Do you believe in the curative properties of water? For nearly 3000 years, travelers have been arriving in the town of Bath, England to immerse themselves in the thermal spring waters. While the location has developed in to a bustling city, you can enjoy relaxing in the spring waters yourself at the Thermae Bath Spa.
It was in 863BC when Prince Bladud originally found the thermal springs in the location known today as Bath, roughly 10 miles southeast of Bristol, England. The Romans established their own bath house in the heart of the city, of which you can take a tour. Later on, Bath became a hotspot for high society within England. Then in 2006, the Thermae Bath Spa opened to harness the thermal springs into a luxury spa, complete with pools, saunas and massage treatments.
Five of the ten hot springs in England are located in Bath, all of which are the hottest in the country with a mean temperature of 45°c. The water is actually cooled for use in the spa down to 33.5°c. Personally I prefer the hotter temperature, but that’s just me.
There are four unique pools within Thermae Bath Spa, all using the same spring water, rich with 42 different minerals. The first is the Minerva Bath, located on the ground floor and containing water jets for a neck massage and circulating currents in the pool. The second is the Hot Bath, used exclusively for private massage therapies. The third and my favorite is the Rooftop Pool with a beautiful view of Bath and the surrounding nature. My favorite part of the rooftop pool was the contrast between the hot water and freezing temperature of the air. Finally there is the Cross Bath, a private open-air bath in a separate building across the street.
One floor down from the rooftop pool are the saunas. Four different pods are availabe with different “flavors.” My preference was the eucalyptus and menthol. The other three were sandlewood, lotus and lemongrass. Unfortunately, the steam rooms will be closed from January to Spring 2017 for renovations. There’s still time to visit before that, and I’m sure the future upgrades will be even better.
The spa has a cafe if you want to take a break from the pools. What’s cool is that you pay for the food with your waterproof bracelet, which also doubles as a key for your locker. Your spa package includes sandals, robe and a towel, and the staff there are very helpful with anything you might need. The setting is very peaceful, and my two hours were two of the most relaxing hours I’ve had in all my travels.
The town of Bath is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the spa is hardly the only activity in town. As mentioned above, you can also visit the original Roman Baths. Next door is Bath Abbey, rich in sculptures and architectural design. If you arrive in December, you will also be able to visit the Bath Christmas Market, one of the most beautiful Christmas Markets in the UK with the abbey in the background. As a side note, it’s also the only Christmas Market I’ve been to with a Chai Tea stall serving the best Chai I’ve had outside of Asia.
Bath was also home to Jane Austen, author of Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility. However, she didn’t like the town, partially because it was too brilliantly white, and partially because an upset she had with one of the locals.
While the majority of the town is built from the local bath stone, it’s not as pristine as it used to be. The porous limestone absorbed decades of soot from the cooking fires and turned the rock black. Recent restorative efforts have been bringing the town back to its former color.
To get to Bath, my personal recommendation is to take the local bus from Bristol for about £1.50. If you do happen to drive in, the best car parks are Southgate Parking and the garage just south of the college in the city center. Upon arrival, your first order of business should be a walking tour. This will get you oriented on the town, fill you in on the history and give you an idea of what to do in the rest of your visit.
One more thing to mention is a matter of cuisine. Bath is just outside the Cornish region of England and they are most famous for their Cornish pasties. This savory meat pie is similar to a samosa or empanada, but the ingredients used and style in which it’s made is definitely unique to Cornwall. There are several shops selling them in Bath. My favorite is the Cornish Bakehouse. Go for a giant traditional, and don’t burn yourself like I did – twice!
Most importantly, get to the Thermae Bath Spa! Spend a couple hours in the pools, or treat yourself to a massage. I know the next time I’m in Bath, I will go with my significant other (which I’m determined to find before then) and surprise them with the couple’s package. Maybe you should too! Wouldn’t that be an incredible Christmas present?