Famed for its natural hot springs, the city of Bath boasts an incredible legacy of Roman, Norman and Georgian architecture. Bath's most famous resident, Jane Austen, lived here from 1801 to 1806. At the time, Bath was the most fashionable resort in Britain, attracting crowds of wealthy tourists, who came to 'take the waters' and enjoy the society. Bath provided the main setting for two of Austen's novels: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Charles Dickens, who was a frequent visitor, also set a large part of The Pickwick Papers in the city.
Today, Bath is a world-class tourist destination, known for its fine hotels and restaurants. Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to attractions, from the Roman Baths to modern, luxury spas. Although Austen only lived here for five years, the residents of Bath remain loyal to her memory with the annual Jane Austen Festival.
The Jane Austen Centre
One of Bath's most popular attractions, The Jane Austen Centre celebrates the life of the city's favourite author. The collection includes period clothing and objects, as well as costumed guides. A permanent exhibition showcases the impact that Bath life had on Austen as a person and a writer. Don't miss the centre's delightful Regency themed tearoom and well-appointed gift shop.
The Assembly Rooms
Completed in 1771, the Assembly Rooms were at the centre of Georgian society in Bath. Here, the local gentry gathered for balls, public functions and card games. This opulent location featured in Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, as well as Dicken's The Pickwick Papers. Be sure to visit the Fashion Museum on the ground floor to see what the Assembly Room's well-heeled guests would have worn.
The Roman Baths and Pump Room
This is Britain’s only natural hot spring and living piece of Roman history. You can still sample the waters at the adjacent 18th Century Pump Room, now a restaurant open for lunch and afternoon tea. During Austen's time, the Pump Room was the place to be seen, as referenced in Northanger Abbey when the ladies "walked together, noticing every new face and almost every new bonnet in the room".
Although not open to the public, 4 Sydney Place is definitely worth a look from the outside. Austen's family rented this townhouse for three years and it is considered to have been Austen's favourite home in Bath. A country girl at heart, Austen would have loved the house's open aspects and proximity to Sydney Gardens. This is private residence, so please contact the local tourist board with any questions.