Apex City of Bath review: experience the best of Bath

Comfort and luxury in the heart of the city with a great weekend package of highlights

Thermae Bath Spa 
The four-star Apex City of Bath is located on James Street West
(Image credit: Apex Hotels)

Opened in 2017, the four-star Apex City of Bath hotel straddles a corner site, formerly home to an office block, in the heart of the city. It has 240 rooms, including family rooms, accessible rooms, and some with balconies, looking out over rooftops and gardens to the hills beyond.

It’s the newest of the eight Apex city-centre properties in the UK, and its curved façade and blond Bath stone help it blend in with the surrounding architecture of the world’s only city to be awarded Unesco World Heritage Site status.

The rooms

The Superior room was large and light with floor-to-ceiling windows, decorated in muted tones of dark grey, mustard and pale sage green, with original black and white framed photographs of architectural details of Bath.

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The super king-size bed is high off the ground, with all-white linen and ample pillows, and that excellent combination of a firm supportive mattress and a soft mattress topper. The heavy curtains produce the blackout conditions conducive to good sleep and the room’s soundproofing is, well, sound. Spritz the pillows with the lavender pillow mist waiting in the room and a good night’s sleep is virtually guaranteed.

The hotel has 240 rooms

The hotel has 240 rooms
(Image credit: Apex Hotels)

There’s a Nespresso machine (including instructions), as well as a kettle with teas, coffees, hot chocolate, biscuits and popcorn, with fresh milk available on request.

In the wardrobe was everything to keep clothes looking good: brush, shoe-shine kit, ironing board and iron, plus – hurrah! – proper clothes-hangers, not those anti-theft ones that are impossible to hang anything on.

By the window is a comfy armchair with a cushion, with a more business-like seat at the desk-cum-dressing-table. Lift the desk lid, below which is storage for a laptop or makeup, to use the mirror on the underside. Lower it back down to conceal the clutter. Mounted on the wall above is a 49in widescreen TV, and there’s free, and fast, Wi-Fi throughout.

In the dark-grey-tiled bathroom, there’s a deep bath and a walk-in waterfall shower with easy-to-use controls. Handily, there’s a wide, illuminated wooden shelf for all your toiletries and cosmetics, as well as the Antipodes toiletries supplied. Also thrown in is Oliver, a blue rubber duck named after the Bath Oliver biscuit (although ours seemed reluctant to float upright). The duck’s name and colour vary with Apex hotel. Cotton waffle robes and spa-style slippers are supplied for post-ablutions relaxation or taking the lift down to the pool and spa on the lower ground floor.

The heated indoor pool

The heated indoor pool
(Image credit: Apex Hotels)

The pool

Do book a slot for a swim. The pool is pretty big, and there are plenty of bubbles and jets to play with, as well as heated red mosaic-effect loungers. But we weren’t brave enough to try being drenched by the overhead wooden bucket of water, next to the shower cubicles. The hotel also has a steam room, sauna and fully-equipped gym.

The Orange Artichoke restaurant

The Orange Artichoke restaurant
(Image credit: Apex Hotels)

Eating and drinking

A three-course dinner in The Orange Artichoke restaurant is included in the Apex City of Bath’s Best of Bath package, as well as breakfasts. Bright and contemporary, the restaurant area features eye-catching orange pendant shades, orange banquettes and cool blue dining chairs. Its huge windows are perfect for people-watching on the street outside.

The menu featured hearty sandwiches, starters, mains and home comforts – classics such as haddock and chips, burger, tofu and noodles, and mushroom and pancetta spaghetti. We opted for French onion soup with homemade bread, and a roasted vegetable pinwheel so pretty it resembled a flower. Beetroot risotto was perfectly al dente, and flatiron steak was tender, with crispy onion rings on the side. For dessert, vanilla and gingerbread creamy cheesecake was creamily good, and the tarte Tatin had perfectly flaky pastry.

At breakfast, there’s a cooked-to-order menu, as well as a help-yourself array of fruit, yoghurt, bread, bagels, croissants and pains au chocolat, as well as cereals. A nice touch was the jam selection on each table.

For later in the day, there’s also a bar with an outdoor terrace, very tempting for a nightcap before taking the lift up to your room. All the staff we met in the restaurant and on reception were warm and friendly, helpful and efficient: answering questions, giving directions and explaining menu options.

The Best of Bath package

Included in the two-night Best of Bath package is a “gin hamper”, city bus tour, dinner in the hotel’s Orange Artichoke restaurant and a visit to Thermae Bath Spa, as well as a saving of 10% on a two-night stay, and £50 credit to spend on food and drink.

On arrival, we started with the refreshing G&T awaiting us, complete with lemon slices and full ice bucket. The gin is from The Bath Distillery, featuring former resident Jane Austen on the label, and if you’d like more you can try the full range in The Bath Distillery Gin Bar on Queen Street.

After unpacking, it was time for the Tootbus tour: a choice of city or skyline routes. Opt for the city tour for an introductory overview, making it easier to find your way around while sightseeing, or the longer skyline tour to the east of the city, which heads up and out of the city via the university campus, and past the National Trust’s Prior Park, with expansive views over the city and hills. Buses run every 15 minutes and you can hop on and off at any stop. On the Tootbus website you’ll find maps of the two routes.

Nearest of the 16 bus stops to the Apex City of Bath is in Queen Square, where you may see people playing boules on pitches flanking the 1738 obelisk dedicated to Prince Frederick, father of George III. Once aboard, pick up the complimentary headphones, and plug in the back of the seat in front for the commentary. We did have to move seats to find it, but once audible the commentary was interesting, engaging and sometimes amusing, and it also moved at the same pace as the bus, so when it said we were in Broad Street, we were.

Sitting in the open air on the top deck gives you 360-degree views and makes taking photos much easier, as you cruise around highlights, and learn more about them, such as Royal Crescent, the UK’s first crescent, Gravel Walk used by sedan chairs, and mentioned in Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”, Georgian-era Pulteney Bridge (one of only four in the world with shops all along it), and Bath Abbey, whose exterior features angels crawling up and down ladders, inspired by the dream of the 15th-century Bishop of Bath.

Thermae Bath Spa

Thermae Bath Spa
(Image credit: Matthew Brown/Alamy Stock Photo )

On our second day, we headed straight for Thermae Bath Spa, a five-minute walk away. A lot of thought has gone into creating a calm atmosphere here. To avoid distractions (and taking photos), you have to magnetically lock your mobile in a Yondr pouch to keep it secure but unusable while you’re in the spa. You unlock it at reception when you leave. The minimum age for visitors is 16 and the changing area is unisex, with lots of cubicles. The lockers lock and unlock using your wristband, so no scrabbling for change. And there’s no soggy swimwear to carry around: there are two driers that leave it manageably damp after spinning for 10 seconds.

After receiving your robe and flip-flops at reception, in your two-hour session you can use the iconic rooftop pool, with bubble-jet areas and views over Bath, out in the fresh air. There’s no queuing for ladder-style steps: entry is easy down wide, shallow steps with handrails. And, oh, the water is so warm: a delicious contrast to the crisp morning air. The focus is on relaxation, not swimming, so there’s minimal splashing from other pool users as everyone bobs, floats and wades about.

In the indoor Minerva pool on the lower ground floor, the water is also comfortably warm, and the design is flowing curves, with a circular bubble enclosure. Relax by letting go and allowing the gentle current to carry you around it and on into the centre of the pool.

And in the Wellness Suite you can waft between two steam rooms, a sauna-style infrared room and an invigorating ice chamber, where you scoop up handfuls of crushed ice from a long trough to rub over your skin to exfoliate and close pores. After all that effort, take to the heated loungers in the Celestial Relaxation Room and relax amid twinkling lights, scented air and soothing sounds, then head out on to Hot Bath Street in a state of post-Bath bliss.

Adrienne Wyper was a guest of Apex City of Bath. The two-night Best of Bath package costs £270.62. James Street West, Bath BA1 2DA; apexhotels.co.uk. Train tickets between London Paddington and Bath Spa on Great Western Railway start from £58 in standard and £94 in first class; gwr.com

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