Discover our selection of the best luxury spa hotels in Europe right now.
Since the 1800s the great and good have made trips to Europe to ‘take the waters’ – touring its world-famous spa towns and cities to wine, dine and, of course, bathe.
In recognition of their cultural impact over the centuries, last year UNESCO designated the Great Spa Towns of Europe a collective World Heritage Site.
Follow our guide to the best spa hotels to visit right now.
Brenners Park-Hotel and Spa, Baden-Baden in Germany
A stalwart among the luxury hotels of spa city Baden-Baden, Brenners is celebrating its 150th birthday this year. Over the last century and a half it has hosted everyone from King Edward VII to George Clooney.
A stay at Brenners is a delicious lesson in the joy of being lost. Like the Château de Versailles, the hotel sprawls across at least five different buildings with grand interlacing staircases, outdoor trails through magnolia gardens and a multitude of different bars and restaurants.
To reach two of them requires you to traverse the small brook, the Oos, which runs beside the hotel, over a bridge with golden gates. Tinkle the bell on the way back to be let in by the concierge.
Brenners is best known for its world-class spa and health facilities. The pool is housed inside what looks like an Athenian temple – with coral pink walls, marble benches and Doric columns. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow swimmers to look out over the gardens as they paddle. Brenners offers a huge array of treatments – from massages to nutritional advice and professional medical care.
Spring is an ideal time to visit, when the magnolia and cherry blossoms are in their full glory.
A visit to the Fritz and Felix restaurant is a must – followed by a nightcap in the Kaminhalle bar where a live pianist is often found playing. The bar itself looks like something straight out of the Orient Express – all Mahogany tables, gold lamps, and well-floofed crimson armchairs.
The spa town of Baden-Baden has plenty to offer besides relaxing in the hotel pool. There are 500km of hiking trails in the surroundings with German wine taverns offering excellent refreshment. Make sure to stop by Schloss Neuweier – a winery and restaurant located in an old castle.
Matild Palace, Budapest in Hungary
Matild is one of a pair of twin palaces rising like elegant wedding cakes on either side of Rákóczi Avenue – Budapest’s main artery.
The palaces were commissioned by Her Imperial and Royal Highness Marie Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as a party pad for her friends. Built in the height of the Belle Époque era, Matild’s sumptuous art nouveau design was used as a showcase for demonstrating the best of Hungarian craftsmanship at the time – from the wrought iron entrance to the ornate glass windows. Still today it is spectacular.
The hotel reopened its doors in summer 2021 after a huge five-year renovation project. The interiors have been given a stylish modern update, with a dramatic glass lift, high-tech rooms and a secret rooftop liquor bar in copper and glass, which boasts 360-degree views over Budapest.
A lovely sea-blue colour scheme runs throughout the hotel – from the high-end spa (which looks like a turquoise iced grotto) to the bathrooms, designed like a Turkish hammam in wet room style with teal and gold tiles.
The rooms are a fun display of technological wizzardry – with mirrors that turn into TV screens that can tell you tomorrow’s weather and a toilet that automatically opens/closes for you.
The food offering is another stand-out area. The restaurant, Spago, is run by internationally celebrated chef Wolfgang Puck and is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Don’t miss trying the spicy tuna tartare, served in a trio of savoury ice cream cones flavoured with sesame and miso. At breakfast, home-baked breads and pastries of all shapes and sizes are laid out like they would be in a bakery.
Aside from its own spa, the hotel is well-located for access to Budapest’s many thermal baths. Though not named on UNESCO’s list of Europe’s Great Spa Towns (possibly due to the Turkish influences of its bath culture), Budapest has some of the most thermal springs of any city.
More than 100 sources supply the city’s 31 spas and baths with millions of gallons of mineral-rich water daily. The Szechenyi Baths are the best known – but for an intimate experience, go for the 450-year-old Rudas Baths just over the river from the hotel.
The Bath Priory, Bath in the UK
Bath is the only place in the world to be a double-listed UNESCO World Heritage site – firstly for its Roman remains and Georgian architecture, and secondly as part of the new listing for Europe’s Great Spa Towns.
Set within four acres of lush grounds, The Bath Priory offers all the benefits of being within walking distance of this vibrant spa city – while also offering a tranquil countryside escape. It is just a 25-minute walk into town to the historic Roman Baths and modern Thermae Spa – a route which takes you via Bath’s lush Botanic Gardens and the Royal Victoria Park.
The five-star hotel also has its own spa – the only L’Occitane spa in the UK. There is an indoor pool, sauna, elliptical steam pod and relaxation room – even a nail bar for an impromptu manicure/pedicure before dinner. Treatments cover all the bases you’d expect and every guest with a booked treatment is greeted by a ‘welcome ritual’ (a soothing foot bath). Spa days can be booked by both hotel guests and day visitors.
The hotel has one of the best restaurants in Bath: the upmarket Bath Priory. Those looking for something more relaxed should go for the ‘Pantry’ menu, which can be enjoyed either inside or surrounded by wisteria on the garden terrace.