First there was Spa. Now there is Chaudfontaine.
Located just outside the Belgian city of Liege, the thermal waters of Chaudfontaine - the only ones in the country to be naturally warm, hence the village’s name - were originally recognised in 1673 when local people first took the waters. However, it is only with the recent conversion of the elegant 19th century Chateau Hauster, which is located close to the Chaudfontaine source, that this restorative spring has started to attract visitors from afar.
Chateau des Thermes (as it is now known) has three distinct sections: a Thermal Space, a Beauty Space and a Gourmet Space.
The Thermal Space consists of an outdoor swimming pool (filled with
spring water, naturally), which is permanently heated to 34¡C and has bubble sources that provide bathers with an invigorating hydro-massage. Inside, there are three saunas (one for colour therapy, another for aromatherapy), a steam bath and cold foot baths (perfect for dipping feet into after a sauna).
The Beauty Space on the first floor of the Chateau is a relaxing cocoon. Here, the spa’s staff dispense all kinds of fantastic hydro and thermal therapies, massages and beauty treatments, ranging from traditional favourites to the most recent innovations (including Lomi Pohaku massage and sophrology). And, for the added enjoyment of the guests, the walls of the Beauty Space are hung with ever-changing art.
The Gourmet Space consists of a beautifully designed formal restaurant and casual café, where the innovative resident chef Bruno Erpicum and his team whip up delicious, light dishes every day of the week.
The Chateau itself is set in landscaped parkland bordering the River Vesdre, providing a picturesque setting for long walks in the crisp country air of the Ardennes, while a whole host of other distractions (such as museums, the largest pedestrianised shopping area in Europe and a great weekend flea market) are to be found in nearby Liege.
Chateau des Thermes is open daily, with the Thermal Space open from 9am to 10:30pm, the Beauty Space from 8am to 8pm, and the Gourmet Space from 11am to 10:30pm (with more limited hours in the formal restaurant). Beauty treatments start from as little as 8 Euros (£5), with daily packages starting from just 94 Euros (less than £60).
At present, as Chateau des Thermes (www.chateaudesthermes.com) does not have any overnight accommodation, residential packages are organised in conjunction with the Hotel Bedford in Liege, a stunning property converted from an old convent. These weekend packages (which include 2 full days of treatments, all meals, accommodation and transfers between the hotel and spa) cost 331 Euros (just over £200) per person in a twin room.
Although hardly known in Great Britain, Liege is easily accessible, being a 70-minute train or road journey from Brussels. SN Brussels Airlines, Virgin Express, bmi, Brymon and British European all operate flights from various point in the UK to Brussels, while Eurostar has direct train services from London to Brussels.