Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bath
Bath was, and still is, the most celebrated spa in England, the only resort to boast hot springs and one of England's most elegant and attractive towns. Lying sheltered in the valley of the Avon between the Cotswolds and the Mendip Hills, the city, with its well proportioned Georgian houses built of honey colored stone, its attractive squares and its parks, has a townscape unsurpassed in Britain. Some 500 of its buildings are statutorily protected as being of historical or architectural importance and almost every other house carries a plaque with the name of some eminent, usually 18th or 19th century, figure whose home it once was. The city of Bath became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The numerous theatres, museums and cultural activities have made the city a popular tourist attraction.
Geological research shows there have been thermal springs bubbling from the ground here for at least 100,000 years. According to tradition the healing powers of the waters were first discovered about 500 BC by Prince Bladud, who had been banished from court because of leprosy. While roaming the countryside as a swineherd he allowed his pigs to wallow in the warm mud and afterwards, noticing they were cured of a skin ailment, took to bathing in the mud himself. Able to return to court with his health restored he eventually became king. It was the Romans who first accorded the springs proper recognition as a spa, building a town with extensive baths known from 75 AD onwards as Aquae Sulis. Once the Romans had left Britain, however, the baths fell into disrepair. In the seventh century the Saxons built an abbey and small settlement within the Roman walls, and in the 12th century the Norman bishop John de Villula began building a new, grander Episcopal priory church which was never completed. During the late Middle Ages Bath was a center of the wool trade, a status reflected in Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale". It only became widely appreciated again as a spa in 1702 when Queen Anne visited it, bringing the English nobility in her train. Among those whom fashion drew to Bath was the wealthy young Richard Nash, known as "Beau Nash", the greatest dandy of the 18th century. Taking up residence in the city he was largely responsible for establishing the canons of taste and etiquette observed by genteel society. From 1738 Bath itself was virtually rebuilt, the classically-inspired architect John Wood designing suitably elegant buildings in the Palladian style, the stone for which came from quarries belonging to the wealthy Ralph Allen who also owned the sites. The city emerged from this redevelopment very much as seen today.
In addition to its architecture Bath is renowned for its cultural tradition, music in particular, hosting the highly regarded Bath International Festival.
The Georgian architecture for which Bath is famous is found chiefly in the northwest of the city.