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The city's name stems from the natural thermal springs that bubble up from deep below the city centre.
For nearly 2,000 years visitors have been coming here to ‘take the waters’, either as a medicinal tonic or as a cure for all manner of ailments from medieval leprosy to Victorian lumbago. Still a place of rejuvenation and relaxation, Bath offers today’s visitors a unique opportunity to immerse in history at the Roman Baths museum or in mineral-rich water in the city’s 21st century spa.
What a beauty
A model of Georgian town planning, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site – a status it shares with the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China. The award includes the whole of Bath – a union of hot springs, Roman archaeology and splendid Palladian architecture in a picturesque landscape setting. The green wooded hills that embrace the city, are as much a part of the package as John Wood the Younger’s magnificent Royal Crescent.
Out of the box
Bath is no heritage theme park though; this is an animated, living city, with a diversity of culture and a cosmopolitan outlook. It is not preserved in a time-warp either. The Thermae Bath Spa, open since 2006, is a cube of bold architectural glass wrapped around original Georgian stone. The Holburne Museum followed suit with a contemporary extension that added contentiously-modern steel and glass to the Grade I* listed building. Bath has two universities and street theatre is a Bath thing (try the Bizarre Bath comedy walk); in summer there are cabanas and volleyball on an urban beach – this compact city is full of surprises.
Take the time to explore the layers of history and culture, and the nooks and crannies beyond the tourist hot-spots. On the fringe of the city’s mainstream festivals, there’s a thriving alternative art scene.