Public spas, baths and saunas in Europe: readers’ travel tips | Travel

Public spas, baths and saunas in Europe: readers’ travel tips | Travel


Winning tip: Free and easy, Finland

Armed only with a towel, a bundle of firewood (in case stocks had run out), a pack of sausages and some spring water (to drink and throw on the stove), I went one evening with my Swedish friends to the tiny, do-it-yourself Sompasauna. Built by volunteers, it’s 15 minutes’ walk from the Kalasatama metro in Sompasaari, Helsinki. Free to use, it’s open day and night all year round and kept spotless. There are no lockers, showers or staff, so it’s real back to nature stuff. After enjoying the sauna, we went for a swim in the Gulf of Finland, then had a convivial barbecue with other visitors.

Georgian splendour, Tbilisi

Exterior detail of the Orbeliani sulphur baths building in Tbilisi.

Photograph: Goran Bogicevic/Alamy

The old town of Tbilisi, capital of Georgia, has a great selection of traditional sulphur baths. Orbeliani is the most popular, and the beautiful facade of tiled mosaic is a landmark. Inside are private rooms that you can book by the hour. These include hot and cold pools, saunas and showers. You can also get a massage. Rooms cost from €14 an hour, depending on their size and comfort.
Julia Barbosa

Urban cool, Berlin

Water and coloured lights at Liquidrom Therme,

Photograph: Alamy

Close to Potsdamer Platz, Liquidrom-Berlin is a fabulous crown-like space-age structure with various types of sauna (Himalayan, Japanese and Finnish). The floating pool with its underwater ambient music calms the soul immediately as well as helping you to feel really cool. We spent a wintry evening enjoying a break from the hubbub of the city, returning to Potsdamer Platz on the stroke of midnight, refuelled for the night ahead.
Two hours from €17.50,

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Affordable wallowing, Iceland

Three girls swimming in Laugardalslaug  pool

Photograph: Bragi Josefsson/Alamy

Reykjavic’s Laugardalslaug geothermal bath complex is publicly owned and has none of the glamour of nearby tourist versions, but is a fraction of the price (£6). On a bitterly cold February day, my girlfriend I and took a bus there wearing the snug woollen jumpers we had bought when we arrived in Iceland. We shivered between swimming in the big, warm pools and taking turns on the slide. We lay on our backs in the hot shallows while snow swirled in the wind. Friendly Icelanders chatted and laughed in the hot tubs. She agreed to marry me that day, and that place seems like a strange and lovely dream.
Rhys Davies

Glorious mud, Turkey

Portrait of man, sea and rocks in background, head and face completely covered in mud.

Photograph: Sharon Cooper/Getty Images

Anyone wanting the full Roman baths experience should take a boat trip up the Dalyan Bogazi river in southern Turkey and visit Sultaniye Kaplıcaları on the southern shore of this vast tidal inlet. Here you can set free your inner hippo and wallow in one of the warm sulphuric mud pits before visiting the natural thermal spa room and then finally washing off in the open air pool or simply diving into the inlet itself. All that and a view to die for. Bliss.
Entry 70p, more as part of boat trip
Justin Desyllas

Making hay, North Yorkshire

Woman in infinity pool in sunshine, Alpamare

Photograph: Tony Bartholomew/Turnstone Media

My daughter and I visited the new Spa at the Alpamare complex in Scarborough. It was a bargain £25 for a twilight session, which also includes entry to the rest of the complex. The staff were really welcoming and gave us a tour of all the facilities. The hay room was something I’d never experienced before but was so relaxing, as you swing gently on suspended recliners amid scented hay from nearby pastures. We also loved the foam room, and the 90C sauna looking out to sea. A great find during our weekend away; we will definitely return.

Thermal falls, Italy

Group of people enjoying the hot spring aty, Saturnia, Group of people enjoying in a hot spring

Photograph: Westend61 GmbH/Alamy

The ancient hot sulphur springs at Cascate del Mulino in Saturnia, southern Tuscany, are the complete antithesis to a fancy modern spa, and all the better for it. The springs are in a stunning, wooded location amid beautiful hills near Grosseto, and, as you enter the water, there is a powerful sense of participating in a ritual that must have changed little since Roman times. Forget about pampering, but go there for a unique, communal experience. They’re free of charge as well.
Christine Keogh

Brimstone bubbles, France

Public baths: Les Bains du Couloubret a Ax Les Thermes, France

The hotel receptionist in Ax-les-Thermes in the Pyrenees handed us a discount voucher for Les Bains du Couloubret in the centre of town. What a discovery! Turkish meets Roman meets municipal baths in the most understated, relaxed atmosphere. Sulphurous, naturally heated waters take the form of swimming pools, whirlpools, waterfalls and spa baths. With inside and outside sections, the rooftop pool offers views of the mountains. A two-hour session costs €18.50. The memories remain for a very long time – as does the faintly sulphurous scent of your bathing attire.
Josephine Winder

Slides and steam, Lithuania

Main pool with slides and jacuzzi, Akvapark, Druskininkai,

Akvapark is a water park and hot spring resort in the spa town of Druskininkai, southern Lithuania. It offers swimming pools, slides, saunas of varying temperatures, steam rooms, outside jacuzzis which are great in winter, baths of healing mud and mineral water, massage rooms, relaxation rooms, and much more. This is all set in a picturesque landscape with forests and lakes. A double room at the spa costs from €80 a night, which includes use of the facilities.
David Reilly

Volcanic activity, Azores

streams and pools with blue sky and bathers

Photograph: Rui Almeida/Getty Images

After winding through the Azorean countryside (a strange mixture of volcanic and pastoral landscapes, with cows and tea and banana plantations), you reach the Dona Beija thermal pools in Furnas – four beautifully designed pools in a tropical garden. The volcanic islands supply the geothermal energy to heat the restorative spring water, and even though it was raining gently when we went, it couldn’t take away from the magic of the place. We moved from pool to pool, slowly getting into the rhythm of the place, and followed the lead of locals by applying some of the clay to our bodies.
Adult €6, child €4,

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