STAY: THE GAINSBOROUGH BATH SPA, UNITED KINGDOM

Long, blissful soaks in thermal baths are an essential experience in Bath, a southwest England city whose very name reflects its world-famous Roman baths. Originally known as Aquae Sullies (The waters of Sulis, a local goddess), the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a charming destination that’s a breeze to explore on foot. At the heart of the city is The Gainsborough Bath Spa, a 99-key boutique hotel that’s housed in two Grade II listed buildings originally built in the 1880s. Named after portrait and landscape artist Sir Thomas Gainsborough, the hotel has had a storied past as a hospital and later school.

Beyond its distinctive, honey-colored Georgian facades, the property is at once modern and elegant. Think alabaster columns and marble floors that shine in contrast with a stunning stairwell, where artistically hung lightbulbs are a focal point.  Black and grey striped carpet create a mesmerizing effect, while clean lines lead the eye to each floor landing.

Bathed in golden hour light.

I checked in just past noon and was greeted by beautiful shafts of sunlight illuminating my room, thanks to the tall ceilings and large windows. Designed by award-winning New York-based Champalimaud Design, the rooms feature subtle references to period details, from the headboard design to motifs on the curtain drapes. Aside from luxurious bedding for a good night’s slumber, the room also came with a spacious wardrobe, flat-screen television, as well as high-tech features like heated bathroom floors. Little touches like gold-trimmed pillows, an ornate chandelier, and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries complete the experience.

The winding stairwell, an optical illusion for a tired traveler’s eyes.

To kickstart your evening, head to The Gainsborough Bar for a bespoke cocktail or two. My whiskey-based concoction was refreshing with a slightly bitter edge, yet aromatic with a whiff of citrus. Alternatively, go for their stellar collection of local ales, artisan gins, and wine. For a spot of fine dining, Dan Moon at The Gainsborough won’t disappoint with its seasonal British fare. Georgian-era designs like arched doorways and symmetrical details create a welcoming backdrop, while creative dishes will delight even the most demanding of taste buds. Standouts from the five-course tasting menu include the shellfish risotto, which came with meaty, sautéed scallops and king prawns; as well as the juicy roast Creedy Carver duck.

A blissful soak calls.

What’s a stay in Bath without a bath? As the only hotel in the UK with access to natural thermal springs, The Gainsborough Bath Spa offers complimentary Spa Village access for all of its guests—a perk which I gladly took advantage of. Upon entering the Village, I was given a little satchel of Himalayan bath salt and a little card with instructions for navigating the bath circuit. I began with a dip in three thermal pools (each with different temperatures), followed by a visit to the infrared sauna, the steam room, then the ice alcove. Believed to improve blood circulation and soothe the skin, the thermal bath is especially a treat for guests who are nursing jetlag.

Inside Bath Abbey, a parish church of the Church of England.
Bath with its neoclassical Palladian buildings.

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