University, they are only helpful if you spend only a short time in Bath. And let’s be honest, with so much to do, you will want to spend at least a full day there!

  • Bath University Car Park (BA2 7JX) – free after 5 pm and all day on public holidays
  • Sydney Road (BA2 6NS) – free for 4 hours
  • Sydney Wharf (BA2 4BG) – free for 4 hours
  • Raby Mews (BA2 4EJ) – free for 2 hours
  • Daniel Street (BA2 6NB) – free for 2 hours

When is the best time to visit Bath?

Bath is a magical city all year round. Of course, with each passing season, the charm of Bath changes a little, but there is always something worth looking forward to:

Bath in Spring

A bed of beautiful daffodils.

There is no prettier time to visit the Cotswolds than during Spring, and Bath is no different. The parks become alive with flowers while the tree-lined Georgian streets bloom. It truly does become picture-perfect. Although Instagram has led to an increase in “Spring Bloom Photoshoots”, it is still much quieter than the Summer months.

One of my favourite times to visit Bath is during the annual Comedy Festival. In 2023 it will be taking place between the 26th of March and the 16th of April. The city gets taken over by comedians and artists, adding a plethora of free activities to do while you are here. It is also a great opportunity to see some of the big household names too!

Between the 12th and 21st of May 2023, there is another festival in Bath, this time the Bath Festival, which celebrates music and books. On the opening night, Bath comes alive with free music and entertainment, with hundreds of artists performing across the city. If you like live music, this is not a night to be missed. You can find out more on the official website.

Another great festival taking place in Spring is the Bath Fringe Festival. In 2023 it will be taking place between the 26th of May and the 11th of June. Not quite as big as the Edinburgh Fringe, it is still a great time to visit Bath. Exhibitions and performances pop up across the city, including arts, crafts, comedy, theatre, and music. There are also lots of free events that take place during the Bath Fringe.

Bath in Summer

Summertime sees a significant increase in visitors to the city. It is the high season and therefore you can not only expect everything to be busier, but accommodation will be significantly more expensive too. The weather is generally nice though, which makes it perfect for al fresco dining. It is not unusual to see 100s of people enjoying a picnic on the lawn in front of the Crescent. There is a great vibe in the city in the Summer, and there are always plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy. However, there are much fewer events going on.

In fact, it isn’t until September that the festivals kick back in again in earnest! But more about those below!

Bath in Autumn

A bench surrounded by brown fallen leaves

Autumn is another of my favourite seasons. The crowds start to dissipate the prices begin to come down. Yet we tend to experience very mild and pleasant autumns in the UK, so the weather is generally good. You have the added bonus of the turning of the leaves, which adds yet another layer of beauty to this already magnificent Georgian city.

There is also plenty going on with the Jane Austin Festival taking place between the 8th and 17th of September 2023 and the Bath Walking Festival, which will be taking place between the 9th and 24th of September 2023. If you are a foodie, you won’t want to miss out on the Great Bath Feast, which takes place between the 22nd and 24th of September in 2023. It is a festival celebrating the best food and drink in the South West. It is always packed with delicious food and plenty of culinary activities like demos, tastings, and masterclasses.

If you are a keen runner, consider joining the Bath Half Marathon that takes place every October. There is always a great atmosphere, and it is the perfect excuse to work up an appetite to try all the cake!

Bath in Winter

Bath at night

Although England is known for its gloomy grey winters, it doesn’t necessarily make it a bad time to visit Bath. On the contrary, it is a great time to find some great bargains on accommodation, and you won’t need to worry about a selfie stick in the eye. However, Bath still has charm, especially once the winter lights are switched on and the Christmas markets come to town.

The Festival vibes are a little different in the Winter months. You can expect the Bath Film Festival, the dates for which have yet to be announced, and the Mozart Festival, which will take place between the 10th and 18th of November 2023. It is also a great time to visit Bath Abbey for one of their 20-minute Christmas carol services, guaranteed to put you in the Christmas spirit!

As you can see, no matter when you visit, you will find plenty of things to do in Bath, and never any shortage of free things either!

What are the most popular things to do in Bath?

There is so much to do in Bath that it is hard to pick! For this reason, I have divided my top picks into the most popular things to do in Bath, the most unusual activities, and the freebies!

Visit the Roman Baths

The Roman baths with steam coming off the water

Visiting the Roman Baths is an experience like none other. From the ancient mosaic floors to the iconic 18th-century Georgian architecture, it’s sure to be a treat for anyone interested in history and archaeology. Take a journey back in time as you explore this historic site.

The Roma Baths sit below the current street level, as is the case with most roman remnants left in the UK. In fact, the Roman Baths weren’t discovered until the end of the 19th century, having been used and repurposed various times throughout the centuries for Royals. The Roman Baths are now a museum that allows you to learn about the kind of life enjoyed by people during the Roman era through interactive displays and audio-visual experiences.

Of course, a stop at Britain’s only thermal spa is a must. Take advantage of warm thermal waters, which have been used for relaxing and healing since Roman times! Whether you want to learn about history or pamper yourself with some natural therapy, visiting the Roman Baths in Bath is sure to be memorable. Please note that the spa you can enjoy today is adjacent to the Romans Baths. As the original Bath is still fed by the same lead pipes the Romans used, the water is not exactly safe!  

The Roman baths as seen from above

Entry Fee: Adults: £17.50 on weekdays and £20 at weekends. Students and Senior citizens with valid ID cards receive a concession a £1 concession, making it £16.50 on weekdays and £19 at weekends.

Opening Times: The Roman Baths are open every day except the 25th and 26th of December. Opening hours are 10 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, and 9 am to 6 pm at weekends.

Address: Roman Baths, Abbey Church Yard, Bath, BA1 1LZ

Roman Baths Website

Relax at the Thermae Bath Spa

Stones piled on top of each other with flowers and candles in the background

Thermae Bath Spa is a unique spa that sources the same mineral-rich water that the Romans used more than 2000 years ago for ailments and general upkeep! Running since 2006, Thermae Bath Spa has been Britain’s only natural thermal spa. This day spa offers various traditional healing treatments as well as modern spa facilities. Its two most well-known treatments include the Hot Stone Spa Therapy, which uses the heat of basalt volcanic stones for muscle relaxation, and a traditional Roman massage. Visitors also can soak in the Bath waters until sunset as well as dine at their Springs Cafe – or even book a Wellness Suite for one of the most relaxing things to do in Bath!

Please visit their website for more details on packages.

Thermae Bath Spa

Get the best views in Bath by joining the Bath Abbey Tower Tour

The impressive Bath Abbey, one of the free things you can do in Bath

Bath Abbey is a majestic Gothic-style Anglican Cathedral located in the center of the city. I’m not one for visiting churches, but Bath Abbey is one I make an exception for! Originally a Benedictine monastery, it didn’t survive the dissolution of the monasteries, so in 1499, the cathedral’s construction as we know it today started.

Considered to have one of the finest fan-vaulted ceilings in the country, Bath Abbey soars 90 feet up toward the heavens. It’s like stepping into a different world as soon as you enter. Take time to admire the intricately patterned floor tiles recently restored to their former glory and appreciate the soaring 15th Century stained glass that still adorns many of the windows. Entry into the Abbey is free. However, donations are encouraged since it costs £3,000 a week to run the Abbey (apparently).

Bath abbey and one of its statues

They offer regular services throughout the week along with fascinating guided tours that bring its rich history to life. One of the main reasons to go on this tour is that it provides you access to the 49 metre high tower, from where you will get spectacular 360 views across the city. You will also gain access to areas of the cathedral not otherwise open to the public, including the clock and bell chamber. 

Tour Fee: £10 for adults and £5 for children

Opening Times: Tours run Monday to Saturday.

Address: Bath BA1 1LT

Bath Abbey Tour Website

Visit The Jane Austen Centre

An old English bank note with a drawing of Jane Austen

It is common knowledge that apart from its Roman history, Bath has also contributed significantly to British Literature. It would be blasphemous then if you visit Bath and don’t end up at the Jane Austen Centre – especially if you are a literary fanatic. The Jane Austen Centre is a small museum that chronicles the life of the great writer who gave the world masterpieces such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma. The museum is situated in a beautiful Georgian Grade II listed building. They also host several walking tours around the city highlighting key points from Austen’s life.

There is so much love for Jane Austen that there is even an annual festival that takes place every September. In 2023 it will take place between the 8th and 17th of September. One of the highlights of the festival is the Regency Costumed Promenade which sees over 500 people dressing up in regency costumes. It is quite the sight!

Complete your Jane Austen experience by visiting the Regency Tearoom, which serves light lunches, exquisite cakes, and piping hot tea.

Entry Fee: Adults £13.25, Children £6.50

Opening Times: Sunday to Friday, 10am – 4:30pm. Saturday, 10am – 5:30pm

Address: 40 Gay St, Bath BA1 2NT

Jane Austen Centre Website

What are the unusual things to do in Bath?

You know me well enough by now to know that the things I like to do most when I’m visiting somewhere new are the more unusual ones! Don’t get me wrong, popular activities are popular for a reason. Still, there is something special about finding the hidden off-the-beaten-path quirky activities.

Calling all Bridgerton Fans!

The Netflix hit show Bridgerton has taken the world by storm, especially given its eye-catching filming locations. The series is predominantly filmed in Bath, and several of the city’s iconic landmarks appear throughout the show. For instance, Pulteney Bridge and Weir can be seen in several key scenes, most notably during Daphne’s coming out ball in episode 1. Many interior scenes were also shot at Tyntesfield House near Bristol. In addition, the romantic walks between Daphne and the Duke were filmed throughout the Royal Victoria Park gardens, and Sally Lunn’s Eating House doubles as a baroness’ house. You can find all of these filming locations on your own if you wish, making it a great activity to do for free when in Bath. However, why not join a guided tour instead? They will even be able to bring it alive with music!!

 

Eat Buns at Bath’s Oldest Standing House

A cake that I hope represents Bath's most famous bun: the Sally Lunn

Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House and Museum is thought to be one of Bath’s oldest houses! It was built sometime around 1482. Today, this quaint tearoom is known all over the world for its Sally Lunn Buns, a light heavenly brioche creation found nowhere else but here in this teahouse in Bath. The owners of the tearoom say that the recipe came to them through a Huguenot refugee around the 1680s.

It does have a contender though! The Bath Bun! More widely available throughout Bath, the Bath bun is a sweet dough roll sprinkled with currents and sugar. You will need to try both and decide which is your favourite!

Sally Lunn’s Address: 4 North Parade Passage, Bath BA1 1NX

Go Shopping at a Railway Station

The Green Park Railway Station in Bath is a well-worth attraction, with its beautiful Victorian architecture and remarkable history. The station has been restored to its original glory, with exceptionally preserved features that offer an insight into the city’s past. Known initially as Bath Queen Square, the station last saw a train in 1971. Luckily, this beautiful Grade II listed building has been turned into a thriving shopping centre, so apart from taking a step back in time, you can also look forward to a host of quirky shops, cafes, and restaurants. In addition, every Saturday, a market pops up with over 20 stands selling local arts and crafts. Definitely worth checking out when in Bath.

Address: Green Park Rd, Bath BA1 1JB

Watch a Play in an Egg!

Yes, you read that right – you can watch a play inside an egg! The Egg is an egg-shaped theatre (I bet you guessed that!) that is part of the Bath Royal Theatre! Situated inside a Grade II listed Victorian building, the Egg specifically aims at inspiring, entertaining, and educating children. Put simply, the aim is to promote joy! So if you are planning to visit Bath with children, make sure you add a play at the Egg to your bucket list. It is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining and unique things for kids to do in Bath!

The Egg Website

Go on a ghost Tour

I promised you unique things to do in Bath, so here you have it! Why not explore Bath’s most haunted corners on a one and half hour walking tour of the city? They promise gruesome tails, paranormal experiments, some theatre, and a lot of fun! I have yet to do it myself, but having done one in Bourton on the Water, I would certainly sign up for another one!

Cycle the Bath Two Tunnels Circuit

If you fancy getting active while in Bath, then hire a bike and cycle the Two Tunnels Greenway, a 13-mile circular route taking in some of the most spectacular views surrounding Bath. Starting off in the historical centre, you will follow an old train line through the Mile Long Combe Tunnel with its fun interactive light and sound installations before taking you over the spectacular Tucking Hill viaduct and past the Dundas Aqueduct. As you can probably guess by the name, there is also a second tunnel on this route!

There are several bike hire companies in Bath, none of which I have used and therefore can’t personally recommend. However, Bath Bike Hire claims to offer the cheapest bike hire with the largest selection of bikes available. It costs £20 to hire a bike with them for the day.

Of course, if you choose to walk or run the loop, you suddenly have a great free activity to do in Bath!

Free things to do in Bath!

Being a tourist costs money. There is no way around it. After all, cities want to make the most of your visit! However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t also plenty of free things to do! And Bath is no exception!

Visit Sydney Gardens

A beautiful Georgian building with a bed of lavender in Syndeny Garden. A great free activity to do in Bath
Image Courtesy of Bath & NE Somerset Council

Sydney Gardens is a 31-acre green space located in the center of Bath. It can be enjoyed by anyone, as it features meandering pathways and trails that lead to tranquil forests and benches nestled among grassy lawns. The gardens are pretty historic too – they were once part of the former pleasure grounds surrounding Sydney House, which belonged to Henry Bordeuin in 1795. Today, visitors can explore historical features such as the ‘Ha-ha’ sunken wall, designed to keep cattle away from the inner gardens during the Georgian period! Recently restored to its 18th-century glory, Sydney Gardens also boasts a stage for events and performances. So whether you need some quiet time outdoors or yearn for a walk through history, know that it was one of Jane Austen’s favourite places too.

Take a stroll on the Bath Skyline Walk

Bath as seen from the hill

The Bath Skyline Walk is an absolute must if you’re trying to find free things to do in Bath. Managed by the National Trust, the Bath Skyline walk is a circular high-ground footpath taking in the mesmerising views of Bath’s cityscape. From the high vantage spot, you can see all the city’s prominent landmarks while connecting with the rural nature surrounding Bath. This 6-mile walk passes through some of the top attractions surrounding the city, including places like Bathampton Down, Bathwick Hall, Richens Orchard, Prior Park Landscape Garden, Sham Castle, and Smallcombe Cemetery.

Geek Out on the Architecture

Bath Abbey beautifully framed from under an arch

The charm of Bath is nothing without its unique Georgian-era buildings – each more memorable than the last. And the best part about Bath’s stunning architecture is that you can appreciate the building’s beauty from the outside, for free! You can expect to find gems around every corner, so I encourage you to roam the streets to see what you find. However, below are the buildings I would certainly not want you to miss!

The Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent in Bath is one of the most iconic landmarks in Britain. It was designed by John Wood the Elder between 1767 and 1775 and consists of 30 terraced homes arranged in a semicircular shape. The Georgian-style homes boast impressive stonework, exquisite sculptures, and beautifully landscaped gardens that add to the building’s historic charm. Although no longer home to any royalty, it still captures the admiration of visitors who flock to this majestic street for a glimpse of 18th-century elegance.

The Circus

The impressive circus building in Bath as seen from behind a red postbox

The Circus – originally called the King’s Circus – is a ring of large townhouses laid out to form a complete circle. This Grade I listed Georgian structure was also built in the mid to late 1700s and designed by the same architect as the Royal Crescent: John Wood the Elder. It is one of the most iconic pieces of Georgian architecture on the British Isles. It is said that together with the Royal Crescent, they represent the sun and the moon.

Pulteney Bridge

Pultney Bridge

The Pulteney Bridge in Bath is truly a sight to behold. Built by William Chambers in 1769-1774, using sublime Georgian architecture, the bridge spans the River Avon and is considered one of the most romantic spots in the city. It was designed by the English architect Robert Adam and is modelled after the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy. What makes the bridge distinctive from other bridges in Britain, however, is its weir system – a series of nine small locks which keep a constant depth of water beneath the bridge. It is now a Grade I listed building and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Assembly Rooms

The Assembly Rooms in Bath have been a hub of social activity since the 18th century. There are four main function rooms: the Ball Room, the Card Room, the Hectogon, and the Tea Room. They were used to host an array of events, from musical recitals to private dinners and card parties. Originally built as the centerpiece for Georgian high-society entertainment, visitors today can discover the grandeur and style of this period with its splendid decoration and impressive façades. During your visit, you can admire the intricate detailing in each room, such as ornate fireplaces, mirrors, and chandeliers. There’s also a museum tracing the history and functions of this fascinating building. Just think, you will be standing in the same room that Jane Austen and Charles Dickens once did!

Go on a Free Jane Austen self-guided audio tour

The beautiful yellow stone houses of Bath

Not all tours cost money! In fact, Visit Bath has a great Audio Tour focusing on what life was like for Jane Austin. As part of the tour, you will pass most of the city’s highlights, and through excerpts from her books, you will be able to imagine what life was like in Bath in the 18th century.

The tour should take you roughly one and a half hours. However, you can stop and start it as you wish. All you have to do is download the Audio Tour and Map, and you are set to explore Jane Austin’s footsteps entirely for free.

How long should I visit Bath for?

If you’re planning a visit to Bath, it really depends on what kind of activities you’d like to pursue while you’re there! The city is full of museums, shops, restaurants, and plenty of other great attractions. You could easily spend an entire day just exploring the city streets alone. A long weekend would be ideal for indulging in some of these attractions without feeling too rushed. And if your priority while visiting Bath is to take in as much culture and history as possible, then longer stays are even more recommended – a week would be perfect for getting the full experience of everything that Bath has to offer and would even give you the chance to take some day trips too.

Will you be adding Bath to your bucket list?

There is so much to do in Bath, and I haven’t even touched on the food scene! That is coming on a different blog! Over a decade ago, I lived in Bradford on Avon, a charming village not far from Bath. I’d often head into Bath at the weekends. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the place. I just wish I’d been interested in travel and photography back then, as I feel I really missed out by not exploring it to its full potential.

So don’t be like me! Make sure that when you do visit Bath, you spend at least a weekend there. Don’t be tempted by one of the London Day tours that promise to show you the entirety of the Cotswolds in a single day. Instead, take your time, make a weekend or a week of it, and truly absorb Bath’s lovely atmosphere.

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If you have any questions, please do reach out. You can find me on Instagram @bea_adventurous_, or alternatively, you can send me an email at bea@bea-adventurous.com. There is nothing I love more than connecting with my readers, and I am always happy to talk about travel.

If you are interested in other Cotswolds blogs, I suggest you check out:

Top 10 Places to see in North Cotswolds

The Cotswolds by Train: Moreton in Marsh

Cotswold’s Most beautiful town: Bourton on the Water

All Cotswolds blogs

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