For centuries, people have been drawn to the city of Bath, England for one reason; to take to the waters. Named for the Roman baths (hot springs), which were once said to have healing powers, this town built of local limestone has transformed from a getaway for Europe’s aristocrats to one of the most coveted tourist destinations in all of England.
Although many people flock to Bath for the sheer fact it was once home to Jane Austen, most seek out this town to revel in the stunning Georgian architecture, the shopping, spas and its historical significance. Many have referred to the town as an open-air museum, with something significant on nearly every corner. With Bath just an hour and a half from London, it makes a perfect day or weekend trip.
Where to stay
Stay in the center of town at the Francis Hotel. This recently renovated boutique hotel, with 98 rooms, is just steps from Milsom Street, the famous Crescent and the Queen Square. The hotel was originally built in the 1700s as townhouses for the elite and was turned into a hotel in the 1800s. Each room is decorated with a different antique motif, and some rooms offer views of the bustling streets. Rooms start at $245 USD.
If a bed and breakfast is more your taste, book your stay at the Windsor, a renovated Georgian townhome located in the heart of Bath. The hotel is just steps from the Assembly Hall and only 10 minutes from the Roman baths. This five-star B & B has 13 rooms, each individually decorated with period pieces. Like many hotels in the area, a fresh continental breakfast is included with your stay. Rooms start at $180 USD.
Where to play
From museums to historic churches, there is a ton to keep you occupied while strolling this World Heritage Site. First on your list should be the Roman baths and Thermae Bath Spa. The baths were constructed around the year A.D. 60, and the bathing house was constructed over the span of 300 years. Today it’s a museum you can walk through. Just next door is the Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the same hot springs the Roman baths used for water treatments and relaxation. Spend a few hours in the upper-deck hot pool, which offers sweeping views of the city.
Just a few steps from the bath is Bath Abbey. The church is still a working place of worship and is closed to visitors on Sundays. The admission is free but the Tower tour has an entry fee. We recommend doing it; the views of the entire city are breath-taking (ask for Cara as your guide). Located right down the road is the world-class shopping street, Milsom Street. The street was built in 1762 and is now home to hundreds of shops. It was rated “Britain’s Best Fashion Street” in 2010.
If you’re a big fashionista, stop by the Fashion Museum, which is where the old Assembly Hall was. In fact, the rooms are still open and give you a glimpse of where the ladies of the 16th and 17th centuries (including Jane Austen!) used to dance and socialize. The museum now has exhibits showcasing fashion over the years and is currently featuring many dresses by Laura Ashley. Right down the road from the museum is No. 1 Royal Crescent. This restored Georgian townhome is open seven days a week and allows you to see how the rich lived back in the 1700s. It was the first of 30 homes built that now make up the Crescent.
Where to eat (and drink)
One of the most celebrated (and visited) restaurants in Bath is the Pump Room. Located right next to the Roman baths, the Pump Room was once the waiting room for the upper class before they “took the waters.” Now it’s a world-class restaurant featuring modern British cuisine. The room is still decorated to its period splendor. Reservations are required; they are open for lunch, dinner and tea.
Voted the best Italian restaurant in Bath, Sotto Sotto is a must-visit when you’re in town. Located in a stone cellar, the stairways and restaurant are lit to accentuate the natural curves of the stone. The dishes are all simple but sophisticated, with all of the produce sourced locally. We couldn’t get enough of the osso buca al Milanese or the house-made lasagna.
If you’re looking for an authentic tea time, stop by the Regency Tea Room located in the Jane Austen Center. The room is distinctly charming and the staff is dressed in period garb. Enjoy a ladies’ tea, which comes with your choice of teas (go with the British breakfast), fresh scones, enough clotted cream to clog your arteries and a selection of breakfast sandwiches.
You can’t visit England without stopping by at least one authentic pub, and the Garrick’s Head is our favorite in Bath. Located right next to the theater, this pub is always bustling with theater-goers. They have a selection of a English beers, and all of the food is locally sourced. The Garrick’s Head burger is incredibly juicy and comes with a side of freshly made pickles, fries and a house-made cole slaw.