Now’s the time to shake off those winter blues and get planning a cheeky spa getaway or pampering weekend somewhere fabulous. There are plenty of relaxing retreats to choose from in Europe and beyond, the following are ten of our top picks…
What could be more invigorating than a spa break in Marrakech?
Exotic and colourful, this Moroccan city is home to all sorts of boutique Riad-style hotels that are ready and waiting to spoil you, whether you want a weekend or a week of rejuvenating goodness. While your mornings and often evenings will be filled with hammam treatments and trays of soothing mint tea, it’s worth venturing on a day trip to the likes of Jardin Majorelle (the beautiful walled garden owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent), or into the fragrant souks to stock up on teas, perfumes and that all-important argan oil.
The Algarve never fails to draw crowds to its sunny shores, but most holidaymakers miss out on the north-east of the coast, specifically the area known as ‘The Garden of the Algarve’. The Serra de Monchique region, which lies 300 metres above sea level is lush and mountainous, perfect for hiking, biking and horse-riding as well as blissed-out breaks to its many wellness resorts.
In the south-west of Germany lies Baden Baden, a spa town that does wellness and relaxation in style. Sea salt grottos, thermal baths, anti-stress therapies and all sorts of clinics for medical issues and wellness purposes are rife around the city, as well as stylish hotels, beautiful luxury shopping experiences and the perfect conditions for hiking, skiing in winter, golf and tennis. A word of warning: you’ll quite literally never want to leave.
The Town of Health is Chianciano Terme’s motto, and it’s not hard to see why. The Tuscan town is enriched, like towns such as Bath in England, with high levels of mineral water and its resorts offer you the chance to experience all-round culture, from mineral springs to museums, spas and sports.
You’ve got naturally fortified thermal springs and spas to loll about in all day, a playground of mineral water swimming pools that all join up with waterfalls, jets and currents and even a sensory spa – which is EXACTLY as amazing as it sounds. Divided into four ‘sensory trails’: depurative, relaxing, energising and rebalancing (so whatever your issue, they’ll sort it), the spa has a whirlpool, sauna, Turkish bath, aromatherapy and much, much more – if that’s not the definition of the dream, I just don’t know what is.
Apart from belonging in a legitimate fairy tale with its brightly coloured buildings nestled in the Bohemian hills, Carlsbad – or Karlovy Vary in Czech – is an Eastern European spa hot spot. It’s the whole health experience, really, no matter what you’re into. Chill out in the world-famous spas with professionals who prescribe you the right treatments to ensure you leave fresh and revived, visit some of the world’s best private medical professionals if your ailment is more legit, stay in some of the most lush hotels the Czech Republic has to offer, and try your hand at the town’s rich golfing culture. The journey from Prague to Carlsbad takes around 3 hours by train.
Budapest has been topping lists of European spa towns for centuries, thanks to a network of natural hot springs bubbling away beneath the surface of the city. The good news is you don’t have to spend a fortune to soak up the lovely therapeutic qualities. For around €20, you can enjoy the warm, healing waters of the Szechenyi Medicinal Baths or indulge in an afternoon of relaxation in the thermal baths of Gellért. For luxury pampering, look no further than the decadent surroundings of Budapest’s spa hotels.
‘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 had come to be happy, and she felt happy already’.
Jane Austen might have penned these words two hundred years ago, but her description of the UK’s most famous spa town is still pretty much spot on.
Bath is renowned for its thermal springs, around which the Romans built a temple and bathing complex that gave the city its name. Although Bath’s spa scene is mostly centred on the hot springs, there are plenty of spa hotels offering mid-week or weekend pampering packages. Most hotels’ spa facilities are open to non-residents too, meaning you can easily pop in for a treatment or two while you’re in town.
Slovakia’s spa towns are rich in therapeutic minerals, thermal springs and healing waters. Piešťany is probably the most famous spa town in Slovakia and can be reached within an hour’s drive or 50-minute train journey from Bratislava. Forget your troubles and sprawl out in luxurious surroundings, while soaking up the healing properties of the local hot springs and sulphurous mud – healthy glow guaranteed.
Not only is Murcia’s Mar Menor mud well-known throughout Spain for its magical healing properties, but the region is also gushing with mineral-rich, therapeutic waters. The spa resorts within the town of Archena, (25 kilometres from the centre of Murcia) tap into all this earthy goodness with pampering packages and restorative treatments. The views aren’t half bad either. Set in the fertile Ricote Valley, you can look forward to waking up to the sight of almond trees, orange groves and rugged mountains each morning.
Fact: The Belgian town of Spa has been attracting day-trippers to its healing waters since the 14th century and is actually responsible for the modern concept of the ‘spa’. These days it’s still the perfect destination for a chilled out break, with plenty of relaxation packages available in local resorts and hotels. One of the town’s newest attractions is Les Thermes de Spa, which is open for afternoon or full day sessions. Spa’s location on the German border means it can be easily reached from either Brussels or Cologne by car or train.
- Mathilda Edwards