Seekers of the divine, perhaps you’ve heard — European Spas are having a resurgence, after playing second fiddle to the pleasure palaces of Asia for the last two decades.Now revitalized and resplendent, they promise health, fitness and pampering at luxury levels. While high-end spas dot the coastlines and valleys of the entire continent, here’s our pick of the best six spas in Europe.
Therme del Parco, Forte Village, Italy
With 20 treatment rooms and 40 therapists, the highlight is a group of five saline-dense thalassotherapy pools set in a tropical garden.
Slide into each one in turn — it takes about an hour and the temperature changes from 38 C to 20 C while jets massage and pulverize along the way.
The result is instant and total relaxation as the water takes all the weight off the body.
It’s very popular with injured sportsmen (particularly soccer players), who head for the pools with their physios.
It is also one of the few spas to offer zero-gravity yoga — another weightless exercise — alongside a choice of massages (including watsu) and a host of beauty therapies from facials to botox.
Thermae del Parco, +39 (0) 70 921 516; from €2,600 (US$3,375) for seven days or €90 for a day pass; www.fortevillageresort.com
Clinique la Prairie, Clarens-Montreux, Switzerland
On the shores of Lake Léman, Clinique la Prairie is seriously clinical, seriously medical and more than seriously expensive.
Since it opened more than 80 years ago it has hosted everyone from Churchill, a Pope or two, a gaggle of oligarchs and several rock stars.
All are rumored to have taken advantage of its renowned CLP Extract therapy.
In layman’s terms, CLP uses extracts of live cells from sheep embryos and claims a number of anti-aging benefits, from boosting the immune system and slowing down the growth of tumors to helping delay degenerative diseases such as arthritis.
The clinic’s medical services include orthopedic and cosmetic surgery, as well as expert help on cardiology, dermatology and gynecology.
It has one of the best menopause centers in Europe, as well as a renowned dental clinic.
And, of course, there’s the usual extensive menu of beauty and body treatments.
Clinique la Prairie, +41 (0) 21 989 331; six-night Revitalization CLP Extract program from CHF30,000 (US$33,200); www.laprairie.ch
Schloss Elmau, Oberbayern, Germany
Schloss Elmau is a Bavarian hideaway where the mind is as important as the body.
Hiking, biking, golf and yoga meet concerts, lectures, books and beauty.
It has four spas (including one for families), two libraries, one concert hall, six restaurants — one with a Michelin star — and the largest hotel bookshop in the world.
There are three- and four-night breaks, as well as a five-night anti-burnout package — or stay as long as you wish.
Otherwise, opt for massage, facials, pedicures, physiotherapy or postural realignment.
Go in winter to ski, or the rest of the year you can walk, sketch, paint, take yoga and tai chi classes or attend any of the 170 musical and literary events held throughout the year.
Schloss Elmau, +49 (0) 8823 180; from €110 per night for a single room; www.schloss-elmau.de
La Reserve, Ramatuelle, France
Take all the research and rigor from one of Geneva’s grandest spas and whisk it several hundred miles south to that flighty peninsula between St Tropez and Port Grimaud.
That’s exactly what happened with La Reserve, when it set up home in Ramatuelle, one of the prettiest villages on the Riviera.
Here, it overlooks the Mediterranean and has the award-winning spa’s anti-aging therapies (the non-invasive variety) prominent on the menu.
Following an individual lifestyle assessment, each guest has a personalized program of health, fitness and beauty treatments recommended.
It was the first spa to offer treatments from Crème de la Mer, which enhanced its standing with the lotus-eaters who flock to the area each summer.
The serious-minded will want the whole five-day regime, others will just want tasters of what is on offer.
La Reserve Ramatuelle, +33 (0) 494 44 94 44; treatments from €60; www.lareserve-ramatuelle.com
Capri Palace, Anacapri, Italy
Overlooking the sapphire-blue sea, this luxurious pleasure spot on the eastern side of the island is where the Emperor Tiberius held parties, orgies and, when tired of friend or foe, flung them over the cliffs into the sea.
It is also a serious medical spa and can pamper along with the best of them, but is most famous for its Scuole delle Gambe (Leg School).
Here, a host of supermodels and stars, as well as sports gods like Roger Federer and Cristiano Ronaldo, have tripped through the icy pools and endured cold-mud treatments to keep their pins as perfect as possible.
The newest program is Global Posture Reeducation, which helps relieve back pain.
Capri Palace, +39 (0) 81 978 01111; seven nights at the Leg School cost from €4,250; www.capripalace.com
Grand Resort, Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz consists of two hotels with super-luxury spa suites in a stunning Swiss valley just an hour from Zurich.
Space, clean air, mountains and rivers all contribute to the sense of well-being.
The “B. Wellbeing & Spa” facility is state-of-the art for sports injuries — whole soccer squads turn up for restoration — while the doctor in charge is consultant to the Swiss Olympic team.
There are also programs for detox, weight management and stress management alongside anti-aging therapies and sleep treatments, plus as a host of massages, scrubs and wraps.
It’s the sort of place that if a treatment is not on the menu, it doesn’t exist.
In the Spa Suites, all the water, including the bathwater, comes from natural springs.
Each bathroom has its own steam room and sauna, plus color-therapy baths operated by a Buddha-shaped button.
Even the mattresses can change from soft to firm at the flip of a switch.
Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, +41 (0) 81 303 3030; packages from CHF490 per night; www.resortragaz.ch