Bath's Royal Crescent, once one of Regency England's most fashionable addresses, now the site of a splendid house-museum and the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Bath, UK

Jane Austen’s Bath

Story and Photos by Monique Burns.

Feature Image: Bath’s Royal Crescent, once one of Regency England’s most fashionable addresses, is now the site of a splendid house museum and the five-star Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa (Photo: Pam Brophy)

Films like “Pride and Prejudice,” featuring the wealthy but aloof Mr. Darcy and the poor but brave Elizabeth Bennet, have charmed moviegoers for decades. But few know the real Jane Austen, the writer whose insights into the manners and mores of Regency England inspired six of the world’s bestloved novels, including Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion and, of course, Pride and Prejudice. Reading Austen’s works is always a treat. But the best (and most adventurous) way to commune with Jane Austen and her unforgettable characters is to follow in their lively footsteps.

Less than two hours west of London, discover Bath, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where 18thcentury English nobility and gentry flocked during the social season to see and be seen. Jane Austen moved there after her father retired from the ministry, quitting his Steventon parish church and 200acre farm in Hampshire County. Jane and family lived in Bath for five years, from 1801 until 1806, and she set two novels there: Northanger Abbey and Persuasion.

Today, you can still visit the Royal Crescent, Assembly Rooms, Pump Room and other locales that Austen and her characters frequented. But, if you really want to immerse yourself in Austen’s world, plan your trip for September’s Jane Austen Festival.

The world’s largest gathering of Austen enthusiasts, the 10day Jane Austen Festival draws 3,500 people annually for more than 80 events, including picnics and walking tours. The kickoff event, the Grand Regency Costumed Promenade, with more than 900 participants parading through town dressed in Regencyera costumes, has earned a spot in the book of Guinness World Records. The festival’s highlight? Two Regency Costumed Balls, featuring authentic Regencyera music and dance, and open to anyone for the price of a ticket.

The-No.-1-Royal-Crescent-house-museum, Bath, UK
The No. 1 Royal Crescent house museum with sumptuous 18th-century period furnishings, including gilt-edged portraits, crystal chandeliers, and spinet pianos

Getting to London from the U.S. is a breeze. British Airways, the national flag carrier, flies direct to London from 26 U.S. gateways, including New YorkJFK, Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C. in the east; Austin, DallasFt. Worth, Houston and Phoenix in the southwest, and Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland and San Francisco in the west.

Arriving wellrested at London’s Heathrow Airport, take the Heathrow Express train 20 minutes to Paddington Station. Or, if you fly into Gatwick, it’s just a 30minute ride on the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station. From there, take the Tube, or underground, several stops to Paddington Station.

From Paddington Station, catch a Great Western Railway train for the 1½hour journey west to Bath. To save money, go online before leaving home and purchase a first or secondclass Britrail train pass, and a London Visitor Oyster Card for unlimited rides on the Tube, buses, trains and Thames River boats.

From Bath Spa station, it’s a 15minute walk or fiveminute taxi ride to the heart of town, with harmonious classical architecture in the warm, honeycolored limestone known as Bath stone. In the 1700s, John Wood the Elder and his son, John Wood the Younger, designed many of Bath’s most notable buildings. Reflecting Bath’s sense of its social importance, the classical style paid tribute to the Romans, who, in 60 AD, built a spa town here around mineralinfused hot springs. Known as Aquae Sulis, it was dedicated to the Celtic goddess of wells, waterways and healing, the wise Sulis Minerva.

Not surprisingly, Bath has a long tradition of hospitality. Immerse yourself in the city’s baronial lifestyle at fivestar Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel, one of a chain of nearly 40 four and fivestar countryhouse hotels in England, Scotland and on Spain’s Costa del Sol. A 15minute walk from the town center, the hotel has 131 elegant rooms and suites, some with Georgianstyle fourposter beds and all with marble baths, set amid seven acres of landscaped gardens.

The hotel’s Vital Health & Wellbeing offerings include an indoor swimming pool, an outdoor hydrotherapy pool and a gym with the latest fitness equipment. There’s also a fullservice spa offering fragrant ELEMIS treatments, from facials and deeptissue massages to manicures and pedicures.

Food and beverage offerings are equally upscale. Take afternoon tea with finger sandwiches, scones and clotted cream in the elegant but cozy Drawing Room with floortoceiling windows and velvetupholstered armchairs and sofas. The Colonnade Bar is the perfect spot for light fare and a cocktail. Consider locally distilled Bath Gin, infused with bitter orange, kaffir lime leaf and English coriander, and featuring a winking Jane Austen on the label.

The Francis Hotel on Queen Square, Bath, UK
The Francis Hotel on Queen Square where guests at Bon Marché enjoy Modern British cuisine on the eatery’s plant-filled terrace or in the stylish indoor dining room (Photo: Courtesy of The Francis Hotel)

Do save your appetite for dinner at Vellore where contemporary British fare, including venison fillet with onion ash and sticky date pudding with caramel sauce and vanillabean ice cream, are served on the canopied outdoor terrace or in the spacious dining room, once an elegant ballroom.

In the heart of town, choose the fourstar Francis Hotel. Composed of seven adjoining Regencystyle townhouses; it’s on Queen Square, a Palladianstyle residential terrace built by John Wood the Elder between 1728 and 1736. Steps from the hotel, at No. 13 Queen Square, Jane Austen and her mother stayed in May and June 1799. “We are exceedingly pleased,” wrote the author to her sister Cassandra. “The rooms are quite as large as expected…with dirty quilts and everything comfortable.”

Today, The Francis Hotel prides itself on spotless linens, modern amenities, and 98 stylish rooms blending 18th centurystyle furnishings with bright contemporary colors. Boho Marché, the hotel restaurant, serves English seasonal foods with a French flair. Try the twicebaked cheese soufflé or potted mackerel for starters, then proceed to the oh-so English Chef’s Battered Fish of the Day with mushy peas and chips or the velly-velly vegetarian SlowRoasted Cauliflower Steak with sweet potato mousseline.

In Emily’s Tea Room, a long, sunny gallery with plush flowered wing chairs, giltframed portraits and ornate mirrors, enjoy classic afternoon tea as well as cocktails inspired by characters from the popular Netflix series, “Bridgerton,” set in Regency England.

The Jane Austen Centre where visitors can pore over intriguing multimedia exhibits, shop for Austen-inspired memorabilia and enjoy scones with Dorset clotted cream at Afternoon Tea with Mr. Darcy

The Francis Hotel faces Queen Square, a leafy little park with an obelisk dedicated in 1738 to Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Beau Nash, the Swansea gambler who became 18thcentury Bath’s unofficial Master of Ceremonies. Just northeast is the Jane Austen Centre at No. 40 Gay Street. It’s down the street from No. 25, the townhouse where Jane Austen lived shortly before leaving Bath in 1806.

Outside the Jane Austen Centre, you’re greeted by a statue of Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennet, in a royalblue coat and bonnet, and live costumed characters, including her bewhiskered father, Mr. Bennet. Inside, watch a brief film about Austen’s life, then proceed to the wellorganized exhibits.

For Austen aficionados, the shop offers everything from socks bearing the author’s likeness to tea towels, books, and jewelry inscribed with Austen quotes. Upstairs, in the Regency Tea Room, enjoy “Afternoon Tea with Mr. Darcy,” including finger sandwiches, cakes, and scones with Dorset clotted cream. Savor teas from local supplier Gillards of Bath, or celebrate with Prosecco or Champagne.

Follow the Gravel Walk, northwest of Queen Square, and you’ll soon reach the Royal Crescent, a residential terrace of 30 columned townhouses facing a broad semicircular green and, beyond, flowerfilled Royal Victoria Park. Built by John Wood the Younger from 1767 to 1774, the Royal Crescent was one of Regency England’s most fashionable addresses.

Today, get a sense of that bygone era by visiting the splendid house museum at No.1 Royal Crescent. Carefully curated 18thcentury furnishings adorn the mansion from The Lady’s Bedroom, with its flowered canopy bed and giltedged portraits of great ladies with towering bouffants, to the Housekeeper’s Room, with attractive but noticeably plain wood furnishings, and from the Kitchen, where pots and pans adorn the walls, to the stately Dining Room, with gilded family portraits and a long burnishedwood table set with highly collectible Chamberlain Worcester china.  That’s the same china ordered by the likes of Admiral Lord Nelson who, sadly, died at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar before he could show his set off to guests.

Continue to No.16 and immerse yourself in Bath’s bygone elegance, albeit with ultramodern accoutrements, at the fivestar Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa. Rooms and suites are posh with traditional period furnishings. For a splurge, check into The Garden Villa with its own private walled garden. Here, too, yet another fine Bath restaurant serves Modern British cuisine like succulent organic lamb from Whaddon Grove Farm in nearby Wiltshire County and baked egg custard tart with Yorkshire rhubarb.

Called Montagu’s Mews, the hotel restaurant is named after Elizabeth Montagu, who spent the Bath social season at the very same No. 16, once her townhouse. Socalled “Queen of the Blues,” the 18thcentury writer and women’s advocate led the Blue Stockings Society, presiding over brilliant artistic salons in both London and Bath.

On Sundays, Bath’s 18thcentury residents, dressed in their Regency finery, paraded along the Royal Crescent. Jane Austen often walked there after church at St. Swithin’s Walcot, where her parents married in 1764 and where her father lies buried. An inveterate walker, Jane almost certainly strolled the famous Gravel Walk. In her 1817 novel, Persuasion, Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth, now a prosperous naval officer, are reunited in Bath after an eightyear separation.

Strolling the Gravel Walk, wrote Austen, Anne and the captain “exchanged again those feelings and those promises which had once before seemed to secure every thing, but which had been followed by so many, many years of division and estrangement.”

The 100-foot-long ballroom, with powder-blue walls and original crystal chandeliers, in Bath's Assembly Rooms where Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland meets her love Henry Tilney, Bath, UK
The 100-foot-long ballroom, with powder-blue walls and original crystal chandeliers, in Bath’s Assembly Rooms where Northanger Abbey’s Catherine Morland meets her love Henry Tilney

Several blocks east of the Royal Crescent, you’ll find the Assembly Rooms, designed by John Wood the Younger in 1769. Here Jane Austen and other visitors met to dance, hear concerts, play cards, gossip and, most important of all, find suitable mates. Adorning the palatial 100footlong ballroom are five original crystal chandeliers made by the famous Whitefriars Glassworks of London. In the Assembly Rooms, Catherine Morland, heroine of Northanger Abbey, meets her romantic match in Henry Tilney. But it’s in the Octagonal Room that Persuasion’s Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth first come facetoface after their long separation.

Visitors to the Assembly Rooms can also tour the Tea Room and the Card Room. Alas, at the time of this writing, the Fashion Museum, long housed in the basement, is closed while relocating to another downtown address. Once it reopens, stop in to see Regency dress, along with 100,000 other items from the 16th century onward, collected by Doris Langley Moore, a respected Lord Byron scholar who penned the provocative 1928 selfhelp book, The Technique of the Love Affair.

From the Assembly Rooms, backtrack south to 18th­century Pulteney Bridge. With shops on both sides, it’s reminiscent of Florence’s Ponte Vecchio. Across the River Avon is Great Pulteney Street. In Persuasion, an enamoured Anne Elliot anxiously awaits a glimpse of Captain Wentworth there.

Stylish quarters, complete with fireplace, at No. 15 inn on Great Pulteney Street, where Anne Elliot glimpses her beloved Captain Wentworth in Austen's novel, Persuasian (Photo courtesy of the No. 15 Guest House Hotels)
Stylish quarters, complete with fireplace, at No. 15 inn on Great Pulteney Street, where Anne Elliot glimpses her beloved Captain Wentworth in Austen’s novel, Persuasian (Photo Courtesy of No. 15 Guest House Hotels)

Today, at No. 15, an inn and restaurant at that very same Great Pulteney Street address, you’ll find 36 cozy oneofakind rooms (including kidfriendly family rooms) nestled in several Regencyera townhouses and a separate coach house. The inn also has a small courtyard garden, a car park, and a spa offering soaks in a copper bathtub that’s big enough for two as well as facials, body scrubs and massages.

Another popular draw: The hotel restaurant, serving bistrostyle dishes with fresh local ingredients. Think: Reuben sandwiches with homecured corned beef, cauliflower risotto with local Somerset pecorino, and traditional Bath chaps, a kind of slowcooked pork chop with kohlrabi remoulade.

Nearby is No. 4 Sydney Place. The first of Austen’s four Bath residences, it’s now Bath Boutique Stays, with luxury apartments named after Jane Austen characters. Just beyond are Sydney Gardens, where Austen often strolled and gathered with other Bath habitués to enjoy public breakfasts. Visit the park’s Holburne Museum, Bath’s first public museum, showcasing over 6,500 items, from German Meissen porcelain to Gainsborough portraits.

The-Roman-Baths-with-carved-statuary-and-majestic-columns-forever-evoking-the-grandeur-of-Ancient-Rome-and-Regency-England, Bath, UK
The Roman Baths with carved statuary and majestic columns forever evoking the bygone grandeur of Ancient Rome and Regency England (Photo: Diego Delso)

Virtually every corner of Bath has some connection to Jane Austen. But perhaps the most famous site is the Pump Room. Above the Roman Baths, and steps from Bath Abbey, where Edgar, first King of England, was crowned in 973, it’s where fashionable 18thcentury visitors came to sip the sacred mineralrich waters. Adorned with crystal chandeliers and giltframed portraits, the Pump Room is now an elegant setting for moderately priced Morning Bakery, Brunch and Afternoon Tea served to the strains of classical piano music, or the Pump Room Trio’s violin, cello and piano.

At Morning Bakery, tuck into cheddarandchive scones and your choice of cakes, perhaps carrot cake with sticky toffee sauce. At Brunch, sample two poached eggs with Hollandaise sauce on—what else?—genuine English muffins paired with delicacies like Scottish smoked salmon, Wiltshire ham, or crushed avocado with seared cherry tomatoes.

Pump Room, The King's Spring where Jane Austen and other Bath habitués once took the sacred mineral-rich waters, Bath, UK
In the Pump Room, The King’s Spring where Jane Austen and other Bath habitués once took the sacred mineral-rich waters—and visitors still can

Afternoon Tea has three sittings, so there’s no excuse for missing savories like cottage pie with leek mash or rarebit with local ale chutney. Feast on typically English finger sandwiches like whipped cream cheeseandcucumber or deviled eggandmustard cress. But don’t miss the freshbaked pastries, or the homemade buttermilk scones with West Country clotted cream and jam. Enjoy your meal with coffee, tea, Champagne or Prosecco.

Afterward, visit the Roman Baths with mossygreen waters surrounded by stone columns and ornate carvings. You can no longer do as the Romans do and bathe in those sacred springs. But, steps away, at the Thermae Bath Spa, you can languish in the Cross Bath’s equally sacred waters. Or do as Jane Austen did, and take a long, thoughtful draught of mineral water from The King’s Spring, the Pump Room’s venerable fishadorned fountain.

IF YOU GO: The following links, in order of appearance, may be helpful: Bath, Jane Austen Festival, Great Western Railway, London Visitor Oyster Card, Macdonald Bath Spa Hotel, Francis Hotel, Jane Austen Centre, No.1 Royal Crescent, Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, Assembly Rooms, No. 15, Holburne Museum, Pump Room, Roman Baths, Thermae Bath Spa.

For flights to London, visit British Airways. Great Britain’s national flag carrier flies direct to London from 26 U.S. gateways. For more on Bath, log on to and