Two days in Bath sounds like a weird and wonderful news story in involving someone with a toe that is stuck in the tap…but that’s not the Bath we mean. Instead, we are talking about how to spend a fun weekend in the beautiful city in the west of the UK. From cute cafes and cider spots to centuries of history, there’s so much to see, so if you only have 48 hours, here is how to spend two days in Bath, England.
- 1 Bath
- 2 DAY ONE
- 3 The Roman Baths and Pump Room
- 4 Fancy Lunch – Pump Room
- 5 Budget Lunch – The Cornish Bakery
- 6 Bath Abbey
- 7 Dinner – The Stable
- 8 DAY TWO
- 9 The Royal Crescent
- 10 The Circus and the Georgian Gardens
- 11 Traditional Lunch – Sally Lunn’s Eating House
- 12 Alternative Lunch – Sweet Little Things
- 13 A Spot of Shopping
- 14 Parade Gardens, the River Avon and The Pulteney Bridge
- 15 Dinner – The Scallop Shell
- 16 Cocktails – The Dark Horse
- 17 Information
- 18 Final Thoughts
The city of Bath has been a firm favourite on the UK tourist trail for a long time, a couple of millennia in fact! It first gained notoriety as Aquae Sulis (the waters of Sulis) when it was developed by the ancient Romans. They decided to make use of the spring that brought mineral-rich hot water from below the ground and built a small town, centred on a bathing and temple compound. Important Roman dignitaries made special journeys to visit.
The town’s second heyday came in the 1700s. This is known as the Georgian period, thanks to the four kings sitting on the British throne from 1714 – 1837, all called George. During the Georgian era, spa towns became incredibly popular, shooting Brighton, Buxton and Bath into the popular culture. It was believed that “taking the waters”, be they salty, fresh or naturally hot, was exceedingly healthy. One of Bath’s most famous residents, Jane Austin set several of her literary works here, giving it even more publicity. Georgian architecture is the most obvious reminder of this time in Bath’s history and it is glorious!
The Roman Baths and Pump Room
The first stop for everybody should be the Roman Baths and Pump Room. Built almost 2000 years ago, the excavations of this bathing and temple complex are incredible.
The main feature is a large rectangular bathing pool with hot, green, opaque water. This comes straight from that famous spring. In the main pool, the water looks green due to the algae which grows within it. Originally the roof, that is now missing, would have prevented this by blocking out the sun’s rays. This pool may be the most famous part of The Baths, but there is actually much more to see. Side rooms, temple details and Georgian additions make this a fascinating place.
The audio guides provided are an excellent companion throughout the experience. Visitors can choose from the official historical commentary, thoughts and feeling from author Bill Bryson or the cheerful acting of the children’s characters dotted along the way. On our last visit, we tried out a little of each and enjoyed them all in their own ways.
No, it isn’t cheap but it such a unique piece of England’s history and an absolute must-see.
Oh, and the gift shop has some lovely local products so we advise you really take the time to have a look. You could pick up some very fancy souvenirs.
Fancy Lunch – Pump Room
To complete your Roman Baths experience, take some time to visit The Pump Room. Although it is open for most of the day, the absolute best thing to do is enjoy an afternoon tea.
Afternoon tea is a quintessentially British past time and The Pump Room has been a great spot for a cuppa (albeit a very fancy one) since the 1700s. You can also try the water pumped directly from The Roman Baths below.
Budget Lunch – The Cornish Bakery
If you are on a tighter budget and want something filling and delicious, directly opposite The Pump Room is The Cornish Bakery. The Cornish Bakery specialises in cornish pasties, the flaky pastry pocket filled with delicious, juicy ingredients and crimped for glory. Here you can find the traditional pasty with beef, vegetables and potato alongside unusual options like Thai chicken, sweet potato and feta, and even a sweet apple and rhubarb. You will be warm, full and only £5 out of pocket.
Bath Abbey was first established as a monastery in the 7th century but it has been built, rebuilt and restored since then. Sir Gilbert Scott (who designed London’s St Pancras Station) was responsible for works in the 1860s but the most recent restoration is underway (as of December 2020).
The Abbey is stunning from the outside but to get a real sense of its scale, you must head inside. The fanned ceiling stretches high above you, and the stained glass windows are simply astonishing. Luckily, to avoid neck strain, there is plenty to see at ground level too. Along the walls, and on the floor are hundreds of memorials. These are not only touching but wonderful time capsules.
Dinner – The Stable
Do you like cider? How about pizza? Do you like a decent glass of house red? What about cheese? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions then you will find your happy place at The Stable, Bath. We have long been fans of The Stable‘s blend of affordable food, great selection of “proper cider” and rich desserts.
On our last visit to The Stable, Bath, we started with the five cider tasting board. This is a great way to find out which kind of cider you enjoy most. From there, you can chat with the knowledgable staff and they can make recommendations for you (with the odd taster if you’re lucky). The Stable has a rotating choice of ciders including slightly humdrum, mass-produce bottled varieties to boxes of small batch, scrumpy, scrumptious drinks. They even make their own, called Rapscallion which is a great introduction to “proper cider”.
We decided to be indulgent and ordered baked camembert to start and sat back in cheese heaven. Keep your eyes peeled for the Welsh gold starter too, they may bring it back one day. For mains, we had a sourdough pizza each. They are thin, crispy and the toppings are the best of British, even if they are exotic. The smoke on the water and Billy the kid are divine, and the British chorizo on my pizza this time was spicy and pungent. Finally, it was time for dessert (and another two ciders). I was sad to see the cheesecake was no longer on the menu but the chocolate brownie we ordered was the most amazing brownie we had ever had. It was seriously gooey, sprinkled in honeycomb and drizzled with salted caramel sauce. It was heartbreaking to be too full to order a second!
The Royal Crescent
Probably Bath’s most iconic location, after The Roman Baths, this Royal Crescent is a dramatic sweep of Georgian Houses fronted by a huge communal lawn. The Royal Crescent was designed by architect John Wood and constructed in the 1760s. The thirty houses have been in use ever since. Eighteen lucky people still own the whole properties, most others have been split into flats and number one has been converted into a museum called No1 Royal Crescent. Each room has been lovingly restored and brought to life as it was in the late 18th century. There is even a hotel that is open for the staying public.
The Circus and the Georgian Gardens
Just a two-minute walk east is The Circus. Unlike The Royal Crescent this curved facade goes all the way around a circular central garden (now more of a roundabout than anything). It is an unusual and beautiful city addition and it looks great in the early morning light.
If, like me, you are a nosy parker (read intrigued traveller) you can catch a glimpse of the back of these houses by visiting The Georgian Garden. This small but charming attraction is free to enter and is a garden conserved in the Georgian manner, including well-manicured topiary and the interesting way to maintain a lawn (but I’ll let you read all about that).
Traditional Lunch – Sally Lunn’s Eating House
You are going to be hungry after a morning of seeing the sights and this is the perfect time to try the Bath Bunn. Tucked away in a side street is one of Bath’s oldest houses. Inside, Sally Lunn’s Eating House serves a near constant stream of tourists and the main attraction is a large but incredibly light bread bun. They have been making them for three hundred and forty years and it is easy to see why. Whether you opt for a savoury topping like salmon and cream cheese, or a sweet bun with cinnamon butter or lemon curd, the Bath Bunn melts in your mouth making it the perfect light lunch.
Alternative Lunch – Sweet Little Things
Influencer heaven awaits you at Sweet Little Things. It is like a Barbie dream garden but happily, the cakes at this bakery/cafe are delicious. The cafe is open all day for eat in and take away goodies, as well as proper meals.
A Spot of Shopping
Bath is a great city for some retail therapy. Wandering the pedestrianised shopping thoroughfares of South Gate and Milsom Street you will find some of the high street’s favourite stores. It is worth poking around House of Fraser. Follow the nooks and crannies and you will learn all about the history of these quirky buildings.
If you prefer independent retailers, beautiful handmade gifts and fancy boutiques, head to the Artisinal Quarter. Standout independent shops like Mr B’s Emporium brings life to the shopping offerings. The Guardian voted this one of the top ten bookshops in the world so you could easily lose yourself in here for an afternoon if the written word is your thing.
Parade Gardens, the River Avon and The Pulteney Bridge
Follow the shops down to Pulteney Bridge, itself a great shopping destination. It’s lined with unique speciality shops which disguise the view of the river below. Just underneath the bridge, down some stone steps, is a very cute little Thai restaurant called Thai by the Weir. It isn’t the most original name but it has a great view of the river and weir and does a little list of cocktails.
Another fantastic spot for a view of the bridge is the Parade Gardens. Almost at river level, this small park is a nice place for a quick stroll. When we visited there was a sign, showing an entrance fee, but the booth was closed and nobody was asking for tickets so it may be free.
As well as having a great view, the Parade Gardens has some lovely planting beds and a cool sundial that will make any science geek smile.
Dinner – The Scallop Shell
The Scallop Shell‘s reputation proceeds it. Everyone who has been to Bath and tried their food raves about this legendary fish and chip restaurant. The Scallop Shell manages to straddle the line between great fish and chips and great seafood.
We tried two delicious oysters and a delicately cooked giant scallop. Plates of glistening chips and crispy battered fish were whisked past our table, leaving wafts of that familiar smell. Somehow, the place doesn’t smell greasy, and the decor is clean and reminiscent of a Spanish taverna, but the food is still so comforting.
Cocktails – The Dark Horse
Why not end the evening with a few cocktails? Located down a set of stairs on Kingsmead Square, The Dark Horse serves up exciting and beautifully crafted drinks from a small but perfectly formed menu. At first glance, the bar is pretty small but it is actually a series of underground rooms, perfect for a cosy night sipping strong, delicious drinks.
We both enjoyed our drinks but were most impressed by the flexibility of the bar staff. On a table behind us, someone didn’t want an alcoholic drink and they suggested all kinds of fun teetotal options. We found out that they make their own syrups…they take their beverages seriously!
If you are planning two days in Bath, here is some information you might like to know:
- Bath is easily reached from London. Jump on a Great Western Train from London Paddington and you’ll be at Bath Spa in 1 hour 20 minutes.
- National Express runs coaches from London Victoria which arrive in Bath 3 hours 30 minutes later.
- To drive from Central London will take just under two hours. But parking long term in the city can be tricky/expensive and it is extremely walkable, being such a compact city. We think that using public transport is a better option.
- We stayed at Julian’s Place, a Stay BC rental property. It was centrally located, had everything we needed for a self-catered 48 hours in Bath and was great value.
- For those that are looking for a truly luxurious experience, the Royal Crescent Hotel is located at number 16 Royal Crescent. It has a top-notch spa, an utterly refined cocktail bar and it drips with traditional British grandeur.
Bath is a small city, but it packs a punch whether you are a bygone era buff, an architecture addict or a foodie fan. It makes an excellent weekend break for families, couples and even solo travellers (I previously spent a very happy day there in 2015 visiting the Roman Baths and The Stable). If you want to explore the city in detail, you may need more than two days in Bath but it is an excellent way to get a feel for it and leave with fancy souvenirs, a very full belly and a few silly photos.