For centuries, Bath has been one of the essential destinations in Great Britain. And because of its relatively small size, spending one day in Bath is not so difficult.
The city is located at the perfect distance from London, making it one of the most accessible day trips outside of the city. Packed with historical sights, the city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No matter if you are in it for the thermal baths, you love history, or you simply want to experience the laid-back vibes of this small city to the west of London, here is your easy-to-follow one-day itinerary.
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One day in Bath – essential information
Is Bath worth visiting?
First things first, is Bath really worth visiting? I remember seeing some pictures a few years ago and thinking to myself “this is a really charming city”.
And once I finally made it there, I knew I wasn’t mistaken. The city’s lush parks, beautiful stone buildings, the boats going up and down the Avon river, lovely small coffee shops, and the cobbler-stoned central streets – anyone will find something to like in Bath.
One should not forget about the city’s main attractions, such as the Roman Baths or the Bath Abbey, but we will talk more about that later.
If you are looking for a short answer to that question, yes, Bath is definitely worth visiting, if only for one day.
Where is Bath located?
The World Heritage city is located some 115 miles (185 kilometers) to the west of London.
While you might have only one day to spend in Bath, the city is very close to Bristol and also the Cotswolds – some of the most charming small villages in the United Kingdom.
Oxford, Southampton, or Portsmouth are other destinations worth looking into when you have more time to spend exploring the country.
How to get there
Getting to Bath from London couldn’t be easier, with plenty of options available. Depending on your budget, here are the transportation options you should look into.
Driving to Bath
Depending on the traffic conditions and on your driving skills, you can drive to the city in around 2.5 hours. This option offers you more flexibility, and the chance to stop anytime and anywhere along the way.
My go-to car rental company is always Discover Cars. It is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. You will most probably need a car to get to most of these places, especially if you want to keep a schedule. Get your best offers here!
Before you book your car, remember they drive on the left side. Also, take into consideration the parking fee at the destination. I know there is underground parking right across the street from the train station. From there, you will be within walking distance of most tourist attractions on this list.
The fastest and most comfortable way of traveling from London to Bath SPA, there are plenty of train options throughout the day.
Trains depart from Paddington Station, perfectly located in London’s underground Zone 1. You can get there by taking the Bakerloo line, Circle and District line, Circle and Hammersmith Line, or the newly opened Elizabeth Line.
Your final destination is Bath SPA, and the travel time is around 1.5 hours (even less). Trains are operated by the Great Western Railway, and you can buy your ticket from the vending machines at the train station, or online, ahead of time.
If you choose to book your tickets online, directly on the company’s website, their app won’t work unless you are in the UK. The easiest thing is to choose to pick up the tickets at the train station.
You will need your booking number and the card you have paid with. Nothing will be charged, but you will be asked to insert the card in order to confirm the payment.
Once you go through all the steps, your ticket will be printed. Remember to keep it until you reach your destination, because you will need it in order to exit the train station in Bath.
Printed on the ticket you will have the couch and seat numbers, but also your name and travel date.
In most cases, traveling by bus is much more affordable than taking the train or renting a car.
However, this is also the slowest option and you will have to take into account roughly 3 hours one-way.
If you are traveling on a budget, check out timetables and prices on the National Express Coaches website.
By Private Tour
We often choose organized tours when we have only one day to explore a destination outside of our base camp. For one day alone it is not worth going through the hustle of renting a car, especially in a place where they drive on the other side of the road.
The good part about organized tours is that your guide will take you directly to the destination, and you won’t have to worry too much about the itinerary.
Of course, you will have free time to explore the city, enjoy a meal, and do whatever you feel like doing.
Most tours from London to Bath include a stop at another famous British site worth seeing: Stonehenge. Another option would include Windsor Castle as well so that you get to see more of Britain’s beauty.
Where to stay in Bath
As the name gives it away, in the city you will find plenty of hotels with incredible SPA facilities. Built on thermal waters with properties for your health, you can enjoy the therapy at one of the many stunning boutique hotels in town.
Here are only a few options worth considering.
The Roseate Villa Bath
A small boutique hotel located in Bath’s city center, just around the corner from the iconic Pulteney Bridge. Guests loved the food here, but also the hotel’s location and the access to the hotel’s parking spaces.
Homewood Hotel & Spa
This Georgian country retreat offers peaceful seclusion, award-winning cuisine, and luxurious relaxation, all amid parkland and gorgeous gardens close to Bath.
No 15 by GuestHouse
The hotel offers boutique townhouse accommodation in Bath, along Great Pulteney Street. Guests loved how inviting and homely the place felt, yet with a luxury twist.
Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel
Set in beautiful gardens, Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel features a spa and award-winning restaurant. The hotel is a 10-minute walk from Bath Abbey.
A short history
The city of Bath has a long history, stretching back to the stone age. In addition to traces of early human activity, archeologists unearthed the remains of a couple of iron age forts on the hills overlooking today’s town. Later, the Britons treated the springs as a shrine to the goddess Sulis. Eventually, the Romans established the famous baths, naming them Aquae Sulis, the Waters of Sulis.
Interestingly, archeologists recovered several curse tablets from the springs. For example, if a citizen had his clothes stolen while visiting the baths, he might write a curse on a metal tablet, naming the suspect on it and, thus, asking the goddess to punish the culprit.
After the Romans withdrew from Britain, the town was a battle site between the Romano-Britons and the invading Anglo-Saxons. Bath is one of the possible sites for the legendary Battle of Badon between King Arthur and the invaders.
The city’s current name can be traced to the reign of the first English king’s successor, King Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great. He minted coins in the town using the royal design from the Winchester mints but added the letters BAD in reference to the place’s Saxon name, Badon, meaning at the baths.
The coronation of King Edgar in Bath Abbey in 973 AD constituted the basis for all English coronations since.
During the Middle Ages, Bath became one of the important centers of Christianity, for a while acting as the residence of the Bishops of Bath and Wells.
Fast forward to our days, Bath remains a beautiful resort town, its springs and historical buildings attracting countless tourists to this day.
What to do and see in one day in Bath + Map
The itinerary in a nutshell:
Visit the Roman Baths and go back in time
Admire the Bath Abbey
Stroll through the Parade Gardens
Head over to The Pulteney Bridge
Go on a cruise on the Avon River
Visit The Jane Austen Center
Head to the Victoria Park & The Royal Crescent
The Roman Baths
Same as its initial name of Aquae Sulis, the city now known as Bath took its name from the Roman Baths constructed around 60 AD. The inhabitants used the Roman Baths until the 5th century when the Roman Empire retreated from Britain.
Later, different medieval rulers restored and modified the baths, taking advantage of the curative effects of its waters. Since 1978 actual bathing is not allowed, although the structure functions as a museum and is visited by over 1.3 million tourists annually.
One story, most probably the product of a medieval chronicler’s imagination, recounts how the legendary king Bladud was cured of leprosy after joining his pigs in the muddy springs on which the Roman Baths were later erected.
Judging by the number of tourists and lines we saw on our visit to Bath, I would strongly recommend you book your visit in advance. You will not only have your tickets in advance, but you will enjoy a tour with a local guide that will tell you everything you need to know about this impressive city.
Bath Abbey is an impressive example of perpendicular gothic architecture. Initially built in the 7th century, the abbey has been regularly rebuilt and restored. For a time, it functioned as a cathedral of the Bishop of Bath and Wells.
Eventually, the diocese was consolidated around the Wells Cathedral. To this day, Bath Abbey serves as an active place of worship, sometimes hosting concerts, lectures, and civic ceremonies.
The Parade Gardens
Laid out in 1709, the Parade Gardens is a beautiful park in Bath, nearby Bath Abbey. Overlooking the Avon River, the park offers a good view of Pultney Bridge. Its flower bed is considered one of the finest in the United Kingdom, and the annual three-dimensional carpet bedding always features a unique concept.
Nonresidents should pay an admission ticket of roughly 2 GBP.
Sir William Pultney desired to link his estate across the river to the historic city of Bath. Consequently, he had a bridge built in 1774 and named it after his wife, Frances Pultney.
Due to the bold design of Robert Adam, the resulting bridge was more than a way to cross the water. The structure features shops on both sides along its entire span. It is one of the most photographed sites in the area, the best view being afforded from the Parade Gardens.
Go on a cruise on the Avon River
Admire the city with a glass of prosecco in hand, from a traditional 1960’s small river cruiser.
Pass under some of the most important bridges in town, and learn about the city’s architecture and history as you float on the Avon River.
The Jane Austen Center
The famous novelist Jane Austen used to live in Bath. Reportedly she disliked the city so much that she couldn’t create anything of literary worth during the years she spent there due to depression. I found it hard to believe that anybody could dislike such a charming place, but pride and prejudice can cloud even the strongest minds. If you are interested in immersing yourself in the world of Austen, you should visit the Jane Austen Center.
Located in a beautiful Georgian-era building just a short stroll from Bath Abbey and the Roman Baths, the memorial center allows you to try on one of the extensive Regency-era dresses—imagine the likes you could get on your Facebook or Instagram page.
Victoria Park & The Royal Crescent
Probably the fanciest terraced row houses I have ever seen, the housing units of the Royal Crescent are laid out in a crescent shape, overlooking the picturesque Victoria Park. They are one of the most Instagramable places in Bath, so much so that the local council had to ban tourist couches and buses from stopping there after many years of complaints from the residents.
The Victoria Park was opened in honor of then-Princess Victoria in 1830. Since then, it has become the venue for several events, such as a carnival with hot balloons called Vintage FunFair.
Other things worth doing in Bath
If you decide to spend more time in Bath or want to choose from other potential activities, here are some you might want to look into.
Go on a Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour and admire the city from the comfort of a bus. You won’t have to worry about getting from one place to the other because you will have unlimited rides for the whole day.
Additionally, you will be able to see much more than you would on foot while listening to your audio guide that will tell you everything you need to know about this historic town.
The Bath Fashion Museum
This is a place you should give a chance to even if you are not a fashionista or very interested in fashion overall.
If you are traveling with kids, they will love the “dress-up” option you have available at the museum, where you can choose items designed as per the Regency, Georgian and Victorian fashions.
Inside the museum, you will travel back in time and admire outfits from back in the 1600s.
Tickets are 10 GBP for adults, but there are many other options here.
Address: Fashion Museum, Assembly Rooms, Bennett Street, Bath BA1 2QH
Bath Skyline Walk
Nature lovers will be glad to hear that only a short stroll away from the city center, they can emerge into a whole different world. A path almost 10 kilometers long will take you through hills, woods, babbling spring waters, and fairytale castles.
Climbing is moderate, and the trail is split into 11 sections, so you can choose which one to take depending on your time and energy.
Along the way, you can enjoy different views over the city, depending on the elevation.
Plan your stroll by following this comprehensive guide.
Thermae Bath Spa
We are SPA lovers and would never skip a good day at a thermal bath, especially in a town known for this. If you are just like us, you should check out the Thermae Bath Spa and pamper yourself with a treatment or just spend time soaking in the warm thermal waters at the main SPA.
The open-air rooftop pool will offer stunning views over the city, and at the Springs Cafe, you can enjoy delicious snacks and drinks throughout the day.
The Best coffee in Bath
As someone who has been called a “coffee snob” I cannot help but look for the best coffee in every place I ever visit.
While you won’t have too much time when you only spend one day in Bath, you can still have a coffee. And why not choose one of the best.
Here are my 2 favorite options.
Bath Coffee Company
Set in a beautiful old building in the city center, here is where you will find delicious specialty coffee. Sit outside and enjoy a view of the animated Kingsmead Square.
The cafe is open daily from 8 am until 6 pm.
With 2 locations in town, this is another great cafe serving fantastic specialty coffee. We chose the one 3 steps away from the Bath Abbey, with a small outside terrace.