One of the most gorgeous cities in Europe and one of the most utterly English, Bath is a city where history runs (or flows) deep. Despite their obvious eponymous allure, the stone Georgian buildings offer a lot more than naturally heated, mineral-rich waters. From surprise tasting menus to worth-the-queue tourist hotspots and fudgy goodness, here’s eight things for your Bath bucket list.
When in Bath, you’ve got to visit the city’s namesake because no matter how much you despise a tourist trap, the Roman baths is one well worth the queue. Get there early to avoid wasting the majority of your 24 hours waiting, and once inside take your time exploring the baths and adjoining museum; it’s an interactive and educational experience that’ll appeal to your little ones as well – there are toga-wearing actors along the way that play out scenarios of daily Roman life. When you’re walking across the balconied area looking down onto the steaming waters of the Great Bath below, be sure to look up and out also; the view across to the Abbey is arguably the best in the city.
2. Sample a Bath Bun at Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House
The sweet roll laced with candied fruit and topped with crushed sugar is one of Bath’s most beloved delicacies, and Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House is one of the best places in the city to try one. Housed in a quintessentially English honey-coloured stone Georgian building and dating back to 1680, the sweet little tea shoppe invites you to try this historic specialty in an equally traditional setting. Best served toasted and with a milky tea, kids will love this Batholian treat.
3. Visit the Bath Abbey
Towering over the city is the glorious Bath Abbey, an architectural masterpiece that cements Bath’s accolade of being one of the prettiest cities in England. The abbey was founded in the 7th century before undergoing major restoration work in the 1860s, courtesy of Sir George Gilbert Scott, and is a superb example of English Gothic architecture. Right next to the Roman baths and free to enter, be sure to pop in and wander around; if you’re feeling particularly fit, the 212 steps to the top of the tower offer sweeping views of the city. You can even see the ten bells and sit inside the Abbey’s clock face.
4. Indulge in a soak at Thermae Bath Spa
After you’ve seen how the Roman baths work, it’s time to experience their restorative powers in action. Queues are long and slow (people don’t really want to leave once they’re in, but who can blame them?) but Thermae Bath Spa is the UK’s only natural thermal spa – and it’s a gooden. A stylish fusion of glass, stone, light and water, the spa is unexpectedly contemporary given the city’s overall historical feel. Unwind in one of the two baths (there’s one indoors and another on the rooftop) which are fed by the naturally warm, mineral-rich waters that run beneath the city. When sufficiently relaxed, don your slippers and robe and sink a little deeper into tranquility with a trip to the spa’s multi-sensory wellness suite…
5. Potter about town
Spectacularly pretty and adorably bijou, Bath is a walking city through and through. Cobbled streets, Georgian stone architecture, and lush greenery form the perfect backdrop for an aimless stroll. Allow yourself to be enticed by the quirky items in the windows of Bath’s independent shops before heading to The River Avon for a peaceful waterside ramble away from the flurry of tourists in the city centre.
6. Join a free city tour
A city well accustomed to tourists, Bath actually offers free walking tours twice a day. The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides even received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its brilliant service to the community. Starting at the Abbey, you’ll meet with a friendly and unbelievably knowledgable guide who’ll take your group to the city’s must-see spots like The Royal Crescent, the Circus and Pulteney Bridge, bestowing little known tidbits and educational facts along the way. It’s a great way to see the best of Bath while learning what makes the quaint city the World Heritage Site it is today.
7. Bring home some fudge
Fudge Kitchen is the UK’s top artisan fudge retailer, and with a shop right in the middle of the city, it’d be rude not to try… Hand-crafted with natural ingredients and using the same original recipe for over 35 years, the traditional methods create a deliciously decadent fudge you won’t find at your nearest Sainsbury’s. Flavours range from original to peanut brittle and white chocolate – each as smooth and creamy as the last. Plus, the staff are fun, wacky and great with kids, who will delight in watching them make the fudge right before their eyes. You’ll be bringing back several boxes for friends and family (not to mention yourself).
8. Surprise meal at Menu Gordon Jones
The surprise tasting menu may be up in the air but one thing’s for certain; a reservation at Menu Gordon Jones will be an unforgettable dining experience. Energetic and chatty staff will serve up six or seven surprise courses which change daily based on ingredient freshness and availability, alongside expert knowledge on the dish, its origins and influences. For the ultimate experience we’d opt for the wine flight which features a selection of sommelier selected wines that pair perfectly with each course. You’re likely to be looking at a waiting list for a weekend dinner; for a better shot at a table, book in for a lunch service which is an equally lovely affair.