The world famous Roman Baths complex in Bath, UK, contains an incredible set of thermal spas and an impressive ancient Roman bathing house.
First discovered in the nineteenth century, the Roman Baths are one of the best preserved ancient Roman sites in the UK and form a major tourist attraction.
Among the best known ancient baths in the world, the Romans Baths were initially built as part of the town of Aqua Sulis, which was founded in 44 AD. Vast and lavish, the baths were able to accommodate far more people than just the residents of this town and were intended as a place for people to visit from across the Empire. As with other bath complexes of the time, the Roman Baths at Bath were a focal point for the town, a place to socialise and even a religious site.
It is unsurprising that the Romans chose to build such magnificent baths in this location. The area benefits from hot springs from the Mendip Hills, which arrive at the Roman Baths at a temperature of 46 degrees Celsius and rise due to enormous pressure. In fact, prior to the Romans discovering these springs, the Celts dedicated this phenomenon to the Godess Sulis. The Romans equated Sulis with their own deity, Minerva, and kept the original name, calling the town Aqua Sulis – the waters of Sulis.
Today, the Roman Baths offer an incredibly comprehensive insight into the lives of the ancient Romans in the town and around Britain. The site looks quite small from the outside, but it is actually vast and a visit can last several hours.
One of the first things one sees upon entering the site is a view from the terrace above the Great Bath. Overlooked by nineteenth century statues of various Roman icons, this is the centrepiece of the site and a first glimpse into what lies ahead. Later on in the tour, visitors arrive at the Great Bath, where it is possible to stand right alongside the water. There are even costumed characters on site to create an authentic mood and entertain young children.
The sacred spring is next along the tour. Visible through a floor to ceiling window, visitors can view the original spring of hot water, which was dedicated to Minerva due to its believed healing powers. The spring was also a place of worship and the place where people threw coins, curses, wishes and prayers. Many of these messages can be seen at the Roman Baths and range from the humorous to the sinister.
The Temple and the Temple Courtyard were sacred places at the Baths from the late first century until 391 AD, when the Temple was closed by Emperor Theodosius as Christianity rose to become the Empire’s state religion. Walking through the Temple Courtyard, videos are shown to demonstrate what this once magnificent site would have looked like and how it was used. It is also here that one can see the gilded bronze statue of the head of Minerva.
Amongst the other sites at the Roman Baths, there is a comprehensive museum dedicated to exploring the lives of the ancient Roman citizens of Bath and an ancient drain used as an overflow system. Around the Great Bath itself, visitors can explore the numerous saunas, swimming pools, heated baths and changing facilities at the site.
Audio tours, available in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese and Mandarin and are included in the ticket price or visitors can join one of the hourly guided tours. The audio tour includes sections by the famous author Bill Bryson, and there are also children’s audio guides. You can even download the audio tour in advance from the Roman Baths official website.
Bath is around 10 miles (16km) east of Bristol along the A4, 80 miles (128 km) south west of Oxford along the A34 and M4 (junction 18) and 100 miles (160 km) west of London along the M4 (junction 18). The nearest railway station is Bath Spa Station (10 min. walk). Regular trains travel between London Paddington to Bath Spa (1.5 hrs).
The Roman Baths has a restaurant called the Pump Room. It is also very centrally located and there are numerous cafes/shops nearby. There is no dedicated parking on site – there is a car park on Charlotte Street, a five minute walk from the site.
The Roman Baths are open daily, January-February 9:30am-5pm, March-June 9am-5pm, July-August 9am-9pm, September-October 9am-5pm, November-December 9:30am-5pm. Exit 1 hour after closing. Closed 25-26 Dec. Entry costs £15 for adults (£15.50 in Jul-Aug), £13.25 for over 65s and full-time students and £9.50 for ages 6-16, £44.00 family ticket. Under 6s go free. Audio tours and hourly guided tours are free. Further discounts available including super saver tickets combined with the Fashion Museum and Victoria Art Gallery.
Roman Baths, Abbey Church Yard, Bath, BA1 1LZ
+44 (0) 1225 477 785
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