Eating and drinking
- Monday seems to be a popular day for restaurants to close, so check the opening times of my top Bath Cafés and Restaurants if you’re having a long weekend in the city. Lunch generally is served noon-2pm and dinner is from 5.30pm-10.30pm – unlike on the continent, most people eat early and tables book up quickly around 7.30/8pm.
- Expensive restaurants offer set lunch menus that can work out to be excellent value and I’ve indicated this in the price advice sections on my restaurant reviews where applicable. Cheaper places tend to offer mid-week evening offers and I’ve also highlighted these in my top 20.
- It’s best to reserve a table on Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday lunchtimes and on Thursdays around Christmas time as lots of people come to Bath for late-night shopping and then make an evening of it.
- Some restaurants include service so check the bill before you add anything – the service charge is optional so can be removed if you feel things weren’t up to scratch. While most restaurants accept any credit card, some won't take American Express, so check before you order.
- Don’t rent a car unless you are leaving the city – parking is expensive and most attractions are within walking distance of each other. If you are looking to rent, see my advice on my Bath car hire page.
- If more than two people are travelling it is probably cheaper to get a private transfer from Heathrow airport rather than use public transport.
- If you want to get the bus to the outskirts of the city it might be worth getting a FirstDay pass for £4 (off-peak, after 9am Mon-Fri) or a FirstWeek pass for £16 if you are staying longer and staying outside of the centre.
- Use City Sightseeing bus tickets to get discounts at the Roman Baths, Jane Austen Centre, Fashion Museum and Prior Park landscape garden (+ 44 (0)1225 330444; www.bathbuscompany.com).
- Free walking tours of the city are run by The Mayor of Bath’s Corps of Honorary Guides (www.bathguides.org.uk) Sun-Fri at 10.30am and 2pm and Sat at 10.30am from outside the Abbey Churchyard entrance to the Pump Room.
Sights and attractions
- Many of the larger museums are closed on Mondays and smaller ones sometimes have seasonal opening times, which I’ve indicated in the individual reviews.
- Bath is notorious for being an expensive city to visit, but there are ways to keep the budget down with discount cards. The Bath Visitor Card, available for £3 from the Bath Tourist Office (0844 847 5256; www.visitbath.co.uk) next door to the Abbey, gives discounts on major attractions including The Museum of East Asian Art, The American Museum in Britain, Bath Boating Station, Bath Postal Museum, Fashion Museum, Sally Lunn's Refreshment House Museum, Prior Park Landscape Garden, Museum of Bath at Work, Herschel Museum of Astronomy, Bath Abbey Tower Tours and Bath Aqua Theatre of Glass. It also gives discounts at restaurants including Strada, Rajpoot and the Jane Austen Centre Regency Tea Room, as well as many gift shops, Thermae Bath Spa and various tours.
- Another way to save money is to get the train to Bath and use your train ticket to get two for one offers with First Great Western at Thermae Bath Spa, Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths, a clutch of restaurants and most of the museums. Fill out a form online at the tourist office’s website (see above) to get a discount voucher – remember to hold on to your train ticket to validate it though. Tickets are valid from any station to Bath - so if you're driving and want to be sneaky you could even park at Chippenham and just get the train one stop to qualify for the discounts. This offer is valid until the end of April 2011.
Other useful tips
- Look out for free parking – Bath is an expensive, frustrating nightmare in a car. I’ve indicated which Bath Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Bath include parking, offer a reduced rate (anything under £10 a day is a bargain), or are near the train/bus station.
- Weekends book up really quickly in Bath and most b&bs have a two night minimum stay on weekends (Friday/Saturday) or a three night stay on Bank Holidays. Prices drop mid-week and most hotels and b&bs offer special deals, especially for stays longer than one night. Winter time is the cheapest, but prices hike up around Christmas, especially during the Christmas Market weeks in December when rooms book up really quickly.
- Room prices include VAT and are usually per room, not per person. Hidden extras to look out for are breakfast, internet and parking charges. Be careful about accepting cups of tea in upmarket hotels without checking if you’ll be charged.
- Access for disabled guests is not great in Bath hotels – mainly because so many are in listed Georgian buildings that have ridiculously strict planning permission rules, so even putting in a ramp can be difficult.