1. Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
In truth, this sprawling resort actually comprises three hotels that are wrapped around an extraordinary spa complex, with treatment rooms, saunas and steam baths on the wellness side, and nutrition programmes, dermatology clinics, sports medicine and more in the large medical facility. It’s all thoroughly modern, but at the centre of everything sit the thermal pools that have been the heart and soul of this Alpine town since the 13th century.
2. Kai Sengokuhara, Hakone, Japan
Tradition meets modernity at this contemporary ryokan in the famous onsen town of Hakone, which sits on a tranquil mountainside some two hours’ train ride from the bustle of Tokyo. It sells itself on art – exclusive works from resident artists, creative workshops for guests – but equal reason to make the trip is the communal hot spring baths, set outside in tranquil gardens with far-reaching views of the surrounding countryside. Or, for a little privacy, each bedroom balcony has its own wooden bath filled with steaming onsen water.
3. Brenners Park Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden, Germany
Such is Baden-Baden’s reputation for its life-giving waters that royalty, aristocracy and other members of the world elite flock to the fringes of the Black Forest to soak in its hot springs – and when they come, they tend to stay at Brenners Park. This imposing 19th-century hotel could be described as the grande dame of European spa resorts, and not just for its five floors of wellness facilities.
Apart from pools, saunas and steam rooms, there are tenderly cultivated gardens to wander in, a Michelin-starred restaurant to dine in, and sumptuously appointed suites to sleep in.
4. Gainsborough Bath Spa, Bath, England
Folk from across Britain and beyond have been taking the waters at Bath since ancient times, ever since a young Celtic prince named Bladud was supposedly cured of leprosy there. These days, anybody can come to bathe in the mineral-rich springs at the Thermae Bath Spa, although for a touch more exclusivity and convenience, the grand Gainsborough hotel offers the only other spring-fed spa in the city. Clad in smooth marble, with Doric columns spaced about the thermal pool’s edge, you could almost be soaking in the nearby Roman Baths.
5. The Adelphi Hotel, Saratoga Springs, New York State, US
Few of the United States’ spa towns have the heritage to match Saratoga Springs, which, thanks to its position equidistant from New York City and Boston, became a focal point for east coast society during the 19th century. The Adelphi is a relic of that era, albeit one that has had an upgrade. The look and feel is still very much “vintage Victoriana” though, and with the town’s spring waters a short jaunt away, and the racecourse also nearby, the old slogan of “health, history, horses” still rings true today.
The Daily Telegraph