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A weekend in Bath: A 48-hour itinerary

A weekend in Bath: A 48-hour itinerary

With its famous Georgian terraces, thermal spa waters, cream teas and Jane Austen – you can’t say Bath isn’t on the UK tourist trail. Its quintessentially English charms pull in visitors from around the world and it has so many historic buildings that the entire city’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. But although you might have to dodge a few tour groups, it’s more than worth it to explore the sights of one of England’s most beautiful historic cities. So here’s my 48-hour itinerary for the perfect weekend in Bath.

Read more: 10 Great British weekend break ideas

How to spend a weekend in Bath

Balloon ride over Bath, England
Sunset balloons over Bath

Friday evening

If you feel like splashing out, why not spend your weekend in Bath in style at the city’s most desirable address. At the Royal Crescent Hotel*, two 18th-century Georgian townhouses have been merged together to create a five-star hotel and spa. It’s full of original features with period artworks, classical statues and chandeliers. There’s a luxurious spa with indoor pool, a restaurant, bar and an acre of landscaped gardens tucked away behind the hotel.

Or if you’re on the budget one of the city’s best deals is Bath University’s student residences. There’s a mix of double, twin and single rooms with en-suites in buildings ranging from Georgian terraces to modern residences. They have greatest availability in the Easter and summer holidays, but some rooms are available all year, starting from £65 B&B.

Call in to the Canary Gin Bar on Queen Street for a pre-dinner drink. The bar is run by the Bath Gin Company gin, who’ve created a menu of ‘Gin’ Austen cocktails using their small-batch gins, as well as serving 230 other gins. Then head to Green Park Brasserie & Bar for dinner – a steakhouse and jazz bar in a converted railway station booking hall.

The Royal Crescent, Bath
Curved buildings at the Royal Crescent

Saturday morning

For an insight into Bath’s history, start the day with a walking tour with the Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides. These two-hour tours are led by knowledgeable local guides who share their love of the city on a relaxed stroll through some of its highlights. Tours are free (with no need to tip) and leave from the courtyard by the Roman Baths at 10.30am.

Or you can made your own tour of Bath’s honey-stone highlights. Start at the Royal Crescent, one of Bath’s most famous landmarks. This curved terrace of Georgian townhouses arcs around a perfectly manicured lawn. The Royal Crescent was built in the 1770s and its buildings haven’t changed much since then, at least on the outside.

Number 1 Royal Crescent, Bath
Number 1 Royal Crescent and the Parade Gardens

Most are private residences – when they’re not being used by film crews for period dramas – but Number 1 Royal Crescent is now a museum (entry £12 adults, £10.80 students/seniors, £6 children). Inside you can go back in time to the 18th century and see how wealthy Georgians lived, complete with authentic furniture, décor and fascinating details of everyday life.

The Royal Crescent is one of many buildings made from the distinctive honey-coloured Bath Stone. Quarried out from the hills around the city, it’s a type of limestone that was first used by the Romans and later used for churches, bridges and houses all around Bath.

Bath stone buildings
Bath stone buildings

Another impressive Bath address is The Circle, with three sections of curved buildings forming a circle. And it’s just a few minutes walk from there to the Bath Assembly Rooms. These were the hub of the 18th-century social scene, with elegant rooms for tea drinking, cards and dancing. Today they’re open to the public when not in use for events.

You can follow in the footsteps of Jane Austen, who attended balls at the Assembly Rooms when she lived in Bath in the early 1800s and featured them in her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Then stop for lunch at Sally Lunns, the oldest house in Bath. It’s home to a Bath classic – the ‘Sally Lunn bun’. This kind of brioche is spread with butter or cream, made to a recipe allegedly brought to the country by a 17th-century French emigrant.

Bath Abbey
Bath’s Gothic Abbey

Saturday afternoon

After lunch, cross the Abbey Church Yard to Bath Abbey. The current abbey was built in 1499 but there’s been a church on the site from the 8th century. Admire the west front, with carved stone angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder to heaven, and the fan-vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows inside. Or take a guided tower tour (£8) and climb 212 spiral steps to the abbey roof for a panoramic view of the city and down to the Roman Baths.

Head down to the water to Pulteney Bridge, passing the Parade Gardens, a popular spot for a promenade in Jane Austen’s day. The bridge was built in the 18th century for William Pulteney to connect Bath to the other side of the River Avon to help drive up land prices. He wanted his bridge to be eye-catching and elegant and certainly managed it.

Pulteney Bridge is one of only four bridges in the world with shops built into both sides, like Florence’s Ponte Vecchio – Les Misérables fans might also recognise it as the spot Javert jumped from in the 2012 film. Today it’s home to a mix of independent shops and cafés.

Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England
The covered Pulteney Bridge

For a good view of the bridge, take a boat trip along the River Avon. Boat trips run from April to October and take about an hour, starting start just below Pulteney Bridge (£9 adults, £5 children). The boat travels under the bridge before heading out into the countryside as far as the pretty little village of Bathampton before returning to Bath.

Wine-lovers might want to check out Le Vignoble, an independent wine merchant and bar on Milson Street. Their wine selection changes every month and includes small producers and unusual varieties so it’s a good place to try something new. Then head back towards the Royal Crescent for dinner at The Circus, a family-run restaurant in a Georgian building which serves local and seasonal food like Wiltshire lamb and Devon crab.

Boat trip along the River Avon, Bath
On the River Avon

Sunday morning

Bath has long been famous as a spa – it’s even in the name – and it has some of the UK’s warmest geothermal springs. Start your Sunday by soaking in them at the Thermae Bath Spa. This huge spa building has taken historic buildings and transformed them with a modern glass and steel extension. There are two separate spa areas – the main New Royal Bath and the smaller circular Cross Bath, which you can also hire for small groups.

The New Royal Bath is spread over three floors, with spring waters flowing into the ground floor Minerva thermal baths. There are circular glass steam rooms, a sauna and spa treatment rooms above, where you can book a relaxing massage, facial or body wrap.

Thermae Bath Spa
The spa’s rooftop pool – photo credit Thermae Bath Spa

But the Thermae Spa’s star attraction is the rooftop pool, where you can soak in mineral-rich steaming water with spectacular views across Bath’s skyline. Entry to the spa costs £40 for a two-hour session at weekends, and includes towel, robe and flip flop hire.

You can have lunch at the spa’s Springs Café Restaurant, with a mixture of sandwiches, salads and smoothies (and wine if that all sounds too healthy) – you can go in wearing your robe and the extra time gets added to your spa session so you don’t miss out.

Views of Bath Abbey from the Roman Baths
Views of the Abbey from the Roman Baths

Sunday afternoon

Next compare the modern spa experience with the Roman version at the Roman Baths (entry from £18.50 adults, £17 seniors/students, £11 children). The first baths were built here by the Romans in 70AD, along with a temple dedicated to the goddess Sulis Minerva.

Over a million litres of 46°C water still flows into the baths every day, but don’t be tempted to take a dip. If the bright green colour doesn’t put you off, tales of bacteria and radioactive lead pipes might. Instead you can take a tour – with audio commentary from Bill Bryson – which includes the Sacred Spring of Sulis Minerva, the original foundations and impressive open-air Great Bath. There’s also a museum of Roman artefacts including coins and carvings.

Roman Baths, Bath Spa
The Roman Baths – photo credit Bath & North East Somerset Council

Then finish your weekend in Bath with afternoon tea at a city institution – the Pump Room. It was built in 1776 for visitors to take the waters, and is another location in Jane Austen’s novels. Indulge in a traditional Champagne afternoon tea for £36.50 or try a Somerset tea with cider for £19.50, all served in opulent splendour under the chandeliers.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to taste the spa waters from the King’s Fountain (free to Pump Room customers). With 43 different minerals it is reputed to be the cure for all sorts of ills, though lukewarm water with a metallic tang is definitely an acquired taste.

Entrance to the Pump Room in Bath
The Pump Room entrance

Have you visited Bath? Do you have any tips to add on what to see, do and eat?

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How to spend a weekend in Bath, England, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink on a 48-hour escape to the historic spa city | Weekend in Bath | Things to do in Bath England | Bath itinerary | Bath Spa weekendA guide to spending a weekend in Bath, England, with tips on what to see, do, eat and drink in this a 48-hour itinerary, including the Royal Crescent, Roman Baths, spa treatments, restaurants and more | Weekend in Bath | Things to do in Bath England | Bath itinerary | Bath Spa weekend

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Lynn Oliver

Monday 7th of September 2020

Thank you for this reminder of my wife and my weekend in Bath. We stayed at a lovely B&B a few hundred feet from the Abbey, Baths and shoppes... Three Abbey Green. Bath has a plethora of lovely B&Bs that are decidedly not 5-Star, but great. Also, the free guided walks are wonderful and the buskers in the plaza in front of the Baths and Abbey were a hoot. I pull out the photos of the unicyclist for a smile. Thanks for the reminder. I'd love to go back someday... another world from Florida where we live.

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 28th of September 2020

Bath is such a lovely place – so much history! Glad to bring back some good memories.

Bath City Break

Monday 15th of January 2018

Love this city and the day-by-day guide Lucy! We hadn't come across The Circus restaurant so that is one for the list. The pics are beautiful too and seeing the Thermae Bath Spa pic makes me want to jump straight back in!

Lucy

Monday 15th of January 2018

Great to hear that it came in useful – such a fab city!

Michelle

Monday 12th of June 2017

Hi Lucy, so glad to come across your blog. I'm planning a weekend or 1 night in Bath from London. It sounds like I might need two nights there. Have a lovely week! :)

Lucy

Friday 16th of June 2017

Two nights would be great, there's plenty to see! Hope you have a great time.

Valarie Duquette

Monday 24th of April 2017

I went to uni in Bath and I miss it so much! Such a gorgeous city, with tons of hidden treasures! I love wandering through The Corridor and eating at Eastern Eye, for some of the best ambiance and curry I've ever had! And if you have time next time, visit my old stomping grounds at Bath Spa University and nearby Newton St. Loe. So charming! X

Lucy

Thursday 27th of April 2017

Thanks for the tips, I've not been back to Bath for a while so it's definitely time for a revisit and to try them out!

Gayatri Chopra

Friday 4th of September 2015

Hi Lucy, Great pictures and useful content! I wish I could have included the Bath in my itinerary during my last trip to England. With your guide, I think I would be able to enjoy the Bath on my next trip. This is what I love about your blogs. They provide a clear view on what’s going to be there on real-time basis. Thank you for the post!

Lucy

Wednesday 9th of September 2015

Thanks so much – hope you get to come and visit Bath someday!