As the Christmas blues settle in, and January begins with chilly mornings forcing yourself out of bed and into the gloom, thoughts turn to escaping somewhere warm. Pronto.
However, at this time of year finding somewhere toasty on the continent is nigh on impossible. Or is it?
Why not pack your bags for a winter weekend in a snow-drenched city with the option to visit one of Europe’s incredible thermal spas? Below are a few of our favourites.
1. Széchenyi, Hungary
Every year, thousands of tourists travel to Budapest to soak up the benefits of thermal medical waters. With over 100 springs within the city, you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice, but no trip can be without a dip in the gorgeous outdoor Széchenyi Bath. The oldest Bath in Pest, Széchenyi also holds the honour of being one of the largest spas in Europe.
2. Blue Lagoon, Iceland
Breathtaking in appearance, these cloudy blue waters are one of the most popular tourist attractions of Iceland, and we can see why. Boasting a delicious temperature varying between 37 ad 39°C, the lagoon is the pinnacle of spa experience, also featuring saunas and steam baths as well as a massaging waterfall.
3. Thermae Bath Spa, England
Named after the natural hot springs, Bath stands out from the other cold springs in the UK. Offering several baths, steam rooms and even massage treatments, the Thermae Bath Spa will keep you occupied for an entire day out. If you’re feeling peckish after your dip, be sure to try afternoon tea at The Pump Room, for an elegant experience listening to classical melodies whilst overlooking the baths.
4. Therme Vals, Swizerland
Renowned architect Peter Zumthor designed the baths at Therme Vals, a chic Alpine hotel and spa getaway not far off from Zurich. Working with the natural surroundings the bath rooms lay below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside of Graubünden. The quarry-like spa was named after a national monument two years after its completion in 1996 and it was what put Zumthor and Graubünden on the international map.
5. Aqua Dome, Austria
The Aqua Dome is unlike any other thermal spa you’ve ever seen. Discovered in the 16th century, Längenfeld’s geothermal spring has since been re-egineered to become a sophisticated complex of outdoor and indoor pools. Savour the scenery around you from any of the three bowl-shaped thermal pools. For romantics, the Aqua Dome is an ideal place for moonlight bathing on Fridays. An ideal place for both adults and children alike.
6. Bains de Dorres, France
These open-air Roman baths found almost adjacent to the Spanish border, reach fiery levels of 42°C and offer stunning views overlooking the mountains. Snow often surrounds the pools, making it for an even more memorable experience, mixing the elements.
7. Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme, Germany
Germany’s Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme indoor spa is easy on the eyes and a treat for the senses. First opened as an orthopedic healing institute, the gorgeous indoor bath, where the waters are naturally heated to 66.4°C lets you indulge in Irish-Roman spa culture complete with Jugendstil ceramics and frescos. Swimsuits are banned in the sauna area but optional elsewhere.
8. Terme di Saturnia, Italy
Red wine and rolling hills are not the only thing Tuscany is famous for. Spas -of which there are plenty in the region, offer visitors the option of a relaxing holiday, and if you only have time for one, make it Terme di Saturnia. Legend has it that in a fit of anger, the ancient Roman god Saturn threw a flash of lightning down to earth causing sulfurous and warm water to gush out from the crater of a volcano. Today, the sulphurous spring waters are well known for their therapeutic properties which promise to cure several illnesses and even turn back the signs of time!
9. Thermes de Spa, Belgium
22 miles southeast of Liege lies the charming Belgian municipality of Spa. The city is know for its numerous thermal hot springs hence its name SPA, which in itself is an acronym for the Latin phrase “salus per aquae” or “health through water”. One worthy of mention is Thermes de Spa, whose springs have been gushing their virtues since 1868. Today, in accordance with the times, Thermes de Spa offers a wide variety of saunas, hammams, hydrotherapy pools and beauty treatment within their stunning circular glass facade.
10. Pamukkale, Turkey
A marvel of nature, Pamukkale (which means Cotton Castle in English) is Turkey’s foremost mineral bath spa. Its formation of step-like calcium carbonate shelves is so striking UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in the 80s. Enjoy a soak in the warm blue waters of Pamukkale by day when the pools sparkle with naturally heated waters at 96-degrees. Just be sure to leave your shoes behind as, in oder to maintain the whiteness of the travertines, guests aren’t allowed to walk around the bathing pools with footwear on.