Bath is one of England’s most popular visitor destinations, and one of its most attractive cities: a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s set on the River Avon, on the edge of the Cotswolds, and has beautiful Georgian architecture, graceful crescents like Royal Crescent, the Roman Baths and the Thermae Bath Spa, Bath Abbey and links with Jane Austen and ‘Beau’ Nash. To choose the ten best things to do in Bath isn’t easy, but if visiting for a city break or a day out from London (it’s about 90 minutes by train), then you should certainly try to see some of the following:
1. Assembly Rooms and Museum of Costume
Bath’s Assembly Rooms were the place for the gentry to meet in the 18th century, and they appear in both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. Today’s buildings are a sympathetic restoration after wartime bombing damage. The Museum of Costume covers those elegant days, right up to today’s latest street fashions.
2. Bath Abbey
Beautiful 15th-century abbey with some glorious stained glass windows, built on the site of a Saxon Abbey. Don’t miss the Heritage Vaults where its construction is explained.
3. The Circus
One of the finest collection of Georgian houses in Bath, where three crescents are grouped in a circle. The artist Thomas Gainsborough lived at number 17 from 1760 until 1774.
4. Holburne Museum and Sydney Gardens
Jane Austen visited here when it was the Sydney Hotel. Today it’s a small museum of fine arts whose highlights include works by Gainsborough and Stubbs, and one of Rachmaninoff’s pianos. Behind the Holburne Museum and visited frequently by Jane Austen, the Sydney Gardens make a pleasant place to take a break.
5. Jane Austen Centre
Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806, was a frequent visitor for most of her life, set her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey in the city, and each September Bath hosts a week-long Jane Austen Festival. Visit the Center, which is close to one of the houses where Jane Austen lived, for a full view of the author’s links with Bath.
6. Pulteney Bridge
This beautiful 18th-century Italianate bridge is one of the most attractive structures in the city, and one of its most photographed sights. Not to be missed.
7. Roman Baths and Pump Room
Bath’s hot springs were known to the Romans who made Bath a major settlement. The remains of the baths should be anyone’s first stop, as a full visit can take some time. Take a look at the Georgian Pump Room next door, too, which also features in Jane Austen’s works.
8. Royal Crescent
West of the Circus is the finest of all Bath’s Georgian crescents, dating back to 1767. No. 1 Royal Crescent can be visited, to see what comfortable town life was like in late 18th-century Bath.
9. Theatre Royal
Opened in 1805 and beautifully restored in 1982, this is one of the finest examples of a Georgian Theatre in England.
10. Thermae Bath Spa
The latest addition to Bath’s attractions is this 21st-century answer to the Roman Baths with its rooftop pool, massages and other luxury spa treatments. Jane Austen never had it this good. Definitely one of the ten best things to do in Bath.