Tunbridge Wells is a very odd town. It’s definitely a town of two halves: the haves and have-nots. Of course every town has its rich and poor (and everything in between) but the distinction is so obvious in Tunbridge Wells unlike anywhere else I’ve lived. There are some truly beautiful large houses in the town (and surrounding areas) with eye-watering price tags to match. And even the cheaper properties aren’t that cheap, neither are the rents. The “Royal” in the town’s name ensures that.
It’s also a town of two halves in another sense: on one hand it seems posh and upmarket but it has a seedy underbelly. There are quite a few snooty people, but also there’s a lot of homelessness in the town and a lot of alkies and druggies. Oh and beggars.
The town also feels very small. Because, well it is. Both in terms of the area it covers and the population. There really isn’t that much to do in the town because of its small size. Culturally what is there? The Assembly Hall, Trinity Theatre, some art shops, a tiny museum in the library building and that’s pretty much it. Oh and The Forum which from the outside is an absolute eyesore. Only been there a couple of times and was spectacularly underwhelmed both times.
The pedestrianised shopping area at the top end of town by the shopping centre is nothing special. All the usual nationwide chains of shops you’d find in any town. The shopping centre itself is clean and tidy, but what can be said about a shopping centre? They’re all identical and soulless. It’s a medium-to-large shopping centre, but not on the scale of Bluewater near Dartford.
There are a lot of overpriced restaurants and eateries in the town, but still a few places where you can eat for a reasonable price. I’ve had several good meals in the town though, from reasonable to expensive.
The Pantiles is pretty, but it’s only a couple of hundred metres long or so. You can eat and drink there and there are a handful of shops, but again there’s not that much to do there. A nice place to hang out on a hot summer’s day though.
Tunbridge Wells is an OK town. There are plenty worse places to live, but it’s just too small and limited and feels overrated to me.