This spa town is home to a wealth of historic attractions, interesting museums and independent shops.
Royal Tunbridge Wells rose to prominence during the 17th and 18th centuries as a spa destination, attracting upper-class visitors with its mineral-water spring. The spa craze has faded over the centuries. Today, you can enjoy the town’s shops and restaurants, and admire the elegant buildings that were constructed during its golden age.
The city gained popularity beginning in 1606 when Dudley Lord North, a courtier to King James I, discovered an iron-rich mineral spring. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, royal visitors flocked to the town, seeking cures for everything from impotence to melancholy. Trips to the town remained in vogue throughout the reign of Queen Victoria and it was given its “Royal” prefix in 1909. Visit during the summer nowadays and drink the waters of the town’s Chalybeate Spring, where costumed “dippers” dole out drinks.
Go for a stroll along the Pantiles, a lovely colonnaded walkway bordered by 17th-century buildings. Browse the promenade’s unique shops, enjoy a coffee at an open-air café or check out a live performance on the bandstand. Stop by the Saturday farmers’ markets, held on alternating weeks at the Pantiles or Town Hall.
Inspect the 18th-century buildings that line the lower end of Tunbridge Wells’ High Street.
Near the northern end of Mount Pleasant Road, you’ll find the Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery. This family-friendly museum is dedicated to the exhibition of local artifacts. Look for the world’s largest collection of Tunbridge ware, consisting of decorative wooden objects inlaid with small pieces of colored wood.
Save time to check out the 17th-century Church of King Charles the Martyr. Although the church’s exterior is relatively plain, the interior features a beautiful plastered ceiling. You may also be able to watch one of the organ recitals that regularly take place here.
Royal Tunbridge Wells is located 40 miles (65 kilometers) southeast of London. Take the train from London's Charing Cross or Cannon Street station towards Hastings, which passes through Royal Tunbridge Wells’ town center.