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Bath - Things to Do and See, Practical Tips
Bath was a popular town in Roman times, because of the natural hot springs, but most of what we recognize as Bath (the upper town) was built in Georgian times (1714 - 1836). In the 1700s, Bath became a popular spa destination and houses were built to accommodate the visitors. They came not to bathe in the natural hot springs, but to drink the water.
The main tourist information office is near Bath Abbey in the center of Bath. Go there first to get a city map and tourist guide.
There are many hotels, B&Bs and vacation rentals in the center of Bath. Also good restaurants and a large shopping area. The train station (Bath Spa) is in the center of town. The River Avon passes through Bath and the Kennet and Avon Canal (which connects the River Avon with the River Thames) starts in Bath.
The Royal Crescent in Bath, Georgian Houses built in the 1700s
Bath makes a good first stop when flying into England. You can have a car service pick you up from Gatwick or Heathrow airports or you can take a train or bus from the airport to Bath. If driving, it is about 2.5 hours from Gatwick; 2 hours from Heathrow. If you are staying in London, you can take the train directly to Bath (1.5 hrs).
This is important: the train station for Bath is called "Bath Spa".
If you are driving into Bath for the day, you will find large paid parking lots at the edges of the historic center of the city but do not expect to find free on-street parking.
It is best not to have a car if you are staying in Bath, unless your hotel or vacation rental provides parking. Parking can be difficult. We had a car for a few days on a recent stay and parked in the large tourist lots near Royal Victoria Park where you paid by the hour (at a parking machine). You could pay for 24 hours at a time with some effort and cost, but parking spots were always available (we were there in September).
Bath Spa, the Natural Hot Springs
The natural hot springs in the center of Bath were used for bathing in Roman times (2,000 years ago). In the Georgian period (mid 1700s to 1800s) Bath became a spa town where people came to spend a few months and "take the waters" (which means they drank the water each day, they did not bathe in it). You can still drink the Bath water at the fountain in the Pump Room, part of the Roman Baths, and you can tour the Roman ruins (well worth a visit). The new Thermae Bath Spa uses these hot springs.
The Roman Baths: www.romanbaths.co.uk
Thermae Bath Spa: www.thermaebathspa.com
Things to Do and See in Bath
An easy six block walk will take you through the heart of Georgian Bath. All the streets in this area are interesting to walk. The Assembly Rooms are also in this area (just off the Circus). At the end of the walk, go back to the center of town via the Royal Victoria Park.
The Significant Buildings
From the book "Pevsner Architectural Guides - Bath" by Michael Forsyth, these are the buildings and streets to see in Bath.
The Main Sights
Bath Abbey: www.bathabbey.org
The Grand Pump Room and Roman Baths: www.romanbaths.co.uk
Number 1 Royal Crescent: www.bath-preservation-trust.org.uk/museums/no1/
The Assembly Rooms and Museum of Costume: www.museumofcostume.co.uk
Prior Park: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
The Jane Austen Center: www.janeausten.co.uk
Victoria Art Gallery: www.victoriagal.org.uk
Theatre Royal: www.theatreroyal.org.uk
Kennet and Avon Canal Walk: Walking the Kennet and Avon Canal
Bath Skyline Walk: www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Cotswolds Way: www.nationaltrail.co.uk/cotswold/
Public Restrooms (Toilets)
In the central area there are public toilets at the entrance to the Roman Baths. You do not have to pay to get into the Baths. The restrooms are in the hall between the Pump Room and the entrance to the Baths.
You will find public restrooms in The Podium (a small enclosed mall near the Pulteney Bridge) and in the parking lots.
Downtown Bath has a large shopping area in the central area around Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths. The shopping area continues over the Pulteney Bridge, a bridge over the River Avon with shops on it. You will find many shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes in the center of Bath.
www.waitrose.com/about/findyourlocalwaitrose.asp: Waitrose store locator
Sainsbury's store locator
AutoEurope has two locations in Bath:
We used the Brass Mill location to pickup our car in 2004 and 2006. It is a small office with very good service. It was not easy to find (we walked to it the first time, took a taxi the second); go to the National Car Rental website and print out the location map. It was easy to get from this location to the main roads heading out of town to the west, but if you are heading east, you have to drive back through Bath, as the main highways all go through the center of Bath.
www.drive-u.co.uk: Clive Nichols (Drive-U). We used this car service to drive us from Gatwick Airport to Bath, £140, 2 hour drive (M24, M4).
Slow Travel Photos: My photos of Bath from September 2004
visitbath.co.uk: Bath Tourism, accommodations, restaurants, travel information
www.bathvenues.co.uk: Bath's Heritage Buildings. Pump Room (go for afternoon tea), Assembly Rooms (the Museum of Costume is in the Assembly Rooms).
www.cityofbath.co.uk: Tourist information, accommodation and restaurant listings
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