11 months, 26 days ago
There are family spas all over Europe and algae wraps, scented candles and whale singing play a very small part in the experience. Forget everything you think you know right now and imagine a healing adventure for mind and body. Add a scattering of mountains, forests, lakes and beaches. Throw in breathtaking towns, historic architecture and incredible food. Then liberally pile on huge thermal pools, sailing, swimming, walking, hiking, climbing, exploring, shopping, drinking, dancing and playing. If you still think it’s going to be tricky selling family spa holiday this summer, read on.
Baden-Baden’s healing waters have been soothing European society for centuries. Today this legendary spa town is still the world’s loveliest and attracts a fair share of wealth and privilege. But it’s also surrounded by spectacular scenery and, as a blissed out seven-year-old once told us, ‘this pool feels melty’. Yes, for all the elegant opera houses, tech-treatments and annual Ferrari-Meet, Baden-Baden is fantastic for families. The thermal baths are huge and great fun, the atmosphere’s relaxed and friendly and the Black Forest is as much of an enchanting fairy tale as you always hoped it would be. Naturally, there’s no shortage of fluffy robes, facials and pampering either.
On the River Allier in the heart of spectacular Auvergne in central France, Vichy’s location alone makes it a great choice for a family spa holiday. The town’s famous for its waters and has three beautiful day spas, so you can choose from thermal or freshwater and indulge in a vast range of therapies. And, as a fair trade for downtime, the countryside all round is packed with sport, adventure, outdoor activities, ancient villages and towns, delightful cities and vast swathes of accessible wilderness. Auvergne is also the ‘larder’ plundered by most of gourmet France, so eating here is an experience in itself.
Part of the West Bohemia Spa Triangle, Karlovy Vary has been a celebrated spa town since the 16th century and it’s had a lot of practice in the art of relaxing and restoring. But don’t be too distracted by the air of refined elegance, beautifully preserved architecture, international film festivals and stellar list of past guests (Casanova apparently took the waters here). That side of Karlovy Vary is well balanced by a young atmosphere and plenty of family fun whether that’s hours of splashing around in amazing thermal pools, cycling through the immense forests or hiking, walking, climbing and exploring all over ancient and mysterious Bohemia itself.
For hot springs, geothermal lakes and healing waters, Iceland’s an all-round perfect family spa holiday this summer. The entire country’s covered in natural experiences from magnificent Landmannalaugur to the surreal pools at Viti –surrounded by sulphurous volcanic vents and only accessible in July and August. The legendary Blue Lagoon is just 20 minutes’ drive from Reykjavik airport. And there are brilliantly exciting geothermal beaches like Laugardalslaug and Nautholsvik in the city itself. Unless you’ve sworn off TV for the past five years, you’ll be familiar with the monumental drama of Iceland. But you might be less aware of how entertaining it can be too. There’s a no-age-limit attitude to outdoor exploits here and kids can get up to all sorts from cave diving to wild swimming, walking, hiking, climbing and sailing. Reykjavik is a lovely city: warm and friendly, cultured, interesting and packed with great bars, restaurants and seriously good shops. And if you’re travelling from the UK this summer, check out Iceland’s budget airline, WOW, they now fly direct to Reykjavik from London, Edinburgh and Bristol.
Budapest is the city of ancient hammam, thermal baths, spa-parks and even spa club-nights. The ritual of bathing, cleansing and refreshing body, mind and soul dates back to the 16th century here and it’s fair to say two weeks of total indulgence wouldn’t bring you close to trying every exquisite experience on offer. The largest family baths are Széchenyi in City Park, they’re huge, immensely grand and very reasonably priced for hours of entertainment – also the venue for summer night Pool Parties at the weekend. Gorgeous Gellért and Kiràly baths are the ones for grown-up pampering – traditional treatments are indescribably good. For spa-historians, the flawlessly restored Császár Baths date back to the mid-1500s. And the stunning Lukács Baths come highly recommended by dozens of marble tablets carved with ‘thanks for the cure’ messages from grateful 18th and 19th visitors. If you can drag yourself out of the waters, Budapest is a fascinating city to explore, surrounded by wild and lovely countryside and, of course, it’s on The Danube.
Still think spas are luxury experiences designed for over-pampered adults? Time to dive right into the places where they heartily disagree and have the fantastic family spa holidays to prove it.