The 10 Best Bathhouses in the World
Luxuriating in a bathhouse was a stalwart of ancient Rome, where these first spas were the go-to spots for healing and relaxation. But there are still bathhouses all over the world that welcome travelers seeking rejuvenation. Some are more than two thousand years old, while others are modern recreations of the good old days of taking the waters. These ten bathhouses should make their way onto your travel list.
1. Cagaloglu Hamami, Istanbul, Turkey
With a coveted spot in 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, Istanbul's Cagaloglu (pictured) tops our list of ancient bathhouses to check out. Opened circa 1741, it is the last hamami to be built under the Ottoman Empire. It is even believed that many notable figures bathed at Cagaloglu during their day, including Florence Nightingale and Edward VIII. And if it was good enough for Florence, it's certainly good enough for us.
2. Porchester Spa, London, England
When a spa welcomes over 26,000 visitors a year, you know it must be good. The building that houses the Porchester Spa was built in 1929 and now contains two relaxation Russian steam rooms, three Turkish hot rooms, and a newly installed Finnish sauna cabin. You can also enjoy the Ice Cold Plunge Pool, where the combo of dry and moist heat creates a stimulation which is thought to preserve health and cleansing.
3. Sandunovskiye Banya, Moscow, Russia
Located in the center of the city, the Sandunovskiye Baths is the most of its kind in Moscow. The 19th-century baths make the perfect mixture of sauna and social scene, and visitors and locals alike have been delighting in them for years. Expose your body to extreme hot in the steam room, then extreme cold in the dunking pools to help clear your pores and rejuvenate the soul.
Joe Mabel, Flickr
4. Gellert Baths and Spa, Budapest, Hungary
One of the most popular baths for tourists visiting Budapest is Gellert Baths and Spa (pictured above). The medicinal spring, art nouveau furnishings, artistic mosaics, stained glass windows and sculptures all help make this beauty a must-see. The Bath and hotel opened its doors in 1919 and has a total of 13 bath units including two effervescent bath sections, three outdoor pools, and eight thermal bath departments where the water temperature varies from 78 to 100 degrees.
5. Yrjönkadun Swimming Hall, Helsinki, Finland
For a taste of elegance mixed with the historic feel of Roman baths, the Yrjönkadun Swimming Hall in Helsinki, Finland is a must. Tradition lives on here at the three saunas, and the art deco pool from 1928. There are separate hours for men and women, and patrons can swim with or without their bathing suits.
6. Jigokudani Onsen, Japan
With thousands on onsen to choose from in Japan, picking the best one can be hard. If you want to experience the natural healing powers of the onsen waters and a bit of wildlife as well, then visiting Jigokudani onsen in the winter is the way to go. The snow monkeys (or Japanese macaques) make these baths a favorite of visitors who love to watch them play in the water and snow. While it's not actually possible for humans to bathe with the monkeys (although we're not really sure why you would want to, anyway), a little over 400 yards downstream from the onsen for monkeys is an outdoor hot spring for humans to visit and bathe themselves.
Aaron Plewke, Flickr
7. The Thermal Baths, Vals, Switzerland
Using a combination of light and dark and open and enclosed spaces, The Thermal Baths at Vals in Switzerland (pictured above) are a calming force for visitors hoping to relax. With tons of amenities including indoor and outdoor pools, massage and relaxation rooms, plus a fire pool, ice pool, and flower pool, there's definitely something for everyone here.
8. Poseidon Gardens, Ischia, Italy
The volcanic origins of the thermal springs that feed into the baths at the Poseidon Gardens make this bathhouse one of the most unique on our list. The local belief is that the high temperature and the richness and variety of the mineral salts in the water (including, among many others, sodium, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese) make this bathhouse water among some of the most therapeutic you'll find anywhere. For (almost) whatever is ailing you, the Giardini Poseidon is believed to have your cure.
9. Bathhouse of the Winds, Athens, Greece
As the only public bathhouse still open in Athens, Bathhouse of the Winds is another must for those travelers looking to find old-school relaxation. This bathhouse operated for more than 300 years from its foundation in the first years of the Turkish domination, and in 1965 was transferred to the Ministry of Culture. While some of the former structure has been redesigned into a museum, the principal bathing areas have largely kept their original form, with small glass holes allowing light to penetrate into the domes.
10. The Reliquary Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
If you're looking for all the history and healthiness of an ancient bathhouse with a more convenient location than some of the others on our list, you might want to check out the Reliquary Spa at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. People from all over come to The Baths to relax and enjoy some of the spa services (including massage and body therapies) that are offered here. After the craziness of a vacation in Las Vegas, a resting jaunt at The Baths might be just what you need to rejuvenate.