‘Backpackers’ and ‘budget’ might not be the first words that come to mind for people familiar with the beautiful Somerset-city of Bath. A place with an architectural style and an atmosphere that makes you feel much further south in Europe. Bath is simply unique and certainly a classy city – but it’s still possible to experience this place while travelling on a budget, which I recently discovered while spending a night at the Bath YMCA.
Bath Ymca is a charity-run hostel is set near the Avon river, right in the heart of the UNESCO-listed city of Bath, it provides a clean, comfortable and convenient base for exploring the city’s delights and so is perfect for Bath on a budget. Because really, the best of Bath is just wandering its streets to take it all in and to discover all the hidden gems down alleyways and around cobbled squares.
From the small square outside Bath YMCA, Broad Street leads me down past St Michael & St Paul’s Church, which is just one of many features on the city’s fascinating skyline, and I soon turn a corner to arrive at the iconic Pulteney Bridge. An arch bridge with a history stretching back as far as 1774, where it was built in the sand-coloured Bath stone that generally dominates the city’s architecture. The most unique part of this bridge is that it’s lined by small shops, cafés and restaurants on each side – several of them offering lovely views to the Pulteney Weir and the River Avon flowing below.
Further on, Great Pulteney Street leads down to the Holburne Museum which is specialized in tapestry, and behind it the Sydney Gardens are completely free to enjoy. I choose to take a few steps down from Pulteney Bridge though, and suddenly I’m walking along the river-bank in an atmosphere that sends my thoughts to Paris. Here where the river cruisers are taking people up and down the Avon, enveloped by the lush green river banks. On the opposite site of the river I see people lounging in the neatly kept Parade Gardens, where the £1.50 entrance fee is well worth it on a sunny day.
North Parade leads me back across the Avon and into the attractive area at the foot of the towering Bath Abbey. Below on Kingston Parade the tones of talented buskers are catching a casual audience, while the queue for the city’s main attraction, the Roman Baths, is snaking around the corner.
I have already had the pleasure of visiting this magnificent and historical sight, which is a must for first-timers, so today I stroll along to one of my favourite spots in Bath – the tree-covered Abbey Green. Beneath an enormous treetop the cobbled square is surrounded by enticing shops and cafés, that together create the most idyllic atmosphere, “hidden” right in the city centre. Bath’s beauty in a nutshell right there.
I pass by other Bath-favourites like The Little Theatre and the modern Thermae Bath Spa, before heading to the transformed Green Park Station. A former train hub turned cultural hub and shopping destination, with nice smelling street food stalls and several weekly markets creating a buzz. An excellent example on Bath’s connection between the present and the past.
I continue my self-guided tour of the city past the little park at Queen Square, and set my sight on the city’s architectural highlights – The Circus and The Royal Crescent. Both are impressive examples of Georgian architecture, The Circus being built in a symmetric and circular shape that makes you wonder where you came in, while the latter taking the shape of a crescent, in front of a half private, half public park.
There is an entrance fee to visit the ‘No. 1 Royal Crescent’, which is run as a historical museum, and where you get a look behind the façade of upper class life of the 18th century. The buildings themselves are free to admire though, like the nearby botanical gardens – and the rest of beautiful Bath.
With such a central location as the Bath YMCA, it’s easy to head back before dinner-time and return to the streets refreshed for a city bathed in golden light – and a whole new experience awaiting. Bath is a city that shouldn’t be missed and with a budget-friendly option right in downtown, there’s no excuse to do so.
If you want to visit Bath on a budget have a look at all the hostels in the area on our Cornwall, Devon and West Country Map
There are city centre hostels in most of the major cities in the UK. For more information look at our Map of City, Backpackers and Boutique Hostels