Architecture should be used for the well-being and happiness of its occupants, and even more so when we speak about spas. Spas have existed since the classical times, meaning that we have more experience creating wellness centres than, let’s say, Catholic churches. Spa therapies are a popular means to treat illnesses, resulting in physical and spiritual purification. That’s why spas are a hybrid between homes and hospitals: places to heal and feel comfortable.
The essence of a spa is the mineral-rich spring water. Second to this, the infrastructure. Styles, materials and lighting have changed dramatically over the years – and centuries – and most recently, with the rise of Humanism, Spas have developed into relaxing dens worthy of attention.
Today I bring you to 17 of the most recent, amazing and architecturally reputed spas in Europe – because the world was too large to cover for one article. These stunning buildings made the most of their spring waters, natural features and environment and are delighting its users on a daily basis.
Have you been to some of these? Which is your favourite?
Mine is #1 😉
1. Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
Location: Bernhard-Simonstrasse, 7310 Bad Ragaz, Switzerland (Google)
Architect: Smolenicky & Partner Architecture (Tamina Therme), Claudio Carbone (Grand Hotel Quellenhof)
Description: In 1868 Bernhard Simon, a Swiss architect and engineer, purchased the Bad Ragaz estate and began the construction of the Grand Hotel Quellenhof. The location, known for its 36.5-degree thermal water fountains, opened as a luxurious – and pioneering – hotel for the well-being, welcoming its first guests on 10 July 1869. Bernhard Simon, who had trained in Lausanne, had worked in Paris and St. Petersburg forging a prosperous career but, for health reasons, had to return to Switzerland. His innovative resort, who reflects his personal views and ambitions, has kept improving over the years: The impressive Tamina Therme of 2009 is its latest addition. More recently in 2019, a massive restoration brought back the hotel into a new era of luxury hospitality. Read more here.
2. Thermae Bath Spa, England
@Thermae Bath Spa
Location: Hot Bath St, Bath BA1 1SJ, England (Google)
Architect: Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners
Description: Working within a highly protected framework of five existing buildings, including the Cross Bath and the Hetling Building, the New Royal Bath is simply articulated as a free-standing glazed volume that delicately follows the line of Bath Street and is sympathetic in height and material to its aged neighbours. As a historic and singular site of natural thermal springs in Britain, the refreshed architectural response is a fitting reflection of the restorative waters it houses. Read more here.
3. Hotel Spa La Romana, Spain
@ David Frutos
Location: Los Polsegueros, 2, 03669 La Romana, Alicante, Spain (Google)
Architect: Isaac Peral Codina
Description: Spa La Romana Hotel is located in a natural area of La Romana, an arid area of Eastern Span. Originally built in 1833, the venue was fully renovated in 2012. The local field contains oxides that stain the red landscape and the building has been built in response to its context. The main materials are stone (Marble Rojo Alicante), iron and wood – blending in well with the surroundings. Special attention has been given to light and its impact on the materials. Read more here.
4. Mohr Life Resort, Austria
Location: Innsbrucker Str. 40, 6631 Lermoos, Austria (Google)
Architect: noa* network of architecture
Description: This stunning hotel leverages the incredible nature at the heart of Lermoos (one of the oldest skiing areas in Tirol) to design a contemporary and stirring atmosphere. The glass and cement are in constant dialogue with the environment’s morphology, culture, and history. The new glass and cement structure was built organically on a gentle slope located below the hotel. It features a unique view across the spacious Ehrwalder Becken valley peppered with old farmhouses and barns. Read more here.
5. Grand Park Hotel Rovinj, Croatia
Location: Smareglijeva ulica 1A, 52210, Rovinj, Croatia (Google)
Description: Grand Park Hotel Rovinj is a viewpoint for the most beautiful stage on the Adriatic. In order to blend into the existing forest, the floors offset to follow the slope of the site and form large terraces, Mediterranean gardens, pools and sundecks. The main pool is partially placed in a glass pavilion which opens in the summer, intertwining the interior with the park and the sea. Italian architect and designer Piero Lissoni was in charge for interior design. Read more here.
6. Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & SPA, Italy
Location: Via Conche, 12, 75100 Matera MT, Italy (Google)
Architect: Simone Micheli
Description: Matera, known as la città sotterranea (the underground city), is a historical centre containing ancient cave dwellings. The architect Cosimo Dell’Acqua has realized the general and executive project of the architectonic and distributive recovery of the village, directly following the Works Direction. He intervened not on a single building, but on a complex system that included buildings, roads, caves and cisterns. The stunning Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel is a great example of respectful refurbishment and renovation. Read more here.
7. Mitsis Rinela Beach Resort & Spa, Greece
© Pygmalion Karatzas
Location: Kokkini Hani Heraklion, 715 00, Greece (Google)
Architect: Elastic Architects
Description: The goal of Elastic Architects was to elevate the hotel to an area of high aesthetics and hospitality. The design is kept simple and is highlighted by Greek elements that dictate the functionality of the spaces: The game of light with shadow, the unobstructed view of the landscape and the natural materials are key elements taken into consideration in the design. The shadows created by the wicker pergola, highlight the textures and create an everchanging environment. Read more here.
8. Hotel Minho, Portugal
© Nelson Garrido
Location: N13, 4920-140 Vila Meã, Portugal (Google)
Description: Hotel Minho’s renewal and extension project started from a building constructed in 2006. The 2014 renovation included new public areas and a spa. The extension was designed to maintain the existing building’s architecture, despite its plain and common design, introducing a more effective image to the hotel. The solution intended to be very simple and in some spaces, highly introverted, retaining the existing structures and introducing the new areas in the floors below the main entrance. Read more here.
9. Tschuggen Grand Hotel, Switzerland
© Tschuggen Grand Hotel
Location: Tschuggentorweg 1, 7050 Arosa, Switzerland (Google)
Architect: Mario Botta
Description: Swiss architect Mario Botta designed a spectacular site known as Berg Oase whose structure brilliantly simulates its mountainous surroundings. Located at the base of the mountains in Arosa, Switzerland, the complementing architecture both echoes the landscape’s natural motifs and adds flair to the environment. The new addition serve as a wellness centre and spa that offers a number of amenities including fitness facilities, physical therapy spaces, and swimming pools. Originally conceptualized with the goal to ‘build without over-building’, Botta designed geometric structures with organic motifs peeking through the natural landscape. Read more here.
10. Termalija Family Wellness, Slovenia
© Miran Kambič
Location: Zdraviliška cesta 24, 3254 Podčetrtek, Slovenia (Google)
Description: Termalija Family Wellness is the latest in the series of projects built at Terme Olimia in the last fifteen years and concludes the complete transformation of the complex from a classic health centre built in the 1980s to a modern relaxing thermal spa finalised in 2018. The transformation has been characterised by its gradual nature – each step was carried out in response to the then-current needs and did not follow any preconceived development plan. The new facility is located at the site of the former wintertime covering of the outdoor pool. Read more here.
11. Hotel Europe & Resort Killarney, Ireland
© The Europe Hotel & Resort
Location: Fossa, Killarney, Co. Kerry, V93 KHN6, Ireland (Google)
Architect: Gottstein Architects
Description: The Hotel Europe site is located within a Prime Special Amenity area, surrounded by parkland. The largest mountain range in Ireland forms the backdrop across the lake. The glaciated valleys of the nearby ‘Black Valley’ and the ‘Gap of Dunloe’, where huge stone boulders emerge from the hills, define the local landscape. Originally built in 1962, the hotel is as configured as a south-facing “U”-shaped building orientated towards the lake. The approach was to carve the new spa out of the hill, creating a series of stone ‘boulders’ that would emerge from the landscape and stretch towards the foreshore of the lake, echoing the surrounding geological forms and imagery of the glaciated valleys. Read more here.
12. SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain
Location: Carrer del Verderol, 5, 03581 L’Albir, Alicante, Spain (Google)
Architect: Carlos Giraldi; Elvira Blanco and Francisco Palacios (Interior Architects)
Description: SHA is located in a tiny town in the south of Spain within the Alicante region. Sha is a mecca of wellness, and the new estates are more than pretty. The new accommodations, which range from two to three bedrooms, are more than a little bit futuristic. All white and gleaming with wraparound terraces that slope like the prow of a ship, they call to mind something Le Corbusier might have designed when he heralded in the modern era of architecture. In fact, the homes are the work of architect Carlos Giraldi, along with fellow Spaniard and interior designer Elvira Blanco, who realized the spaces in a monochromatic palette of white and grey. Read more here.
13. The Therme Vals, Switzerland
© 7132 Vals
Location: 7132 Vals, Switzerland (Google)
Architect: Peter Zumthor
Description: Built over the only thermal springs in the Graubunden Canton in Switzerland, The Therme Vals is a hotel and spa in one which combines a complete sensory experience designed by Peter Zumthor. The idea was to create a form of cave or quarry like structure. Working with the natural surroundings the bath rooms lay below a grass roof structure half buried into the hillside. The Therme Vals is built from layer upon layer of locally quarried Valser Quarzite slabs. This stone became the driving inspiration for the design and is used with great dignity and respect. Read more here.
14. Palais Thermal, Germany
© Roland Halbe
Location: Kernerstraße 5, 75323 Bad Wildbad, Germany (Google)
Architect: KTP Architecten + formTL
Description: For 165 years, the old Graf-Eberhard Baths in Bad Wildbad, situated in the northern part of the Black Forest, have been considered one of Europe’s finest bathing temples. Built in 1847 directly over a thermal spring, the baths have undergone many different extensions and modernisations over the years. The ensemble is characterised by the new Eberhard baths, a terraced structure from the 70s, which has been empty for some years. These historic leisure baths with their ‘Maurische Halle’ (Moorish Room) and ‘Fürstenbädern’ (Prince’s Baths) are now extending their range of facilities with an outside canvas-covered spa area. Read more here.
15. Hotel Monumento de San Clodio
Location: Calle San Clodio, S/N, 32420 Ourense, Province of Ourense, Spain (Google)
Description: The current Hotel Monumento de San Clodio in Leiro is one of the most important pieces of Galician monastic architecture. Annex to the set were the ruins of the stables and cellar. A large stone caisson with remains of the vaults that covered the ground floor. This ruin, impregnated with gravity and time, was the starting point. The Tourism Agency of Galicia decided in 2013, undertake its rehabilitation as a spa and complete the whole. The program is the classic of these facilities: changing rooms, reception, massage rooms, relaxation rooms, Turkish bath, sauna and swimming pool. Read more here.
16. Kinsterna Hotel & Spa, Greece
© Cathy Cunliffe
Location: Αγ. Στέφανος 230 70, Greece (Google)
Architect: Divercity Architects
Description: Kinsterna Hotel is a five-star hotel in the Peloponnese, near the Byzantine fortress of Monemvasia. Surrounded by olive and citrus groves, the 17th century estate has a fascinating past, spanning Byzantine, Ottoman and Venetian times. Revealing these layers of history was integral to the mansion’s restoration and conversion into a country hotel and spa. Kinsterna, cistern in Greek, is named after the water feature at the heart of the property. For centuries, water has breathed life into this fertile landscape from a source high in the mountains, cascading down a creek before it is channelled into the cistern. Water is the central element of the design concept, weaving nature into the architecture and threading the historic and new buildings together. Read more here.
17. B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa, Switzerland
© Althammer Hochuli Architects
Location: Brandschenkestrasse 152, 8002 Zürich (Google)
Architect: Althammer Hochuli Architects
Description: Located in a most unassuming corner of Enge – where all the attention goes to the nearby Alfred Bluntschli’s church – the B2 Boutique Hotel is a most interesting building. The structure belonged to the old Hürlimann Brewery, which was founded in 1836 and stayed in the same family for five generations. In 2010 the building opened after heavy restoration by Althammer Hochuli Architects and nowadays it works as a hotel and thermal bath & spa. My favourite part of this building, however, is the stunning and HUGE library by Ushi Tamborriello that has over 33,000 books. Read more here.