Spa Cities: Our Favourite Relaxing Breaks

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With the hype of New Year’s resolutions waning, and the chill of winter properly permeating our bones, we’ve decided it’s time for a little luxury. Specifically, pampering in the form of a spa day. And sure, we could pop down the road for a massage, or squeeze a facial into our lunch hour – but where’s the fun in that? No, we’re dreaming of city breaks that are famous for their indulgent baths and slinky spas: welcome to our round-up of spa cities!

Bath, UK


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Not up for jumping on a plane? We don’t blame you – staycations are some of our favourite holidays. Luckily, the UK’s very own Bath has been known for its restorative spring water since the 17th century, and has been considered a spa town since the Georgian era. In fact, if you get the train, you’ll probably arrive at Bath Spa Station! Once there, you’ll find picturesque cobbled streets lined with cute tea rooms and fascinating museums. For the full spa experience, wander over to Thermae Bath Spa, which holds the accolade of being Britain’s only natural thermal spa. After a long day of relaxing in the steaming water, we’re sure you’ll have worked up an appetite. Did you know that the word ‘pamper’ comes from the Dutch, meaning ‘to cram with food’? Well, it’s only proper to oblige – one cream tea over here, please! In case you’re not a fan of scones (what?), head to Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House and Museum, which is in Bath’s oldest house – but more importantly, it does fantastic teacakes.

Bucharest, Romania


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We’ve heard on the grapevine that Bucharest’s newest addition – an enormous spa known as Therme Bucuresti – is the place to be this year. It’s the largest relaxation and entertainment centre in Europe, and offers an urban beach, wave pool, and impressive retractable roof, for those sunny summer days. The goal of the spa is to turn the luxurious elements of relaxation into an everyday possibility for the public – we’re definitely on board. Bucharest gets plus points for the balmy summer weather – well into the 20s from May until September – and affordability. Why not make a trip of it and stroll around the pretty Lipscani (Old Town), visit the imposing Romanian Athenaeum, and feel extra cultural at the National Museum of Art of Romania?

Helsinki, Finland


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Bet you weren’t expecting to see Helsinki on this list, eh? The fact is, though, that there are approximately two million saunas in Finland – which means one sauna for every three residents. Phew! Our pick of the bunch would be Löyly Helsinki, which offers panoramic views out over the Gulf of Finland, as well as the option of a private sauna and swish restaurants. We’d save the money and opt for the public sauna, followed by a dip in the bracing sea water below – then splash out on a delicious meal of Finnish classics. Delish!

Reykjavik, Iceland


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Prefer your spas to be natural and outdoors, thank you very much? Reykjavik’s the place for you. Not quite on the same level as Bucharest in terms of affordability – in fact, Iceland is famously expensive – but it is possible to visit on a budget. While the world-famous Blue Lagoon will set you back around £36 per person, and is well worth a visit, there are several hot springs in Iceland that are free to visit! Reykjadalur Hot Springs are beautiful and secluded, though you will have to hike for around an hour to get to the bathing spot. Meanwhile, Laugarvatn Fontana isn’t free, but is a sleek, lakefront alternative. For those all-important pictures, though, the Blue Lagoon is unmissable.

Budapest, Hungary


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Probably the place on this list most synonymous with being a spa city is Budapest. Once again attributed to the Romans (who evidently liked to keep clean), Hungary’s bathing culture shows no signs of abating. The most famous is arguably Széchenyi Baths: its vibrant yellow walls and whopping sixteen pools make it a popular choice. Oh, and did we mention the infamous sparties? Yes, these are spa parties, which take place in the summer when pop-up bars line the water. For spectacular views – and most likely more peace and quiet – head to Rudas Baths’ rooftop Jacuzzi. And if you’ve got kids tagging along, you might enjoy the Római Beach Baths, which offers slides that whizz into the water below.