A fascinating but often overlooked U.K. destination is Bath, good for a day trip from London, or to spend a few relaxing days.
Founded as an outpost by the Romans in 47 AD, over time Aquae Sulis, as the Romans called it, became a well-developed town. They developed an intricate bathing complex with stunning and clever sauna and steam rooms of varying temperatures, running hot water, a large pool for bathing, and much more.
Archaeologists have recovered over 12,000 Roman coins in the complex, along with a massive bronze head of the goddess Minerva and many more artifacts that are on display.
For visitors to Bath today, seeing the Roman Baths is sure to be the highlight, with an audio tour voiced by famed travel writer Bill Bryson. But once you’ve had your fill of the Baths complex (if you’re at all interested in history, do plan on spending at minimum a couple of hours there) stroll along the Avon River which bisects the town. You’ll want to see the Palladian Pulteney Bridge dating to 1774, one of only four bridges in the world with shops lining both sides along its entire length.
Make sure to stop by the Bath Abbey, first built in the 7th century and undergoing a series of renovations and reconstructions over the centuries. It’s a great example of Gothic architecture and is famed for its vaulting and stained glass. Famously, the west facade features two ladders being climbed by angels ascending to heaven.
Food and Drink
If you need something to whet your appetite, there’s no shortage of local brews here to choose from, including the region’s famed cider. In the old town section near the baths complex, there are plenty of quality restaurants to choose from, as well as a top-notch steakhouse or two just across the Pulteney Bridge.
And for fans of more recent history, check out the Royal Crescent, a curving series of 30 identical Georgian townhouses constructed out of yellow Bath limestone. Jane Austen famously spent time in Bath, and you can visit a museum dedicated to her that’s housed in a genuine Georgian house.
Take a Stroll
Bath is where Londoners famously came over the centuries to escape the soot and noise of London, and there are plenty of parks for strolling, including Prior Park and the gorgeous Royal Victoria Park, which was dedicated by an 11-year-old Princess Victoria years before she was crowned queen.
Best Time to Visit
Bath is full of things to do any time of the year. In the winter check out the festive Christmas market and a city dripping with beautiful lights. In the spring, gardens are in bloom and the city parks are full. May brings the Bath Festival, a 9-day celebration of music and books, and the Bath Fringe Festival. You’ll find warmer temperatures in the summer and lots of outside events and concerts, winding down with the popular Jane Austen Festival in mid-September. In the fall, the city is full of food and drink festivals to keep you busy (and full!).
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