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The Roman Baths is an extraordinary archaeological site and museum built around Britain's only hot spring.
The museum tells the story of 7,000 years of human development around the spring, focussing on the Roman remains and its associated collection, which are exceptional for northern Europe.
This great temple and bathing complex still flows with natural hot water. Located below modern street level, the Roman ruins comprise four main features: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman bath house and finds from Roman Bath.
The most eye-catching part of the museum is the Great Bath. Now exposed to the elements, the large pool was once covered with a high, vaulted roof. For many Roman visitors this may have been the largest building they had ever entered. The bath was fed with hot water directly from the Sacred Spring and provided an opportunity to enjoy a luxurious warm swim. The bath is lined with 45 thick sheets of lead and is 1.6 metres deep.
Around the Great Bath, costumed actors interact with visitors and tell stories about their lives as Roman citizens. Elsewhere, film projections illustrate how the ruins once looked and conjure up the ghost-like presence of the baths' early visitors.
Collection highlights include remains from the Temple of Sulis Minerva – the hybrid deity combining Minerva, the Roman goddess of healing, with Sulis, the Celtic goddess of healing and sacred waters. The museum holds fragments of the imposing temple pediment, as well as the gilt bronze head of the goddess.
Also on show are items of jewellery, hair accessories, jugs, cooking implements and curses that were dropped into the sacred water by vengeful citizens.
In 2014 the museum purchased the Beau Street Hoard, one of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries to have been made in Bath. It was excavated by archaeologists on the site of the new Gainsborough Hotel in Beau Street, where the 17, 577 Roman coins – spanning 32BC–274AD – were found in eight separate money bags that had been fused together. It is now on permanent public display in the People of Aquae Sulis Gallery.
Audio guides are complimentary with tickets. Dr Alice Roberts narrates the main tour and children's laureate Michael Rosen presents the children's edition. An alternative guide, compiled by Bill Bryson, offers philosophical comments and observations about the historic site.
The beautiful Georgian Pump Room is well worth a visit; a striking neo-classical salon where hot spa water is drawn for drinking. It is the perfect place to unwind after a trip to the museum. Coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner are served to the sound of live classical music: be sure to book ahead.
A well-stocked shop stocks a range of memorabilia relating to the Roman site, as well as souvenirs from the city of Bath.
You can visit the museum by torchlight on summer evenings. The site and shop are open until 10pm in July and August (last admission 9pm).