15 elegant spa towns you need to visit
- Credit: Archant
Soothe aches and pains and take in beautiful architecure with a visit to these spa towns renowned for their thermal waters
1. Fontpédrouse, Pyrénées-Orientales
Perched 1,150m up in the Pyrénées, the little town of Fontpédrouse is home to a number of natural hot springs. Here the thermal waters are sulphurous and at 58°C are among the hottest in the Pyrénées. On the edge of the town lies the Bains de Saint Thomas, where you can enjoy a spa experience in one of the three outdoor hot-water baths, heated to approximately 37°C and fitted with whirlpool baths and pulsating massage jets to make the experience all the more enjoyable.
2. Plombières-les-Bains, Vosges
The spa town of Plombières-les-Bains in Lorraine has been known for its thermal waters since Roman times and over the centuries has been visited by Montaigne, Voltaire and Napoléon. One place to make full use of the restorative spa waters is the Calodae Spa Balnéo-Romain, which is set in a former convent dating from the 17th century. The spa comes a whirlpool bath, sauna and spa room complete with towering water jets, and offers a range of body and facial treatments.
3. Évian-les-Bains, Haute-Savoie
This chic spa town on the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) first became known for its natural spring waters in the 1790s and has been home to the Évian bottled water company for nearly two centuries. Among the many hotels and health spas to establish themselves here is the Hôtel Royal at the Evian Resort, which opened in 1905 and is set in 20 hectares of parkland. Its spa complex offers a range of water-based treatments, as well as massages, wraps, reflexology and other beauty pampering.
4. Aix-les-Bains, Savoie
Clinging to the banks of Lake Bourget, Aix-les-Bains is the third spa resort in France, welcoming more than 30,000 people who come to enjoy the benefits of the thermal waters. Its hot springs were first discovered in the 5th century and the waters are still used today to cure ailments and alleviate pain. The two thermal spas in town, the Thermes nationaux and the Thermes de Marlioz, offer treatments to help cure respiratory ailments.
5. Amélie-les-Bains, Pyrénées Orientales
Nestled in the valley of Vallespir by the Spanish border some 30km away from the beaches, Amélie-les-Bains is home to several hot water springs. The water’s high concentration in sulphur and its chemical consistency throughout the years of testing make the resort a very popular destination for spa treatments. It offers two spas, including one housed in a listed building containing Roman remains.
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6. Aulus-les-Bains, Ariège
This little spa village is situated at 750m high in a pretty valley surrounded by the Pyrénées Ariègeoises. The traditional mountain village is home to only 200 permanent inhabitants which gives the resort a welcoming atmosphere. The mineral waters here are cold (around 16°C) and sulphurous and their high concentration in calcium and magnesium make them particularly effective in the treatment of high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
7. Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Hautes-Pyrénées
Located at the foot of the Pyrénées, Bagnères-de-Bigorre was established as a spa town by the Romans when they first discovered the hot springs trickling down Mont Olivet and built baths there. The hot sulphurous waters are used to treat respirtory problems and even psychosomatic traumas. Today the town has developed its spa heritage and offers many wellness activities.
8. Bagnères-de-Luchon, Haute-Garonne
This lively and authentic mountain town is situated among the mountains at Haute-Garonne’s most southern point. Renowned for its baths in Gallo-Roman times, Luchon became a popular destination for members of the high society in the 18th century and as welcomed people like Napoleon III, Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert and Sacha Guitry, the famous French actor. As well as the thermal baths, the spa boasts a vaporium, a huge steam bath and the only one of its kind in Europe.
9. Bourbonne-les-Bains, Haute-Marne
Although the presence of hot springs was first discovered in Antiquity, it’s the construction of the first spa establishment in the late 18th century that made Bourbonne-les-Bains a sought-after thermal spa destination as its particularly hot waters, springing at around 66°C, have good healing effects on rheumatism and bone structure. It is one of the few spa towns in Grand-Est and a very pleasant town to visit situated near the Vosges mountains.
10. Chaudes-Aigues, Cantal
The only spa town in Cantal, Chaudes-Aigues boasts the hottest natural springs in Europe where the water emerges at 87°C! The 30 odd springs of Chaudes-Aigues provide free hot water to all the houses of the village and attract nearly 2,500 a year, eager to enjoy the healing powers of the water. The picture-postcard village is lovely to visit with its little cobbled streets, lavoir and pretty streets.
11. Dax, Landes
Home to no less than 15 thermal spas, Dax welcomes around 60,000 patients looking to make the most of the thermal waters and famous mud treatments delivered at this resort, making it France’s top spa town in France. The town boasts plenty of heritage from its Antique past as well as modern spas that offer treatments and wellness and fitness facilities.
12. Laroche-Posay, Vienne
Famous for its beauty products, Laroche-Posay is a charming Medieval village with plenty of activities and a major spa destination which specialised in skin care. The properties of the water, known as ‘Velvet Water’, are excellent to cure skin afflictions but the spas also offer relaxation and wellness treatments.
13. Royat, Puy-de-Dôme
Located at the foot of the volcanic range of the Chaîne des Puys, this spa resort specializes in the natural treatment of osteoarthritis and cardio-arterial diseases thanks to the mineral waters of the springs. Its large well-being spa centre, Royatonic, is perfect for recharging your batteries in the thermal baths and saunas.
14. Vichy, Allier
This elegant spa town is famous worldwide as its water, mint sweets and skin care products are exported all over the world. The town itself has retained the splendour and elegance of its glory days with architecture dating back from the Second Empire, the Belle Epoque or even the Art Déco periods. Its spa heritage is visible throughout the town and you can of course enjoy the benefits of the thermal waters in one of the biggest spas in Europe. A wander around the beautiful Source des Célestins is obligatory!
15. Vittel, Vosges
An incredibly green and flowered town, Vittel is a haven of relaxation as its ‘Thermal Park’ offers pretty gardens and charming architecture that you can take in as you wander around town. Its spa and baths are frequented by many athletes who come for the popular hydrotherapy treatments delivered in the spa.