Budget friendly things to see and do in Bath
Ahh Bath! Historic and beautiful, filled with boutique shops and indulgent cuisine around every gold stone corner, you’d be forgiven for thinking that a trip to Bath might be an expensive one!
Thankfully, there are actually plenty of free things to do in Bath, or at least on a very tight budget. So if you are planning a little weekend away to the Roman spa city, or even visiting as part of an extended trip to the Cotswolds (which I would absolutely recommend), be sure to bookmark these ideas for some fantastic cheap and free things to see and do in Bath.
Weekends and Away uses affiliate links to products. I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, however there is no extra charge to you.
Things to do in Bath for free
They say the best things in life are free, and this certainly applies to visiting Bath too. Many of the city’s most famous sights can be seen and enjoyed without having to spend a penny!
Furthermore, navigating the city is fairly easy to do on foot, with most of the popular sights within a reasonable walking distance to one another. If you are planning to pack all of these free things to do in Bath into a weekend or even a day trip, I’d advise dropping some pins on Google Maps so you can see which places are closest to each other and plan your route out. This will help you to save time and pack as many fun activities into you day in Bath as possible!
Visit the Circus
Nope, I’m not talking about the kind that has clowns! The Circus is one of Bath’s most popular photo spots and most famous architectural wonders. The Circus is comprised of three blocks of curved townhouses, which were completed in 1768. From above, the three blocks form an impressive golden stone circle, which is intersected by three adjoining streets, Brock Street, Gay Street and Bennett Street.
When you visit the Circus, be sure to cross the road onto the little grassy island in the centre. From here not only can you get a fantastic 360 view of the townhouses, but if you stand right in the centre your voice will echo too!
Some more interesting facts about The Circus in Bath
- The architecture has links to the Druids, not only through it’s circular shape which bears similarities to Stonehenge, but if you look closely you’ll see smaller details in the emblems on the walls such as serpents and nautical symbols.
- The Circus was designed by architect, John Wood, who never actually saw the finished building! Unfortunately he passed away not long after construction began and the project was completed by his son several years later.
- Actor Nicholas Cage used to live in one of the houses in the Crescent.
The Royal Crescent
Another curvaceous architectural treat for the eyes, the Royal Crescent is also well worth going to see with your camera in tow. Unsurprisingly, the Royal Crescent was also designed by John Wood (junior), the same architect who completed the Bath Circus, and features the same strong lines and curvature in its design.
In fact the Royal Crescent is considered one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Britain, and you can actually take a sneak peek inside one of these grand townhouses in the No.1 Royal Crescent Museum (although it’s worth noting that there is an entry fee to go in).
When you visit you’ll find that the Crescent overlooks a pristine lawn where you’ll spot the occasional pampered pooch out for a walk. Another thing to look out for at the Royal Crescent are the plaques featuring the famous names of people who have lived or stayed in the prestigious properties.
Walk along the Pulteney Bridge and the Weir
A walk along the Pulteney Bridge and the river’s edge overlooking the weir is a must when visiting Bath.
If you’ve ever been to Florence or Venice in Italy and seen the Ponte Vecchio or the Rialto Bridges, you might be interested to know that they have something in common with the Pulteney Bridge in Bath. Th Pulteney Bridge is in fact one of only 4 bridges in the world to have shops across the full length of the bridge on both sides. So if you are taking a staycation in the UK instead of visiting Italy this year, you can at least find some familiar architecture here in Bath.
If you’re looking for boat tours in Bath, you’ll find that a lot of boat tours begin here too.
The Parade Gardens
Stay close to the river’s edge by the Pulteney Weir and you’ll also find the lovely Parade Gardens. This would be the perfect spot for a picnic by the river on a nice sunny day, but it was just as lovely to walk around and enjoy the floral displays when I visited in the autumn.
In fact, if you’re after pictures for the ‘gram, there are some great places here to strike a pose! The bench on this gorgeous stone staircase for example, has a lovely backdrop of trailing leaves. The fiery autumn colours really added some visual impact too!
The Botanical Gardens
If you like to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre, add a walk through Bath’s Botanical Gardens to your itinerary.
Located in Bath’s Victoria Park, the Botanical Gardens are a green haven, featuring acres of pathways through beautifully curated trees, shrubs and blooms. Go for an early morning or afternoon stroll here and enjoy some tranquil bird song and fresh air without spending a penny! If the weather is good and you aren’t in a rush, bring a favourite book and find a nice spot to sit and read.
Cheap eats and shopping in Bath
You won’t have trouble finding somewhere to eat in Bath, with more familiar chains as well as some fantastic indie coffee shops and restaurants around most corners. However, if you’re sticking to a budget, finding somewhere cheap to eat in Bath may be a little more challenging.
Here are a couple of recommendations for great quality food (and shopping too) that won’t break the bank.
Bath Guildhall Market
I would 100% recommend stopping by Bath Guildhall Market whilst you are in the city. Whether you’re looking for local produce, clothing or books, chances are you’ll find it here!
We found the market by chance whilst walking through the town, but it’s rare that I stumble across a market and don’t find myself getting drawn inside. There’s something about markets that always piques my interest, I think it’s because you always find either a bargain or just something totally unexpected in there!
Inside Bath Guildhall Market you’ll find around 20 different stalls with everything from clothing to a delicatessen. A couple of highlights for me though, were Skoobs Book Stall, which had hundreds of second hand books at bargain prices, and Time Out Espresso Bar, where we stopped for a coffee and delicious slab of homemade cake!
I had to give a little mention to a local favourite street-eat; Chaiwalla!
Chaiwalla serves up authentic veggie and vegan, Indian style street food, that packs serious flavour and bang for your buck. The samosas, wraps and falafel served here are a thing of legend in Bath, and you’ll often find a big queue outside this Chaiwalla around lunchtime. For less that £10 you can pick up a filling wrap and samosa or a delicious salad box – what’s not to love about that!?
Plus the owners clearly have a sense of fun too, having recently launched a samosa into space (which subsequently landed in France!).
How to get to Bath
Bath is a pretty well connected city in the South of England and is easy to reach by car or rail from nearby towns and cities. If you are staying in the Cotswolds area for a weekend break of staycation, you can easily visit Bath for an afternoon or day trip.
How to get to Bath from London
By car: Travelling to Bath from London by car is a pretty straightforward drive from the M25 onto the M4 westbound. The journey should take around 2 hours 30 minutes, but be prepared for traffic around London which could change this!
If you want to break the journey up and have some time to spare you could easily stop off at Windsor or Stonehenge on the way.
By rail: There’s a direct train from London Paddington station to Bath Spa station that takes around 1 hour and 25 minutes, making rail one of the easiest and quickest ways to get from London to Bath. There are also a few alternative routes that involve connections, which may take a little longer (around 2 hours).
Find the cheapest rail fares by avoiding peak travel times and booking your tickets as far in advance as possible.
How to get to Bath from the Midlands and the North
By car: From the North West and the Midlands, travel southbound on the M6 to join the M5 all the way down to J15 and jump onto the M4 eastbound. At J18 head south on the A46 where you should be able to follow the signs to Bath city centre.
From the North East you’ll need to travel south on the M1 to the M42 where you’ll be able to connect onto the M6 and follow the directions above.
By rail: If you’re travelling from the Midlands or further North to Bath, you’ll likely have to make a connecting train journey. The journey from Birmingham to Bath by rail will take around 2 hours, and from Manchester you’ll be looking at a slightly longer journey time of around 4 hours.
Where to stay in Bath
There are plenty of accommodation options for a staycation in Bath, so be sure to do plenty of research to find something that suits your needs best. City centre options are convenient, and there are a number of luxury hotels if you have the budget, but if you’re reading this blog on cheap things to do in Bath, chances are that you’re after a good deal on accommodation too!
If you don’t mind staying outside the city there are some really great and affordable self catering properties with plenty of charm. With the Cotswolds AONB so close by you can find some lovely cottages, cabins, huts and campsites with gorgeous countryside views.
Find places to stay near Bath
Things to do near Bath
Exhausted all the things to do in Bath? Not to worry! If you’ve got a long weekend, or maybe a week or two in Bath, there are some great things to do near the city too:
Explore the Cotswolds
The number one thing on your list of things to do near Bath should be a trip around the Cotswolds! This stunning Area of Natural Beauty has so many pretty Cotswold Stone villages to explore, and you’ll want to make time for coffee, cake and maybe a pint or two in each guaranteed. There are also some fabulous walks to take in the rolling hills where you can take in the fresh air and views.
For more day trip inspiration for the Cotswolds be sure to check out this blog post.
Cities near Bath
If city breaks are more your style then these cities are close enough to Bath to visit for a fun day trip: