Writer, New Yorker, traveling mom and The Vacation Gals contributor Holly Rosen Fink recently visited Bath, England, with her family in tow. Here’s her report:
On a visit to the UK with my family that spanned quite a number of miles, there was one particular city I looked most forward to visiting: Bath. Full of nostalgia for a visit taken there in my 20’s many years ago, I had vivid memories of standing on Georgian terraces, eyeballing breathtaking architecture, taking a ride on the city’s canals, drinking cream tea, retracing Jane Austen’s steps and visiting Roman baths.
The rub? We only had 24 hours and our time was limited. So, I had questions. Would Bath live up to my expectations? With my family in tow, two pre-teens, would I be able to take in the history and beauty of a city so beloved and so full of historic buildings that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site?
How to Spend a Day in Bath, England
Bath is the perfect city to explore by foot. It’s also one of the most beautiful cities you will visit. There is a picturesque bridge in the center of town, lined with views of scenery out of a storybook. There are parks lining the river that overlooks the Pulteney Bridge, covered with boutiques and art galleries.
But we had kids in tow, ages 11 and 13, who can can do their fair share of complaining, so we opted for The City Sightseeing Bus Tour, a good option for a hop on, hop off tour. We planned the day carefully and first hopped off at the Roman Baths, a preserved Roman bath constructed around 70 A.D. The audio tour helped hold my youngest son’s attention. It’s included in the admission charge and features snippets of dialogue by the great travel writer Bill Bryson. The displays do a wonderful job of explaining the history of Bath, the Roman occupation, the significance behind all the artifacts, and the excavation process.
Afterwards, we nipped into Bath Abbey, an Anglican place of worship (and a former Benedictine monastery) for more than 1,000 years, with stained glass windows and majestic stone columns where famed philosopher Thomas Malthus is entombed.
For lunch, we headed to Sally Lunn’s Tearoom, a quaint café decked out in Victorian décor, known for its scones, but they also make a mean cottage pie or lamb and beef pastie. The house is one of the city’s oldest edifices and also contains a museum. After lunch, we hopped on a canal ride to explore the city via the Kennet & Avon waterways. This was a great way for kids to wind down, and the guides gave a good amount of history about the city so my husband and I were entertained, too.
After the boat ride, it was time to take in a few of the museums Bath has to offer. The Museum of Bath Architecture offers a look at the architectural influences and history of the town’s transformation from provincial town to a world famous one full of classical designs, and its position in the Royal Circus gave us time to gape at some of the most fantastic architecture any of us had ever seen.
Then we stopped by the Victoria Art Gallery, which is free to get into and features historical and contemporary European and British artworks, as well as the Royal Crescent, a Georgian town house built in the 1700’s, where we saw what life was like inside these iconic buildings for wealthy families and their servants during the eighteenth century. From the bus we managed to get a glimpse of a number of hot air balloons launching nearby in Royal Victoria Park, which was quite a spectacle.
Since we had limited time, I chose the next two museums carefully. We spent the latter half of the day at Fashion Museum Bath, a collection of 30,000 items of historical and contemporary dress, with 150 dressed figures representing the changing styles and fashionable trends from the 16th century to the present day. My 13-year old daughter particularly enjoyed this museum experience and once again, the audio tour was a necessity.
We ended the day at the Jane Austen Centre, where we learned about Austen’s life in Bath and the impact the town had on her writing. A costumed tour guide gave us an introduction and we watched a video about her life and career, which left me wanting to re-read all of her novels and go back to Bath for its annual Jane Austen Festival. The museum itself is very informational and very thorough, so if you’re a Jane Austen fan, you’ll be pleased.
Bath is one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, and I feel privileged to have spent a day showing it to my kids, on whom I hope it left a lasting impression.
Tips for your day in Bath:
- There are several free walking tours of Bath. The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guidesoffers guided two-hour walks, which are very positively reviewed. You can also download audio walking tours of Jane Austen’s Bath and the city’s highlights from the Vist Bath website.
- Bring a good camera. The city will demand a photo tour of your visit.
- Request audio tours to keep the kids entertained in museums.
- Museums can be pricey, so ask for Family Saver Tickets or for child’s priced tickets.
Holly Rosen Fink is passionate about culture and travel. She’s the founder of The Culture Mom and has contributed to Findery, MiniTime, Ciao Bambino, Family Vacation Critic, Go Girlfriend, CBS.com, Savvy Source and has been featured on Huffington Post, Yahoo Travel, Parade and other travel websites. Disclosure: Holly partnered with Visit Bath on this story and received complimentary admission to many of the sites mentioned above. However, all opinions are her own. Top three photos by Holly Rosen Fink; photo below by Ted Rosen, sxc.hu.
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