Thermen in Austria: Hot Springs & Thermal Spas
On a cold and grim winter day, if you live in the mountains and there is snow all over the place, it comes in handy to live in a country that has hot springs. Austria is blessed with a whole range of former volcanic zones. Hot springs feed mineral water companies and spas with the affiliated wellness tourism industries. Mostly in the 1990ies, Austria made a move from mass tourism to high-quality, and that included the construction of several spas, mostly in the South-East of the Alps, but also in Southern Salzburg and Upper Austria.
Today, you can choose to swim in steaming hot water all year round. In fact, some spas are in major ski resorts. You can swim outdoors with snowy mountains around you and go skiing right next to the spa later that day. The spas have become an important factor for domestic tourism, too, and you will notice that many swimmers are Austrians.
Most spas offer massages, saunas and other wellness and beauty treatments. Others specialise on "adventure" approaches with wave pools and target young people. Yet other spas maintain longstanding traditions of therapeutic treatments and are more popular with elderly people and people on rehab programs.
Have a quick look at this article and the individual spa′s websites to resolve any questions. Note that I obviously haven′t been to all these spas myself, the following recommendations are partly based on things that friends told me, partly on promotional material provided by the national tourism board. I′ll start in the West and move to the East of the country; since there′s no spa in Vorarlberg, let me begin with Tyrol. For clarification: "Therme" means "spa" in German, "Bad" means "Bath" and is often added to a town′s name if it has a spa.
Thermal Spas in Tyrol (Tirol)
The "Therme Aqua Dome" (www.aqua-dome.at/) in Längenfeld not too far from Sölden is at the base of the Ötztal Alp Mountains and gains tremendously from this dramatic scenery. As a typical example for a modern spa in Austria, the "Aqua Dome" has not only a tacky name, but also a range of very fancy toys: A Sauna Village, the Aqua Dome itself, a Beauty Farm, pools to swim outdoors, and a range of other gimmicks that make the place a liquid Disneyland. Ideal for families and people that feel like skiing.
Thermal Spas in Salzburg
My very home province has three spas. The "Felsentherme" in Bad Gastein occupies a site at an altitude of 1,000 metres and prides itself to be beyond the fog level. It might well be Austria′s most scenic spa, thanks to the dramatic mountain ranges surrounding it.
The "Alpen Therme Gastein" (www.alpentherme.com) in Bad Hofgastein forms an alliance with the "Felsentherme", called the "Thermenregion Salzburg" (Spa Region Salzburg). It was recently refurbished and now one of the most modern spas of the country. Both spas have the usual gimmicks plus one or two goodies that make them special, normally some kind of fancy sauna or "′adventure pool". Similar to the "Therme Aqua Dome" in Tyrol, both Alpentherme and Felsentherme target skiiers, young people and families.
Further North in the province, about three kilometres away from Hallein (the place with the Celtic salt mines) and about 17 kilometres south of Salzburg, there is the "St Barbara Therme" (www.bad-vigaun.at) in Bad Vigaun. This spa has a longstanding tradition in therapeutic treatments. It is now a modern "Kurort", popular mostly with elderly people or others who prefer a quiet swim in hot waters with no or few teenagers around.
Thermal Spas in Upper Austria (Oberösterreich)
The area of Upper Austria that is North of the Alps is somewhat cut off the main skiing tourism. However, sine the 1990ies, they had several spas being either built from scratch or extensively modernised. Today, the spas of Upper Austria attract both domestic and international tourists. The "Tassilo Therme" (www.kurbetriebe.at) in Bad Hall was named after the last Bavarian Aigolfinger king; it considers itself to be a family friendly spa and targets people with children of all ages.
The "Kaiser Therme" (meaning Emperor′s Spa - www.kaisertherme.at) in Bad Ischl is a classic one in the holiday resort of Emperor Franz Joseph I. The pretty market town in the Upper Austrian part of the Salzkammergut is famous for its massages and health treatments. Many visitors come to recover from all sorts of health problems or simply to fight the unpleasant side-effects of ageing. Bad Ischl is more popular with the not-so-young part of the population.
The "Therme Geinberg" (www.therme-geinberg.at) spa was recently built in the middle of a very rural part of Austria, in the community of Geinberg in the Innviertel about 70 kilometres north of Salzburg. It is not the biggest of all spas, but well-rounded in its themes and offers all you would expect from a modern spa. The "Eurotherme" in Bad Schallabach is quite an extensive one, the showpiece "Aquapulco" pool consist of a total of 15,000 square metres of water and it aims at a young clientele. Aside of the usual spa spiel you will find more fun-attractions in the Eurotherme than in other spas.
Thermal Spas in Carinthia (Kärnten)
The "Warmbad Villach" (www.warmbad.com) claims to be a "spa resort", but I don′t understand what they mean by that. In any case, they have a modern fitness club, saunas and the usual collection of pools with hot water in it right in Villach. There are two associated spas (Römerbad and Kathreintherme - www.roemerbad.com) in Bad Kleinkirchheim, which is also among Carinthia′s most famous ski resorts.
These are very modern, large spas that benefit from the combination of snow and hot water especially in the winter. Due to their popularity they might be more suitable for a younger clientele. The third spa site of Carinthia is Bad Bleiberg with its "Kristallbad" (crystal bath - www.bleiberg.or.at) at an altitude of 920 metres. This spa claims to provide a good balance between therapeutic and fun aspects.
Thermal Spas of Lower Austria (Niederösterreich)
The "Römerbad" (meaning Roman bath - www.baden-bei-wien.at) in Baden (which itself refers to bathing) shows with its name how much spa tradition there is in this town: The Romans were the first to use the sulphuric hot springs. Today, Baden benefits from the good connections to Vienna and its reputation for being a very classy spot in Austria. It is also famous for its casino. Not far from Baden, in Bad Vöslau, you will find the next spa that is used since the days of the Roman Empire. The local mineral water brand is among the biggest in Austria. Despite of the impressive historical records of both sites, the spas of today meet modern standards.
The "Kristalltherme" (crystal spa - www.kristalltherme.at) of Bad Fischau has a more historical setting, but recently extended its offers to a new sauna and wellness area. The spa of Laa (simply "Therme Laa" - www.therme-laa.at - with no fancy references to Alps, crystals or anything) is the fourth spa of Lower Austria and has the usual array of pools with hot water, supplemented with "multisensual performances" (don′t ask me what that means), saltwater pools and underwater music.
One Spa in Vienna
The only spa within the city limits of Vienna is the "Therme Oberlaa" (www.oberlaa.at) with a variety pools supplemented with the usual offers for fitness, sports, massages and sauna.
Thermal Spas of Styria (Steiermark)
By any means, Styria wins the spa ranking: There′s a total of 7 spas in the province, and the region is internationally known for its springs and the wellness tourism that has developed around them: The so-called Steirisches Thermenland (Styrian Spa Region).
The "Therme Loipersdorf" (www.therme.at) is probably the most famous spa of Austria and quite enormous in size: about 12,000 square metres indoor areas and 1,500 square metres of outdoor resting zones, extensive pool landscapes and a huge water slide make this a popular holiday resort for families and elderly alike. The "Heiltherme" (www.heiltherme.at) spa in Bad Waltersdorf has a particularly high concentration of minerals and therefore, is allowed to call itself a "Heiltherme" (healing spa). It provides therapies and treatments, but also 4,000 square metres of pools and ponds with the usual wellness treats.
The "Parktherme" (www.parktherme.at) in Bad Radkersburg, the "Therme Bad Blumau" (designed by the artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser - www.blumau.com) in Bad Blumau, the "Therme NOVA" (www.novakoeflach.at) in Köflach, the "Kurtherme" (small specialist - www.kurtherme.at) in Bad Gleichenberg and the "H2O Therme" (targets families with children and teenagers - www.hoteltherme.at) in Sebersdorf near Bad Waltersdorf are the other spas competing in architecture, toys and treatments. If you want to spend a significant part of your vacation in spas, Styria is where you want to go.
Thermal Spas of the Burgenland
Austria′s most eastern province of the Burgenland has four spas. The "Therme Stegersbach" (www.dietherme.com) covers some 9,000 square metres and specialises on a combination of spa treats and golf. The 1,200 square metres of the "Burgenlandtherme" (www.burgenlandtherme.at) in Bad Tatzmannsdorf is the biggest and best-known spa in the province. The "Heiltherme" (www.die-heiltherme.at) in Bad Sauerbrunn is famous for its healing waters that are rich in iron and other minerals.
Tastes really odd, but is officially recognised as a "healing source" (you have to have a certain concentration of natural minerals in the water to claim that). Bad Sauerbrunn specialises on medical treatments. The "Sonnentherme" (www.sonnentherme.at) in Bad Lutzmannsburg follows the "fun" track and aims for children, babies and families. Generally, the four spas of the Burgenland have well-developed profiles based on sports and golf, medical treatments, mainstream spa tourism and families with young children.
Wine areas often overlap with the Spa area
The National Tourism Office on Spas
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