Soaking it in: The top five thermal pools in Europe

by Ellen Curham

There’s nothing more relaxing than hitting up some hot springs, especially while on holidays. Whether manmade or natural, thermal waters provide the perfect way to chill out after exploring a new city. In Europe we’re lucky enough to have some of the best springs, baths and saunas a short plane ride away.

Budapest’s Baths

Szechenyi bathsKnown as the ‘City of Baths’, Budapest’s thermal spas are in abundance thanks to the natural hot springs below the city and the influence of the Ottoman Empire. With so many to choose from, it will be easy to find something everyone enjoys. At different baths you’ll find different groups, like elderly locals enjoying the therapeutic mineral qualities or young tourists nursing hangovers after checking out Budapest’s famous nightlife scene.

Széchenyi Baths are a popular choice with visitors due to their size and variety — there are 15 thermal baths along with three swimming pools, including built-in chessboards. Meanwhile, the Gellért Baths always impress with their stunning Art Nouveau architecture.

Where to stay? Budapest is known for its ancient architecture yet young and lively vibe. The upscale Pal’s Hostel fits it perfectly with a sleek and modern interior along with amazing city views.

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon in ReykjavikIt’s easy to see why the Blue Lagoon is one of Iceland’s top attractions. Situated on a lava field in the Reykjanes Peninsula, less than an hour from the capital of Reykjavik, its hot, mineral-rich waters feel as good as they look. Don’t be put off visiting this place if you’re there during the colder months; the lagoon is open year-round and provides amazing relief from the freezing winter temperatures.

Where to stay? The Blue Lagoon is less than 40km from the capital so it’s best to stay in city and enjoy its colourful buildings and hip bars. The Loft Hostel is clean and well-equipped and has a roof terrace that’s ideal for meeting other travellers.

Bath, England

The Roman BathsYou don’t need to travel far to get your thermal fill. Located in in Somerset in the south, this quaint English town makes for a super-relaxing weekend getaway. Pamper yourself in the Thermae Bath Spa which is heated by Britain’s only natural hot spring. You can also visit, but not bathe in, the ancient Roman baths which give a fascinating insight into the history of the area.

Where to stay? Just because you’re staying in a hostel doesn’t mean you won’t experience luxury—after all, it’s Bath! The YHA Bath is based in a Georgian mansion with beautiful high ceilings and stunning grounds.

Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale poolsMeaning ‘cotton-castle’, these surreal cloud-like terraces look like something from a dream. They are created from the minerals deposited from flowing water and house thermal pools. It is Turkey’s most popular attraction and as well as the spectacular landscape, you can enjoy bath houses and the intricate architectural style of the region. You’ll find Pamukkale in the Inner Aegean region where you’ll find a temperate climate for most of the year.

Where to stay? Melrose Hotel boasts fabulous interiors and serves free breakfast daily as well as having a restaurant and pool on site.

Wiesbaden, Germany

Kaiser Friedrich ThermeBerlin and Hamburg are must-visit destinations in Germany but you should also think about escaping the city for a while if you find yourself there. The Kaiser-Friedrich-Therme in Wiesbaden is a beautiful Art Nouveau bath house built on top of natural hot springs. It features Russian steam rooms and beautiful grounds to relax in.

Where to stay? Wiesbaden is close to the city of Frankfurt and can be visited as a day trip. Make sure you check out Frankfurt, too, which is a mix of gleaming skyscrapers and quaint German traditions. The Five Elements Hostel is central and organises great pub crawls.


Thanks to bongo vongo and Graeme Churchard for use of their great images under the Creative Commons license, as well as

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