Where the Romans steamed
BATH, England - Thermae Bath Spa, which lays claim to being Britain's only natural thermal spa, has been open for just two years. But residents of this historic city 100 miles west of London have been "taking the waters" for centuries.
The Romans built baths here in 70 AD, and over the centuries, others constructed spas and treatment centers, drawing everyone from locals to the Royal Family, all seeking the mineral-rich waters thought to have curative powers.
In 1978 the existing spa closed for health issues, and Bath was bath-less for nearly 30 years. But spa lovers can celebrate once more. The new Thermae Bath Spa is fed by the natural springs, and combines some of the historic spa buildings with ultraclean, ultramodern facilities.
Underwater jets move you slowly around a large pool as if you are floating down a river. There are elegant, glass-enclosed steam rooms, each infused with a different essential oil. The pièce-de-résistance, though, is the heated pool on the roof, where glass walls let you look out over the city's 18th- and 19th-century Georgian architecture. Book ahead for special treatments, which sometimes fill up weeks in advance. And if you're hungry, check out the excellent on-site cafe.
Thermae Bath Spa, Hot Bath Street, Bath, England, 011-44-1225-33-1234, www.thermaebathspa.com. Open 365 days, Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9-5. A 2-hour session with access to hot baths, rooftop pool, and steam rooms is about $32. Children under age 16 are not admitted to some of the spa areas.