We didn’t experience mineral hot springs growing up in the Midwest. The closest I’d come to one is someone recounting a visit to a hot spring in the western United States and her family being horrified that everyone was naked! As an adult, finding and visiting hot springs in the areas we travel to are some of my favorite travel experiences with my husband. If you’re visiting Europe, a mineral hot spring should be added to your must-see list. And no, they’re not all nude.
When my husband, Matt, signed with a hockey team in Slovakia this winter, we spent time in the nearby, world-renowned City of Baths (Budapest). Most of the bath houses were started by the Turks 500 years ago, but it was the Romans to first take advantage of the hot springs in the area over 2000 years ago! The thermals springs have a rich history in Budapest, and we wanted to make them part of our story.
Lukács Bath (Lukács Gyógyfürdő és Uszoda)
Over 120 years old, the Lukács Bath in Budapest was frequented as a meeting place for writers and artists in its history. The hot springs feeding the thermal pools are comprised of minerals such as magnesium, calcium, sodium and sulfate. It’s used to treat those inflicted with arthritis, joint issues and injuries. The site is grand and historic. Our most memorable moment was drinking the sulfate-rich (read: stinky) warm water, as encouraged by the other bathers who motioned to us to drink too. “For health,” one man said in his heavy accent.
Another wonderful experience was swimming in the warm outdoor pool, watching steam rise into the cold air. Click to see the map for Lukács Bath.
If you visit Hungary and venture outside of Budapest, visit the thermal Lake Hévíz in Hungary (and tell us how it is!) It is the second largest thermal lake in the world, and even in the winter months, the hot spring never dips below 73 degrees fahrenheit! We drove nearby Lake Hévíz, but it was already closed for the day.
- SLOVAKIA (click for more hot springs in Slovakia)
Neighboring Hungary with it’s mountains shaped by historic volcanos, Slovakia was filled with mineral springs. In Čerín (where we visited the 700 year old St. Martin church), a Slovak teammate of Matt’s told us that locals bring water jugs to an outdoor well that bubbles with the mineral water.
While living in Slovakia this winter, we visited Kúpele Sklené Teplice, a thermal in a small village near Banská Bystrica (our favorite go-to city to stroll the German-inspired city center and stock up at the bio (organic) store).
The dark cave pool at Sklené Teplice was a fascinating experience, but ten minutes in the steamy 107 degree fahrenheit water was enough for us. I spent the next half hour wrapped in a blanket and relaxing (and sleeping) in the cave relax room.
After, my husband’s post-game soreness was tended to by the Thai sport massage therapist while I enjoyed a cocoa facial at the spa. It smelled delicious, and the 12€ price tag ($13.40 at the time of this post) can’t be beat back home. They also offer a 24k gold facial. If you get one, please do share!
- GERMANY (click for more hot springs in Germany)
The most well-known thermal spa in Germany is in Baden-Baden (a world-famous spa town in the Black Forest). We spent a weekend taking in the scenic and luxurious downtown, and trying the variety of saunas and mineral pools at Caracalla Spa.
On the other side of the Deutchland (in Bavaria) we fancied the quaint Franken Therme in Bad Windsheim. In addition to the healing waters, we loved it for it’s privacy, color therapy and being able to experience floating in dense salt water for the first time. The indoor/outdoor salt pool at Franken Therme will bring out the kid in you, as you try (and fail) to sink in the water. Want to know more benefits of salt baths? Click to read my post The beauty of salt baths.
THERMAL/BATH HOUSE TIPS
- Bring a bathing suit, towel and water flip flops to the bath house. If you don’t have them, they should typically be available for purchase or rent (ie. towel) on-site.
- Between the three countries, people were only nude in Germany, and only in the sauna section of the spa.
- All the bath houses we visited are affordable. Very affordable!
- Not going to Europe? There are mineral springs throughout the U.S. as well!