When they weren't conquering nations, the Romans certainly knew how to take some downtime. One of their many inventions, the Roman Bath, was designed for unwinding and socialising and formed a staple of any Roman empire city. These baths, featuring hot and cold water pools for bathing, alongside sports halls and libraries, were also architecturally important and paved the way for many designs in recent years.

Historically, the baths were largely popular for their medicinal properties, which were known to treat everything from skin conditions to healing gynaecological problems. This still remains true today, with many spas across Europe offering treatments designed to tackle health issues.

Several Roman public baths still stand strong across Europe, albeit with some in better nick than others. You can view many via guided tours of the ruins, where visitors can explore underground passageways, original statues and pavements, and the walls of the great baths themselves. However, if exploring the historical side is less of your scene, many baths still function today, so you can take to the waters like a true Roman.

Bath, UK

The Roman Baths

The Roman Baths, Bath

Perhaps the most famous of them all (the clue is quite literally in the name) – Bath's Roman baths are renowned for their rich history and some of the world's best-preserved Roman architecture. Dating back to around 70AD, the first construction of the site was a temple dedicated to the healing goddess Sulis-Minerva, followed by a reservoir formed around the natural spring known as the Sacred Spring. Fast forward to the Victorian era, and the main spa was built with the belief that its bathing water had medicinal properties, which could cure skin diseases and illnesses. Today, visitors can see the temple's ruins, wander around the many baths, and even explore the original Roman pavements. Due to the water quality, the baths are unsafe for bathing in, however you can head to the nearby Thermae Bath Spa that uses a treated version and swim your heart away.

How to get there

Nearest station in the UK is Bath Spa – both are in walking distance.

Go to romanbaths.co.uk for the original baths, or for swimming thermaebathspa.com

Badenweiler, Germany

Badenweiler Roman Baths and Cassiopeia Therme Spa

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Situated in the southern end of Germany’s black forest, the Badenweiler Roman bath ruins are some of the most well-preserved Roman architecture north of the Alps, thanks largely to a stunning glass roof installed in 2001 by engineers Schlaich, Bergermann and Partner. Alongside an exhibition dedicated to the history of the baths, the ruins sit alongside Cassiopeia Therme spa, which features a range of thermal baths set across multiple levels and a stunning outdoor pool. Although most visitors come for its acclaimed health clinics and five wellness stars, many couples have also visited Cassiopeia Therme to tie the knot. 

How to get there

Fly to Basel, Switzerland – from there, Basel to Badenweiler is 30 minutes by car.

Go to badruine-badenweiler.de to explore the ruins, or staatsbad-badenweiler.de for the spa

São Pedro do Sul, Portugal

King Afonso Henriques Baths and Queen D. Amelia Baths

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Not far from Viseu in the Centro region of Portugal lies the spa town of São Pedro do Sul. Renowned as one of the loveliest resorts on the Iberian Peninsula, the resort comprises two functioning spas, King Afonso Henriques Baths and Queen D. Amelia Baths. Ruins of Roman baths can also be found in the town, and since 1938 they have been recognised as a national monument. If you fancy a modern-day bath visit, head to King Afonso Henriques Baths, a three-floor thermal centre complete with steam chambers and hydro massage bathtubs. Also, The Queen D. Amelia Baths offers individual spa treatments for those seeking a more personal experience with a touch of history.

How to get there

Fly from London Stansted to Porto – from there, bus from Porto to São Pedro do Sul is 1 hour 45 minutes.


Viterbo, Italy

Viterbo’s Thermal Baths

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Located in a volcanic area in central Italy, Viterbo is a small city with a vast thermal park and ancient Roman history. While volcanic activity ended many thousands of years ago, the geothermal nature of the town allowed the Romans to create an abundance of spas, where the remains can still be seen today. Viterbo and its surrounding countryside are lesser known than its more popular Italian neighbours like Tuscany and Rome, making it the perfect destination for a relaxing spa getaway away from the crowds. Viterbo’s open-air Thermal Baths are open all year round; however, if you’re looking for a more secluded and luxurious experience, the Terme Dei Papi resort features a hyperthermal water swimming pool fresh from the Bullicame Spring, spa facilities, a restaurant and hotel.

How to get there

Fly to Rome – from there, train from Rome to Viterbo is 1 hour 30 minutes.


Trier, Germany

Imperial Baths of Trier

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Dating back to the 4th century AD, The Imperial Baths of Trier, or Kaiserthermen, haven't always been used as thermal baths. Situated in what was, at one point in time, the oldest city in the nation, the Kaiserthermen was one of the largest bathhouses outside of Rome. Over its lifetime, the building was converted into a monastery, city wall and even a castle, so it's safe to say this is a destination steeped in history. Visitors can expect to see exceptionally well-preserved external walls up to 19 metres high, alongside underground tunnels to explore.

How to get there

Fly to Frankfurt Hahn or Luxembourg – from there, Hahn to Trier is 50 minutes by car, or, Luxembourg to Trier is 25 minutes by car or 40 mins by bus.


Varna, Bulgaria

Varna Baths

Varna Baths, Bulgaria

The port city of Varna in northeastern Bulgaria is home to some of Europe's largest Roman bath ruins, spanning over 7,500 square metres. The baths are located centrally within the city, with its construction believed to be dated back to the 2nd century AD. Varna's Roman baths exemplify how Romans used these places as a hub for socialising, complete with hot and cold bathing rooms, changing rooms, and remnants of an old sports hall, which can be toured by the public. The baths currently hold the title of being the largest ancient buildings discovered in Bulgaria.

How to get there

Fly to Varna – from there, a taxi from the airport into the town is less than 15 minutes.


Rome, Italy

Diocletian Baths

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Previously the largest ancient bathing complex in the world, Rome's Diocletian baths could hold over 3,000 Romans in its heyday. Complete with hot, cold and tepid baths, the complex had a library and gymnasium. Today, the baths sit as a part of the national museum in Rome, with remains dating back to the 2nd century AD open to the public. Visitors can expect to see remains of some of the large bathing halls, as well as an impressive funerary sculpture and even a sixteenth-century garden with over 400 works of art. The site might be on the smaller side, but you can easily spend a whole morning here soaking up the history.

How to get there

Fly to Rome – from there, a train takes 40 minutes into the centre.