The Best Things to Do in Bath
Here's our list of the best things to do in Bath that'd make Jane Austen jealous
Is there a sentence in the English language more vulnerable to the effect of the insertion of a ‘the’ than the title: ‘Things to Do in Bath?’ Alas, this isn’t the rubber ducky kind of holiday. Although, it did take its name from the Roman baths that made use of the hot springs in the city, which became a popular spa town and religious hub over the subsequent centuries. And if it was good enough for Charles Dickens and Jane Austen (who was said to have hated it, actually), then it’s good enough for us. Still, it’s a bit of a strange name, even if it’s not quite as odd as the German equivalent of Baden-Baden (Bath-Bath – so good, they named it twice).
But why use two words and four syllables, when the English can just use one. If the city were a lovely hot bath, then its hot springs, spas and Roman vestiges would make up the glorious hot water, while the uniform layout of its historic architecture – with the Bath Abbey among the highlights – is the soapy bubbles on top. Yes, it’s a very odd metaphor, but read on for Plum Guide's expert take on things to do in Bath.
Wonder at The Roman Baths
Like the city itself, these are what they say on the tin. No messing about with fancy German double-words. Here be Roman baths. Embark on a tour with an audio guide to learn about all the
weird intriguing Roman customs in the bathhouse, and check out the 3D model of the house as it was back then. The complex was constructed back in 70AD, and many of its original architecture is still intact. Imagine real, actual Roman people using the plunge pool and meandering through the changing rooms, as you wander along 2,000-year-old pavements.
Since we’re starting with the biggies, it’s only right to set out from The Magnetic, your Plum home with remarkable views of Bath Abbey to see it up close. If you happen to have a young daughter called Abby, you can have all sorts of laughs pretending to confuse your partner’s mention of the abbey with an instruction to wash the baby. This abbey, however, was born in the 7th century and was re-born (reconstructed) 500 years later. It doesn’t need you to bathe it, but it’s certainly worth a visit for its perpendicular gothic design. Fan vaulting, war memorials and stunning stained glass await you in this remarkable ecclesiastical treasure. Imagine Jane Austen wandering around and absolutely hating the place centuries ago.
Walk through Sydney Gardens
It wasn’t all plain for Jane, who lived in Bath from the early 1800s. She said of the Sydney Gardens, onto which her house backed: ‘It would be pleasant to be near the Sydney Gardens. We could go into the Labyrinth every day.’ Ok, it’s not the most resounding endorsement or show of her affections for the gardens or the city - a few hours' drive west of London - but it’s something. And we can see why she (sort-of) loved it so much. The oldest park in the city, it serves as a museum to the Georgian pleasure garden, packed with all sorts of elaborate and unnecessary features that are just swell to look at. Inspect the colourful floral displays, see the original loggia and visit the Temple of Minerva. Enjoy the views of the canal boats and trains.
Go punting along Pulteney Bridge
Head out from Dorlcote, your Plum home from home and walk along the banks of the River Avon and cross over via this Italianate landmark that dates back to the 18th century. Like something out of Hogwarts, the bridge has shops built along it, with windows peering out over the water. Admire the Georgian architecture and see the flowing water of the weir in the river below. Rent a canoe or punt from the Victorian Bath Boating Station to take out on the water. Just try not to fall into the weir – that isn't one of our recommended things to do in Bath.
Check out the unique architecture
A Georgian layout sweeps across Bath, which is dotted with Roman vestiges. Arrive at the Royal Crescent and imagine living in this exclusive and affluent hub in one of our newest destinations. Not that new itself, it comprises 30 terraced houses from the 1700s with their original stone façades intact. The highlight here is the No. 1 Royal Crescent building. Walk through the rest of the city to appreciate the architecture without having to bother booking or reserving anything of note. The historic designs do all the work for you…for free.
Explore the museums
Ok, we can't just amble around Bath forever like some fine dandy or dame from a Jane Austen novel. It’s time to try some things to do in Bath that involve getting active. Go visit the 18th-century Bath Assembly Rooms and see the Fashion Museum for a glimpse of how Austen, Dickens and co would have dressed back in the day. Resist the urge to nab some of the embroidered shirts and gloves that may be coming back in style in a big way.