James and I have been to Bath twice now, once on our own when I went to visit him while he was in England studying abroad during the first half of 2016, and once when we were both studying in England during the second half of 2016 with the residence life team. The first time we went roundtrip train tickets cost us about £15 ea, the second time a roundtrip private coach provided by the residence life cost us £5 ea. Both times did NOT disappoint. Both times were DISTINCTLY different.
The first time we went it was the middle of March. Fortunately, the weather was pleasant enough and we got by with just a simple jumper and jeans, no heavy coats necessary. The second time we were there it was the start of December and we were bundled up like you couldn’t imagine. Winter coats, hats, scarves and gloves. The former resulted in an empty, uncrowded city. The latter, crowded and daunting. Bath boasts one of the more popular Christmas markets, and when we visited in December not only was the market lively, but there was also a rugby match ongoing that day. It was like a scene from a Where’s Waldo book. You could barely shuffle through the narrow streets of Bath without someone ramming into you from behind or being shoved into the person in front of you. I was glad that James and I had visited in March because Bath has such beautiful architecture in its city, and it’s impossible to view and appreciate the beauty of the town with doves of people filling and blocking every site.
Funny story about our first trip to Bath. Immediately upon departing the train station, a massive wasp/bee creature decided to attach itself to the hood of my sweatshirt and then slowly crept towards my face. Cue me freaking out and spazzing because I didn’t want to get stung. I look at James frantically motioning for him to do something, swat at the wasp/bee or knock it off somehow and he just goes “Uh-uh, I don’t want to get stung!” The machismo of my boyfriend ladies and gents. I had to do some weird sort of shimmy and get myself out of my sweatshirt, with the wasp just inches away from my face. You can only imagine the looks we were getting from passersby as I threw my sweatshirt to the floor and stomped on it like a mad woman.
Anywho, the first time we went to Bath we did many of the main tourist sites. Our first stop was to The Roman Baths. If you EVER visit Bath, you absolutely need to visit The Roman Baths. Tickets are about £15, of you could do a Saver ticket for about £20 and get access to the Roman Baths, the Victoria Art Gallery, and The Fashion Museum. That’s what James and I opted for when we did it. The Roman Baths consist of the remains of a well-preserved ancient spa, and not just any spa but an extremely important religious spa of the ancient world. Julius Ceasar bathed there once…eek! The springs that run through the city still flow with natural hot water. While you can no longer bathe in The Roman Baths, due to its historical importance and the toxicity of the untreated water – you can still experience taking a dip in the thermal water of the historic city of Bath at various spas throughout the city.
We spent maybe 2 hours walking through the Baths, listening to all of the interesting facts about the Baths on our audio guide. At the end of the exhibit, we had the opportunity to taste a small portion of treated water that was safe for drinking. Let’s just say it tasted like it came out of a VERY rusty pipe. I’ll stick to bottled water…
Following the Roman Baths, we visited the Bath Abbey. This cathedral is impressive both from the outside and the inside. Free to visit, though donations are always recommended! The inside of the Cathedral is absolutely stunning – with beautiful ceilings and stained-glass windows.
On our second trip to Bath, James and I skipped The Roman Baths and Bath Abbey since we had done it already, and our first stop was to visit The Circus and The Royal Crescent again. The Circus is essentially four apartment buildings shaped like a semi-circle and arranged into a circle. In Latin, “circus” means circle, so thus it was named The Circus. It is really cool to look at when you’re standing in the middle of it, but I imagine an aerial view is much more stunning. Attached to The Circus is The Royal Crescent. According to a local we met and some extra research on the good old google, The Circus was constructed because the architect believed that Bath was the main site of Druid activity in Britain, and since the Druid activity is entwined with Stonehenge he wanted to construct a building that represented Stonehenge of sorts. The diameter of Stonehenge and The Circus are the same (318 feet).
Attached to The Circus is another semi-circle building dubbed The Royal Crescent. This building is also a residence building, however, it is much longer than the semi-circles of The Circus. If you have ever seen the movie The Duchess featuring Kiera Knightley you will likely recognize The Royal Crescent. Many notable people once resided here, ranging from singers to writers and MP’s. The house located at No. 1 Royal Crescent is actually a museum where you can see how the wealthy of the 18th century lived. We explored this historic house on our first trip to Bath and it was fascinating to see how the homes were furnished and what luxuries they had.
Something worth noting – on the second trip we had a MUCH easier time walking up the hill from The Roman Baths to The Circus and The Royal Crescent. The first time around I was out of breath and panting. The second time it felt just like walking. The hills in Exeter did me some good, thanks Exeter.
On our first trip to Bath, we visited the Victoria Art Gallery, The Fashion Museum (James was thrilled about this – though he did see a pair of white palazzo pants that reminded him of the ones his dad had back in the day) and the Holbourne Museum. The second time around we skipped the museums because we aren’t that huge of art buffs and we’re broke and can’t afford to pay to see a museum again. More so the latter reason. If you are going to Bath for the first time, check out the Holbourne Museum – it’s free! The Holbourne Museum sits at the end of a road lined by residential homes on either side and if you venture to the third floor of the museum it makes for a great view of that street out of the windows. The Victoria Art Gallery and Fashion Museum are sadly not free but were both included in the Saver ticket with the Roman Baths.
The first time we went to Bath we walked over to the river and peered at the Pulteney Bridge. Fans of the movie Les Miserables will recognize this bridge as it was used in many scenes. We actually found a lovely little tea room, right on the bridge that was offering a great deal. £5 for a pot of tea and two scones with clotted cream and jam. We obviously settled in for an afternoon tea, and it was quite a scenic way to have tea. Peering out the window and seeing the river rushing beneath you! When we were done with tea we had crossed over the bridge and found a gem of a little garden – The Beazer Garden Maze. On both of our trips to Bath, we made sure to visit the Pulteney Bridge and stroll down it taking in the views. If you look in the picture below the window all the way to the left is the window of the tea shop!
On our second trip to Bath, like I said it was December. It was cold. It was crowded. We walked up and down the Christmas Market for a period of maybe 30 minutes because it was impossible to see anything without getting shoved around and it was honestly the best place to get pickpocketed. It was just extremely uncomfortable and I can only imagine how much of a nuisance it is for the residents of Bath. Imagine every year, for an entire month your town just being swarmed beyond belief, to the point where it’s a struggle to get from your flat to the grocery store.
Speaking of, let’s talk food. The first time we visited Bath we had gotten in around 11 am, and our train was leaving at 7 pm. We managed to see and do everything and be done by 4/5pm. So on our first visit James and I decided to have a nice little dinner at a Nepalese Restaurant. If you’ve never had Nepalese, it’s delicious. It’s quite similar to Indian food, yet different in its own way.
The second time around in Bath we were irritated by the crowd James and I made a beehive to somewhere less crowded and came across an indoor shopping mall. We found a Jamie Oliver’s Italian. Well, we really wanted to get out of the cold and the crowd for a little and as it turns out I had a voucher for Jamie Oliver’s. Score. Oh, yea so my voucher had £2.1o on it. Fortunately, the cheapest item, was a hot chocolate, costing a whopping £2.10 (tax is included in Britain THANK GOD). We split a delicious hot chocolate and killed some time. Mind you our second time around in Bath we had already done literally ALL of the sites so we were kinda wandering around, revisiting sites all day. By about 2 pm we had done everything, and we still needed to kill 4 more hours because our coach wasn’t departing for Exeter until 5 pm, which then turned into 6 pm because they wanted to give us more time to sightsee. Great for all the students who had never been to Bath, bummer for us.
In an effort to kill some time and try something we hadn’t already done we decided to take a little hike, out of the city. Just behind the railway station lies the suburbs of Bath. In those suburbs lies Alexandra Park. If you’re looking for some killer views of Bath this is the place to be. But be forewarned it’s a b*tch of a hike. If you read my post about Bristol and the trek to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, that PALES in comparison to this hike. (If you haven’t read it and want to click here). We were huffing and panting the entire way up. It was the absolute steepest climb I had ever done. On top of that, the steps were so tall, that I was literally inches away from needing to jump up to get over them. When we were going up I saw an elderly lady making her way down, and the entire climb up I kept telling myself, Michelle if she can do it there’s no excuse for you, man up. Grandma definitely does some yoga or pilates or something because the hill was a monster. As we were nearing the top and came around a corner we got to a sign that said 40 more steps. I’m like okay that’s fine I can do this 40 steps is like 40 Mississippis. Not even a minute. Well, I call B.S. on the municipal city of Bath. The steps went from being way too tall to way too AND way too long. They went from steps to slabs of pavement! It took us maybe half a minute to cross ONE step. Nonetheless, now that my complaining is over, I will admit the view at the top, as always was worth the trouble.
The walk down was much, much easier. Though there were a few times where I felt I would roll down the stairs because they were so steep and my body was picking up some momentum on the way down – nevertheless I made it down in one piece. The last thing we did on our second trip, was that we went back to the Christmas Market for one last attempt. We didn’t last long. When 5 rolled around we walked over to the bus station and kindly asked if we could leave on the earlier coach as opposed to 6 pm, and fortunately we were allowed to leave early. While it was worth it for £5 and I thoroughly enjoyed the view of Bath from Alexandra Park, I definitely preferred Bath the first time we visited. Seeing the city without the crowd, and being able to comfortably walk around and sightsee was much more enjoyable than the latter.
Total Cost for James and I Trip 1: £122
Breakdown Trip 1
- Train Tickets: £15 ea, £30 total
- Saver Tickets (Roman Baths/Fashion Museum/Victoria&Albert Gallery): £18.50 @ student price ea, £37 total
- High Tea:£5
- No 1. Royal Crescent Museum: £10 ea, £20 total
- Nepalese Dinner: £30 total
Total Cost for James and I Trip 2: £10
Breakdown Trip 2
- Bus tickets: £5 ea, total £10
- Voucher used: £2.10