Welcome to our guide to spending one day in Bath. This stunning spa city is one of the most beautiful in Britain, with a wealth of Georgian architecture.
It also has one of the finest Roman Baths in Europe, and Bath Abbey is one of the greatest late medieval churches in England. It’s one of the best cities to visit in England, and one of the most popular day trips from London. It’s also an excellent base for exploring the West Country, the Cotswolds and South East Wales.
I’ve probably done the day trip to Bath 15-20 times over the years, as it’s only an hour away from my home city, Cardiff. Faye and I love visiting the Georgian city, and we would often take friends there when they visited us from overseas.
Our Bath in 1 day guide points you in the direction of the must-see places in Bath. We also suggest guided trips including boat tours or walks around the Georgian city. We also cover the practicalities of getting there, places to stay and places to visit near Bath.
We’ve been so fortunate to have visited Bath many times – we hope you get to do so too.
Why Visit Bath
Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site twice over – for its superb Georgian architecture and its status as one of the Great Spas of Europe.
The Bath Roman Baths complex is one of the best-preserved in Europe, an amazing way of discovering over 2,000 years of history – and in an extraordinary setting.
The 18th-century Georgian crescents, streets as terraces of Bath are also uniquely well-preserved. You’ll find Georgian buildings all over the UK, but Bath is a complete Georgian city.
Bath Abbey is one of the most beautiful churches in England, a masterpiece of the uniquely British Perpendicular Gothic style.
The town of Bath was founded by the Britons, who discovered the thermal waters there and may well have built a shrine there dedicated to their god Sulis.
The Romans conquered Britain in 55 BC, and took over the site, renaming it Aquae Sulis – the waters (or baths) of Sulis. They continued to develop the site over the following four centuries of occupation of the island.
Around a century after the Romans left, the area may have been the site of the momentous Battle of Badon Hill. The Britons suffered a catastrophic defeat to the Anglo-Saxons there. Nobody knows the site of the battle, and we probably never will. However, the Welsh (and British) name for the town is Caerfaddon, the fort of Baddon (or Badon).
King Alfred rebuilt the town in the 9th century, and William Rufus, the second Norman King of England, granted the town to John of Tours, who became Bishop, in 1088.
The Abbey was rebuilt in the early 15th and 16th centuries, the church surviving the Dissolution (and destruction) of the Monasteries as the city’s parish church.
Bath’s spa became popular in the second half of the 16th century, beginning a long period of growth for the city. This continued through the Stuart period (17th and early 18th centuries) and into the Georgian era.
Bath’s fortunes rose in the Georgian era, the spa bringing in great wealth. This is reflected in the many Georgian houses and streets built during this period. Bath was the most fashionable spa resort in Britain at the time.
Renowned English painter Thomas Gainsborough lived in Bath during the 18th century. Author Jane Austen lived in the city from 1801 and 1806, but did not enjoy the experience!
One day In Bath – Planning Tips
Bath is a small city, and one day is enough to cover the best things to do in Bath.
The main things to see in Bath are all within a mile walk of the city centre, and the city is easy to get around by bus or on foot.
Three of the top Bath attractions are within metres of each other. The Roman Bath, Pump Room and Bath Abbey are in a cluster in the city centre.
Some of the best Bath Georgian architecture is around 15 minutes’ walk from the centre, and I’d allow a couple of hours to see this.
Some of you may be tempted to combine a day in Bath with Stonehenge, a little over 30 miles (50 km) away near the city of Salisbury. If you’re visiting Bath from London and want to tag Stonehenge on, I suggest doing so. It’s one of the most famous UK landmarks, and the Stonehenge visitor experience has improved immeasurably in recent years.
There are also day tours from London taking in Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. You might get something out of visiting Stonehenge. But you won’t be doing Windsor Castle or Bath any justice.
I’ve allowed a 10.00 am start for this one-day trip to Bath. I assume that some of you will visit Bath on a day trip from London, so this is the time you would arrive in the city.
Bath In One Day Itinerary
10.00 am – arrive in Bath, then visit the Roman Baths
If you’re spending a day in Bath, head straight for the centre and the outstanding Roman Baths.
You can visit them as part of a package with a guided walking tour of Bath.
They are over 2,000 years old, dating back to pre-Roman times, and are one of the finest Roman sites in Europe.
The site is magnificent – you can walk around the bath at ground level or view it from the terrace above.
There’s also a phenomenal archaeological collection, including a famous gilt bronze head of the goddess Minerva and a carved stone Gorgon. For me the most fascinating exhibits are a series of ‘curse tablets’.
These are messages carved on pewter or lead for the goddess Sulis Minerva by visitors. Some of them ask for revenge to be exacted on individuals, who had taken or damaged things owned by the author of the message.
12.00 pm – Afternoon Tea at the Pump Room
The Pump Room, which overlooks the Roman Baths, was the focal point of social life in Bath in its 18th-century heyday.
It’s a wonderful experience, on a par with Afternoon Tea at one of the top London hotels such as the Ritz, Savoy or Claridge’s.
I’ve suggested afternoon tea as the Pump Room doesn’t serve lunch at the time of writing. They have a Morning Bakery serving, followed by a Champagne Brunch. In late July and August they also offer Summer Evening Dining.
1.30 pm – Visit Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey is one of the most beautiful churches in England. It’s a soaring English Perpendicular gem, built in the uniquely British late Gothic style in the early 16th century.
You may well have seen this style elsewhere in Britain, from the Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey to the breathtaking King’s College in Cambridge.
The Abbey’s history goes back over a millennium, and the present church was rescued from ruin in the 16th century. King Henry VIII had dissolved the monastery there and the church was left to ruin. Fortunately it was allowed to become the parish church of Bath, and restoration ensued.
The interior is wondrous, its large clerestory windows flooding the church with light. The fan vaulting throughout the Abbey is magnificent. You can also climb the Tower on a one-hour guided tour.
2.30 pm – Walk to Pulteney Bridge and enjoy a Bath boat trip on the River Avon
Any Bath day trip itinerary is incomplete without a visit to the handsome Pulteney Bridge. This is one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe, and one of only four to be lined with shops on both sides.
It was built by Robert Adam, inspired by Andrea Palladio’s rejected design for the Rialto Bridge on the Grand Canal Venice. Palladio submitted his designs 200 years before Adam followed up on them, but lost out to Antonio da Ponte.
The shops have changed significantly from Adam’s original design. The Bridge is open to pedestrians, buses and taxis, and leads to Great Pulteney Street, one of the most beautiful in the city.
All of the Bath boat tours tend to travel close to the Weir just below Pulteney Bridge. Many of them depart from Bath Quays, a short walk to the west of Bath Bus Station.
4.00 pm to 7.00 pm – Walk uphill to Bath Georgian Crescents and Terraces
You cannot leave the Georgian city of Bath without walking some of its most beautiful and elegant streets. The best of these can be found at the top of the hill to the north of the city centre. They are a 10-15 minute walk from Bath Abbey, or a few minutes’ bus ride.
The first Georgian terrace you reach is The Circus. This ring of houses around a central garden (and roundabout) was designed by John Wood the Elder, and completed by his son, John Wood the Younger. It was eventually completed in 1769, 15 years after building commenced.
Royal Crescent, the work of John Wood the Younger, was completed five years after The Circus. It’s one of the most beautiful streets in Europe, a grand sweep of 30 Palladian-style terraced houses. The front is embellished with Ionic columns between each set of windows.
Number 1 Royal Crescent is a Museum, the house restored to how it would have looked in the late 18th century. It’s decorated in the style wealthy owners would have chosen at the time, and if you have an hour spare, is well worth your while.
For some of the best photos in Bath, I suggest walking a short distance downhill to the gardens below the Royal Crescent lawn. These are especially beautiful in springtime, when they are usually planted with tulips. The view of these gardens, with the Royal Crescent behind, is a joy to behold.
While in the area, I also suggest taking a brief look at the Georgian Garden. It’s a restored garden with parterres at the back of one of the houses on The Circus, just off the Royal Avenue.
1 Day Bath Itinerary Summary
Arrival In Bath
Visit Bath Roman Baths
Afternoon tea at Bath Pump Room
Pulteney Bridge and Boat Trip
Walk To Bath Crescents And Terraces On The Hill Above The City Centre
At the venue of your choice
More Than 1 Day In Bath – More Things To Do In Bath
There are too many places to see in Bath to get around them all in a day. If you have any additional days in Bath I’d suggest taking time to see some of these places around the city.
Prior Park is one of the best hidden gems in Bath. It’s a stunning 18th century landscaped park to the south of the city, with views over some of it. You can only get there on foot or by bus, with only a few accessible car parking spaces available.
The steep park was laid out by Ralph Allen, and the highlight is the gorgeous Palladian Bridge over one of the ponds. It’s one of just four of similar design in the world.
I also recommend the Bath Skyline Walk, which takes you just outside the city. It’s between an hour and a half and two hours long, a moderate walk into the surrounding countryside. It’s a great way to appreciate this small but stunning city, surrounded by gentle hills. The walk starts from Kingston Parade, just outside Bath Abbey.
There are several other great walks around Bath. I also suggest taking a stroll along the Kennet and Avon Canal, which you can reach via Great Pulteney Street and Sydney Gardens. There is a beautiful stretch around Cleveland House (pictured), with some canal boats and cafes along the wharf the other side of the pedestrian tunnel.
Best Time To Visit Bath
Bath is very much a year-round destination, and we have visited Bath in all four seasons, each several times.
Bath is very beautiful in springtime, when the flower beds are packed with colourful tulips. Bath is also one of the best Christmas cities in Europe, with a Christmas Market around the Abbey and Roman Baths in November and December.
And if you want to experience the Roman Baths by torchlight, as in our image earlier in the article, winter is the time to see it. In December and January, the Baths are still open as it’s getting dark, and seeing it at dusk is wonderfully atmospheric.
Where Is Bath
Bath is in the county of Somerset in the south-west of England.
It’s 12 miles – 19 km – east of the much larger city of Bristol. It’s also 115 miles (185 km) west of London, and 109 miles (175 km) south-west of Birmingham.
How To Get To Bath
Bath is easy to reach by rail, coach and car.
Bath Spa is on the main line between Bristol Temple Meads and London Paddington. It’s just 17 minutes’ journey from Temple Meads. If you’re travelling from the Midlands you’ll need to change at Temple Meads. And if you’re travelling from Wales, Wiltshire or Hampshire, Bath Spa is on the Cardiff Central to Portsmouth Harbour route.
Bath Spa station is at the southern end of the city centre and is a 10-minute walk from the main Bath sights.
You can also get from London to Bath by coach. The National Express 403 service runs 12 services daily to Bath, terminating at Bath Bus Station. This is also on the southern edge of the city centre, close to Bath Spa station. The service from London is usually considerably cheaper than the train, but takes much longer. The train takes around 1 hour 15 minutes, whereas the coach takes 3 hours.
Bath also has excellent road connections. It’s 12 miles (19 km) south of junction 18 of the M4, less than half an hour’s drive. Otherwise it’s a similar distance along the A4 to Bristol.
Day Trips from Bath
There are a great many places to visit near Bath. The Cotswolds, West Country, Bristol and South Wales are all within easy reach of the city, and here are some of the best options.
Bath’s near-neighbour Bristol is a fantastic city, one of immense cultural wealth. I used to live up the hill from the city centre in the elegant suburb of Clifton, and grew to adore the place. It’s best-known for the outstanding Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is over 100 metres (330 feet) above the Avon Gorge.
The city is also home to the SS Great Britain, the first great ocean liner in the world. It’s also home to the street artist Banksy, and one of the most popular things to do in Bristol is a guided tour taking you around some of his surviving art.
Many visitors are surprised to learn that Bath doesn’t have a Cathedral, believing that the Abbey has this status. The Cathedral covering Bath is 20 miles south in the city of Wells in Somerset. One of the smallest and most underrated cities in Europe, Wells has an amazing collection of ecclesiastical buildings.
The Cathedral, with its astonishing west front, is one of the greatest cathedrals in England. And just around the corner, don’t miss Vicar’s Close, one of the most beautiful streets in Europe.
To the north, there are some brilliant things to see around Bath. Westonbirt Arboretum is magnificent year-round – we visited in springtime, but autumn is also breathtaking. The Arboretum is just south of Tetbury, one of the gateways to the Cotswolds.
These gentle hills are home to some of the most beautiful villages in England. The region grew wealthy from the wool trade in the Middle Ages, and it’s an area we’ve dipped in and out of many times.
If it’s your first Cotswolds visit, I recommend Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter, close to Stow-on-the-Wold. It’s only a few miles’ drive from there to quirky Snowshill Manor and the landmark Broadway Tower nearby.
For a wider selection, take a look at our article on places to visit near Bath and Bristol.
How To Get Around Bath
Several buses run from the bus station or Bath Spa station to the city centre. The most convenient stop is the Guildhall, close to Bath Abbey. The 6, 6A, 7 and 11 Bathcity services all call there.
The same buses also call at Alfred Street and Milsom Street. These are a few minutes’ walk from The Circus and the best area for Georgian architecture in Bath.
Alternatively the City Tour bus takes you right into the Georgian crescents and streets.
Much of Bath city centre is pedestrianised, so whenever I’ve gone to see Bath in a day I’ve tended to walk up the hill rather than wait for a bus.
How Many Days In Bath Ideally?
Over 20 or so trips to Bath, one of the most enjoyable aspects has been finding new hidden gems and corners of Bath. This is why I suggest staying in Bath for two or three days – possibly more if you intend to explore some of the surrounding region.
This will give you time to seek out more places around the city and surrounding countryside.
One Day In Bath – Final Thoughts
We have been so lucky to have lived within an hour of Bath, and done a one day trip to Bath so many times over, in all seasons. I suggest staying overnight if you can, but a Bath one day tour is a great introduction to this beautiful city.
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