From London, take the M4, then follow signposts for Bath, starting at junction 18. The drive will take two or three hours, depending on traffic. To the west, Bristol is around 30 minutes away by car. For car hire, go to www.hertz.co.uk. Smith cardholders get a 10 per cent discount; quote '635230' when you reserve the car.
The nearest airport is Bristol International, about half an hour's drive from Bath.
Trains leave from London Paddington for Bath Spa every half hour or so, and take about 90 mins. The city is fairly well connected with links to destinations across the country; see www.thetrainline.com for routes and fares.
Country code for the UK: +44. Bath: (0)1225.
Anything by Jane Austen, Bath's most famous resident. Try Northanger Abbey, with the promising passage: 'They arrived in Bath. Catherine was all eager delight; her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.' Ahh!
Do go / Don't Go
The Gulf Stream makes this area a bit more temperate than most of England, but your best bet for a dry stay is still to visit between June and September. Winter can be captivating, with snow dusting the streets; there are some great Christmas markets, too.
Good old-fashioned English fare abounds (with tea, scones and cheddar cheese taking centre-stage), but there's plenty of modern European influence, too; Bath boasts several Michelin-starred eateries. There's also a real focus on local, seasonal produce and on ingredients sourced from England's south-west.
Taxis cannot be flagged in the street, so ask your hotel to book them for you. There are usually plenty of taxis outside the train station.
Discretionary, but around 15 per cent is appreciated in restaurants.
Pounds sterling (£).
Mrs Smith finds it hard to resist taking an empire-line dress and a bonnet to Bath, to get the full Austen effect. The less whimsical among you might simply want to take an umbrella to fend off that pesky English rain (and perhaps to double as a pretty parasol).
The Roman Baths (+44 (0)1225 477785; www.romanbaths.co.uk) are the city's most famous landmark, and a World Heritage site: a beautiful Roman temple and bathhouses built around the only hot spring in Britain, still flowing with natural hot water. Jane Austen is Bath's other great cultural icon. The Austen Centre at Queen Square (+44 (0)1225 443000; www.janeausten.co.uk) is pretty diverting and has a great shop. The best thing about it, though, is the Regency tearoom, with great rooftops views and some particularly good cakes.
The Thermae Bath Spa (+44 (0)1225 331234; www.thermaebathspa.com) has a natural hot spa pool on a rooftop looking over Bath and the surrounding countryside. You can get treatments here - including aromatherapy cocoons and Moroccan mud wraps as well as shiatsu and reiki - or you can just laze about enjoying the waters and the views.
There's great shopping to be done in Bath, and the city is relatively unscarred by chain stores. Walcot Street is full of independent little shops offering clothes, books and antiques; on Saturdays, there's a great fleamarket, too. Along Milsom Street you'll find Jolly's, one of the UK's oldest department stores, plus Jaeger, Hobbs and self-explanatory Vintage to Vogue. At the top of the street is Shires Yard, with more boutiques and the Alessi Gallery.
For the best views of the city, go hot-air ballooning. With Bailey Balloons (+44 (0)1275 375300; www.baileyballoons.co.uk), you can take off from Royal Victoria Park, cruise over Bath, and land at the Cadbury's chocolate factory in nearby Keynsham.
Walk west out of Bath along the Kennet and Avon Canal and enjoy the most picturesque towpaths in the country, or go and soak up the calm and grandeur of Bath's magnificent 15th-century Abbey.
March Bath Literature Festival, with recent guests including Alexander McCall Smith, Clare Short and Jacqueline Wilson (www.bathlitfest.org.uk).
July/August The Roman Baths in the Abbey churchyard are open late for candlelit walks.
October The Bath Film Festival offers a feast of cinema in venues around the city, with previews of new arthouse films, as well as lots of classics (www.bathfilmfestival.org.uk).