France’s spa towns

Head straight to the source and discover the healing properties of France’s spa towns

Take some time out for yourself to relax and rejuvenate at one of France’s many spa towns.

With our busy modern lifestyles, it's not surprising to feel tired and in need of rejuvenation from time to time – particularly towards the end of the year, as winter draws in. It's important to take some time out for yourself to relax and unwind, and there's no better place to do that than at one of France's many beautiful spa towns.

Aix-les-Bains

Location: Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Drive from Calais: 7h 45m / 866km

The pretty town of Aix-les-Bain is nestled on the shore of France’s largest freshwater lake.
The pretty town of Aix-les-Bain is nestled on the shore of France’s largest freshwater lake.

Originally discovered for its natural thermal springs by the Romans, people have been flocking to Aix-les-Bains for well over a thousand years. The town's real heyday, however, was in the 19th century, when the British aristocracy descended en masse to 'take the waters' for their health. This brought in a lot of money to the area, and grand Belle Époque hotels were soon erected to cater to the wealthy holidaymakers, including Queen Victoria herself.

These days, you can still enjoy the benefits of the sulphurous waters, which are supposedly good for all manner of respiratory ailments. There are a number of spas you can visit in the town, but the most well-known is the Thermes Chevalley. You can enjoy a range of treatments, including massages, or simply immerse yourself in the waters of one of the pools. There are pools located both inside and outside, the former of which is naturally tinted green, and is supposed to be particularly good for easing the symptoms of arthritis.

It's worth noting that there is a strict dress code at the Thermes Chevalley spa for hygiene reasons, so make sure you check the specifics ahead of your visit and turn up well prepared.

Vichy

Location: Allier, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Drive from Calais: 6h 35m / 694km

Take the waters at the Source des Célestins in Vichy.
Take the waters at the Source des Célestins in Vichy.

Vichy is undoubtedly one of France's most famous spa towns, known around the world as being the home to the premium skincare brand that uses the local waters in its formulations. Vichy was also first discovered by the Romans, but it wasn't until the 16th century that word really spread of the town's 'miraculous' waters. Later, in the 19th century, Napoleon III visited a number of times between 1861 and 1866, which really sparked Vichy's rise in popularity, attracting other celebrities of the time. There's still actually a festival held in his honour in the town every year during April, which is great fun and worth a visit alone!

Although the splendour of the Belle Époque era has faded slightly, the town retains an air of elegance about it, best exhibited at the luxurious Vichy Célestins Spa Hôtel. The focus here is on all-round wellbeing, offering treatments for diabetes, metabolic imbalances, cellulite, and all sorts of aches and pains. There are also a number of beauty treatments to improve the quality, youth and purity of your skin, including water therapy, mud treatments, and massages.

After you've indulged in a little R&R, as it were, take a stroll down to the Source des Célestins, to see where the hallowed water actually springs out of the ground. The water from this source is the most 'diluted', and is the only one that is relatively palatable to drink. A short walk on, call in at the art deco Hall des Sources where you can sample some of the other waters, if you're brave enough (our tip is to pinch your nose), some of which can only be taken if you have a specific prescription from your doctor!

Dax

Location: Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Drive from Calais: 9h 30m / 1,015km

Visit the Fontaine Chaude monument in Dax.
Visit the Fontaine Chaude monument in Dax.

Those Romans certainly knew a thing or two about the benefits of thermal water, as the spa town of Dax was also first discovered by them. There is a monument, the Fontaine Chaude, on the site of the original Roman thermal baths, located in the centre of town at the aptly named Place de la Fontaine Chaude. The fountain was built between 1814 and 1818 in the style of Roman baths, but unfortunately you're not allowed to take a dip here.

There are, however, no less than 15 thermal spas and a thermal hospital in the town where you can enjoy the waters and healing treatments that they offer, making Dax France's most popular spa town. Around 60,000 people visit each year specifically to take advantage of the spas, which specialise in aiding rheumatology and phlebology problems. One of the most popular treatments is the 'Dax Peloid', which is a type of therapeutic mud unique to the spa town that is kept at a constant temperature of 45°C. You can try it for yourself at the Domaine Thermal de Borda. It's reputed to be particularly beneficial if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Has all this talk of spas and pampering has got you longing for some you-time? Book your tickets with us early to get the best fares.

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