One of the prettiest and most pleasant cities to visit in the UK, Bath has impressively been attracting visitors for millennia thanks to the breath-taking, Roman-built baths after which it is named. While many people still come for its soothing spas and springs, the city is now also noted for its gorgeous Georgian architecture and wealth of picturesque parks.
Set in the southwest of the country, Bath lies in the vast valley of the River Avon amidst the rolling countryside of Somerset. As well as beautiful buildings and lovely green spaces, other things to do in Bath include visiting some of its great museums and galleries which mainly focus on the Georgian period. With an exciting and diverse dining scene to check out alongside a packed schedule of concerts, cultural events and other tourist attractions, Bath certainly has something for everyone to enjoy.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Herschel Museum of Astronomy
Once the home of William and Caroline Herschel, this fantastic museum now protects their historic house and highlights their significant astronomical achievements. As well as having rooms full of their original possessions and period pieces to explore, the well-restored Georgian townhouse also contains terrific old telescopes and equipment they used for experiments.
Opened in 1981, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy has lots of interesting artifacts and exhibits to check out on the brother and sister British astronomers. While they both studied the starry night’s sky, it is William who is famed for having discovered Uranus through his home-made telescope in 1781. Besides perusing their musical instruments, you can also watch a short film on the Herschels and wander around their charming garden.
11. Jane Austen Centre
A short stroll from the museum is the lovely Jane Austen Centre which is located just to the north of the city center. The permanent exhibition offers up a fascinating look into the life and legacy of the renowned author as well as her connection to the city and the impact it had on her writing.
Although she only lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806, its vibrant social scene and rural setting had a profound impact on her later novels such as Persuasion and Northanger Abbey being based in the city. Housed within the grand Georgian townhouse you can now find displays and memorabilia that relate to her time in town as well as costumed guides and a waxwork of Jane Austen herself.
10. Prior Park
A very popular and picturesque place, Prior Park is set in a small steep valley overlooking Bath, just five minutes’ drive from the center of town. Built between 1735 and 1750, the lovingly landscaped gardens, their pockets of woods and phenomenal Palladian bridge are a treat to wander around with stupendous scenery and nature wherever you look.
Once part of a deer park, the expansive estate was later turned into a gorgeous garden by the poet Alexander Pope and the landscape gardener Capability Brown. It was these two men who designed its cascading lakes and lush green spaces with grottos, a Gothic temple and ornamental vases also dotted about. The undoubted highlight, however, is its graceful Palladian bridge – just one of four of its kind in the world.
9. Holburne Museum
Home to a huge collection of fine and decorative arts is the excellent Holburne Museum which lies just a short walk from the city center. Surrounded by the pretty Sydney Pleasure Gardens, it boasts an astounding array of artworks with everything from bronzes and ceramics to paintings, portraits and Roman glassworks on display.
Opened in 1882, the city’s first public art gallery is named after Sir William Holburne, an aristocrat and art fanatic whose extensive collection now makes up the core of the museum’s holdings. While ambling about the superb Neoclassical building, you’ll come across masterpieces by famous British artists such as Turner, Stubbs and Gainsborough among others. In addition to exploring its attractive gardens, you can also attend concerts, lectures and cultural events at the museum.
8. The Circus
Curving their way around the tree-studded lawn at their center is the Circus – a ring of handsome historic townhouses that all exhibit the same exquisite Georgian architecture. Built between 1754 and 1768, the striking circle was designed by the architect John Wood, the Elder with its oval layout being based on that of Stonehenge.
Divided into three equal segments, the beautiful three-storey buildings all sport a fabulous facade with each layer representing a different Classical order. Its friezes, for instance, are decorated with triglyphs, serpents and masonic symbols among others while detailed stone acorn finials adorn its parapets. Located just ten minutes’ walk to the north of the center, the Circus is certainly well worth checking out as it represents one of the best examples of Georgian architecture.
7. Fashion Museum Bath
Just a stone’s throw away from the Circus you can find the Fashion Museum Bath which has a huge collection of clothes and costumes to peruse. These date from the end of the sixteenth century to the present day with elegant dresses and gowns on display alongside embroidered shirts and tail-coats from the Georgian times.
Founded in 1963, the museum’s extensive collection of contemporary and historical clothing is now housed in the city’s arresting Assembly Rooms. In their grand galleries you can find fashionable wear for men, women and children with over 30,000 items on show. Besides wandering around its rooms full of impeccably dressed mannequins, you can also dress up in Georgian attire yourself and have your photo taken in front of a backdrop of the Royal Crescent.
6. No. 1 Royal Crescent
Not far from both the Circus and the museum is the Royal Crescent – one of the most popular and photographed places in Bath. At the eastern end of the beautiful row of buildings, you’ll find No. 1 – an historic house museum that illustrates what domestic life and living quarters were like back in Georgian times.
Built between 1767 and 1774, it exhibits some of the finest Palladian architecture in the UK with ionic columns on show alongside a central Doric doorcase. Inside is just as alluring as its restored rooms replete with fine furnishings and period pieces highlight how the wealthy and their servants lived in the eighteenth century. A truly immersive experience, visiting No. 1 Royal Crescent is a must for anyone interested in learning about the city’s history and heritage.
5. Royal Victoria Park
Located right next to the Royal Crescent is one of the prettiest places in the city – the Royal Victoria Park. Opened in 1830 by a then eleven-year-old Princess Victoria, it sprawls over a huge area with paths, flowerbeds and playgrounds to be found alongside lush green spaces and magnificent old monuments.
Popular with both locals and tourists alike, the park offers up all kinds of recreational opportunities with everything from tennis and golf to running, jogging and cycling for you to enjoy. Besides the splendid scenery and nature, there is also a lovely botanical garden to wander around and a replica of a Roman Temple to check out. In addition, it also hosts several cultural events and festivals over the course of the year.
4. Royal Crescent
As aforementioned, the Royal Crescent is one of the city’s standout sights with the sweeping semi-circular terrace of townhouses now almost being synonymous with Bath. One of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the UK, the thirty historic houses make for some great photos thanks to their uniform facades, ionic columns and Palladian style entablature.
Built between 1767 and 1774, the charming crescent was designed by John Wood, the Younger and has a large lawn before it. While many remain full-size townhouses, others have been converted into flats with a hotel and spa also to be found among them. To gain an insight into the history of the area, its architecture and residents, it is well worth heading to No.1 which now acts as an historic house museum.
3. Pulteney Bridge
One of only four such bridges in the world to have shops spanning both sides of it, the phenomenal Pulteney Bridge can be found right in the historic heart of town. Stretching 45 meters in length, the sturdy stone structure crosses the River Avon and exhibits some striking Palladian style architecture.
Named after the wealthy family who commissioned it, the beautiful bridge was completed in 1774 with the architect Robert Adam having been inspired by both the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte di Rialto in Italy. Besides taking in its fine features and snapping photos of the bridge with the weir below it, visitors can also stop by the shops and cafes that line its route. In addition, boat trips along the river depart from the bridge during the sunny summer months.
2. Bath Abbey
Another of Bath’s top attractions is the breath-taking Bath Abbey which lies in the center of the city, right next to the Roman Baths. The last major medieval church to be constructed in the country, it showcases some stunning Gothic architecture with towers and turrets looming above its sculpture-studded western facade.
Although a church has occupied the same site since the seventh century, the current cathedral was only built between 1499 and 1616. While its buttresses and battlements, pinnacles and parapets all look very impressive, it is its elegant interior that is the real showstopper. This is because sparkling stained-glass windows and touching wall memorials line its nave with the abbey being particularly known for its fabulous fan vaulting.
1. Roman Baths
Lying in the heart of town are the remarkably well-preserved Roman Baths after which the city is named. Now one of its main tourist attractions, the baths were first built by the Romans around two thousand years ago with the current buildings surrounding the hot springs dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
While exploring the incredible complex, visitors will come across pretty pools and amazing old mosaics with sacred springs, statues and an exposed caldarium also on show. Besides enjoying the astounding architecture and taking photos of the majestic baths, you can also learn about its history at its excellent on-site museum. This has lots of ancient artifacts for you to check out with engaging exhibits explaining the significance of the archaeological findings and that of the bathhouses too.
Best Time to Visit Bath
As the sun is shining, the weather is warmest and people are on holiday, summer is the most popular time to visit Bath. In July and August, temperatures average 20 to 21°C (68 to 70°F); perfect for seeing its Roman-built baths or relaxing in its pretty parks and soothing spas.
This though is the busiest and most expensive period of the year with all its hotels, bars and restaurants packed with people. There is a lovely lively atmosphere in the city thanks to colourful events like Bath Carnival. You can also hike about the scenic Somerset countryside surrounding Bath.
Spring and autumn are arguably even better times to visit with April to June and September and October averaging temperatures of 12 to 19°C (53 to 66°F). With fewer crowds around, you can make the most of your time in town and enjoy exciting events like the Bath Festival and Jane Austen Festival. Prices rise again around this time as well as at Easter, other public holidays and weekends.
Outside of these months, the city is relatively quiet as the dark, rainy days of winter set in. There is a spike in visitors in December as its gorgeous Georgian architecture and twinkling Christmas lights create a magical ambience.