Disclaimer: “24 hours in Bath” is of course referring to the city in England, not to be confused with the alternate title to President William Howard Taft’s autobiography.
Most tourists, when planning a trip to England, focus on London as their primary destination. This makes complete sense given that London is a world class city with an endless array of things to see in do, but if you look beyond London’s allure, you’ll see that England has some other smaller cities that should not be overlooked. One of these cities is Bath. Located in Somerset with a population of only about 90,000, Bath is not one of the larger cities in the country, but pound for pound it has some of the most fascinating history, culture and charm of any city in the UK. The city is perhaps best known for the Roman baths in the center of the city, but that is only one of the many attractions that the city has to offer. Since Bath is so small and everything is within walking distance, you can see it all in a day if you want to.
Things to do in Bath
If you only have one day in Bath, you can still easily see all the most iconic sights without ever setting foot in a car, bus or cab. The following are some of the most well known destinations in the city.
This view of Pulteney Bridge with the weir in front is one of the most photographed in the city. The bridge crossing the River Avon was built in 1774 and is famous for being one of only four bridges in the world to have shops across its full span on both sides.
Photo Source: Wikipedia
The city was under Roman control from AD 43 – AD 577 and the most notable vestige of this era are the baths and temple in the center of the city. Today they are the city’s most popular tourist attraction, attracting more than 1 million visitors each year. Tickets cost £15.50 per person and includes access to the Sacred Spring, the Great Bath, the Temple, as well as many Roman artifacts. Unfortunately you can’t actually bathe in these baths like the Romans did, but there are a number of spas in the city that give you that option.
The Royal Crescent
Built in 1774, the Royal Crescent is one of Bath’s most impressive examples of Georgian architecture. The building is a series of 30 townhouses laid out in a crescent shape. Today the many of the townhouses have been converted to smaller apartments, and the Royal Crescent now houses a museum and a small hotel.
Bath Abbey is considered one of the last great medieval churches in the UK. Since the year 757 AD, three different churches have occupied this site, with construction on the current church beginning in 1499.
Photo Source: Thermae Bath Spa
Bath’s tradition as a spa town is still alive and well and Thermae Bath Spa is by far the most popular in the city. To be honest, we didn’t love it. We spent a little time in the rooftop pool and the Minerva Bath, but we ended up just getting bored. Part of it was that we were in a city surrounded by incredible Georgian architecture, so being in such a contemporary setting felt inauthentic; like we were missing out on the real experience of Bath. It’s perfectly nice and the rooftop is definitely a cool feature, but it just wasn’t for us. If we could get a do-over, we would have gone to their other thermal bath across the street, The Cross Bath. It’s technically part of Thermae Bath Spa, but it was built in the 18th century and looks like it would have provided a much more authentic experience.
One of our favorite parts of spending time in Bath was walking aimlessly down the cobblestone streets. There are seemingly an endless number of shops and pubs and every narrow road is overflowing with character.
Explore the Surrounding Area
The landscape in the area immediately surrounding the city is breathtaking. We drove in from the south and were blown away by the rolling hills of the countryside and the beautiful country homes lining the streets on the way into the city. Bath is also just a stone’s throw from some of the most beautiful villages in the UK such as Castle Combe and Lacock.
Where to Stay: Harington’s Hotel
There are plenty of hotels to choose from in Bath, but from our experience, Harington’s was perfect. It is located on a narrow cobblestone side street right in the middle of the city. It’s directly across the street from The Raven pub and within a five minute walk from everything worth seeing in the city. Our room was nice, the breakfast was amazing, and they have an outdoor hot tub and patio area out back. If you’re driving, which we were, you can purchase a parking pass from Harington’s for a nearby parking lot.
Where to Eat/Drink
Blue Quails is a really good lunch spot that someone recommended to us. It’s located just at the end of Pulteney Bridge. Their sandwiches are impossibly good.
Proudly marketing themselves as “Bath’s smallest pub”, Couer de Leon is as cozy as you would expect. Good place to pop in for a drink to escape the rain.
The Raven is located directly across the street from Harington’s and is a traditional English pub, well-known for their pies.
Many would argue that this is the best pub in Bath. We only stopped in briefly, but it is every bit as cozy and traditional as Couer de Leon…Although apparently it’s larger, unless the people at Couer de Leon are lying.