Bath, a World Heritage site, is famous for it’s beautiful architecture and fascinating history. This lovely city is located only a 2.5 hour drive west of London or just a 90 minute train ride from Paddington Station. The city became a spa in 70 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon. Today, Bath is well known for these Roman baths and attracts millions of visitors every year. If you’re planning a day trip to Bath or plan to make it your home base for a few days, take a look at our family friendly guide to things to do in Bath. It’s a city we didn’t get to spend nearly enough time exploring, but I think I can get you off to a good start with these helpful hints!
We had intended to spend more than just a day in Bath. Unfortunately, we experienced our first major travel emergency the morning of our second day. Lucy fell and broke her wrist. This accident and it’s aftermath took up almost 2 days of our travel time. We spent a significant amount of time at the medical facilities in Bath and now have first hand experience with the Royal United Hospital. The staff was great. My poor baby broke two bones in her wrist and needed a pin inserted surgically to ensure it healed properly. We drove straight from the hospital to London, so we only had the chance to explore Bath for one day. Thankfully, Lucy is recovering nicely.
Things to do in Bath, England
If you have time, consider taking a walking tour to familiarize yourself with the city of Bath. We planned to join a free walking tour for children, but missed the start of the tour as we were still exploring the Roman Baths. This particular tour didn’t require reservations and met in the square outside the Bath Abbey and Roman Baths. Taking a free walking is always a great way to learn a new city for only the price of a tip. We always learn a great deal from taking one, and it’s generally worthwhile, even if you have to pay.
Our absolute favorite thing to do in Bath was the touring the Roman Baths. This complex was constructed as a bathing & socializing facility. The visit is captivating and both kids agreed it was their favorite activity. The venue does a great job of catering to children and making the visit exciting for them as well as for the adults. Your visit includes a free audio guide, so grab a headset after you purchase tickets. The kids were able to follow along listening to their own audio tour designed for young visitors, so they were happy, interested and occupied throughout the visit.
Also, make sure to pick up a copy of one of the family activity trail guides from reception. Lucy completed the “Meet the Romans” trail. The trail guides route children through the museum and teaches them fun facts along the way. Lucy also made a bookmark in Latin at the kids activity center. K thought he was too cool for crafts, so he continued along through the museum with Derrick.
The costumed characters were another great touch. The characters told a brief story and kids could ask questions and hold the guards helmet. Young visitors get bored easily, so it’s nice to have so many things dedicated to making the visit fun and educational for them.
We started off our visit walking around the Terrace and admiring the Great Bath from above. Can you imagine what it was like to socialize and bathe here thousands of years ago? After entering the museum, you’ll see two models of the temple and baths complex giving you an idea just how massive the compound really was. During your tour, see the great Temple Pediment, changing rooms, saunas, heated rooms, plunge pools and 17,577 Roman coins. Visitors will also learn about the people of Aquae Sulis including Roman worship and brick making.
Stop by to try natural spa water at the end of your visit. It tastes horrible, but at least you can say you’ve tried it 🙂 If you have time, you could have afternoon tea at The Pump Room Restaurant.
*We spent 2 hours at the Roman Baths. While I would typically advise visiting the Roman Baths first, consider an evening visit if you’ll be in Bath during the summer. I would have loved to see the Baths lit up.
You might want to consider purchasing a Museums Saver ticket. You’ll save £6.75 visiting the Roman Baths, Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery.
Adults £15.00 (+£0.50 in July & August)
Kids (6-16 years) £9.50
Family ticket (2 adults + up to 4 children) £44.00
After your visit to the Roman Baths, head over for a tour of Bath Abbey. There has been a place of Christian worship on this site for over 1,200 years and it has magnificent stained glasses windows. There is no admission fee to visit Bath Abbey, but a suggested donation of £2.50 per adult and £1 per child is advised
If you’re making good time, take a 45 minute Tower Tour which includes the ringing chamber, bell chamber and the clock face. From the roof, you’ll be able to enjoy spectacular views of Bath and the countryside. Bath was having a 50 anniversary event during the day of our visit so, unfortunately, we weren’t able to take the Tower Tour.
Tower Tour Tickets:
Don’t miss a quick stop on the Pulteney Bridge. It’s one of the few historic bridges in the world with shops built into it.
Continue walking across the Pulteney Bridge and take a boat tour of the Avon River with Pulteney Cruisers. The 1-hour ride gave the kids a break from walking and allowed us to see some of the fall foliage from the water and an abundance of wildlife – we even saw an otter!! The scenic cruise heads up the River Avon to the village of Bathampton. We chose not to get off at Bathampton and simply continued back towards Bath.
On the return trip, you get live commentary on the history, architecture & points of interest along the Avon. We learned that homes aren’t built on the surrounding hillside because the hills aren’t stable enough to hold the weight. Years of removing limestone from the hills has left too many tunnels to support building above.
Children (5 – 15) £4
Under 5 years free
Single tickets to or from Bathampton £5
After our cruise, we hopped on the City Sightseeing bus for the drive over to the Circus and the Royal Crescent. When the kids first head the word “circus” , they got really excited thinking they would be seeing clowns, tigers and acrobats. This is not that kind of circus.
Stand in the small central green of the Circus and admire the architecture. Do you see the rounded, honey colored Georgian apartment buildings? The central area was once used to supply water to residents. Inspiration for the design was taken from the Roman Colosseum. Keep kids interested by having them spot serpents and nautical symbols in the stone work.
The Royal Crescent is an 18th century Georgian development where 30 houses are laid out in a crescent shape. You can now visit a museum in the first apartment built, No. 1. While K was a bit grouchy, Lucy enjoyed doing the History Detective hunt throughout the house. She had to solve a riddle and find the object in each room. I love when museums find interesting ways to get kids excited about their visit! Honestly, I was a bit surprised this museum was so kid friendly. We stopped in on a whim while we were visiting Royal Crescent. Lucy decided this was her 2nd favorite attraction in Bath.
During our tour of No. 1 Royal Crescent, we not only learned about the first resident of No. 1, Henry Sanford, but some history of Bath as well. The museum has been decorated and furnished just as it might have been during the period 1776 – 1796. We saw rooms such as the Lady’s Bedroom, the Withdrawing Room, the Kitchen and even the Cabinet of Curiosities. Someone was posted in each room to answer questions and provide additional historical information. A few times they helped Lucy with her clues. She didn’t have much trouble spotting the most expensive fruit in the dining room – a pineapple.
Interestingly, the semi-circular lawn opposite Royal Crescent is stilled owned by the Royal Crescent residents, just as it was years ago. Why would you want to mix with the commoners if you didn’t have to?
Children (6-16) £4
Family (2 adults, up to four children) £22
Free to see the Circus and wander around Royal Crescent
If you have time, relax for a bit at the nearby Royal Victoria Park. This 52 acre park was opened in 1830 by Queen Victoria. There is a large children’s playground for the kids or you can choose to have a picnic and let the kids run around the expansive green space. You’ll also find a duck pond, Botanical Garden and Adventure Gold Course within the park.
Lastly, we popped into the Jane Austen Centre before wandering around more of the streets of Bath. It was already pushing 4:30, and I knew we didn’t have time to make it back to any other museums before closing time. During the visit you’ll learn the story of Jane’s time in Bath, her family history and accomplishments, all from a costumed character guide. Did you know that by the age of 23, Jane Austin had completed the original versions of Northanger Abbey, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice!!
While I found the museum interesting, the kids weren’t overwhelmed with the visit. I would suggest saving this for young adults unless you have a child that is interested in the works of Jane Austen. They have a tea room upstairs, so it may be of more interest to younger children if they know they’ll get a snack afterwards.
Once the museums closed for the night, it was a time for a bit of shopping and more picture taking. I kept having to remind myself that we only had two carry-on bags and they were almost full when we arrived.
There were several other things we wanted to experience in Bath but ran out of time. Having tea at Sally Lunn’s was on our list. It’s one of the oldest houses in Bath and a famous tearoom.
I would have loved to visit the Thermae Bath Spa, but knew there wouldn’t be time on this visit. At the spa, you can relax in the same spring waters that still fill the Roman Baths. This water is treated, however, making it perfect (and safe) for a relaxing dip. I’ve decided on our next visit, Mommy deserves a 2-hour spa session and a massage.
Lucy wanted to see the Fashion Museum and was disappointed we ran out of time on the first day. If we hadn’t sat down to lunch, we could have at least fit in this last museum. In addition to displaying over 100 objects of fashion, they offer drawing cards for children and a sticker trail. Kids can also dress up in Georgian and Victorian fashions.
Another great option is the The Holburne Museum where kids can examine activity drawers throughout the galleries or you can purchase a Family Trail Guide for just 50p each. Since it’s free to visit the museum, it’s a great option for families.
Lastly, we had hoped to climb the spiral staircase in Beckford’s Tower, but we ran out of time. The tower is currently closed but will reopen in March 2017. Those visiting in the spring will be able to enjoy the views from the top of he tower.
Please note that many attractions close at 5pm or 5:30pm, with the last visitors being admitted approximately 30 minutes before closing time. You’ll want to be sure to visit the attractions on your must-see list earlier in the day. To maximize your time, consider having a quick lunch or afternoon tea, then relax over a leisurely dinner once the museums have closed for the night. Many shops were open later, so you can purchase all those gifts for family and friends back home in the early evening. Bath is a great place to shop. You’ll find stores only found in London as well as specialty shops and quirky gift shops.
If you’re looking for things to do near Bath, we highly suggest a visit to Farleigh Hungerford Castle. It’s located only about a 15 minute drive from Bath, making it a great spot to learn more about English history.
The weather was beautiful as we explored the ruins of Farleigh Hungerford Castle. The castle was built in 2 phases, the inner court was built in the late 1370’s by Sir Thomas Hungerford. His son, Sir Walter Hungerford, became rich during the Hundred Years War and extended the castle.
Despite a turbulent history, the castle was mostly home to the Hungerford family for over 300 years. Not always in the good graces of the Crown, some members of the family were executed & one of the wives, Elizabeth, was even imprisoned in the castle for several years. The kids thought that was an interesting story when they heard it on the audio guide! A great feature about the audio guide is the trivia questions. You choose 1 or 3 answers then hear a story pertaining to that question. Like, how did the servants sneak Elizabeth food, so she didn’t starve or die from the poisoned food her husband had sent up?
In addition to the ruins and 2 towers, visitors can see the crypt with rare lead coffins, the priests house and chapel. If you like castles as much as my family, Farleigh Hungerford Castle is a great one to add to your list.
Children (5 – 15 years) £2.80
Family (two adults + up to 3 children) £12.20
While in the area, consider visiting Peto Garden at iford Manor. This was on our list to visit as we headed back toward Bath, but we had the unfortunate broken wrist incident that put a damper on the remainder of our day.
Where to stay in Bath? There a ton of hotels and B&B’s in Bath. It can be a bit difficult to find family rooms, however. This was especially true since our visit was planned during a school holiday & many of the rooms were already booked. We eventually decided to rent an apartment in nearby Bradford on Avon. Instead of driving into Bath and finding a parking spot, we took the train in from there. Bath is know for heavy traffic, so we avoided that and instead enjoyed our relaxing and inexpensive train journey into the city from Bradford on Avon.
If you only have 24 hours in Bath, you’ll have to pick and choose your must-see attractions. Try to plan two days which should allow you to hit most of the highlights of the city. We got a chance to check another World Heritage site off our list and spent time exploring a gorgeous city full of history and Georgian architecture.
What are your top family friendly things to do in Bath?
Disclosure: We were guests of Bath Tourism. All opinions are 100% my own and may differ from others.