A Visitor’s Guide To The Roman Baths In Bath
Built nearly 2,000 years ago as a public bathing complex above Britain’s only thermal spring, the Roman Baths are some of the best preserved Roman remains in the world attracting around a million visitors every year.
If you’re looking for the perfect base from which to explore the Roman Baths, then look no further than Broad Street Townhouse. Located right in the heart of the historic Bath, our pub and inn offers 11 sumptuous, kingsize en-suite bedrooms split over three storeys and is recognised by the Sunday Times as the best hotel in Bath!
HISTORY OF THE ROMAN BATHS
With history dating back 2,000 years, the Romans first built a religious temple on the site of the hot springs around 60-70AD. Over the next 300 years, they slowly developed the site into a public bathing complex made up of baths, saunas, plunge pools and heated rooms, which became known as Aquae Sulis.
Aquae Sulis became so popular that people from all over the country and even parts of Europe would travel to visit, but when the Romans left Britain in the 5th century, the Baths fell into disrepair due to flooding and neglect. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that the Baths were rediscovered, restored and opened to the public.
Now, the Baths are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are one of the most popular tourist attractions in the UK.
THE GREAT BATH
The centerpiece of the Roman Baths, the Great Bath is a huge pool lined with 45 sheets of lead and filled with natural hot spring water. Now open to the skies, it once stood inside an enormous 20 metre high barrel-vaulted hall, and for many Roman visitors may have been the largest building they entered in their lifetime.
Visitors can get a great view of the Great Bath from the upper terrace, which is decorated with statues of Roman Emperors and statesmen – Victorian additions carved in 1894 ahead of the Bath’s grand reopening.
THE SULIS MINERVA TEMPLE
Before the Romans built on the site, Bath’s natural springs were originally a centre of worship for the Celts, dedicated to their goddess Sulis. When the Romans invaded, in order to keep the peace with the locals, they merged the Celtic goddess Sulis with their own Roman goddess Minerva and built a temple dedicated to the newly-created hybrid Sulis Minerva beside the springs.
Today, visitors can see the remains of the temple pediment in the museum, which features a stone-carved Gorgon’s Head – a powerful symbol of the goddess Sulis Minerva, as well as the gilt bronze head of a statue of Sulis Minerva which would have originally been housed inside the temple.
THE SACRED SPRING
Next to the Great Bath is a smaller room housing the Sacred spring, where naturally hot water at a temperature of 46 degrees rises every day and where the spirit of Sulis Minerva was thought to have dwelt.
Back in Roman times, victims of theft or wrongdoings would etch messages of revenge on sheets of lead or pewter, before rolling them up and tossing them into the Sacred Spring for Sulis Minerva to act upon. A selection of these ‘curse tablets’ are in the museum for visitors to see!
THE PUMP ROOM
A final highlight on the Roman Baths tour is the elegant Pump Room, which dates back to 1706. This was once the heart of the Georgian social scene, when high society flocked to the city to drink the famous spa water which they believed would cure all their illnesses and discomforts.
Visitors can still taste the spring water today, but be warned, it has a rather unusual taste!
The Pump Room room was also used as a setting in Jane Austen’s novels ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’, described as the place where ‘every creature in Bath was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours’.
BROAD STREET TOWNHOUSE
Whilst it’s possible to visit the Roman Baths in a day, there are so many other stunning sights to see in the city of Bath that you may well want to extend your trip!
Broad Street Townhouse is an award-winning Grade-II listed boutique hotel, situated in the very heart of historic Bath. A traditional Bath limestone building retaining many of its original architectural features, the Townhouse guarantees you a truly authentic Bath city stay, with 11 sumptuous, kingsize ensuite bedrooms split over three storeys and is recognised by The Sunday Times newspaper as one of the best hotels in the South West.
Next door, our newly refurbished sister venue The Pig & Fiddle is an iconic Bath pub – swing by for a pint of award-winning Butcombe beer or sample the stunning menu, full of exciting seasonal produce and indulgent pub classics.