When visiting the city of Bath in the south west of the UK, it’s a tourist essential to see the ancient Roman baths and learn about this unique piece of history. Better still is the chance to experience the natural springs waters themselves thanks to the Thermae Bath Spa, just around the corner! Read on to see how to spend an afternoon exploring two of the best things to do in Bath: the ancient and modern baths of Bath!
Where Is Bath
Bath is a city in the south west of England in the county of Somerset. Listed as a world heritage site for over 30 years, the city’s unique Bath stone buildings and historical significance make it a popular destination for tourists both from the UK and abroad.
How To Get To Bath
Bath is accessible by road via the M4 from London, the A36 from Southampton, and the A39 all the way from Cornwall. The nearest airport would be Bristol airport which is around 40 minutes drive from Bath.
Public transport to Bath is abundant, with bus routes running regularly between Bristol and Bath, and the National Express offer services from major cities to help you get from London to Bath for low cost coach travel.
The easiest way to reach Bath is by rail. To get from London to Bath by train is very simple: just hop on one of the trains from Waterloo or Paddington heading towards Exeter or Cardiff and you’ll arrive at Bath Spa station within 1.5 hours on a fast train, or closer to 2 hours on a slow service.
We arrived in Bath by train after a morning visit to Stonehenge, the train from Salisbury to Bath Spa taking just 1 hour along a beautifully scenic journey. We couldn’t wait to get exploring!
Bath level: bubbling
The Roman Baths in Bath, England (try saying that after a few pints) are the most popular tourist attraction in the city, and by far one of the best things to do in Bath. Comprised of four main areas, the Roman Baths are packed full of fascinating artefacts, replicas, information, and exhibits throughout the Sacred Springs, Roman Temple, Roman Baths, and the museum.
Entry to the Roman Baths is £16.50 for single adult entry. There are concession prices and package deals available too, so it’s worth checking out the options to see what may suit you best. We arrived at the baths mid afternoon on a Sunday, and were surprised to find only a handful of people entering the baths! We picked up our tickets and free audio guide and were on our way to go back in time with a walk through history.
Exiting the grandeur of the ticket hall, visitors are guided towards the upper terrace to view the baths and city of Bath from an elevated view. This first glance at the Great Bath is very exciting, and you’ll quickly get an idea of just how dominant the baths are within the city. With Bath Abbey as a backdrop the entire scene is even more beautifully dramatic too. The terrace is lined with Roman emperors overlooking the green waters below. Despite only been built near the turn of the 19th-20th Century, they don’t look out of place against the significantly older parts of the site as you might think!
Continuing on, we made our way through the museum of the Roman baths. Here we learned about the people who once lived in Aquae Sulis (what Bath was once called), inspected models of what the town and original baths would have looked like, and explored the many artefacts and historical items that each have a place within Bath’s ancestry.
It’s in the museum that there is really something for everyone to enjoy; whether you’re more interested in architecture, anthropology, mythology, geology, politics, or love a bit of it all – this museum covers topics such as the Roman people, everyday life, religion, and more!
Weaving our way through the crowds of the museum, we didn’t linger too long and only paused to admire the areas we were most interested. Visiting the Roman Baths at the weekend meant the museum was very busy as the area can be quite small at times, so we chose to move swiftly on to more spacious areas.
Entering the Temple Courtyard and Minerva, the interiors drastically change from well-lit, purpose-built museum, to walkways above the remains of ancient structures. The exposed stones and details that remain are quite remarkable, and you do feel fully immersed within this ancient world – it’s more than just a museum, it is the restored and preserved actual site! The area you’re now in is a sacred place where sacrifices would take place. I must admit, the Roman Baths have done a great job at maintaining a rather eery atmosphere in this part, in part due to the occasional mist casting a wave of thick air across the temple courtyard! At the end of the walkway you are met with one of the most precious pieces of history found in Roman Britain: a bronze head of the goddess Minerva. It’s estimated that this item may well date back as late as the first century AD, so it deservedly is a key part of the exhibition!
Next, we moved through to the sacred spring. This is where the naturally hot water at just under 50 degrees rises to the surface, as it has done for thousands of years. The drainage system and spring overflow which runs through the stone tunnels beneath your feet contains the mineral-rich waters which supply the baths and carry water to the River Avon. As steam rises, you’re reminded how hot this natural phenomena is, and how impressive the feat of engineering to harness its power was for the Roman people of Bath. Due to its sacredness, Romans would throw offerings into the waters which made it a treasure trove of gems, metals, and coins – many of which are displayed nearby.
Now for the main attraction: the Great Bath. This is what everyone who visits the Roman Baths in Bath is here to see. The Great Bath is your chance to pretend like you’re one of the Roman people off to bathe in freshly surfaced spring water. As you walk the circumference of the bath, you’ll be greeted by ever-incredible angles of the beautiful pillars and still waters that with their rising steam look oh-so enticing (but don’t touch the waters!). If you time your visit just right, you’ll get the chance to see the beacons lit, adding even more dramatic vibes to the scene! There are less information points around the Great Bath, which in my opinion only adds to the immersive atmosphere, helped also by real-life costumed characters lingering around the Great Bath for effect!
From the Great Bath (and once you’ve finally managed to capture a photo without anyone taking about 400 selfies), you can visit the East and West Baths, where you’ll find the sites of changing room, saunas, and swimming pools. It’s these areas on my visit to the Roman Baths in Bath that I began to fully understand the complexities and incredible civilisation that was built on this very site – this really is the foundation of such intricately thought-out public spas that we appreciate and enjoy today! Moving between the rooms, you’ll get a sense of the temperature changes that make each room unique for its specific purpose. More CGI reconstructions demonstrate the nature of each room and how they would have possibly looked – adding yet more life to this ancient world.
Finishing off your experience is the chance to taste a sample of the real spa waters. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe to drink from this fountain. On our visit the water wasn’t available, just an excuse to visit again another time I think!
I could go on and on about the variety of rooms and uses each area of the Roman Baths present, but instead I would simply encourage to take a visit to the Roman Baths in Bath for yourself to experience the magic!
Overall, visiting the Roman Baths in Bath is a fascinating, informative, and entertaining experience. The regular commentary from an audio guide means you can really dig deep into as many or as little areas of interest as you like. Going at your own pace also means that if you’re short for time, you can whizz through to the areas that you’d like to tick off. The immersive experience and attention to detail is really something. There are frequent reenactment videos displayed throughout, meaning you can observe just how life might have looked for the locals here all those years ago.
The Roman Baths in Bath offer such a high quality experience, and for a relatively low price you certainly get a lot for your money. The website is a great hub to visit if you’d like to learn about the history, details, and understand how your experience might look thanks to a 3D walkthrough, info on all the elements of the Roman Baths, and much more. As such an interactive and engaging museum, visiting the Roman Baths in Bath is ideal for families, couples, and single travellers alike. There is great accessibility offered, however, do take care to remember the uneven flooring around some parts of the Roman Baths.
Bath level: pampering bath bomb
Thermae Bath Spa
If visiting the historic baths aren’t enough, another great thing to do in Bath is a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa. Aptly situated on Hot Bath Street, the spa is just a 2 minute walk away from the Roman Baths in Bath. We booked for a Thermae Welcome at the weekend, which costs £40 per person, and includes access to the Open Air Pool, Minerva Bath, and Wellness Suite for 2 hours. Included is also a towel, robe, and a pair of cosy slippers!
Arriving at Thermae Bath Spa in the late afternoon at the weekend, the spa was quite busy but we were given access right away. After robing up we immediately made our way to the open air pool on the roof – the perfect place to soak (excuse the pun) up the views of Bath! Thankfully, the rain we’d been caught in earlier that day was clearing up and we were treated to a steamy sunset from the warm, bubbling waters.
With our exposed skin getting chilly out in the open air, we made our way back into the main building of the New Royal Bath (Main Spa). In our lovely robes and slippers we trotted downstairs to the Minerva Bath. As the largest of the thermal pools, we had plenty of space to float along the lazy river, relax in the jacuzzi, and gently swim through the serenely-lit pool. We spent the majority of our 2 hours here, purely because it was so relaxing! We had a lot of fun just reflecting on our busy day, and feeling deservedly chilled out after so much sightseeing.
To finish off the experience, we headed upstairs to enjoy the last of the services available in our Thermae Welcome. Thermae Bath Spa’s Wellness Suite offers a a range of rooms with different multi-sensory experiences. The suite includes unique shower rooms with water pouring from all angles and a range of temperatures to get started, followed by a choice of 2 steam rooms (Georgian and Roman themed!), and an infrared room to get your sweat on. Once you’ve fully expelled all the toxins, head to the ice chamber and rub cooling menthol infused ice across your relaxed muscles. This will help close up pores and slightly exfoliate your skin – your body will thank you! Finally, you can head to my personal favourite experience – the celestial relaxation room. Sit back and enjoy the journey through space and time with the twinkling lights of the Milky Way all around. This dreamy experience is perfect for finishing off your time in the Thermae Bath Spa!
As Thermae Bath Spa prices vary, the Thermae Welcome package is one of the cheapest and most accessible offers. If you’re looking for something a little more intimate, treatments such as facials, massages, hot stones, and body care are also available at the spa. Or, if you’re looking to just get a taste of the Bath spa experience, the Cross Bath is located in a separate, open-air building and for just £20 you can enjoy a dip in this gorgeous bath, surrounded by the regal Bath stone walls for 1.5 hours. As it’s an open air bath, it’s worth considering your choice based on the weather and your willingness to spend your spa experience exposed to the elements!
In summary, The Thermae Bath Spa is a fun and relaxing couple’s activity to do in Bath, and quite the way to complete a day full of tourist activities! We were glad to have experienced both the ancient and modern baths in Bath on our visit, and grateful to have a chance for some respite as well as experience some of the history of the area.
Package Deals for the Roman Baths & Thermae Bath Spa in Bath
Before we arrived in the city, we had hoped to visit both activities in Bath plus enjoy an afternoon tea at the Pump Room, right next to the Roman Baths. Due to a few transport hiccups and delays, we were unfortunately too late to get the Spas Ancient & Modern Package for £84.50 per person. This would have given us access to both the Roman Baths and Thermae Bath Spa, plus a voucher for a 3 course meal or champagne afternoon tea at the Pump Room. It was such a good deal, but the Pump Room closes earlier on a Sunday so we didn’t have time for them all, so instead we opted for just the spas. If you’d like to book this package, you can do so at the Bath visitor centre on Terrace Walk, just 5 minutes from the Roman Baths. Note that you can’t purchase this package at the baths themselves so try to head to the visitors centre before heading to the baths.
Bath level: rubber ducky paradise
Top Tips For Visiting Bath
- When searching for things to do in Bath, consider the opening hours of the businesses. For a small city it is common for some establishments to close early (if they’re open at all) at the weekends, particularly Sundays.
- Tour companies carry visitors by coach, so be sure to choose your time to visit the museum and spa around the bus departure times if possible – it’ll make your experience much quieter.
- Take care when walking through cobbled streets, in wet conditions they can be slippery. It’s best to wear comfortable shoes in and around the Roman Baths as the floors tend to be quite uneven – they are very old after all!
- Know which areas most interest you at the Roman Baths, as it’s very difficult to see and do it all – there’s just so much! Better to learn a few key things than saturating yourself with an overload of info.
- Be patient with other tourists and guests. There are many families visiting the Roman Baths in Bath, so be understanding that they are going at their own pace, and you at yours. It’s also worth being patient with taking photos, as some visitors do like to linger and have full-blown photoshoots! Your chance will come, and take your shots in a timely and considerate manner.
- Bring your swimmers! Remember to bring swimwear for the Thermae Bath Spa if you intend to visit, buying something there is likely to be much more costly that bringing your own.
These are just two of the great things to do in Bath, but they are pretty great activities to enjoy on your visit and really do sum up what makes Bath so special! Have you visited Bath before? Share your impressions and stories below!
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