Plotting out a day trip to Bath itinerary might sound like a challenge but it’s completely feasible. This small city is packed with attractions yet it’s extremely walkable and easy to navigate.
But, it certainly helps if you lay down the foundations for a day in Bath beforehand to maximise your time. Which is exactly where this guide comes into the picture!
The Romans founded the city of Aquae Sulis in honour of Sulis Minerva – an amalgamation of the Celtic and Roman deities Sul and Minerva. Over the course of the Middle Ages, it developed into a key player within the wool industry.
Under the rule of King George III, Bath was transformed into a sophisticated town characterised by handsome neoclassical Palladian buildings. Writers including Jane Austen and Charles Dickens spent time in the city which retains a long-standing reputation as a destination for book lovers.
Nowadays, the calm streets of Bath are a coveted destination for day trips and weekend getaways from London.
Read on to prepare your perfect day trip to Bath itinerary.
Where is Bath?
Bath is located in the county of Somerset. It occupies a scenic spot in the valley of the River Avon right at the southernmost point of the Cotswolds.
Bristol is the closest large city. As it’s only 11 miles southeast of the city, you can easily drive or take a 15-minute train from Bristol Temple Meads.
Located 97 miles west of the English capital, it’s possible to arrange a Bath one day trip from London courtesy of public transport.
Best time to visit Bath
Bath is a lovely destination whatever time of year you visit.
The city experiences all four of the UK’s distinct seasons and there is an equal measure of outdoor space and indoor attractions to suit any weather conditions. If your day trip to Bath itinerary falls on a rainy or colder day, there are tons of museums and cafes to visit.
Note that the city is busiest over the British school holidays, the summer months of July and August, and when a festival is taking place in town.
How to get to Bath
If you are planning a day trip London to Bath then you may travel by car, coach, or train.
The M4 links the two cities and drive time is around 3 hours each way. Leave the M4 at Junction 18 and follow the A46 into Bath. In order to avoid congestion in the small city, the council provides a park and ride service. Parking is free but you will need to pay a small charge for the bus.
Trains depart London Paddington for Bath Spa every 30 minutes and take approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. The last train back to London leaves Bath around 10.30 pm.
This train route is very expensive if you buy tickets at the last minute. It’s worth planning your day trip to Bath ahead of time and comparing the cost of two “advance” singles with purchasing a “day return”. Prices drop if you travel after 9.30 am.
You can browse options and purchase tickets via the trainline. They also have a free app so you can monitor your return journey.
National Express operates a coach service between London Victoria and Bath. The fastest direct coaches take around 3 hours each way and tickets usually cost less than £20 per journey. This does eat into your exploration time so you might want to stay overnight. If you’re on a very tight budget, you could take a coach as early as 7 am and take an overnight coach back to London.
Getting around Bath
Once you’re in Bath, you can explore on foot; the city is compact and walkable. If you want to travel beyond the city centre and into the surrounding hills then you can rent a bike.
Where to stay in Bath
If you decide to spend longer than a day in Bath then you will need a hotel. A quick word of warning: hotels in this affluent city are generally pricey!
However, Bath is one of the most romantic getaways in the UK and does feature some remarkable places to stay. Just make sure that you plan ahead to secure the best possible rate.
Here are some recommendations for where to stay in Bath.
YHA hostels are always a reliable choice for budget travellers. YHA Bath occupies an Italian-style mansion and has a communal kitchen and lush garden. Dorms and private rooms are available.
SACO Bath offers centrally located studios and apartments with full kitchens. These are perfect if you want the experience of an Airbnb in Bath.
The Bathen House Boutique Hotel is a luxury option with sumptuous rooms that blend Edwardian charms with contemporary comforts. Some suites feature claw-foot bathtubs and fireplaces.
Day Trip to Bath Itinerary
Now that you know how to get to the city, let’s dive into all the wonderful things ahead when you have a day in Bath.
This one day Bath itinerary is divided into morning, afternoon, and evening. However, you might prefer to jiggle the activities around. Much like the spa town of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, this fashionable city is a place to slow the pace.
Morning in Bath
Once you arrive in Bath, you can start your day trip to Bath itinerary by pottering around the central area and seeing the city spring to life.
Hungry? Head to the Guildhall Market where you can energise with a bacon sandwich or a full English breakfast at the Guildhall Market Cafe. This is a traditional market cafe with a distinct atmosphere. It opens at 8 am but is closed on Sundays.
Market stalls tend to open around 9 am with a mixture of gift items, books, and local deli items. You might want to pop back later and pick up souvenirs.
As is to be expected of a historic British city, a striking place of worship marks the centrepiece of Bath. All day trips to Bath should include at least checking out the exterior of the abbey.
Construction on Bath Abbey started in 1499 AD when Bishop Oliver King commissioned a new cathedral to replace an earlier building. It underwent subsequent renovation over the centuries following the English Reformation and the wars.
It is free to visit Bath Abbey although a donation toward the upkeep of the building is always appreciated. The church doors generally open at 10 am although special events can change this. Sunday service means that the church is only open to the public between 1.15 pm – 2.30 pm and 4.30 pm – 6.15 pm.
The Roman Baths
The Roman Baths is a highlight of your day trip to Bath itinerary. Built by the Romans, the complex consists of a temple to Sulis Minerva and a suite of bathing pools that were available to the public. Audio guides are available in multiple languages to explain the history of the bathhouse.
You can sip the mineral water from the designated drinking fountain. Whatever you do, don’t jump in the spring water. You can bathe at a different site – that’s coming later.
Tickets are priced at £20 per adult during the week and £25 at weekends. It’s best to buy them online although advance purchase is highly recommended over summer and British school holidays.
Allow 1.5-2 hours for your visit.
Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath
But if you have only time to visit one bookshop during your one day in Bath, it should be Topping & Company. Books are stacked from floor to ceiling on rustic oak shelves across all the categories you could think of. They often hand out complimentary tea or coffee to sip while you browse.
Afternoon in Bath
Grab a quick coffee or a spot of lunch at the Courtyard Cafe. This colourful cafe is located in the historic Lilliput Court. Breakfasts and brunches are served until 4 pm but they also serve ploughman-style lunches, paninis, and afternoon tea.
Alternatively, you’ll find the exquisite Pump Room Restaurant above the Roman Baths. The dining room – complete with live classical music – gives you a taste of high society life. Afternoon Tea is available and they often run combos when you visit the tea room and the baths.
After the Romans were long gone, Bath flourished as a spa and wellness retreat during the 18th century. The city is constructed from Bath Stone and the vast majority of the buildings date to the Georgian era.
Walk off your lunch with a stroll to the Royal Crescent which is one of the finest examples of Bath’s architecture. Stand on the lawn in front of the avenue to witness it in all its glory and take photos.
No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum that gives you a peek into the lifestyle of an elite Georgian family. The residence is decorated as it might have appeared between 1776-1796. You will walk through a series of rooms ornamented and decorated with original furniture and furnishings.
Admission is £11 per adult and you can purchase tickets online or at the venue. Expect to spend 1-1.5 hours at this museum.
Thermae Bath Spa
Thermae Bath Spa is a modern bathing facility atop an original Roman foundation. Pampering yourself in the thermal mineral waters is one of the best things to do in 24 hours in Bath!
You can purchase a general admission ticket that permits entry to the Minerva Bath, the rooftop pool, and the wellness suites. Prices are currently set at £38 (Monday to Friday) and £43 (weekends). This grants 2 hours to enjoy the complex – that includes time to shower and change before leaving. You will receive a towel, robe, and flip-flops.
Spa treatments and massages are available at a surcharge.
As the Thermae Bath Spa is popular, it’s extremely beneficial to pre-book tickets ahead. You can do this by calling the reservation line.
The complex is open daily, 9 am – 9.30 pm. It’s nice to wind down here at the end of your Bath one day trip and coincide your visit with sunset. Even if it rains, the rooftop pool remains open and it only adds to the unique experience.
However, the baths will be quieter early in the morning so you could always start your day here. There are showers and hairdryers available.
Evening in Bath
Wrap up your one day Bath itinerary with dinner and – train permitting – a glass of wine.
One of the worst things about spending 24 hours in Bath is that you won’t have time to eat in all the incredible restaurants! Bath is one of the UK’s top food destinations and you can find a mix of British pubs alongside international restaurants.
Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House & Museum: A cafe with a museum attached, in honour of the Sally Lunn Bun. During the day, the premises can feel extremely busy. Therefore, it’s nicer to visit in the evening and enjoy a dinner by candlelight. Meals are presented as per the “trencher” tradition with a piece of bread used as the “plate” and a side of the signature bun.
Coeur De Lion: Not the oldest but the smallest pub in Bath! This tiny pub is tucked down an alleyway and is overflowing with an old-worldly atmosphere. Expect proper fish and chips, pies, and a stellar line-up of ales.
Garrick’s Head: More of a gastropub, this light pub offers modern British dishes using regionally sourced produce. Choose between vintage interiors or the suntrap of a terrace on a summer’s day.
Ponte Vecchio: This upscale Italian restaurant is located across the Pulteney Bridge and grants a wonderful view over the water. Pizza and pasta are joined by authentic Italian classics washed down with homemade limoncello. If you want to sit on the balcony, you will need to reserve a table.
Opa Bath: This restaurant pivots into a lively nightclub in the evening in case you want to let your hair down during your one day in Bath. The menu consists of shareable Greek meze. Interiors summon the Mediterranean with seating below the vaulted ceilings. They also have a small garden that overlooks the river.
Other Things to do in Bath in One Day
Spending longer in the city? Want to squeeze one more museum into your day trip to Bath itinerary?
Then here are some suggestions if you’re looking to fill beyond a day in Bath.
Jane Austen Centre
The great British writer called Bath home between 1801 and 1806. At the Jane Austen Centre, you will experience a snapshot of Regency life in Bath and understand how her stay shaped her writing. The museum also has a lovely tea room.
Fashion Museum Bath
Beautifully curated, the Fashion Museum Bath exhibits dresses from 1600 to the present day. Of course, the highlight is trying on a couple of garments for yourself. There’s no better souvenir from your one day in Bath.
Theatre Royal Bath
If you do stay overnight, you might want to snap up tickets to see a performance at this grandiose theatre. Events at the Theatre Royal Bath include opera, drama, dance, comedy, and seasonal pantomimes.
The Little Theatre Cinema
One of the cutest cinemas in the UK, the Little Theatre Cinema dates back to 1935. Its two screens show modern, classic, and arthouse films as well as hosting the occasional festival. The venue is super cosy and such a wonderful institution to support.