Bath is famous for its Roman and Georgian architecture, thermal spring spas and the Jane Austen Centre. Bath is known for its love of rugby, having two universities and for being the backdrop of quintessentially British movies.
But that’s not all there is to see and do in this wonderfully historic city. Just a stone’s throw away from Bristol, Bath has plenty to offer tourists in need of some history, pampering and creativity!
I’ve listed 20 unmissable things that Bath is famous for, so let’s get started!
1. The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths Museum is a time portal. Inside, you’ll find four main features: the Sacred Spring, a Roman Temple, a Roman Bath House, and a museum with artifacts from pre-Roman and Roman Britain.
You’ll also find everything from Roman coins to tablets with curses inscribed on them by Roman bathers – the vast majority of which tell the story of how their clothes were stolen while they were bathing!
2. Thermae Bath Spa
For those of you in need of some relaxation, good news: Bath is famous for another spa, and this is one you’re able to use! Thermae Bath Spa is Britain’s only naturally heated spa – and it’s home to some of the best views in the city.
The water in both the pools at Thermae Bath Spa fell as rain thousands of years ago. That means that when you take a dip, your skin will get to bathe in water containing no less than 42 minerals, from rain that fell on Romans!
The rooftop pool in particular is a crowd favorite as it provides a panoramic view of the city day and night. There are also steam rooms that pay tribute to Bath’s two greatest influential eras: Roman and Georgian.
3. The Jane Austen Centre
If there’s one thing that Bath is famous for, it’s Jane Austen. When Jane Austen visited Bath in 1797, she had no idea that she would become synonymous with the city forever.
Bath became a kind of muse for Jane. She wrote Northanger Abbey and Persuasion while she lived there, and both are a kind of social commentary on what life in Bath was like at the time.
The story of Jane Austen and Bath is complex and a lot less romantic than her novels. You can learn all about Jane Austen’s Bath at the Jane Austen Centre, just off of Queen’s Square in Bath.
Head’s up: Jane lived at four addresses in Bath in total, but the one she spent the most time in was 4 Sydney Place (1801-1804).
4. Literary Legends
But it wasn’t just Jane Austen who caught a whiff of inspiration from Somerset’s largest city. Bath is famous for being a city that inspired plenty of literary greats, including Mary Shelley and Charles Dickens.
Dickens famously stayed at The Saracen’s Head, the oldest pub in Bath. It was built in 1713 and is, apparently, where he wrote the novel Pickwick Papers.
Mary Shelley reputedly wrote the world’s first science fiction novel, Frankenstein, in Bath. Today, you can visit The House of Frankenstein, an interactive museum dedicated to Mary Shelley and all things spooky.
5. The Royal Crescent
Bath is famous for its architecture, in particular the Royal Crescent. It’s highly possible that you’ve glimpsed it in movies such as The Duchess (2007) or Les Miserables (2012) without knowing it, but in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s why it’s special.
The Royal Crescent is one of Bath’s most iconic architectural landmarks. It was designed by John Wood The Younger, and built between 1767 and 1775. The existence of The Royal Crescent is actually one of the major reasons Bath was given UNESCO World Heritage Status!
Amazingly, you can actually go inside one of the houses in The Crescent and explore Georgian England for yourself. No.1 The Crescent is a fantastic, interactive museum that has been decked out with Georgian furniture. It’s probably the closest thing we have to time-travel and I can highly recommend paying them a visit!
6. The Circus
Similarly, Bath is famous for yet another stunning architectural feat, The Circle. As you might expect from the name, The Circle is a circle of Georgian houses designed by John Wood The Elder. And yes, he was John The Younger’s dad!
Building began in 1754 and this is where Bath’s most fashionable people lived. In fact, they still do – these houses have belonged to plenty of celebrities over the years.
Most of all though, these houses are a spectacle. They scream glamour, riches and perhaps even romanticism.
The Circus buildings create a kind of key shape, with The Circus linked to The Crescent by a long line of other houses. There’s also an astronomy link: it’s said that The Circus represents the sun, and The Crescent symbolizes the moon!
6. The Discovery of Uranus
When did you first hear of Uranus? I’m guessing it might have been the first and last time you laughed in science class. Childish jokes aside, Uranus has a vital part to play in our knowledge of astronomy, and Bath is famous for being the city where it was discovered.
The Solar System’s most comically-named planet was discovered in a Bath backyard with a homemade telescope by Sir William Herschel.
Herschel was born in Hannover, Germany, but moved to Bath to work as a musical copyist and choirmaster at Octagon Chapel, Milsom Place. On 13 March 1781, Herschel discovered Uranus (though he, rather boringly, named it Georgium Sidus, The Georgian Planet, after King George III).
But Herschel had a lot of fun in Bath aside from his astronomer duties. The year before his discovery, he became the director of the Bath Orchestra. He also managed to write more than 20 symphonies at the Pump Room in Bath during his stay.
You can visit the house William Herschel lived in to find out more – it’s now called The Herschel Museum of Astronomy.
7. Bath Buns & Sally Lunn’s
Bath is famous for its eponymous baked treat, the Bath Bun. As any Bathonian will tell you (that’s the name for locals in Bath, by the way), there’s only one place where you can get a true Bath Bun. And that’s from Sally Lunn’s.
Sally Lunn’s is probably the most famous cafe in Bath. Built in 1482, it’s also, apparently, the oldest house. But the history of the Bath Bun goes back to 1680, when a young French woman named Solange Luyon fled persecution as a Hugenot. She got a job at a bakery near Bath Abbey (where Sally Lunn’s still is today) and her English colleagues, unable to pronounce her name, nicknamed her Sally Lunn.
Sally, a skilled baker, added a new recipe to the bakery’s ranks: brioche. And so the Sally Lunn Bath Bun was born. Today, we’d say her recipe went viral.
Georgian Bathonians went crazy for them, and even today, people visit Bath to try a Bath Bun at Sally Lunn’s. You can eat them either as a sweet treat or savory, but you’ll have to try it both ways to find which you prefer!
8. Pulteney Bridge
Bath is famous for another of its glorious pieces of Georgian architecture, Pulteney Bridge. The bridge got its name from Frances Pulteney, the wife of one of the largest landowners in Bath during the 18th century.
Pulteney Bridge is one of the only bridges in the world to have shops lining both sides. When it was opened in 1770, contemporary Bathonians were amazed. Even today, the bridge draws crowds for its beauty and unique style.
Psst: If you feel like you’ve seen Pulteney Bridge before but can’t remember where – this was the filming location of Javert’s suicide in the 2012 movie Les Miserables!
9. The Penny Black
Bath is famous for being the first city in the world to send a letter with an adhesive stamp – which sounds way more boring than it actually is!
You see, before the self-adhesive stamp was invented, it was the receiver, not the sender who paid postage. So, if you really didn’t like someone, you could probably bankrupt them by sending them unwanted mail!
In Georgian England, a letter from Bath to London would take approximately three days. It was super expensive and very disorganized. There was also no mail-box or slot in the door for mail to pass through – someone would have to answer the door and pay the deliverer.
And mail could arrive up to 12 times a day – yeah, you read that right. 12!
So when the Penny Black came along on 6 May 1840, a postal revolution happened. People could now pay for their own stamps at a flat rate of one penny.
The first such letter to be stamped was sent from Bath to London on 2 May, four days before its official release to the public. Check out the excellent Bath Postal Museum to learn more!
10. Bath Abbey
Bath is famous for its largest and most recognizable church, Bath Abbey. People have worshipped at the abbey or on the ground where it stands since 675 AD, making it a very old and historically significant place.
To understand the church’s history, you need a vivid imagination. Since 675, at least three different structures have stood where the abbey is today – a saxon church, a medieval monastery and later, an abbey.
Famously, Henry VIII closed Bath Abbey in 1539, but his daughter, Elizabeth I, gave her permission for money to be raised to restore it. It took until 1620 for the work to be completed. It wasn’t until 1863 that the Abbey got another major revamp, and during WWII, a nearby bomb explosion shattered all the windows.
You are welcome to tour the abbey and it often hosts interesting events and exhibitions.
11. Bath Rugby
Any Bathonian will tell you that life starts all over again in Bath at the beginning of fall. Forget leaves and pumpkin spice lattes, it’s all about rugby, pints of cider and fighting spirit!
Bath Rugby Club is one of the oldest and most successful rugby clubs in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1865 and was designed to give cricketers something to do after summer. Rugby quickly became one of the most popular sports in Bath and is probably why Bathonians seem to prefer rugby over soccer or football.
The Bath colors are blue, white and black and on match days, whatever the result, the whole city becomes awash with banners, merch-wearing fans and plenty of chants. Catch a game or grab some merch of your own like a true Bathonian!
You might be surprised to find out that nightlife in Bath is every bit as hyped up today as it was in Jane Austen’s day. Granted, it’s a lot less dignified, but it’s still a sought-after experience for many.
Bath is famous for having plenty of bars and nightlife, and, as a city with two universities, it’s the one time this very old city feels quite young!
There are around 20 clubs in Bath, all with different themes and experiences up for grabs. If you want to get dancing, locals will probably point you in the direction of Second Bridge, Zero Zero or Moles.
If you want something more unique, however, I can highly recommend a trip to Komedia. This is Bath’s comedy club, where stand-up comics take the stage before the place gets transformed into a dancefloor.
13. Bath Stone
Bath is famous for being a very aesthetically pleasing city, but that’s not entirely down to its exquisite architecture. Many buildings in Bath were built using Bath stone, an oolitic limestone, which contains natural, honey-colored pigmentation.
During the Jurassic period, Bath was actually under shallow seawater. Over time, calcium carbonate, marine sediment and lime combined which formed Bath stone. Previously, there were quarries dotted all over Bath and the surrounding area in Somerset and Wiltshire, though most of these are now closed.
Historians know that Roman bridges were built using Bath stone and it became a particular favorite among Georgian architects, presumably for its durability and beauty. The warm glow that comes from the stone in sunlight is distinctive but can be seen on many famous English landmarks in the south of England.
Bath is famous for having many museums, and they’re not all limited to famous authors or scientists, either. In fact, Bath has so many museums dedicated to so many subjects that you may struggle to narrow your museum bucket list down!
First up, The American Museum. The American Museum was founded by two Americans, Dallas Pratt and John Judkyn. Pratt had a summer home near Bath and he bought the Grade I listed building and the accompanying 125 acres of gardens in 1958 with his partner, John Judkyn.
The two men aimed to improve ties between Britain and America and educate Britons on what American history could teach us. The museum contains a huge collection of American history from the 14th century onwards, including Native American history.
15. Bath Christmas Market
Bath is famous for its annual Christmas market, known locally as Bath Christmas Markets. Outside Bath Abbey at the beginning of December, small shack-like sheds pop up all around the square selling Christmas-inspired food and gifts.
The Christmas Market, while loved by many, is not always greeted with joy by locals. That’s mostly because it gets very, very busy – but don’t be put off by Scrooges.
It’s estimated that around 400,000 people visit the Christmas markets over the 18 days the market takes place, and you can get your hands on everything from locally made honey, candles and pieces of art at reasonable prices.
16. Pubs & Restaurants
Bath is famous for being an indulgent city, and luckily, that goes for the food, too. There are loads of pubs and restaurants that offer excellent food – and not all of them are crazy expensive, either!
Take The Huntsman, for instance. This pub, located a stone’s throw away from Bath Abbey, has some of the best pub food in the city. This is where you go if you want to sample simple British cuisine such as fish and chips or a Sunday Roast.
If you’re feeling fancier, but still want British food, head to Olive Tree, Bath’s only Michelin star restaurant.
But if you’re not in the mood for British food, don’t despair. There are restaurants in Bath that specialize in cuisines from all over the world! Here’s Bath’s Good Food Guide to give you some inspiration.
17. River Avon & Canal
Bath is famous for being home to part of the River Avon, the U.K’s 19th longest river. The Kennet and Avon canal also passes through Bath, and both offer visitors the chance to explore the surrounding area either on foot or by bike!
If you’re in Bath for a few days but want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, I can recommend you either walk or cycle along its waterside paths. You can follow the River Avon towards Bristol, the largest city in South-West England, or follow the canal in the opposite direction to explore the Saxon, market town of Bradford-on-Avon.
Of course, your options aren’t limited to walking or cycling. Why not hire a canoe or kayak and try your hand at watersports? Alternatively, you can book a boat ride along the river or canal, offering some truly magnificent views of Bath and the neighboring countryside.
18. Craft beers
As lovers of sports, it’s no surprise that Bath is famous for some of its homegrown beers.
However, lager fans may be in for a bit of a shock. Traditional English beer tends to be ale, which basically means that the yeast in the beer is fermented at a hotter temperature than a lager.
Ales tend to be darker and cloudier in appearance, and yes, many of them contain higher alcohol content. Whether or not you like ale is a matter that can only be decided via the taste test – and luckily, most breweries are open to tourists!
19. Glastonbury Festival
If you know anything about British Culture or music, you’ll have heard of Glastonbury Festival. While the festival isn’t held in Bath, its ties to the West Country city are undeniable.
If you haven’t heard of it, then you might be surprised to find out that Glastonbury Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Britain. It’s sort of like English Coachella – except much muddier!
Around 200,000 people attend Glastonbury Festival and headline acts have included no less than David Bowie, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, and Jay-Z. Even the 14th Dalai Lama attended in 2015!
But what does this festival have to do with Bath? Well, it’s held only about half an hour away in the same county of Somerset. That, and the festival’s founder, Michael Eavis, was inspired to create his own festival after attending an open-air Led Zeppelin concert in 1970 at the Bath Festival of Blues and Progressive Music.
Regardless, Glastonbury tickets are near impossible to get hold of and sell out in mere minutes after release. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some, take it as a perfect opportunity to do some exploring in the nearby city of Bath!
20. Famous Bathonians
Bath is famous for being home to Bathonians (that’s what locals call themselves!) and some of them are more famous than you might expect. Bath is the home or birth town of many famous faces from many different spheres, including comedy, literature, drama and even politics.
So which Bathonians might you recognize? Well, if you’re into British comedy, you’ll have heard of Bill Bailey (pictured above) and Russell Howard.
If you prefer the big screen, you may have seen Andrew Lincoln from The Walking Dead or Love Actually, or Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones.
Lastly, one name that Bath is particularly proud of is Mary Berry, the famous, cozy baker from Great British Bake Off!
And there you have it! 20 things Bath is known and famous for.
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