If you’re planning to spend a day in the city of Bath, you’re in good company: tourists have been coming here since Roman times! Of course, it is much easier to get here now, and fast trains make it an ideal day trip from London. But why is the city so popular with tourists, and what is there for them to see and do?
Bath Is Where The Romans Took Their Holidays
Bath is famous for its natural hot springs, and it was a spa town even before the Romans arrived. But it was the Romans who put it on the tourist map. They developed the city, building a massive complex of baths and temples. This became known as a place of health and religious pilgrimage and attracted visitors from throughout the empire.
Even though the Romans are long gone, their baths remain the number one tourist spot. The site was redeveloped in the 18th century and now incorporates elegant Georgian buildings. There is also an impressive museum dedicated to Bath in Roman times.
Bath Was The Most Fashionable Place In Georgian England
In the 18th and 19th centuries Bath, with its healing waters, was one of the most fashionable places in the country. Wealthy visitors flocked to the city, staying for anything from a few weeks to a few years. This prompted a lot of new construction work, and most of Bath’s most famous buildings date from this period.
What you see today is a series of classically proportioned crescents, terraces and squares. They are all fashioned from the characteristic yellow Bath stone: even modern buildings use this material. Your time for exploration may be limited, but don’t miss The Circus and The Royal Crescent, possibly the most important examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in England.
Bath Is Still A Spa Town
Bath is the only place in Britain with natural thermal springs. Unfortunately you can no longer bathe in the Roman Baths, but there are other options. The Thermae Bath Spa, in the city centre, combines historic baths and buildings with modern, state of the art facilities, including a restaurant. The rooftop pool is very popular for its views, particularly at sunset.
Nearby is The Gainsborough, a hotel with a luxurious spa based around the city’s hot springs.
Famous Writers Lived in Bath
Because Bath was so fashionable several writers visited or lived here for a while. Literature-lovers could easily spend a whole day following in the footsteps of writers like Charles Dickens or Mary Shelley (author of Frankenstein), or many others who are associated with the city.
However, the most famous Bath writer is Jane Austen, who visited the city regularly and featured it in all of her novels. The Jane Austen Centre is a museum devoted to her life and work (it also gives a fascinating glimpse into life during the Regency period). And, as you walk around the city, you can look for many of the places she wrote about.
You might be able to time your visit to coincide with one of Bath’s literary festivals. These include the Bath Festival, the Jane Austen Festival and the Bath Children’s Literature Festival.
Bath Has Been Featured In Lots Of Films
You may feel a sense of déjà vu when you visit Bath. That is because you are likely to have seen many of its locations on screen, either on the TV or at the cinema. The cobbled streets and picture-perfect buildings make it very popular with the producers of period dramas.
If you are a fan of Bridgerton, the new Netflix series, you will have seen images of the city, including the Royal Crescent and the Assembly Rooms. And Bath has been featured in many other productions, including Persuasion and Les Misérables.
There Is Lots Of Choice For Food And Drink
When it comes to eating and drinking, visitors are spoilt for choice, with everything from fast food to historic pubs to top-end restaurants. And you will find a whole range of different cuisines to choose from. There are even some exclusively vegetarian and vegan cafés and restaurants (I recommend the excellent Indian Temptation in the city centre).
You may not be surprised to hear that Bath has some culinary specialities of its own. Perhaps you have heard of the Bath bun, a sweet dough roll topped with sugar and dried fruit. This dates back to the 18th century and is said to have been a favourite of Jane Austen. Today you will find it in bakeries and tea shops. Or enjoy it in the historic setting of the Pump Room, the elegant Georgian meeting place that is now a restaurant and tea room.
The Sally Lunn bun also originated in Bath. This is a sort of a cross between a cake and a bread roll, with a sweet or savoury topping. Enjoy the original (secret) recipe in the place where they were invented, Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House. (This is also a fascinating building and the oldest house in Bath, built in 1482 on top of a Roman basement.)
A Final Thought
This is just a few of the many reasons to visit Bath. There is actually far more to see and do in the city than you could fit into a day, including if you’re visiting Bath on a budget.
If you have more time, why not stay for a few days? There are museums, parks, walks with spectacular views and much more.
And if you’ve come on a day trip from London (one of the best places to visit in Europe), have you considered a day trip to Cambridge? It’s another fantastic location to discover a stone throw’s away from the capital.