The heart of Royal Tunbridge Wells, the Pantiles is an elegant pedestrianized promenade lined with 17th-century buildings. Wander down its wide lanes, browse upscale shops and sample the Pantiles’ mineral-rich water from Chalybeate Spring.
The Pantiles was established in the 17th century as an elite area for upper-class visitors to shop, socialize and enjoy the healing waters of the nearby Chalybeate Spring. The area is said to take its unusual name from the Dutch “pan tiles” that once paved the promenade. The Pantiles’ original wood buildings were destroyed in 1687 by a fire and were rebuilt as the distinct white Georgian colonnades that define the neighborhood today. Take a look inside the boutiques that line the promenade and sell everything from antiques to home furnishings. Most of these stores are independently owned.
In the summer, it’s still possible to sample the Chalybeate Spring waters that first attracted aristocrats to the area more than 300 years ago. The spring water was said to cure ailments ranging from infertility to hangovers. Look for “dippers” dressed in old-fashioned costumes who will bring you a glass of spring water for a small fee.
Stop for a drink at one of the European-style cafés found along the promenade. Eat a meal at a pub or pick up fresh produce at the farmers’ market. Held on the first and third Saturdays of each month, the market’s stalls also sell a variety of local clothing, crafts and accessories.
Check out any performances that may be taking place on the area’s bandstand. The Pantiles hosts numerous events throughout the year, which range from open-air art exhibitions to fashion markets. Visit during May and your arrival might coincide with the annual Pantiles Food Festival, which is held over three days. This animated event attracts more than 10,000 people and features food from across the U.K.
The Pantiles is just a short walk from Tunbridge Wells station. If you choose to drive, you’ll find several parking lots around town, as well as street parking.