If you’ve only got one day in Bath but you want to make the most of your time here then you’ve come to the right place. I’ve done the research so you don’t have to! Read on to discover some helpful suggestions for your one day Bath itinerary.
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When I’m setting out my travel plans at the beginning of every year, exploring more of the UK is usually listed as one of my goals. But, until recently I’ve not really made much more than a half-hearted effort to achieve that goal because, quite honestly, it’s usually a lot cheaper to jump on a plane and spend a weekend abroad than it is to take a staycation here in the UK.
However, I felt like I was doing my beautiful home country some kind of disservice by doing so. Consequently, I’ve started to make more of a concerted effort to integrate UK-based day trips and weekends into my travel plans. I started the year in one of England’s prettiest villages on the Jurassic Coast, following an irresistible deal that popped up on one of my regular Travelzoo emails.
I then followed that with a weekend in Babbacombe, Dartmouth and Sidmouth with mum (which I’ve yet to blog about), day trips to Birmingham, Chester and various parts of mid-Wales and Shropshire, and most recently a weekend in Bath and The Cotswolds with Stu.
As its name would suggest, Bath is known for its Roman-built baths – one of the best-preserved Roman remains in the world. It’s also known for its grand Georgian architecture, constructed from the local golden-coloured Bath Stone. Both are reasons why Bath was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1987.
Bath is a pretty compact, walkable city so it’s very easy to see and do a reasonable amount with just 24 hours at your disposal – if you plan your itinerary well. I usually punch all the places I’m hoping to make it to into Google My Maps, just so that I can get an idea of what’s where, and then plan my itinerary around the location of these sights and attractions, taking into account opening hours and whether I need to buy a ticket in advance.
I also think it’s a good plan to gather a few ideas together for where you’d like to grab a coffee and breakfast, lunch or dinner, because it can take the stress out of finding somewhere when you’re hungry.
We arrived in the city at just before midday on Friday (as it’s a three-hour run from our hometown, either by car or train) and left at around 4 p.m on the Saturday, so we had a little over one day in Bath. Here’s what we managed to see, do and eat.
One day in Bath — An itinerary of things to see, do and eat
1 | Learn about the history of the Roman Baths
Let’s start with what the majority of people come to Bath to see — the Roman Baths. Heralded as “one of the greatest religious spas of the ancient world” on the Roman Baths website, Bath’s star attraction is accessible by ticket only. If you purchase a ticket online, you’ll save 10% on the full-price cost — which is well worth doing in my opinion when the full price of a week-day ticket (visiting on a Saturday or Sunday is more expensive) is £18.00!
Your ticket price includes an audio guide in one of twelve languages, a public guided tour (on the hour, every hour) and the opportunity to try the natural Spa water at the end of your visit.
There are also other (more expensive) packages you can buy. If you’re feeling flush you may want to splash out on a Spas Ancient and Modern package, which includes a 2-hour session at the Thermae Bath Spa and a three-course lunch in The Pump Room, for £86. But, as we were travelling on a budget (aren’t we always!), we paid for entry to the Roman Baths only.
Constructed as far back as 70AD as a grand bathing and socialising complex called ‘Aquae Sulis’ (after the Roman goddess, Sulis), the Roman Baths are located below the modern street level, and for that reason they lay undiscovered for many years. It wasn’t until 1878 that city surveyor architect, Major Charles Davis began to uncover the Roman remains of the baths and now, in 2019, they are one of the UK’s largest tourist attractions. Together with the Grand Pump Room, the Roman Baths see 1.3 million visitors per year (figure from 2018 stats). Thousands of years after the baths’ original construction, 1,170,000 litres of steaming spring water, reaching 46°C, still fills the bathing site every single day.
Top tip: If you have a tour booked for 4 p.m, I’d advise arriving at around 3 p.m. That way, you’ll have an hour to explore the baths independently, with the aid of your audio guide, before your tour begins. And, trust me, everything that your tour guide talks to you about will make a lot more sense having had a cursory look around beforehand.
2 | Take a tower tour at Bath Abbey
Although there has been a Christian place of worship on this site for 1200 years, the present Abbey church was founded in 1499 and is the last great medieval cathedral to have been built in England. It’s still a fully functioning church, with services taking place throughout the week, including five on Sunday.
You can have a look around the Abbey free of charge (although donations are gratefully accepted; you’ll find donation boxes around the church), but I can thoroughly recommend booking yourself on a tower tour. I took a similar one in Chester and found it absolutely fascinating!
The 45-50 minute guided tour will take you up a total of 212 steps via two spiral staircases. You’ll stop in the ringing room and bell chamber on route and you’ll also have the opportunity to sit behind the clock face and stand on the fan vaulted ceiling. The tour finishes up on the roof, where you’ll be treated to unrivaled views of the city and surrounding countryside. You can even look down on to the Roman Baths below.
I won’t spoil the tour for you by giving away some of the information your guide will impart, but I will tell you that there’s some interesting stories about the history of the tower’s largest bell.
Tower tours at Bath Abbey run every hour on the hour between 10:00-16:00 hours Monday-Friday and every half hour on a Saturday. There are no tours on Sundays. Tickets can be purchased from the Abbey shop and welcome desk on the day for a fee of £8 per person (correct October 2019).
3 | Enjoy some quality Spanish tapas at Pintxo
We arrived into Bath around lunchtime, so one of the first things on our itinerary was to grab some sustenance.
Pintxo was already on my shortlist of places to eat, so when I discovered that it was located literally around the corner from our hotel, that’s where we decided to head. And it was most definitely the right idea! I chose garlic houmous, piquillo peppers and paprika, and a goats cheese, rocket, strawberry and broad bean salad from the specials board, and Stu decided upon some sweet pickled chillis and a few air-cured beef croquettes. We washed it all down with a really tasty dark beer, whose name I can’t remember.
In fact, we loved lunch here so much that we swore we’d be back for dinner later. And the only reason we didn’t return was because our hotel laid on some complimentary cheese and wine between 17:00-19:00 hours, and we ate so much we were far too stuffed to even contemplate eating anything else afterwards!
4 | Imagine you’re in Florence at Pultney Bridge and Weir
Designed by Robert Adam, Pultney Bridge is one of only four bridges in the world to have shops across its full span on both sides (others are in Florence, Venice and Erfurt), and for that reason it is one of a kind in the UK.
The bridge was completed by 1774, and connected the city with the land of the Pulteney family. There are plans to pedestrianise it in future, but for now it is still used by buses and taxis.
Together the bridge and the weir below are recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
5 | See some amazing mosaics at Beazer Garden Maze
I must admit that I was a bit underwhelmed by Beazer Garden Maze. I was expecting manicured hedgerows that you could get lost in the midst of – a bit like Ludo, Sarah and Hoggle did in the film, Labyrinth.
What I actually found was a flat 2D maze that probably looks a lot better from the sky than it does from ground level. BUT, on the plus side the mosaic at the centre of the maze is incredible!
Beazer Maze is right by Pultney Bridge, on the opposite side of the river to the main part of the city. Blink and you’ll miss it!
6 | Grab breakfast at Wild Cafe
Again, this was another cafe that was on my shortlist of places to eat AND turned out to be located just around the corner from our hotel. So, we set off early and turned up just after they’d opened their doors at 9 a.m.
In their own words, Wild Cafe are:
“wild about simple food made with quality ingredients.”
The food here is fresh and tasty and all cooked right in front of you in their open kitchen. However, it was the cafe’s commitment to sustainability and environmentally conscious practices that appealed to me as much as their food. The cafe is run on 100% renewable electricity, they try to recycle, re-use or go second hand shopping as much as possible, and source their produce from local suppliers as often as they can.
7 | See how the other half live along the Royal Crescent
Along with Pultney Bridge, the Royal Crescent is one of Bath’s most iconic landmarks. Designed by John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1775, the Royal Crescent is a sweeping crescent of 30 Grade I Listed terrace houses overlooking Royal Victoria Park — hence the addition of the word ‘royal’ in its name. It’s widely acknowledged as being one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the UK.
Many notable people have either lived or stayed in the Royal Crescent since its completion. Nowadays the majority of the houses are private dwellings; the two exceptions are number one (which houses the Museum of Georgian Life) and number 16 (which is home to a five-star hotel, The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa).
If you’re interested to see what the private dwellings look like inside, have a peek at this grand and spacious two-bedroom flat on Right Move, that sold in 2017 for £845,000!!!
The Royal Crescent is also a popular location for films and period dramas. Scenes from Jane Austen’s ‘Persuasion’ and the 2008 film ‘The Duchess’ were shot along the Royal Crescent.
8 | Relax in the Georgian Garden
Located behind number 4 The Circus and accessed via Gravel Walk, Bath’s Georgian Garden is a recreation of an eighteenth century town garden, based on an original design from circa 1760/1770.
It even contains the exact same species of plants that would have been used in eighteenth century gardens, and the seat that I’m sat on in the photo below is a one-off copy of an eighteenth century original.
9 | Watch glass blowers in action at Bath Aqua Glass
Founded by Annette Dolan in 1999, Bath Aqua Glass is an independent glass production company that preserves the traditional art of glass-blowing. Copper oxide is added to molten glass to create the beautiful aquamarine colour to which Bath Aqua Glass owes its name; a colour that is reminiscent of the city’s spa waters.
Bath Aqua Glass occupy two central locations in the city. They have a shop located adjacent to Bath Abbey and a Theatre of Glass in the artisan quarter of Walcot Street, where they run glass-blowing demonstrations and stained glass making workshops.
Unfortunately we timed our visit badly and didn’t get to see the glass-blowing demonstrations, but if you’re interested make sure you’re on site for 11:15 or 14:15 on any day other than Sunday. The demonstrations last for around 30-45 minutes and entry costs £5 per person (correct October 2019).
10 | Take a hike up to Sham Castle
Don’t come here expecting a castle and you won’t be disappointed! It’s got the word “Sham” in front of it for a reason! 😄
Built in 1762 by Richard James, Sham Castle is actually a folly that’s located on Claverton Down overlooking the city of Bath. It’s a fair old climb up from Bath’s city centre, but that’s what affords it such amazing views and in all honesty I enjoyed the climb much more than the final destination.
Although, I have to admit that if you choose your angle well, Sham Castle does look like a reasonably impressive structure.
11 | Stroll along the Kennet and Avon Canal
Did you even know that Bath had canals? Nope, me neither. In fact, I said the same when I visited Chester earlier this year, yet so many of our great cities have them.
The best place to drop down on to the canal from is Sydney Gardens, on the outskirts of the city. If you’ve got time you can also have a nosey around the Holbourne Museum (a Grade II listed building that contains the city’s first public art gallery) while you’re there. The attached cafe is a lovely place to relax in and enjoy your surroundings (providing the weather is being kind to you).
After snapping this photo above, Stu and I wandered along the canal a little further together before I hiked up to Sham Castle and he headed back into the city to collect the car (as this was one of the last items on our itinerary). After my visit I dropped back down on to the canal at Pultney Gardens, close to the Pump House Chimney.
I then followed the towpath up past the Top lock Cottage to Bathwick Hill.
12 | Take in some incredible city views
Although the top of the tower at Bath Abbey will reward you with some pretty amazing views of the city, my favourite city skyline shot was taken from the top of Abbey View Gardens, as I walked back down towards the canal from Sham Castle.
And that was all we had time for on our one day in Bath! There were a few other items on our Bath itinerary that we didn’t manage to squeeze in. If you’re a it more savvy with your time (and you’re blessed with better weather and more hours of daylight), you may be able to make it to these places as well:
- Farmer’s Market. I was kicking myself about not making it here because we were actually in the city on the one day that it takes place each week. The market happens on Saturday mornings inside Green Park Station – a disused railway hall.
- North Parade Passage. An attractive cobbled street in Bath’s city centre that’s lined with listed buildings which now house boutique shops and restaurants.
- Alexandra Park. Located at the summit of a wooded hill to the south of Bath’s city centre, Alexandra Park offers some incredible city views. Another place I was gutted I didn’t make it to.
- Prior Park Landscape Gardens. An eighteenth century landscape garden located in a sweeping valley, also offering magnificent views of the city. It’s quite far from the centre of Bath though (over two kilometres on foot) so I’d probably give it a miss unless you’ve got a couple of days in the city.
- Electric Bear Brewing Company. Marketed as brewing “craft beer for the bold and the curious,” Electric Bear Brewing Company is a craft microbrewery that we were really keen to visit until we discovered that it was three kilometres outside of central Bath! I guess you could always pay for a taxi back to your hotel but we were on a budget. If you’re interested, the tap room is open 12:00-22:00 hours on Fridays or 12:00-20:00 hours on Saturdays. Alternatively you can purchase beers for consumption later from their on-site shop.
Getting to Bath
Bath has its own train station (Bath Spa), which is in the southern part of the city centre, inside the river loop. There’s a direct train from London Paddington, which takes approximately 90 minutes. Or alternatively it’s just a 10-20 minute train journey from nearby Bristol.
For convenience and cost, we made the three-hour journey from Shrewsbury by car.
However, as we discovered when we arrived, parking in Bath is a nightmare and also very expensive. So, if you’re booking a hotel without its own car park (as we did), you’ll need to factor the parking charges into the cost of your stay. Unlike parking in our hometown, where you just pay for the exact amount of time you’ve parked for, in Bath you can only pay in stipulated time blocks – four hours, six hours, or twelve hours. There is an evening rate of £1.50 listed (between 18:00-20:00 hours), but you only qualify for that if you’re arriving after 6 p.m. It’s free to park between the hours of 20:00-08:00 hours.
by the time we’d figured out how the charges worked it was 12:30 p.m. If we paid for six hours, we would’ve still been short by one and a half hours (in order to take us to 8 p.m), so we had to pay for twelve hours and then return to the car at 12:30 p.m the following day in order to extend the parking by a further four hours. We paid £21.60 altogether for 16 hours.
We used Charlotte Street Car Park, but the charges work in exactly the same way for all the city centre car parks in Bath.
Where to stay in Bath
Accommodation in Bath is EXPENSIVE!!! This is one of the reasons I’d put off visiting for so long. I refused to spend anything in excess of £100 for what was essentially a bed for the night, and if I wanted to stay on a Friday or Saturday night, be centrally located and not have to book months in advance, rooms under £100 were hard to come by. So when I saw one at the Z Hotel on a Friday night for £80 and I had a flexi day to use at work, I jumped at the chance to visit a city that had been on my wish list for years.
I figured Stu and I could combine a city break with one to the nearby Cotswolds, and promptly started researching camping and glamping options in the area, as I assumed these would be a bit cheaper than staying in a hotel.
As it turned out, the weather forecast for the weekend we’d planned to visit was abysmal, so we abandoned the camping option and glamping was just as (if not more) expensive than a night in a hotel. As a result we ended up staying at a hotel in North Cerney for £70 a night — on a Saturday night. This was fantastic value for money, considering that it was well-located for exploring the Cotswolds AND included an amazing breakfast.
You can search for places to stay in Bath and the Cotswolds below.
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