Before the spa revolution saw most upscale hotels offering spa services to guests, there was the venerable European spa town tradition, centered on thermal baths built around natural hot springs. The water on offer for bathing at these sites has historically been thought to possess therapeutic qualities. The tradition of taking a “cure” remains an enthusiastic habit across Europe today, in particular in Central Europe.
Here are five noteworthy thermal baths, in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, and France.
1. Bad Gleichenberg, Austria. This small Styrian town is home to a thermal bath with a grand history that stretches back to Roman times. There are seven springs here, all producing mineral-rich waters known for their beneficial effects against respiratory and skin problems.
2. Bad Nauheim, Germany. North of Frankfurt, this town’s waters are meant to be particularly good for the treatment of heart and nerve disorders. These waters have a salt content of three percent, as high as most seawater. At Therme am Park, day tickets for bathing begin at €15.
3. Széchenyi, Hungary. Europe’s largest thermal baths are the most urban of the handful profiles here, located as they are in Budapest’s City Park. These waters are supposed to have great therapeutic value for those suffering from joint ailments.
4. Therme Vals, Switzerland. This spa, designed by the in-demand Swiss architect Peter Zumthor, benefits both from architectural significance and an impossibly picturesque location in the mountains of Graubünden. Vals is also the source of Valser mineral water.
5. Alet les Bains, France. This southwestern French village, not far from Carcassonne, is but a speck on the map. Since 1886, water sourced here has been bottled for consumption. During the warmer months (May through September) the town’s thermal baths are opened to the public. The waters here are supposedly very good for the treatment of digestive and metabolic problems.
[Image: Flickr | karaian]