10 Good Reasons to Visit... Bath
February is the month for romance, and what better place to take a weekend break than in the World Heritage City of Bath. Steeped in history and culture, the city is also the ideal family destination for a half-term treat, providing a memorable ex...
With fantastic shopping opportunities and beautiful architecture, Bath is a unique place to visit. Heritage is around every corner. The Romans came and left their mark and the beautiful Bath Abbey was founded in 1499. Much of the city's glorious architecture was created by the Georgians who made Bath the centre of their social whirl.
As a visitor to Bath you will be in good company, for over the centuries many famous names have stayed here, among them Queen Anne, Charles Dickens, Horatio Nelson and Jane Austen. And now celebrity chef Jamie Oliver looks set to bring one of his restaurants to this celebrated city.
It is a tall order attempting to cover the city in just a few hours, so for advice on making the most of your day out call Bath Tourist Information on 0906 711 2000 (50p/min).
Getting into the centre to explore its delights is easy with Park and Ride (tel 0871 200 2233) and when you arrive, just hop onto a Bath City Sightseeing bus tour to ensure you don't miss a thing.
For longer visits, accommodation information (including romantic places to stay) is available on the official tourism website for Bath at www.visitbath.co.uk, call 0870 420 1278 or visit Bath Tourist Information Centre, Abbey Chambers, Abbey Churchyard.
1 To take the waters
Billed as the 'best-preserved Roman religious spa from the ancient world', the Roman Baths is an iconic landmark. A tour takes you to its four main features: the sacred spring, the Roman temple, the Roman bath house and a display of objects that were thrown into the water as offerings to the goddess Sulis Minerva. Visit in the afternoons and you may bump into a 'real-life' Roman as several characters, known from archaeological evidence found at the site, help bring the past to life. Tel 01225 477785
2 For a touch of class
You need never go hungry with Bath's huge selection of restaurants, pubs, delis and cafés. If your children are well-behaved (and that goes for the adults too!), why not experience the grandeur of the Pump Room next to the Roman Baths. In genteel surroundings under the crystal chandeliers, you can enjoy traditional English fare often accompanied by a pianist or the Pump Room Trio. You can even try the hot sulphurous spa water (complete with 43 minerals) at the fountain, if you dare!
3 For a novel experience
The much-acclaimed annual Bath Literature Festival runs from 23 February - 2 March and features an impressive line-up including Tariq Ali, Terry Pratchett, Ben Okri, Martin Amis, Hermione Lee and Joanna Trollope. There will be a series of events about food and an opportunity to enjoy a unique personal poetry performance on the streets of Bath. Brochures and tickets from Bath Festivals Box Office, 2 Church Street, Abbey Green, Bath, BA1 1NL. Tel 01225 463362
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4 For retail therapy
Be prepared for an extra-special shopping experience for Bath has it all, from specialist and independent businesses to the larger high-street names. Amble along the Georgian streets for some great retail therapy or head for the malls, arcades or markets - such as Green Park in the restored Victorian railway station. Shires Yard shopping centre is being developed into a fashionable retail environment known as Milsom Place. Well-known homeware and clothing designer Cath Kidston has already set up shop there, and this spring Jamie Oliver is due to open the first branch of his new 'neighbourhood' restaurants offering Italian food.
5 For a touch of luxury
Spoil yourself with a visit to the Thermae Bath Spa to bathe in Britain's only natural thermal spa and experience a range of treatments and therapies. There are more than 50 spa, health and beauty treatments to choose from in the contemporary New Royal Bath with its open-air rooftop pool. If you have only a short time to spend in the city, the historic oval Cross Bath building provides the opportunity to enjoy the thermal waters for £13 in a special setting. Alternatively, treat yourself to an evening at Thermae; the Twilight Package includes a light meal in the Springs Café and Restaurant. Enquiries: tel 0844 888 0844
6 To follow in Jane's footsteps
Bath's most famous resident is celebrated in a lovely Georgian townhouse on Gay Street, Queen Square. The Jane Austen Centre features a permanent exhibition, which tells the story of Jane's Bath experience, and the effect that living in the city had on her and her writing. A guide will take you to nearby settings for her novels. The centre has a delightful Regency Tea Room, and you're sure to find the perfect present for the 'Janeite who has everything' in the gift shop. Tel 01225 443000
7 For followers of fashion
Marvel over the fashions worn through history - as well as trends from our more recent past - at the Bath Fashion Museum. Formerly known as the Museum of Costume, it has an outstanding collection of more than 60,000 objects from the late 16th century to the present day. Housed in the Assembly Rooms next to the Royal Crescent, this is one of the largest and finest collections of original fashionable dress in the world. A new display opens in February from the Georgian, Regency and Victorian periods, including pieces associated with royalty. Tel 01225 477173
8 To tread the boards
The Egg is the Theatre Royal's award-winning theatre for children, young people and their families. On 18 February a production of 'Icicle Bicycle' will entertain audiences aged two to six, and for slightly older children there is a production of 'The Tin Soldier' on 20 February. The drop 'n' shop facility, where parents may leave over-sevens with an 'egg' chaperone, is available on 9 February for a performance of 'The Iceberg', a musical for ages eight and up. For more information call the box office on 01225 448844.
9 For a 'royal' visit
The award-winning Royal Victoria Park is the perfect place to take children as it is home to a huge play area and is the ideal place for a picnic. Other features that will keep everyone happy include an aviary, beautiful flower bed displays, a boating pond, tennis courts, a bowling green and 12- and 18-hole approach golf courses. A skateboard area satisfies the needs of any budding skating pro.
10 To get arty
The Holburne Museum of Art is set within the park of Sydney Gardens and houses a rich collection of paintings, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain, with important works by Gainsborough, Guardi, Stubbs and Turner. This is your chance to see the last calendar of events before the museum closes to the public ready for its renovation and extension. Half-term events include creative workshops in the relaxed atmosphere of the Gardener's Lodge, inspired by blue-and-white ceramics from the museum collection. Tel 01225 466669. BY SARAH FORD