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Bath

One-time hangout for English high society, the elegant city of Bath is home to Britain’s only natural hot springs. It’s these healing waters, of course, that put the city on the map, and are in part what continue to draw visitors today, both to the original Roman Baths and to the state-of-the art Thermae Bath Spa, where they can test its curative claims themselves. The baths, however, form only the centrepiece of what is arguably the most beautiful city in England. Blanketed in soft, honey-coloured stone, it’s a grand sweep of Georgian terraces and cobbled streets, packed with museums and galleries, antique shops and markets, and it enjoys a range and variety of restaurants that would rival cities twice its size.

History

Legend has it that Bath was founded in 863 BC by Bladud, the ninth king of the Britons, who was cured of leprosy by bathing in its springs. They were a sacred spot for the Celts, but it was under the Romans, who named it Aquae Sulis after the Celtic goddess of healing, that the city flourished – they built a temple and forum around the springs and added city walls. With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the baths fell into decay, though the city remained a significant settlement – in 760, King Offa founded the abbey in which Edgar, the first king of England, was later crowned. The creation of the Queens Bath in the 16th century revived its popularity as a spa resort and paved the way for Bath’s golden age, a glorious era during which much of today’s harmonious cityscape was defined.

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