The city is famed for its Roman history and legacy as a spa destination, but also has other surprises to offer.
Tales of thermal spring goddesses, spectacular ruins of Roman baths and temples, along with splendid Georgian-era architecture, make Bath one of the most fascinating day trip destinations from London.
A day trip to Bath from the capital is easy enough. Take a train from London Paddington and you will be there in 90 minutes, with services starting from 5am (for the early birds). The last train back is around 11pm, in which time visitors should be able to see and experience the historic city loved by everyone from the Romans to Georgians.
Bath is also just 19 miles from Bristol Airport, while driving from London is a little over two hours, although this may vary dependent on traffic. Another option is to combine two terrific day trip options for an archaeological super trip, taking a one-hour bus ride to or from Salisbury to see the Stonehenge.
Arrive bright and early and have a quick breakfast. Popular choices include Blue Quails Deli, Rosarios, and Same Same But Different, all of which are within easy walk of the station, although the proximity of places in the city means visitors can pick and choose easily enough.
If you liked walking trails in London, then don’t linger too long over breakfast! Because it’s time to join a walking tour with the Mayor of Bath Honorary Guides. Starting at the Bath Abbey Church Yard (outside the Roman Baths) at 10:30, the guides are absolutely free (perfect!). Make sure to bring a good pair of shoes, as Bath is renowned for being a city of inclines, and the tour is certainly a decent workout in the two hours spent seeing the historic centre of Bath, including the Royal Crescent, Pulteney Bridge, Bath Street, and The Circus.
By this time, visitors may have worked up an appetite, so a visit to the charming Menu Gordon Jones for a five-course surprise menu at lunch offers a nice respite, with the likes of Velouté of Scottish Girolles with River Test Smoked Eel and Pink Lady Apples, or Pigeon Pastilla, Red Quinoa, Confit Aubergine, Dried Sheep’s Cheese. The restaurant also offers dessert, and biodynamic and organic wines for a cheeky tipple (why not?).
Regardless of where they have conquered, the Roman legacy remains strong, whether it be architecture in Spain or the spa culture in Bath. To experience life as a citizen of the world’s premier empire, head to Therme Bath Spa in the middle of town, for a 2-hour spa session and some time in separate Roman and Georgian-inspired steam rooms, an infrared sauna, ice chamber, along with a “celestial” relaxation room.
For those keen on the historical side of things, the Roman Baths is more focused on the history of the surrounds, with a focus on the Roman use of the city as a religious site and spa. Visitors will learn more about the fascinating temple on site, where Roman worshippers prayed to the goddess Sulis Minerva. They will also see the great springs and artefacts that were thrown into the waters, and witness the Great Bath that would have been one of the largest spas in the Roman world, along with the relics of changing rooms and saunas. The Roman Baths create a fantastic atmosphere with interactive displays and costumed characters bringing the history to life, which kids will no doubt love.
For some, spas don’t particularly appeal – never fear, a few decent alternatives are at the ready. Adrenaline junkies will be enamoured at Bath Racecourse, which also hosts concerts and provides a fun and very British day out. Culture vultures will have to put the Jane Austen Centre on their agenda. From 1801 to 1806, the beloved novelist lived in the city, providing the backdrop to her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The centre offers artefacts, a wax model of Austen, a tearoom and beautiful English tea menu, along with costumed character guides.
For dinner, the Roman Baths offer a Torchlit Visit and Dinner Package, great for those who didn’t make it to the historic site. Dinner itself is hosted in Roman Baths Kitchen – a townhouse bar and restaurant with private dining room for larger groups.
Those who have had enough of the Roman antiquities can select from Bath’s wide selection of fine dining options. These include The Olive Tree for contemporary British cuisine and local, seasonal produce, or Clayton’s Kitchen at The Porter in an elegant Georgian townhouse. Being in England, a great gastropub meal can be had at Hare & Hounds (albeit a little out of the centre) or King William, while the wildcard is The Eastern Eye, an Indian restaurant set in Georgian luxury and grandeur.