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The attractive southwestern English town of Bath is one of the few places in the UK that can rival London for general tourist cost index. It’s not an obvious place for a budget-conscious break, and in fact, the tips that follow hardly enable anyone to scrape the bottom of the budget barrel. Instead, they point to ways to experience this tourist center without blowing your budget entirely.
Why visit Bath?
The city is dripping in history, for a start. Romans built baths to manage and house the area’s hot springs, though it is believed that these hot springs were visited by Celtic tribes hundreds of years prior to the Roman invasion. Far more recently, in the 18th Century, Bath underwent a building boom. Bath’s distinctive Georgian architecture is a highlight of any visit. The most well-known landmark is probably the Royal Crescent, an impressive set of townhouses built in a semi-circle.
Also pleasing but less dramatic is the very material of most local buildings, a distinctive golden shade of stone, called, rather appropriately, Bath stone. Bath has a good cultural scene as well, with ample theater offerings and museums, including the American Museum, the only museum of American decorative and folk art outside of the United States. (The American Museum takes a break in the winter and reopens at the end of March.)
Here are five tips for making Bath more affordable.
1. First, feed yourself—and well
Make your way to the King William Pub for an outstanding two-course lunch for £13.50 ($22.50) or three courses for £15 ($25). This is very fine gastropub fare at a fraction of what you’d pay for food of this quality at most comparable restaurants in the UK. The food is straightforward and sophisticated, the atmosphere is cozy, and the service is personable.
2. Consider a midweek visit
Hotel deals tend to be found during the middle of the week, so if you can swing a non-weekend trip, you’ll save a few extra British Pounds.
3. Saving on hotels
If you can’t find a good deal—and even if you can—consider overnighting in nearby Bristol. It’s right next door, and it’s quite a treat on its own merits. A real city, manageable and hilly, Bristol has some charming districts; as a Fair Trade City, it also has a conscience. Bristol Temple Meads and Bath Spa stations are about 12 minutes apart by train, and the standard roundtrip train fare is £7.20 ($12). Check out Visit Bristol for more information.
4. Spa plurge for less
If you do decide to splurge at Thermae Bath Spa, one of the key attractions in town, opt for a package. While Thermae Bath Spa doesn’t offer discounts or deals, its packages are less expensive than unbundled treatments. The least expensive package is the Twilight Package, which includes a three-hour spa session, one course, and a glass of wine, beer, or juice at the spa restaurant for a very reasonable £42 ($70).
5. Embrace local commerce at Green Park Station
Open all year, Green Park Station hosts the oldest farmers’ market in England, held on Saturdays from 9 am through 1:30 pm. Monday through Saturday, permanent traders sell decorative objects, antiques, leather goods and other items. The Bath Vintage & Antiques Market is held on the last Sunday of every month.