Wellness seekers have been drawn to the European Alps for centuries – well before wellness became a global tourism trend. Mineral-rich springs, healing botanicals and fresh mountain air are part of the enduring appeal, as are resort spas that continue to refine traditional therapies, such as whey milk baths, fragrant arolla pine saunas and silver quartzite stone massages. Secluded, yet easy to reach from major cities, our favourite Alpine spas also treat guests to exceptional dining and even art and adventure experiences. Here’s where to find them across Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and France.
This historichas 170 rooms, many with wrap-around fireplaces and private saunas overlooking sheep meadows and Austria’s Kaiser Mountains. The 129,000-square-foot spa is a warren of waterfall caves, fragrant arolla pine saunas, salt grottos, marble steam chambers and numerous thermal baths and pools. It welcomes kids with a of 120-metre-long water slides – plus manis and pedis for teens – while a dedicated area lures adults with whey milk baths, herbal pouch massage, cellular regenerating peat wraps and Haki-flow underwater massage (designed to reduce anxiety and popular with expecting mums). A team of nutritionists, therapists, cosmeticians and personal trainers can help with personal goals and in coordinating tennis, Nordic walking, yoga and excursions with Lipizzaner horses from the Stanglwirt riding school. The family who’ve run the resort for 250 years are deeply committed to sustainability: energy comes from a biomass plant that burns bark from local sawmills; wool carpets and natural linens are used instead of synthetics. Foodwise, don’t come looking for new age cuisine made with tweezers. Instead, you’ll find hearty Tyrolean pretzels, air-dried speck and rich cheeses, plus options for vegetarians and vegans. You can even bring home organic produce from the on-site farm shop and bakery.
Price range: $$$
Closest cities: Innsbruck, Austria (an hour by car or 1.5 hours by train) and Munich, Germany (1.5 hours by car or 2.5 hours by train/bus)
Deep in Switzerland’s Romansh-speaking Engadine Valley,is as much an art destination as it is a wellness one. Every September, the castle hosts intimate Art Weekends on its grassy summit in the village of Zuoz. These gatherings encourage small groups to interact with artists during conversations, lectures, informal sessions and impromptu aperitifs. Previous artists have included Tadashi Kawamata, Olaf Breuning and Fischli/Weiss; some have left installations that punctuate the hotel grounds, alongside permanent pieces by Roman Signer and Carsten Höller and a stone tower featuring a James Turrell light show. The hotel’s hammam was the first in the Alps and remains a maze of steam rooms, tepidariums, watery caverns and hammam slabs with lif bags to fill with soap for lathering up. Treatments include Rasul, a mud wrap, and lumbar massages using St John’s wort oil. A standalone timber terrace wrapping around a hillside was designed by Kawamata and includes a reflecting meditation pool and a small Finnish sauna for two that must be reserved ahead.
Price range: $$
Closest cities: Milan, Italy (three hours by car or train) and Zurich, Switzerland (three hours by car or train)
Bavaria was a byword for wellness long before the Romans occupied the region 2,000 years ago. Ancient Celts living here made good use of the alpine lakes and thermal baths, and a spa destination was born. Protected by a nature reserve in the Wetterstein mountains,is a quick shuttle run to the slopes of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Seefeld or Zugspitze, Germany’s highest mountain. The imposing Bavarian castle, built in 1916 by Johannes Mueller, burnt down in 2005, however Mueller’s grandson Dietmar Mueller-Elmau reopened the property two years later. In 2015, the retreat and spa opened a second complex on the grounds, with larger guest suites featuring contemporary European furnishings and high-end amenities – though the views of snow-capped alps are the real showpiece. Six spacious spas, three adult and three family-friendly, ensure a recharge space for everyone, including a spacious marble hammam and a series of infinity pools for soothing post-hike soaks. Treatments include ayurvedic abhyanga (massages with herb-infused oils) and physio floating (a zero-gravity floating treatment to help relieve back aches), while post-workout feeds can include nutritious, luxurious dishes at two-Michelin-starred (one of 11 on-site restaurants). Three libraries and a bookshop add some cultural weight, and a salon-like concert hall draws musicians like the Yonathan Avishai jazz trio and readings by authors like Ian McEwan and TC Boyle.
Price range: $$$$
Closest cities: Innsbruck, Austria (60 minutes by car) and Munich, Germany (two hours by car or 2.5 hours by train/bus)
Price range: $$
Closest cities: Geneva, Switzerland (an hour by car) and Lyon, France (2.5 hours by car)
Not to be confused with Tyrol – its lobbed off northern half in Austria – Italy’s German-speaking province of South Tyrol is where alpine austerity meets la dolce vita. From its capital city of Bolzano, ascend Renon Mountain by cable car, or follow the footsteps of one-time visitor Sigmund Freud along hiking trails that wind their way up the mountain. Opened in June 2019,
Price range: $$$
Closest cities: Innsbruck, Austria (two hours by train or car); Verona, Italy (two hours by train or car) and Milan, Italy (four hours by car)
In Switzerland’s pinot noir-producing Rhine Valley, Bad Ragaz has been known for the constant 36.5°C degree thermal water discovered here in 1242 and healing visitors ever since. At
Price range: $$$$
Closest cities: Zurich, Switzerland (an hour by car or 1.5 hours by train) and Milan, Italy (three hours by car)