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History & Ancient Sites

The Fascinating History of Bath England

The south west of England has long been known for its natural beauty, but there’s one town in particular which has breathtaking man-made beauty to boot. Visit Bath, England to experience the juxtaposition of rolling green countryside alongside some of the most exquisite architecture in Europe. Showcasing its fascinating background through its buildings, Roman and Georgian periods are the most prominent, and there are dozens of things to do in Bath to make the most of its unique past.

First on your list, to truly soak up the history of Bath (see what I did there? Soak!) is, yes, a visit to the Roman baths. They aren’t cheap, at £17 a head (concessions available), but you’re getting a lot more than a ride on the flumes and a dip in some chlorinated water. Entry includes a person-led or audio tour of the incredible Roman site housing the baths, the Temple Courtyard (where sacrifices would have been made), meetings with some real (ahem) Romans, and the option to drink a glass of natural spa water. Its legendary status suggests it’s great for your health, but you may wish to sip a small taster before you take a big swig! Early entry will see smaller queues, but at dusk, the torches are lit, so you’ll have to decide which feature you find most irresistible. Or do both.

There is actually no bathing allowed at this site, due to the water being untreated, but you can visit the nearby Thermal Bath Spa for a long, hot dunk in the same waters, only safer. The rooftop pool provides incredible views of the city’s historical skyline, as well as a delightful contrast between the cool air and the lush waters. Again, it’s a unique experience and therefore not available on a shoe-string; prices start at £18 for 30 minutes on a weekday, up to £40 for two hours on any day of the week. It’ll be worth it, I promise.

Because of all this grandeur, Romans do take most of the credit when people think about the history of Bath, but the Regency period is also responsible for some of the most incredible buildings in the town. One stroll through Royal Crescent, for example, will have your camera working overtime to try to capture the splendour. A full circle of characteristically ‘Bath’ buttermilk-coloured townhouses, three stories above ground and two below ground, makes for a feat of symmetry that will have you feeling dizzy as you try to look around, up and down to take it all in. If you want the full, Georgian experience, explore how the homes would have been set up inside by visiting No. 1 Royal Crescent, and then book into The Royal Crescent Hotel for a fancy afternoon tea afterwards.

Lovers of history and architecture will also enjoy a stroll around the 16th century Bath abbey. This huge, gothic site has free entry, and for a fee, you can also climb the tower to give your calves some exercise and take in one of the best views of the city.

The most striking thing about Bath is that there are two stunning elements at the heart of the city’s spirit: architecture and water. The best-known example where both features intersect is the spectacular Roman baths, but there is another case where both worlds collide in an equally beautiful way: Pulteney Bridge, which was constructed in the 18th century to join the city of Bath to the other side of the River Avon. We just love a bridge, don’t we? There’s something about the incredible feat of human engineering paired with the tranquility of water that makes it one of the most wonderful sights to behold. Think of Venice, and you picture bridges. Think of Amsterdam, and you’ll see bridges. Visit Bath and go to Pulteney Bridge and add it to your list of most memorable sights. Marvel at the bold, sturdy arches built in moody, grey stone. And why is it so stocky? The bridge is also a building, the neat rows of windows giving away the secret of the shops within. It’s worth a trip at any time of day, but seeing it glow against an inky night sky is something special indeed. For the very best views of the bridge, head to Parade Gardens, where you’ll see the south side of the bridge and the Avon. And, for a smaller bridge, but still very pretty and surrounded by grassy walks, visit Prior Park Landscape Garden. Two great bridges to quickly send your Instagram feed into overdrive!

If all of this has whet your appetite, learn more about the history of Bath in some of its fantastic museums. The Museum of Bath at Work on Julian Road provides in insight into some of the industry of the past, and even recreates workshops that you can explore with the help of an audioguide. Museum bonus: it’s always a good plan to have in case of wet weather.

Fans of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ should visit the Jane Austen Centre to explore the life of the iconic writer. And don’t forget Sally Lunn’s Museum: a small, bun-themed historical exhibition; the Fashion Museum; and finally, Bath’s Old Orchard Street Theatre: a theatre, museum and now also a Masonic Lodge!

There’s so much to do in Bath that a weekend will fly by in moments, but the memories will last a lifetime. And you’ll be back. Think of beauty, baths, bridges, and buttery bricks; think of Bath, England. To experience everything this charming town has to offer, head over to our collection of England vacations and choose the itinerary that best fits your interests.