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The therapeutic use of hot springs has been present in Europe from ancient times to the present day, giving birth to a number of spa towns well-known for the beauty of their buildings, or long tradition of welcoming guests and the healing properties of its springs.
Acqui Terme, Italy
Located in Monferrato in the heart of northern Italy’s Piedmont region, Acqui Terme is a bustling spa town established in Roman times and surrounded by breath-taking vineyards and landscapes listed as UNESCO World Heritage.
Ever since it was founded by the Romans, it has had “hot water” extremely rich in therapeutic properties, which gushes out in the town’s centre – the Bollente Spring.
The impressive ruins of the Roman aqueduct still stand in towns as a reminder of how water has always been the most important element. Today Acqui Terme offers its visitors an enviable blend of spas, culture, culinary excellence, and Italian small-town charm, making it an appealing destination.
Baden - Baden, Germany
The Friedrichsbad, with its high central dome, encapsulates the essence of Baden-Baden, where the Roman foundations and the 1877 Neo-Renaissance-style architecture form the perfect blend of style and relaxation.
Set between the Black Forest and the Rhine Valley, the bucolic town still keeps the flair of the 19th century, with its parks and promenades, the Casino, the Kurhaus, and the spa palaces, where visitors can enjoy the benefits of its mineral-rich hot salty waters.
Known during the Belle Epoque as the Summer Capital of Europe, Baden Baden is today a green cityscape where modern arts and health flourish side by side.
Bath, United Kingdom
Breathtaking, Bath is the only entire spa town designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, a place of Outstanding Universal Value for its impressive Roman remains, the unique Georgian built heritage, dating back to the 18th century, and its role as a setting for social history, inspired by its hot springs and natural landscape setting.
With more than 2000 years of history behind, modern Bath is a thriving city, with internationally-renowned festivals and an enviable cultural and sporting scene. In 2006 the new Thermae Bath Spa opened its doors, finally reconnecting the town to its thermal water.
Located at the crossroads of Europe, Budapest is a cosmopolite capital whose most is most popular attractions are undoubtedly the baths, known all over the world. Here, traditions and historical buildings from east and west have shaped the variety of exciting spa experiences on offer in the city: baths, lidos, beaches and spa hotels that use the plentiful thermal waters, which flow at a rate of 70 million litres per day from over 100 natural springs.
Visitors should not miss emblematic baths such as Gellért or Szèchenyi, where you can play chess in the water
Modern and industrial, Bursa is Turkey’s four largest city and holds a long history whose origins can be traced back to 2th Century BC. Part of the Roman Empire, then the Byzantine and later the Ottoman, of which Bursa was the capital, the city was one of the most important world centres for silk and spices from 1326 to 1453.
Built around mosques, caravanserais and hot springs, Bursa is popular cultural, natural, religious and thermal tourist destination, with plenty of Turkish baths and hammams built around the city, where you can feel how the Arab world influenced Europe’s bathing traditions.
Caldas da Rainha, Portugal
Legend has it that Queen Leonor was the first to discover the therapeutic benefits of the sulphur-rich waters bubbling in this town north of Lisbon. By 1484 she founded a medieval thermal hospital, Europe’s first one in its class, with baths used for treating skin and bone ailments.
Caldas da Rainha became a fashionable resort for the nobility, and in the 19th century experienced a major development, with fine examples of Art Nouveau that can be visited today.
The town is also known for the glazed ceramic pottery of Bordallo Pinheiro, a symbol of Portugal itself which is produced here.
Daruvar’s thermal waters have been used for more than 2000 years. Throughtout history, it was the capital of the Iassan Republic, a patrician health resort during Roman times (Aquae Balissae) and an important strategic point with the Turkish. It will not be until the coming of the Austro-Hungarian aristocracy that Daruvar was officially founded, in the heart of a wine-growing country whose production continues until today.
Within the Daruvar Spa, built directly above the hot springs and the Roman foundations, the Central Mud Bath, built in Moorish style and topped with an octogonal cupula, stand as a symbol of the town.
A short train ride north from Paris brings you to the picturesque town of Enghien-Les-Bains, a fashionable spa resort whose mineral waters, discovered 200 years ago, are still used regularly in a full range of modern top-level treatments.
The landscape here is shaped by the presence of a big lake, surrounded by a promenade and the magnificent Casino, the first in France. The charm of this waterside setting and the grand 19th century villas are complemented by the vanguardist Centre-des-Arts, a multidisciplinary space dedicated to performing and experimenting with digital arts. In 2013, Enghien was designated UNESCO Creative City of Media Arts.
Eurocity Chaves - Verín
Chaves-Verín is the Eurocity of Water, a single tourist destination that straddles the border of Spain and Portugal, rich in genteel spa facilities and a world-renewed bottled water industry.
The river Tâmega runs through this fertile valley connecting both cities, Verin (Spain) and Chaves (Portugal), and shapes a tourist route to to explore by car or bicycle, discovering the ruins of Roman spa complexes, the natural hot springs, the buvettes where you can taste the water, top-level spa complexes and magnificent building such as the Vidago Palace, a romantic 5-stars hotel from 1910.
Karlovy Vary Region, Czech Republic
The West Bohemian Spa Triangle, an extraordinary region rich in elegant thermal palaces and blossom-filled gardens, holds some of the most prestigious thermal destinations in Europe. Towns like Karlovy-Vary, Mariánské Lázně or Františkovy Lázně, were very popular in the 19th century among emperors, kings, artists…
Its famous spa waters, rising naturally from over 100 springs, offer medical, wellness and beauty treatments, and are available for drinking in the many beautiful colonnades which are characteristic of the area.
The region is a vibrant cultural venue, with world-known events as the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, the Chopin Music Festival of Mariánské Lázně and the summer concerts honouring Johann Strauss in Františkovy Lázně.
Just 80 km from Athens, by the Corinth Canal, is the seaside town of Loutraki, whose hot healing waters have been known since ancient times, used by Spartan soldiers (according to historian Xenophon) to rest and rejuvenate.
Many consider Loutraki the birthplace of Greek thermalism and is wide-known for its bottled water. Spa lovers can enjoy today the restored the 1934 classical-inspired bouvette, with hot water bubbling directly from the rock, and the luxurious modern spa complex.
Gifted with long urban beaches, Loutraki offer plenty of accommodation and tourist facilities, where the Casino outstands, as one of the biggest in Europe.
Montecatini Terme, Italy
An early morning walk through the elegant Art Noveau streets and landscaped parks of Montecatini Terme, not far from Florence, will reveal the magic of this Italian town where the hot springs – with slightly saline waters, are housed in the magnificent Terme Tettucio, completed with shops and a dance hall built in the 19th century.
Visitors should take the funicular railway to the spectacular original hilltop town of Montecatini Alto, but no visit is complete without a tour of the star-studded pavements, commemorating legendary visitors, who made Montecatini fashionable in the 50s and 60s: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior..
Ourense thermal springs are an unexpected pleasure for the traveller that visits this charming Galician town for the first time. Either on the banks of River Minho, outdoors and surrounded by nature, or in facilities inspired by the Japanese onsen, its thermal baths are places designed for wellness and relaxation. Even in the middle of the Old Town, amidst Roman ruins, you can enjoy a hot bath, next to the healing fountains of As Burgas, a symbol of the city.
Ourense Historic Centre, still with a medieval flair, deserves a calm walk through its narrow streets and lively squares, exploring important monuments such as the St. Martin’s Cathedral.
Salsomaggiore Terme, Italy
Crossroads of art, nature and architecture, Salsomaggiore enjoys a privileged position among the gently rolling Parma hills.
It is easy to reach from the nearby cities of Bologna and Milan and offers visitors a veritable open-air museum in the unmistakable Art-Nouveau style, which is almost as famous as the local spa waters which made Salsomaggiore so very popular during the Belle Epoque period.
The Art-Decò jewel of the Terme Berzieri spa centre is dedicated to the scientist who first attested the therapeutic virtues of these waters.
A warm welcome, along with a rich variety of itineraries and events dedicated to sport and discovering the area and the local wine and food, have earned Salsomaggiore the title of “Health Town”, a place in which to enjoy healthy living.
Known as the “Pearl of Ardennes”, Spa nestles in a pretty forested valley, source of its world-famous bottled waters. Several fountains and springs, the Pouhons, can be found here, all with different chemical compositions and therapeutic applications.
Although probably known by the Romans, it wasn’t until the 16th century that Spa really began to develop as a town, attracting large numbers of distinguished visitors, and has remained a popular destination throughout the centuries.
Today is a lively town offering museums, shopping, sporting activities and plenty of cultural events, including the Francofolies festival each year, the prestigious casino and famous a racetrack.
Vichy had been known for its thermal water cures ever since the Romans discovered that the hot mineral waters were effective for health, as well as bathing. Throughout its history, famous guest such as royalty and great artists contributed to building a legend around its quasi-miraculous waters.
Vichy’s thermal spring are a symbol in the cosmetic and bottled water industry, but the city itself is worth discovering, full of fine examples of refined classic spa architecture: the magnificent Opera Palace, the neo-Byzantine dome of the Dômes spa centre, the Pavilion of the Célestins, and the Belle Époque elegant villas and hotels.
Explore some of the grandest of Europe’s palaces in this breathtaking photo gallery.
Europe has been around for a long time. That’s why some of its most celebrated buildings are some of the oldest. But newer, more modern buildings can also be found. From Italy to Denmark, modern architecture has found its way into Europe’s heart. Browse this gallery to see some of the newest architectural marvels found throughout Europe.
Modern day Europe is crossed by ancient medieval pilgrimage and trade routes, travelled by walkers and ramblers on a slow adventure, discovering castles, vineyards and olive trees, delicious food and local wines. One of the most famous routes in Europe is the Via Francigena – or the route from France how it was called in medieval Italy. Crossing Europe from Canterbury (England) to Rome (Italy), it reaches Santa Maria di Leuca on the very tip of the Italian heel. The route takes you from Northern Europe to the harbors of the Mediterranean Sea along 3200km, which are manageable in 4 months on foot. Browse the gallery to discover, region by region, some of the most beautiful places along the Via Francigena. Join Via Francigena photo contest!
From fresh Atlantic cod to giant king crab, Europe has an amazing selection of seafood. Explore the regional cuisine of traditional plates from around the coasts of Europe. Find the freshest seafood at a fishing village market or in a five-star restaurant. Head onto the waters with a guide and catch your own fish and learn how to prepare it. Whether it’s caught in the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic Ocean or the North Sea, European seafood is a treat.
Every traveller has their place (or places) they want to visit in Europe. But whether you prefer snowkiting in Norway or relaxing in the natural hot springs of Hungary, discovering fortresses in San Marino or photographing Dutch windmills in The Netherlands, find the activities and destinations you’ve dreamed of by knowing what style of vacation appeals to you.
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