Planning a trip to Bath with kids? When I told friends that we were visiting Bath many asked the same question – what’s there for children to do? Many of them thought that it was just a city break for adults.
So we spent 48 hours in the city in January as guests of Visit Bath to showcase some of the fun things to do with kids when visiting Bath, taking in the sights, the sounds, the food and visiting some of the city’s most popular attractions.
Bath is one of my favourite cities, with its elegant honey coloured Georgian architecture and historical landmarks. In many ways it reminds me of my home city of Edinburgh. It goes to show just how beautiful a destination Bath is, as the entire city has been made a UNESCO world heritage site.
Here is our guide on how we spent a weekend in Bath.
Our hotel, the highly recommended Apex City of Bath hotel (you can read our review here) was perfectly located just a 5 minute walk into the city centre. As soon as we checked-in we were eager to explore the city starting at the city’s top attraction, its 2,000 year old Roman Baths.
The city centre is composed of a network of small winding streets, dotted with great independent stores and fantastic architecture. It felt as if we were walking through Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
En-route we stopped off at Hardy’s original sweet shop which from its shopfront looked very much straight out of a Harry Potter movie. Inside it was even better with a huge selection of treats, which is every kid’s dream, and the girls loved it!
As we made our way to the Bath Visitor Information Centre to collect our tickets we came across the most famous bridge in Bath, the Pulteney Bridge which spans the River Avon below.
What makes this 18th century bridge so special is that it has shops and cafes built into it and is the only bridge aside from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, to have shops built into it.
Tourist Information Centre
I would recommend stopping off at the excellent visitor information centre, which is packed full of maps, guides, leaflets and helpful staff who have lots of insider knowledge and advice to make the most of your visit.
Our plan was to visit the Roman Baths first, but the friendly staff at the visitor information centre recommended that dusk is a fantastic time to visit, as we would catch the Roman Baths bathed in torchlight.
As the queues at midday were snaking around the square our dusk visit made great sense (the best times to visit the Roman Baths especially at weekends and during school holidays are first thing in the morning or at dusk when the queues are quieter) and we went to track down one of the cities famous bright red hop-on bus tours.
Bath City Sightseeing Tour
Let’s be honest, kids don’t like walking around cities and the weather was terrible, so the best way to get around this is taking the hop-on hop off bus tour (family tickets £43.00).
You can’t miss the bright red open-top buses and although it was torrential rain, it didn’t stop the girls taking their seats on the partially covered top-deck of the bus.
The Bath sightseeing tour has two routes and to get familiarised with the city and we took the city tour. With our enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guide and earphones to listen to the commentary the girls were surprisingly entertained on our journey as we visited some of the most iconic sites including the Circus, The Royal Crescent, Bath Abbey and the Pulteney Bridge.
Royal Victoria Park
On our bus tour of the city a huge adventure playground caught the girls’ attention. Royal Victoria Park located just below the Royal Crescent is a family favourite and I can see why. It has one of the largest and best playparks you will find with climbing frames, slides and play equipment for infants to teenagers.
Unfortunately the bad weather stopped us being able to enjoy this great family attraction, but in dry weather the park is every child’s dream. With acres of green space, an adventure golf course and beautiful gardens it looks a fab place to enjoy family time. We can’t wait to return in the Spring/Summer.
Try a Bath Bun
For lunch, we had heard a lot about a Bath Bun, a famous local staple. Turns out they are a big deal and at Sally Lunn’s, which is also the oldest house in Bath, they have been serving their famous “Sally Lunn bun” since 1780.
With queues stretching out of the door, (we didn’t fancy waiting in the cold) and found a lovely little tea shop called the ‘Bath Bun Teahouse’ a stone’s throw away from Sally Lunn’s.
This traditional tea shop has a good selection of lunch options from sandwiches and Paninis to homemade cakes including their famous Bath Bun. In this cosy little tea room we warmed up with hot drinks and tried the famous Bath Bun, which was small, sweet and laced with sugar and fruit.
What we loved about Bath was its compact size, so we could easily walk to the majority of the attractions in the city centre.
In the heart of the city are Bath’s famous Roman Baths (family tickets £48.00). No visit to Bath is complete without a visit to its most popular attraction. (you can read our review here)
The tour takes you on a wonderful interactive journey about Roman history and their life at the Baths 2,000 years ago.
It’s surprising just how big the baths were, as you cannot see the scale of the attraction from the streets of modern day Bath, because its six metres below the current street level.
On this self guided tour we each received an audio handset, which was our guide to transport us back 2,000 years as we explored the baths.
What was great was that the girls loved getting their own handset with an audio tour specially tailored for children.
The costumed characters add a nice touch, and the girls met a Roman soldier who chatted with them about what life was like back in Roman times.
The bright green water of the magnificent great Bath certainly made an impact on the girls as they told us that they couldn’t believe that the Romans would bathe in such water.
This is as a result of it now being opened to the elements and natural algae growth in the sunlight.
It wasn’t always like this,as back in Roman times, the water would have been much more inviting with a 20m high roof spanning the water below.
Our girls learnt so much during our visit to the Roman Baths. It was one of the favourite Bath experiences.
Thermae Bath Spa
For a modern day Roman Bath experience you have to visit the Thermae Bath Spa, where you can bathe in the naturally warm and mineral-rich waters that has made this city famous (£40 per adult for a 2 hour session). Unfortunately children under 12 are not allowed to use this facility, but with a lovely swimming pool at our hotel, the kids were not too disappointed.
The magnificent Bath Abbey is located across the square from the Roman Baths. It’s just as spectacular inside as it is outside with its honey gold stone columns, beautiful stained glass windows and intricate detailed vaulted ceilings making this one of the most spectacular churches in England.
Entry is free although donations are welcomed. We found that as Bath Abbey dominated the city skyline it was a good landmark to find our way back to the centre of the city.
You won’t find any skyscrapers in Bath so for some of the best views of the city it’s well worth making the climb up the 212 steps to the roof of Bath Abbey as part of a tower tour (£6), where you will be rewarded with panoramic views over the Roman Baths and across this beautiful city.
Tip – check in the gift shop of the Abbey what times the tours take place during the day.
The next day, after a delicious breakfast at the Apex City of Bath Hotel, the wet weather didn’t put us off exploring the city.
The Skyline Bus Route
We took advantage of our bus tour ticket to try the Skyline route. This took us on the outskirts of Bath providing breathtaking views of the city below.
We headed past the University, the American Museum in Britain (which is supposed to be a great place to visit with kids) and the National Trust Prior Park Landscape Gardens, which in spring/summer looks an amazing place to explore with kids to help them burn off some energy.
We spent the remainder of our day exploring the city with its cobbled streets and beautiful old buildings containing lots of great independent shops and restaurants. The girls and I love a bit of retail therapy and Bath certainly didn’t disappoint.
I spotted lots of my favourites including Joules and Cath Kidson and my husband is always happy to find the Apple store. The girls loved shopping in Bath, especially as it has some of their favourite stores including Smiggle, Build a Bear and Lush.
Along with the chain stores what makes Bath a great shopping destination is its range of independent stores including the fab Rossiters of Bath. Little Small World was one of our favourite finds in the city. They stock toys that you wouldn’t typically find in the major toy stores and the kids loved it in there.
The Circus & Royal Crescent
Before we left Bath we visited two of the city’s most impressive crescent-shaped Georgian streets, The Circus (my personal favourite) and the Royal Crescent.
Although looking at rows of houses is not the most exciting thing for children to do, they did enjoy our quick visit especially as we gave them our camera to photograph their favourite houses and asked them to spot the decorative emblems carved onto the buildings.
Tip – You can also download the free No.1 Royal Crescent App to your smartphone prior to your visit to the No1 Royal Crescent Museum.
Where to Eat
What surprised us about Bath was the amount of restaurants on offer in a relatively small city.
There were high street chains including Giraffe, Wagamama, Zizzi and Nandos to tempting independent eateries including Swoon for their famous authentic artisanal gelato made from scratch by their gelato chefs.
Look out for Ben’s Cookies, the cookies you will taste here will be one of the most delicious you have ever tasted. Their Bath store is one of 6 in the UK outside of London.
Along with the infamous Sally Lunn’s Buns and Bath Buns, Bath is also great for homemade fudge. Two of our favourites were the San Francisco Fudge company and the Bath Fudge kitchen both in the shadow of the Abbey.
As you are tempted inside by their free samples it is hard to resist their delicious ranges of handmade, creamy fudge which are available in a wide variety of flavours. The salted caramel fudge was a particular favourite of ours.
Where to Stay
A perfect place to stay for families looking for a bit of luxury in a great location in Bath is The Apex City of Bath (you can read our review here).
Why we would recommend a visit to Bath
Despite the torrential rain, we had such a lovely family break in Bath. Don’t think a city break to Bath is just for adults, there are so many child-friendly things to do for families to enjoy. With great restaurants, shopping and so many green spaces to explore, we can’t wait to return.
What we missed
We couldn’t do everything during our trip to Bath due to time and inclement weather and below are suggestions which were recommended to us of other things to see and do.
The first two attractions we have previously visited and both are within a short drive of the city of Bath.
Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park
Avon Valley located in Keynsham between Bath and Bristol there is so much for families to enjoy including outdoor playgrounds, indoor soft play, animal encounters and a model railway.
Longleat Safari Park
We loved our visit to Longleat, especially as it was our first ever safari. Starting at the African village we met Giraffes and Lemurs close up before setting off in our car on our drive through expedition where tigers lions, camels, rhino roam freely around your car. All that separates you from these magnificent animals is your car windows.
There is more to Longleat than just its safari, we took a jungle cruise to see the magnificent gorillas and explored Penguin Island. At Longleat House you will find one of the finest Elizabethan stately homes in the country and kids will love the adventure zone which has an incredible castle to explore with zip wires, slides and rope bridges.
Arts and crafts at The Makery
The Makery is hidden away slightly on Union Passage in the city centre, but is well worth tracking down. Here they run creative craft workshops for kids and adults throughout the year.
Bath City Farm
The farm offers some of the best views of Bath and is a family favourite where you can meet a range of farm animals including ponies, cows, sheep and chickens. Along with the animals there is also a play area and adventure trail to keep the kids entertained and a café to recharge your batteries.
Take a Boat Trip around Bath
Bath is surrounded by beautiful waterways, so in warmer weather exploring the city the range of boating options looks so enticing. If you are feeling really adventurous you can also hire a rowing boat or canoe to self-explore.
Stonehenge is still on our to-do list and if we had more time we would have definitely made a visit. To see this prehistoric monument of giant standing stones , some of which are 13 feet high and nearly seven feet wide must be truly spectacular.