Last week I visited Bath (UK) on a short business trip. Having just some time after my meeting, I was still able to do a lot with my evening in Bath aside from check out local gluten-free restaurants. Here are 5 things to do in Bath, if you just have a few hours to spend there.
1. The Roman Baths
The first stop was the old Roman baths. It’s a must-see and you can easily squeeze it in, because it really just takes about 1.5 hour to leisurely walk through the museum and see the baths. If you have less time you can see plenty in an hour or even less as well. It depends on how much time you want to spend reading the exhibits as you walk through the museum.
At the end of the journey, don’t miss the little pillars of stones on the floor beneath you. They don’t look very solid now, but once they held up an entire floor. The sign by railing explains how the pillars supported the floor and what their function really was: from a door at the end of the room hot steam would be forced into the room, heating it from underneath the floor. Unfortunately the poor guy stoking the fire for this hot air didn’t have a very nice job.
Around the same place you can sample some of the spring water. It comes out still quite warm, and it doesn’t taste bad at all. I’ve sampled spring water in some other places before, and was expecting it to taste much worse. It frankly just tastes mildly different from regular hot water. They also post the chemical make-up of the water, and compare it to some other well-known waters:
2. The Bath Christmas Market
The Bath Christmas Market draws a lot of visitors every year. It contributes so much to the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in Bath, that it was really difficult for me to find a reasonably priced hotel. Then again, it is December and people will buy their Christmas gifts. Only a few weeks ago I browsed the One of a Kind Christmas Show in Toronto, this week I checked out a similar concept in Bath. The Christmas market consists of little chalets scattered around the downtown core of Bath. This is bad news if it rains, which it did on and off, but generally the weather held up. Each chalet is its own little store, where artisans sell their wares.
3. The Bath Abbey & a Carol Service
I was very lucky I was in Bath on the same day there was a Christmas carol service in Bath Abbey. It was the Bath Chronicle and Rotary Club carol service. Tickets are free but you have to line up early. The holiday season gives the option to see a carol service or a concert in the abbey, but the abbey itself is well worth a visit. The stained glass along most walls was some of the most spectacularly detailed stained glass I have ever seen.
4. Tea at the Pump Room
An authentic British experience is to have tea. Unfortunately, while I like good food I don’t have enough of a sweet tooth to devour an entire cake plate of sweets with my tea. Having a high tea on my own doesn’t make sense, but I did have some lunch at the Pump Room adjacent to the Roman Baths. I first walked in during what must have been tea time, and there were cakes and sweets everywhere. They looked great! Lunch was accompanied with live music and a pot of tea of my own. After all, I prefer something hearty over something sweet to eat. Live music was a lovely touch, and the environment alone is worth visiting for. You feel regal in the massive room with ceilings as high as the sky, from which the biggest crystal chandelier lights up the room.
Bath is without question a shopping destination. Whether the Christmas Market is on or not, the rest of the town boasts an impressive number of shops. From small boutiques to major brands. Looking beyond the storefronts, you will notice the shops are housed in beautiful old buildings, made of local golden coloured Bath stone. It is also the only city that in its entirety achieved World Heritage status.
Jane Austin once called it her home, and there is now a museum where she lived. Beyond this there are many more museums and opportunities to soak up local history. Bath has been the stage where famous stories in British literature played out. It has been enjoyed by many since Roman times, and continues to be enchanting. The city center is very walkable, a definite positive for short trips.
Words of warning
If you are visiting in December or other similarly busy times of the year, make reservations for dinner. It is impossible (literally) to find a restaurant where you can eat at a reasonable time if you don’t do this. It seems that the city was beyond its capacity from a hospitality point of view, and you risk going to sleep hungry if you do not make sure you get a table.