Famous for its Georgian architecture and Roman ruins, Bath is a wonderful little city in southwest England. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, the city is within an easy train ride of London and is also close to Bristol. It has two universities and is home to a thriving local arts and culture scene.
The River Avon runs through its heart and hills surround the city on all sides. More modern parts of the city and the majority of the suburbs are on the south side of Bath, whereas the majority of the Georgian architecture is on the northern side. There is so much to see and do here – you’re sure to come back after your first visit to catch all the things you missed the first time around. Over the years, Bath has been home to many famous residents, most notably the author Jane Austen and the painter Thomas Gainsborough. Bath is a highly affluent city and this is reflected in the shops and restaurants on offer. Although possible to visit on a budget, it is a city that it is best explored with deep pockets.
My favourite place
Royal Victoria Park has to be my favourite place in Bath. Walk up the hill from the main shopping streets, pass through The Circus and then the Royal Crescent on your right and go straight through the tall iron gates for a relaxing wander around the wide, open spaces. The park is also home to botanical gardens and aviaries for exotic birds. Perhaps the best part, though, is that you can sit on the grass in the evening and look across the city to the southern slopes in the distance and watch the sun drop behind the hill line.
The annual Christmas Market is certainly a highpoint of the calendar. The square surrounding the abbey is packed with market traders selling all nature of gifts and seasonal paraphernalia. Certainly one of things I enjoyed visiting most during my time in Bath was the abbey. Situated in the centre of town, the tower dominates the local skyline and its bell can be heard all across the city centre when it tolls.
A trip to the top of town to the Circus and the Royal Crescent is essential as they are two of the most elegant areas of the city, architecturally speaking. Designed and built by John Wood the Elder and his son, they are wonders of early modern classical architecture and are key points on the tourist trail. Another place to visit is the Roman Baths, probably Bath’s most famous tourist attraction, drawing more than one million people annually. Built on the site of a natural spring and formally constructed in 60-70AD, the complex developed and grew over 300 years. Next door to the baths is The Pump Room, which serves the best afternoon tea and cakes in the city and often has a pianist playing during the afternoon.
Bath is wonderful, but eye-wateringly expensive. This is not a city break that can be done on the cheap. Save up to do Bath properly and hang the expense is my advice.
It is impossible to visit Bath and not see a souvenir shop. The main ones are in the square surrounding the abbey and sell all kinds of tourist items. My favourite shop for souvenirs, though, is the Bath Aqua Glass shop next door to the abbey. Glass has been made in Bath since Roman times and today, they continue the tradition with each piece sold made within the city. They make a vast range of products from tableware to jewellery and decorative items, so you are bound to find that special piece just for you.
Where to stay
Bath has several notable hotels, perhaps none more so than the Royal Crescent. Offering opulent luxury and situated in the city’s most sought-after address, the Royal Crescent Hotel is certainly the place to stay in style. There are many cheaper options, however, and the new Premier Inn on James Street West is ideal for those travellers on a tighter budget.
Five things to do:
1. Visit the Roman Baths and the abbey
2. Have a walk around Royal Victoria Park
3. Shop; Bath has some of the best shopping outside of London
4. Buy a piece of Roman Aqua Glass
5. Take tea in The Pump Room