Discover when to visit the beautiful city of Bath, what areas to put on your itinerary and what things to do while you’re there
Why visit Bath?
A short weekend in Bath, Somerset, offers visitors an intoxicating mix of dreamy Georgian architecture, fascinating history, pretty countryside and excellent transport links. It’s big enough to fill a few days of your time, yet small enough for you to quickly find your bearings and cover most bases. There are excellent eating and drinking options – and interesting museums to help you work up an appetite for them. But the biggest draw? The clue is in the name. 2006 saw the opening of the Thermae Bath Spa, which means not only can you take a tour around an original preserved Roman Bath, but now you can enjoy the warm, mineral rich springs for yourself – in a fabulous rooftop pool, no less.
A bit of history about Bath
Bath was first enjoyed as a spa town in 60AD by the Romans, who quickly made the most of the natural springs of warm water filtered through the limestone of the Mendip hills. They built the famous baths, which can be still be visited today. First granted city status by Elizabeth I, who revived the place as a spa destination, Bath is characterised by its stunning Georgian terraces, churches and municipal buildings – with the glorious, gently curved Royal Crescent the jewel in its architectural crown. These buildings were built in local, honey-coloured stone when mineral springs were popularised once again, as a healing therapy, in the 18th century – and Bath quickly became a fashionable city break destination for those looking to ‘take the waters’. As such, it’s unsurprising that Jane Austen’s characters frequently pop up here – both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey were set in the city (and you can take Austen-themed tours). The stunning Georgian architecture and Roman remains have seen Bath granted UNESCO World Heritage Site status, alongside the likes of Stonehenge and Westminster Abbey.
When to visit Bath
If you aren’t committed to working during the week, you’ll have a much more civilised short break if you come Sunday to Thursday. The Roman spas will be emptier, the restaurants less crowded and you’ll have less trouble parking. If you do come on a Sunday, avoid the pubs on rugby home fixture days, unless you are an enthusiast yourself. If a weekend it is, then just be sure to book restaurants and theatre tickets in advance.
Why not build your trip around a concert or other cultural event? Bath’s International Music Festival in early summer sees a varied and prestigious roster of classical, jazz and contemporary artists play across the city, often in imaginative venues such as the Roman baths themselves. The Bath Literature Festival is a good reason to visit at the end of February – this is a week of talks, writers’ workshops and bookish events featuring some huge literary stars. 2016’s event included Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks and Vince Cable.
More film buff than book worm? November sees the very popular Bath Film Festival take place across the city. Documentary features and film screenings are held, with a twist – in 2015, Mad Max Fury Road was shown in an appropriately mechanical context, with the entire screening powered by pedal, while the Paddington movie pitched up at Bath City Farm.
Christmas offers more than just fairy-lit shopping on little Georgian terraces. Festive themed events start gearing up in early November with the Wine Gang Christmas Fair, held in the city’s handsome Guildhall. This is an epicure’s treat with more than 300 wines available for tasting, plus a programme of quaffing masterclasses. Towards the end of November, the magical Christmas market opens in the Abbey Churchyard area, next to the Roman Baths. The market comes with all the trimmings – including Santa’s Grotto and an ice rink, so it’s a great time to make a trip with the family.
When to visit the Bath spas
The Thermae Bath Spa gets very busy at the weekends, but it’s worth noting that it is open until 9.30pm – a twilight dip in the rooftop pool, watching the steam rise over the city, is a magical experience and can buy you a little more space in the pool. Do call ahead to find out if there are lots of school or coach parties due to arrive during your visit, and try to time your arrival to avoid them if possible.
Getting around Bath
If you’re taking a family break in Bath, make like a local and use the city’s park-and-ride services. Parking in the centre can be scarce, particularly at the weekends, and you will also save money by jumping on this cheap bus into town. Children travel free.
Does this beautiful historical city look like the perfect weekend destination for you? Then why not take a look at the hotels we have to offer in Bath.