This March I was back for the third time to one of my favorite British cities – Bath Spa in Somerset, this time – for a spa escape at the Gainsborough Spa Hotel.
Apart from the famous hot springs, Bath is known for its well preserved Roman baths, Jane Austen links, splendid Georgian architecture – now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Scroll down and see why I love it so much!
The Roman Baths
Roman baths are an unmissable attraction of the city of Bath – and I bet you’ve already guessed where the name of the city comes from. Aquae Sulis – the special area around the hot springs and the temple dedicated to Sulis Minerva – was constructed by Romans in the first century A.D. and now it’s one of the best-preserved remains of that era in the entire world.
The hot springs are still there – and as for me, I was always enchanted by the steam coming out from the pool! Don’t forget to take an audio guide when you walk through all the museum floors – it’s everything but boring! And don’t forget to taste the water at the end of your tour to get the sense of this place to the fullest.
You’ve probably already seen those wonderful pictures of their pool framed with the columns and the view over the cathedral – yes it’s all real, the color of the water is turquoise and actually, it looks even better in the real life!
By the way, you have a unique opportunity to swim in a hot spring yourself as we did when kindly hosted by The Gainsborough hotel, I’ll share my experience with you below!
The Royal Crescent is another amazing example of human architectural skills – but this time of the 18th century. These iconic 30 terraced houses designed by John Wood the Younger are placed on a semi-rounded row and decorated with Ionic columns – and remain one of the greatest examples of Georgian style.
Most of the apartments are occupied by individual owners but one of the houses is a hotel and another one is a No. 1 Royal Crescent Museum, once home to Henry Sandford. I sincerely recommend you to pop in as it illustrates perfectly the domestic life of the late 18th century.
I liked the dining and withdrawing rooms a lot – and where else you can see kitchen equipment that includes a toy dog that assists to the meat roasting?
Bath Assembly Rooms
Another historical venue demonstrating various aspects of Georgian high society’ life is Bath Assembly Rooms. It consists of four halls: Great Octagon, Tea Room, Ballroom and Card Room. The cafe serves hot and cold drinks and some scones, snacks, and sandwiches. I bet you’d love the magnificent chandeliers over there and they are also for hire – just imagine having a wedding ceremony held in Bath Assembly Rooms!
The Fashion Museum
If you’re into fancy clothes and accessories, you can explore the lower floor of Bath Assembly Rooms as well where the Fashion Museum is located. It illustrates the last four centuries of fashion by 100 thoughtfully chosen pieces – and I was thrilled to see so many Dior items over there! Besides that, you can dress up in outfits of different eras as well. During my last visit special exhibit was dedicated to Royal Dresses.
If you ask me, what are my 5 favorite activities in Bath, sipping tea in a small cafe on Pulteney Bridge with a view over River Avon would definitely be in my list.
The bridge’s name comes from a prosperous Bath family of that time – the construction was designed by Robert Adam in the late 18th century. Its main characteristic is definitely two lines of shops on both sides.
Bath Abbey is a wonderful Medieval church that is located right beside the Roman Baths. As it usually happens, since a first church was built on this place in 757 AD, a lot has happened to the building, but the current one was erected in a splendid Victorian Gothic style in late 19th century.
Now some restorations are going on as well.
The King’s Circus
Bath is all about architecture, and the King’s Circus is another brilliant example of it. If the Royal Crescent is semi-rounded, Circus, as the name suggests, forms a proper circle of houses with three entrances and a grassed lawn at its centre.
It was designed by John Wood, the Elder, in the middle of the 18th century who, as the story says, was inspired by another iconic location – the Stonehenge.
The Holburne Museum
If you are craving for some fine arts, there are a few places for it in Bath too. If you’re going from the city centre, cross the Pulteney Bridge to get to the Holburne Museum.
The majority of objects were acquired by Sir Thomas William Holburne in the 19th century: you can find there paintings (look for Gainsborough, Sargent, and Pieter Brueghel the Younger!), porcelain, gems, books, furniture, maiolica, and many more.
I particularly enjoyed the collection of ‘fakes’ – the pieces that were thought to be original but modern expertise revealed them to be quite contrary.
Victoria Art Gallery
Another nice fine art collection is located at Victoria Art Gallery, near the Pulteney Bridge. The gallery was named so to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee (60-year rule) of Queen Victoria.
Pop in there for more paintings – think of Gainsborough again and of Barker and many other British and European artists.
The Jane Austen Centre
If you love books of Jane Austen, you shouldn’t miss the fact that her characters occasionally go to Bath. She herself has been there a couple of times – and even lived in this city from 1801 to 1806.
You won’t miss The Jane Austen Centre when walking along the Gay street – Jane Austin’s waxwork welcomes you at its doors. It highlights all the connections the author had with Bath and shows how her stays in there influenced her writings. I remember enjoying it quite a lot when I was in Bath for the very first time about 8 years ago!
Bath Postal Museum
Adjacent to a functioning post office in the very center of Bath, Bath Postal Museum is small but quite interesting. You can learn there the details about the British postal service history starting from the early 18th century and the rule of Charles II both from artifacts and interactive objects.
One of the interesting sections is the Damage to Mails on Land – learn how people and animals destroy the precious enveloped writings!
Bath Guildhall Market
The oldest shopping spot in Bath, the 800-year-old Guildhall Market is famous for its small stalls with goodies and various food. Christmas market is also usually held nearby.
Other places to visit:
Bath offers a nice range of other places to visit as well. Consider popping into the Museum of East Asian Art, Museum of Bath Architecture, Medical Museum, and Beckford’s Tower. As for food, why not to enjoy the afternoon tea at the Jane Austen Centre or some proper Thai food at Giggling Squid restaurant?
Where to stay:
If you want to enjoy Bath to its fullest, bathing in local hot springs is a must! We were kindly invited to The Gainsborough Hotel’s Spa Village – the only spa in the UK where pools are supplied with thermal mineral-rich water directly from the hot springs.
In addition to the splendid pool, there are a few smaller natural thermal pools with different water temperature, Aromatic Steamed Room, Lavender Ice Alcove and two types of saunas.
The treatments in the Spa are Asian-inspired. I was also privileged to try Magnesium Remineralizer in the Spa – a combo of scrub, massage, and the wrap was just a perfect spring awakening treatment.
This hotel occupies a historical Grade II listed building but at the same time its design is absolutely modern. With Roman Baths literally just around the corner and a view over the pretty houses of Bath, the stay there nourishes both body and mind!
Apart from being a spa destination, The Gainsborough Bath Spa also offers a wonderful dining experience at Dan Moon restaurant: just look at these mouthwatering duck or lamb, for instance! No surprise it holds three AA Rosettes.
The choice of 5 or 7-course menu or an a la carte menu is elevated by elegant and modern interior design and a real fireplace (the latest always makes me fall in love with a place!). Breakfast is served in the same hall and cocktail bar is adjacent to it.
I hope you enjoyed today’s post!