The beautiful city of Bath laid its foundations in the Roman era, when the now-famous baths became a healing hangout for dignitaries of the time. Today, visitors flock to Bath for a relaxing weekend break that is steeped in Roman history, Georgian grandeur and culture.
Bath is one of England’s most historic cities, a fact that has earned its distinction as a World Heritage City. Its attractions make for a perfect weekend break.
Over 2,000 years ago, the Romans built the baths to harness the healing powers of the thermal mineral spring waters of the Cotswolds. The baths, now the Roman Baths Museum, is the best preserved religious Roman spa in the world – even the original plumbing still works. People flocked to the baths for centuries to drink and dip in the restorative waters, although visitors can now only look at the green waters of the spa. The baths have been added to over the years and one of the grandest additions is the neo-classical Grand Pump Room, built in 1795, which still functions as a tea room. Visitors can drink the mineral-rich water, served warm, fresh from the spring.
For those who want to languish in the thermal springs, a newly renovated spa has opened in the city. The Thermae Bath Spa invites visitors to plunge into the warm spring waters and choose from over 50 spa treatments. The establishment also offers waterfall showers, aromatherapy and classes in yoga, meditation and pilates.
Another famous landmark is Bath Abbey. The medieval abbey celebrated its 500th anniversary in 1999 and is a fine example of gothic architecture. A magnificent stained glass panel was added in the Victorian times and although this was destroyed by a bomb blast during World War II, it was meticulously recreated from the original plans. Other highlights are the fan-vaulted ceiling and a small museum with documents and objects recording the history of the abbey.
While Bath may have laid its foundations in the Roman era, many of its historical buildings sprang up under the reign of King George II. Georgian architectural highlights include the Royal Crescent, the Circus, North and South Parade, Pulteney Bridge and Queen Square, which was the first significant expansion beyond Bath’s medieval walls.
At 1 Royal Crescent, you can take a tour of a three-story townhouse that is decorated as it would have been in the 18th century. King George III’s second son, the Duke of York, once rented this home.
One of the most breathtaking monuments to the Georgian period is the Circus, a ring of 33 terraced houses that recreate the feel of the Coliseum in Rome. The Circus has 500 carvings that represent the arts and sciences of Bath.
One famous tenant was painter Thomas Gainsborough, who lived at number 17 from 1765 to 1774. Gainsborough painted a number of portraits while living in Bath and you can see his work at the Victoria Art Gallery, among other artworks both antique and modern.
Other museums include the Museum of Costume, showcasing 16th century fashions to present day creations by designers such as Tom Ford, and the Holburne Museum of Art, which houses art treasures collected by Sir William Holburne.
Bath was also home to Jane Austen, who lived in the city with her parents and penned her first novel, Northanger Abbey, about local society. Her last novel, Persuasion, was also set in Bath. You can find out all about the author’s life and time in the Jane Austen Centre, located just a few doors down from the former Austen residence in Gay Street.