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From Therme Bucharest to the world’s largest thermal spa: Europe’s least expensive spa breaks

Relax at one of Europe's most affordable spas
Relax at one of Europe's most affordable spas Copyright Usen Parmanov via Unsplash
Copyright Usen Parmanov via Unsplash
By Saskia O'Donoghue
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Spas can be prohibitively expensive, but there are an increasing number across Europe that are affordable - and just as relaxing.

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With modern life busier than ever, many of us dream of a spa break, away from the hustle and bustle of the rat race.

When it comes to costs, though, people are often in for a shock. The very best spas traditionally are out of reach for those not on the highest salaries - but that’s all changing.

From the Therme Bucharest spa which has blown up on TikTok, with people taking a day trip to Romania just to experience the affordable resort, to long established baths, there are now more options than ever for an affordable spa break.

Here’s where you should head if you’re in need of a relaxing trip that won’t break the bank.

@romania Tag a friend that should join you for a day of fun and relaxation. Looking for the ultimate relaxation destination? Look no further than Therme Bucharest in Romania! Immerse yourself in a world of serenity and rejuvenation as you discover the wonders of this extraordinary wellness retreat. Did you know that Therme Bucharest is the largest thermal spa complex in Europe? It’s a true haven for wellness enthusiasts, offering a unique combination of thermal pools, saunas, and even tropical palm trees! Step into a world of relaxation and bliss as you soak in the healing benefits of the thermal waters, known for their therapeutic properties. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful escape or an exciting adventure, Therme Bucharest has something for everyone! Unwind and recharge in the world’s most extensive botanical garden within a spa! Therme Bucharest boasts an impressive array of lush greenery and exotic plants, creating a tranquil atmosphere that will transport you to a tropical paradise. Explore the captivating flora and take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful gardens, or simply bask in the sun and let your worries melt away. Have you ever experienced the sheer bliss of Therme Bucharest? Video by @momentsofgregory ♬ original sound - Romania

Go traditional with the classic town of ​​Karlovy Vary, Czechia

Karlovy Vary, not far from Prague, doesn’t just feature on UNESCO’s World Heritage list as one of the 11 Great Spa Towns of Europe, but is also incredibly picturesque, looking like something out of a Wes Anderson movie.

Among its quaint streets and pastel coloured buildings, it is home to 15 main thermal springs.

The city is famous for its apparently restorative drinking waters, which have attracted visitors from far and wide since the 1800s. Health-conscious visitors can go on a ‘spring crawl’ of the countless drinking fountains dotted around.

To immerse yourself in water, head to the Elisabeth Baths, which are more than 120 years old. Prices for entry start at just under €5.

Alternatively, Saunia Thermal Resort boasts a rooftop pool which is kept at a toasty 38 Celsius all year round.

With entrance from €27 for a three-hour pass, you can wallow in what is essentially a giant bath, even in the depths of winter.

Karlovy Vary is easily accessible from Prague and hotels and apartments are affordable, regardless of your budget.

Bathe like a Roman in Terme Ilidža, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina is little visited compared to other European nations, but it has a rich history.

Terme Ilidža proves that; visitors are said to have been bathing in its thermal waters since Roman times.

The village, whose name derives from the word ‘medicine’, plays host to a large day spa complex, with admission from under €5 a day.

The 15-hectare Termalna Rivijera offers indoor and outdoor thermal pools as well as various treatment and experience rooms.

The spa is just a 20-minute drive outside of Sarajevo and is easily accessible from the capital.

If you haven’t visited Sarajevo, it’s well worth using it as a base for your spa trip. Frequently named as one of the most affordable destinations in all of Europe, it offers inexpensive hotel rooms, and meals in the historic Old Town from just a few euros.

Visit arguably the best spa town in France with a trip to Vichy

Vichy and spa culture have long gone hand-in-hand. The central French destination was once nicknamed the ‘queen of the water cities’ and is the only French destination to feature on UNESCO’s list of Great Spa Towns.

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The thermal waters are legendary, offered up at Hall des Sources, an late-19th-century atrium, similar in appearance to an Art Deco greenhouse.

Bathing is entirely possible here, too, with the 7,500 square metre Vichy Celestins Thermal Spa a favourite spot of locals and tourists alike. Half-day passes are not as cheap as some in eastern Europe, but still affordable at around €35 per person.

Outside of the spas, Vichy has a great deal to offer, with one-sixth of the city covered in gardens and parks, Belle Epoque architecture - and relatively low lodging prices, especially compared to the rest of France.

A view of the ultra relaxing Hall des Sources in Vichy
A view of the ultra relaxing Hall des Sources in VichyJohn Blower via Flickr

Try somewhere other than Budapest on a spa trip to Heviz, Hungary

If you know even a little about spas, you will have heard of Budapest’s iconic - and many - baths. However, if you’ve been there, done that but haven’t seen enough of Hungary, head to Heviz, southwest of the capital.

The spa town is unique in Europe, with a thermal lake featuring waters that don’t fall below 22°C - even in winter.

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Lake Heviz is the largest swimmable thermal lake in the entire world and has been attracting visitors for centuries.

In the 1700s, the first official bath buildings were built over the lake, with a number of international spa resorts growing around them.

The Lake Spa offers three-hour passes from €11.50 and the majority of hotels surrounding the lake are well priced.

You can also swim in the waters as part of a trip through Heviz’s 60-hectare nature reserve, home to vineyards with wine-tasting cellars, as well as a waterlily trail and miles of cycling routes.

Steaming hot: Lake Heviz - pictured here in the winter - is toasty all year round
Steaming hot: Lake Heviz - pictured here in the winter - is toasty all year roundWikimedia Commons

Follow in the footsteps of presidents in Cieplice, Poland

The waters in Poland’s Cieplice have been hailed as some of the very best in central Europe for centuries. That claim got even stronger when then-US ambassador - later president - John Quincy Adams paid a visit in the 19th century.

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His trip attracted the highest echelons of society in the 1800s and much of the infrastructure put in place for such people remains in place, lovingly protected and restored.

Outside of all of the remarkable architecture, Cieplice offers low-mineralised, fluoride-silicon thermal springs, with a temperature of up to 90°C.

Entrance to the Cieplice Thermal Baths resort costs just under €10 for a day pass and there are around 70, inexpensive treatments to choose from with a focus on rheumatology and dry-eye syndrome, something increasingly common in our screen-addicted world.

For younger visitors, a visit to the nearby Cieplice water park is a good choice, with a wide variety of waterslides, outdoor jacuzzis and lazy rapids.

Visit the home of one of the most famous water brands - Spa in Belgium

The clue is very much in the name with the city of Spa, in the east of Belgium.

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Under two hours drive from Brussels, it’s a world away from city life. Relatively hidden in the forests in the Fagnes region, Spa boasts around 300 natural cold mineral springs.

It’s also the birthplace of the Spa brand of water, popular across Europe. Enjoy a visit to the Museum of the City of Water, where the long history of the destination is laid bare.

One of the most popular places for relaxation is the Thermes Des Spa, a hilltop retreat, which uses water rich in calcium and features a bathing space of 800 square metres heated at 33°C.

It’s a strictly adults-only spot with under-16s not permitted. The price is slightly higher too - starting from €35 for a three-hour pass - but guests say it’s very much worth it.

Thermes de Spa is a hilltop retreat in the quaint Belgian city of Spa
Thermes de Spa is a hilltop retreat in the quaint Belgian city of SpaThermes de Spa

Bathe surrounded by forests in Banja Gornja Trepča, Serbia

Relatively few visitors to Serbia ever venture outside of Belgrade, the capital, but Banja Gornja Trepča is absolutely worth adding to your agenda on any trip to the Balkans.

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There are a large number of spa resorts throughout Serbia - in fact, any town with the word ‘banja’ in its name has direct links to ancient Roman society.

Banja Gornja Trepča, in the centre of the country, though, is particularly remarkable.

Dating back around 2,000 years, the town’s waters are rich in sodium and sulphur and many of its physical therapists have a particular specialism in hydrotherapy.

In need of a massage? One of Serbia's many spas could be the answer
In need of a massage? One of Serbia's many spas could be the answerToa Heftiba via Unsplash

Atomska Banja, a medical spa in the town, offers hydromassage - often performed underwater - costing from just €9 and their lymphatic drainage treatments are known to be some of the best in the whole continent.

Banja Gornja Trepča is also easily one of the least expensive spa towns in all of Europe, with a stay in one of the resorts priced from just €15 a night.

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The destination itself is worth exploring too. When you’re done with your bathing, take a stroll around the surrounding forest made up of oak, elm and white ash trees to add to the calming experience of your Serbian trip.

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