While it’s most famous for its history, which includes both Jane Austen and the Romans, Bath is vibrantly modern and full of things to do. Design-focused boutique shops sit next to some of the country’s best restaurants and pubs, and you’ll find stunning boutique hotels to spend the night in. Here’s SL’s top tips for spending 48 hours in this West Country city.
The best thing to do when in Bath is to explore – look at the Georgian houses, visit the Abbey and amble on the banks of the River Avon because all the scenery is divine. The streets in Bath are made for walking so wander to the Royal Crescent, one of the city’s most iconic architectural landmarks, for a view over the city while marvelling at the street itself.
Other than stunning architecture, Bath is known for being a spa town with natural thermal waters. This is just one reason why the Romans loved it, so before heading to the Thermae Bath Spa, Britain’s only natural thermal spa, visit the Roman Baths to see how the city would have looked in the 5th century. If you’re looking for traditional spa treatments The Spa & Bath House at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa is sensational. Here you can have a massage, steam in the herbal steam room and swim before having afternoon tea out in their lush gardens. If you’re after inspiration before hitting the shops, then go to the Fashion Museum Bath and view their world-class collection of clothing through every era, or enjoy a dose of art at The Holburne Museum in the sublime Sydney Pleasure Gardens.
While you’re wandering around Bath, be prepared to be tempted by the exceptional range of shops here. The city has all the standard high-street stores, from Anthropologie to Whistles, but it is Bath’s independent boutiques that really stand out. Eight Holland Street’s careful curation of everything from ceramics to modernist French furniture to Claudia Rankin’s gorgeous candlesticks will have you wishing for a bigger suitcase to take these treasures home. In Found (one of the city’s most-loved shops), they stock brilliant international brands like Laura Lombardi, Karen Walker and Seoul Import. If you want something one-of-a-kind then Vintage to Vogue have a collection of high-quality vintage clothing that includes everything from Dior to Dries Van Noten. If you’ve forgotten reading material for your afternoon at the spa then head to Magalleria. This small shop specialises in magazines, artist's books and zines from all over the world. See what catches your eye and grab something to read for the train home too.
Bath has every cuisine that you could ever crave. The city has become a hub for some of the country’s best chefs and almost every menu here highlights the amazing produce of the West Country. For chic bistro dining around the corner from the Royal Crescent try The Circus whose charming candlelit tables and bread from neighbouring Bertinet Bakery will have you returning soon. While you might think the best fish and chips can only be found near the seaside, The Scallop Shell will prove you wrong. Inside you will find a huge bathtub filled with ice and the day’s best catch from the coast. Choose what the chef recommends and you can’t go wrong. Bath has lovely traditional gastro-pubs like The Marlborough Tavern which serves classics with a twist. Their fishcakes with fennel and samphire and fondant cakes with chocolate soil are standouts. If you’re after something with a little spice, The Mint Room offers cooking you cannot miss and is worth the trip just outside the centre of the city. Here they serve some of the best contemporary Indian food in the country so go and order the biryani, it can’t be beaten. If you want to bring something home, go to Bath Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning, one of the best in England. You can find everything here from local cheese to tea, apples and freshly baked pies; the only problem will be choosing what you want.
After all this exploring, you’ll need somewhere to sleep. Bath is blessed with lots of really lovely B&Bs and boutique hotels. At the 5-star The Gainsborough, ask for the Bath Spa room and you’ll have the roll-top bathtub of your dreams and in-room access to healing thermal waters – it’s a seriously special suite. If after your spa experience at the The Spa & Bath House you fancy staying in their hotel just across the garden, you will find gorgeously decorated rooms that will make you feel like a 21st-century Austen heroine. For something a bit more modern, the newly opened Broadstreet Townhouse is in the centre of town and has 11 individually styled rooms that all include a picnic basket breakfast delivered to your door. If you’re driving to Bath and want to stay somewhere a little quieter, The Methuen Arms just outside the city in the beautiful and picturesque village of Corsham is an exceptional pub with rooms. Alternatively, head there for a Sunday roast on the way home after your time in Bath to end the weekend on a high note.
Words by Bre Graham
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