Years ago we visited Bath and loved it so much we ended up living there for over 2 years. So be warned, there is every possibility you may just fall in love with this place.
Originally a pagan place of healing, where the steam bubbled up out of the mud, Bath later became a Roman spiritual and healing centre (very rare in the Roman Empire, as most cities were at least partially militarised). The City of Bath has a unique feel to it and is well worth putting on your bucket list. For families, it is an eminently walkable destination offering plenty of activities for kids of all ages.
Parks and Play for the Little Ones
Parade Gardens is a beautiful Victorian-era landscaped garden nestled right between Bath Abbey and the River Avon. If the kids need a runaround and you’d like to see a bit of fancy landscaping, go and take a leisurely turn around the flower beds. There are free deck chairs available if it’s sunny which the kids will have a great time trying to work out how to put up and take down!
Only a few blocks away you’ll find The Egg, around the back of the Theatre Royal. It is a kid-focused café with toys and a play area in the round. The coffee is nothing to write home about but the teas are fantastic and the kids’ lunch is good value and pretty healthy.
If you want to get a bit more serious and get a longer walk in with older kids, catch a bus up to Prior Park Landscape Gardens and experience the wondrous handiwork of Capability Brown, a famous landscape architect of his era.
Up on the hill beyond Bear Flat the local hidden gem for unsurpassed views of the City is Alexandra Park. You’ll also find a lovely little playground up there. It’s a wonderful picnic spot. If you want something a little closer to town, without the views, another local favourite is historic Henrietta Park, which is excellent for scooters and a peaceful respite from the bustle of town.
Coffee Shops & Cafés
If you love coffee then Bath will likely be a place you’ll remember. There are several fantastic places to drink very carefully made coffee that are also very family-friendly. Society Cafe at Kingsmead Square has an excellent space downstairs for crawlers, great coffee and Bertinet pastries.
And if you want the pastries from the source look out for the Bertinet cafe down by the train station.
Colonna and Smalls is the home of Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, literally one of Britain’s top baristas and author of The Coffee Dictionary. It is a lovely and well-lit space, and if it’s a nice day you can sit outside in the courtyard. Their ginger flapjack is also amazing.
For a proper meal and a good coffee, head up the hill to the Bartlett Street Quarter to Boston Tea Party, Alfred Street. Plenty of room for the kids and little ones to roam around the naturally lit and open space, plus great food prepared and made on the premises from local and sustainable sources.
If you have some good walker with you then it’s worth a walk down Great Pulteney Street to the Holburne Museum which has a beautiful modern cafe out back, and then you could come back to town via the Canal. The wrought iron bridges and canal-side gardens are worth seeing, and the path is well surfaced for prams.
The Roman Baths
When in Bath, a visit to The Roman Baths is basically compulsory. It’s right next to the large and impressive Abbey (so look for the spires to find it). The Roman Baths are no longer open for public use as a thermal spa but they are now the site of a world-class museum that is interactive and really well set out for kids of all ages.
Word to the wise though, if you can leave your buggy at home or at least take a good baby-carrier with you, do it. You can’t take prams or buggies into the museum (although you can leave them up in the entry foyer) and the carriers they provide as a courtesy are a bit tricky to use. Still better than nothing though if you have no other option. I was very impressed that they even offer “courtesy carriers” to be honest.
If swimming in the healing waters of Bath is important to you, however, there is one other option open to you, but sadly not your kids under 16. The Thermae Bath Spa is an experience worth getting a sitter for though. Pull in the favours from friends and family you’re travelling with, or even take it in turns if you’re a couple, and go and have a soak of those weary traveller bones. The building is a British-Lottery-funded, heritage architect’s dream job and expertly merges the older buildings with new structures enclosing modern thermal pools.
The rooftop open-air thermally heated spa pool promises a rare experience of looking out over the historic city skyline whilst soaking in the 10,000-year-old raindrops. Snag yourself a spot on the Abbey-side and you’ll catch a gorgeous view of the rolling Somerset hillsides beyond as well – plus for some reason, the water seems strangely warmer on that side of the pool.
You can get entry to the thermal pools alone without having to buy expensive treatments though you may have to queue, especially if it’s a weekend. Aiming to go during the week in the morning may help you avoid long waiting times for entry. Or if you’ve got the cash, advance booking of spa treatments get you to the front of the queue.
These and many more family-friendly experiences really are awaiting you on your next visit to Bath. Hot tips – book your train tickets early and get far better prices (use Trainline.com). Just a walk through the streets of the City is a great experience. The history literally drips off the place and there are plaques everywhere that you can stop and read to get a sense of what went on in the past.