Bath often seems the embodiment of an English ideal, that of understated elegance in a setting of serene continuity. The city’s history began with the Romans in the first century, and the baths of their temple complex are still intact today. The Thermae Bath Spa nearby allows modern-day bathers to experience the waters via a series of more recently drilled boreholes. In A.D. 973, Edgar I was crowned the first king of all England in Bath Abbey. The city’s second golden age started at the beginning of the 18th century, when the spa town became England’s leading center of leisure and fashion, a period immortalized in the novels of Jane Austen. Nowadays Bath is a prosperous university city with a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
Prehistoric Stone Circles
Be sure to make an excursion from Bath to Avebury, where a prehistoric stone circle is composed of more than 100 standing monoliths, some weighing in excess of 50 tons. Meandering through Avebury is memorable because — unlike at Stonehenge — it is possible to walk among the stones themselves.
Learn About Jane Austen
“Nothing but pleasure from beginning to end!” is how Jane Austen described Bath in “Mansfield Park.” Austen lived in the city from 1801 to 1806, a period that is celebrated at the Jane Austen Centre (40 Gay Street). Aside from exhibitions, the center offers the Regency Tea Room and a gift shop that will gratify ardent Austenites.
A Small But Delicious Restaurant
One of Bath’s smallest restaurants, Menu Gordon Jones (2 Wellsway, Tel.  1225-480-871) serves carefully presented, daily-changing “Surprise” tasting menus (five courses at lunch, six at dinner) incorporating local ingredients such as English rose veal and Mylor prawns.
Take a Bath in Bath
The Thermae Bath Spa (Hot Bath Street) complex comprises multiple natural thermal baths — including a spectacular open-air rooftop pool — plus a large steam room with four glass pods and 20 spa treatment rooms.