Bath is the sort of place I dreamed of visiting thanks to literature. Anyone who has read Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer knows about Bath and its vital role in 18th and 19th century British life.
Although I was only in Bath for two days, I was able to see the four things at the top of my sight-seeing list. The city itself is small enough to walk around without needing to take any public transport, and relatively easy to navigate if you have a map on your phone.
The Royal Crescent—This is a famous bit of architecture that has been used countless times in films and television shows. It is one of the defining “looks” of Bath, and most people have probably seen it in a picture without knowing what it was. It was a surreal to stand there in the purplish light of dusk and look up at the enormous crescent, and imagine the countless people who have walked and lived and breathed there.
The Roman Baths—This is a must for Bath. Not only are the Roman Baths why Bath has its name and legacy, but they are an impressive sight. Incredibly well preserved, the baths are a remnant of the Roman city Aquae Sulis. Being there felt remarkably like being in Spain, surrounded by Roman ruins, except I always seem to forget that the Romans left their mark on England as well. One gets a sense of such history, almost of otherworldliness, watching the steam rise up off that water. To think that those stones are still there, that the baths are still essentially fully functional 2000 years later, gave me chills.
Bath Abbey—The church is hard to miss, as it is both huge and located right next to the baths. Entry is free, although they do ask that you provide a small donation for its upkeep. The church has an immense amount of stained glass, and if we hadn’t been on a bit of a schedule, I would have stayed longer to appreciate the scenes in each window. It has a lovely, quiet beauty that is vastly different from the atmosphere of the baths.
The Jane Austen Centre—This small exhibit is kept in a period house. Unfortunately it is not one in which Austen actually lived during her years in Bath, but it is in the same style. I don’t think that the exhibit would appeal much to anyone who isn’t an Austen fan, but it was interesting for us. The people who work there know their Austen history impeccably, and it was very fun to talk to them.
The tickets at the Jane Austen Centre, as well as at the Baths, have student discounts; it seems to be the norm at most tourist locations in the UK (in my admittedly limited experience), and I must remember to take my student ID with me every time I travel.
Where to stay: Bath YMCA. It is simple to make reservations through Hostel World, and while the rooms are sparse, they are clean. You can get a private room with a shared bath just down the hall for a fantastic price. They include a light breakfast, but if you are lactose intolerant there may not be many options for you. Also note that there are no outlets in the rooms for 3 pronged appliances (we ended up charging our things down in the lobby).
Additional activities: visit St. Mary’s Churchyard cemetery; have a cuppa at the Jane Austen Centre Regency Tea Rooms; simply walk around the town! For more suggestions, see Visit Bath.