Can you imagine swimming in rain water that fell 10,000 years ago? The mind boggles. Yet, that is precisely what you are doing when you visit the Thermae Spa Bath in the UK. I am a big fan of spas and my children have visited thermal spas in Iceland, Japan and Austria, so a visit to the Thermae Spa Bath is right up our alley! The Thermae Bath Spa UK is located in the city of Bath in England. Bath is a beautiful UNESCO world heritage listed location marked by beautiful architecture and renowned through history for the thermal baths that gave the city its name. Located in the historic center of Bath right near its other main attractions, taking a dip in the thermal baths like the Romans did is partaking in a bit of history. Unlike the Georgians though, we don’t recommend you drink the water!
The historic Roman Baths which you can tour. Then head nearby and try out the hot springs for yourself at Thermae Spa.
Why a Spa Day in Bath?
Some 5 cool reasons to spend a spa day in Bath at the Thermae Spa:
Bath is one of the great European spa cities like Baden Baden in Germany and Montecatini Terme in Italy.
You will be participating in something that has happened at this site since before even the Romans came to Britain! It really is at the same water as the historic Bath Roman baths spa nearby.
Bath got its UNESCO world heritage listing thanks to its famous bath waters and the Georgian buildings created to enjoy them.
You get to have a nice relaxing time AND partake in history at the Thermae Bath Spa UK. How many places can you do that??
Your body will feel rejuvenated and muscles that you didn’t even know were aching will feel better.
The Cross Springs Spa | Bath England Spa #BathUK #BathEngland #visitUK #UKwithkids #England #cityofBath #England #thermalbaths
Where’s The Water Come From?
Geothermal activity created three springs that came to the surface in Bath. The springs bring forth rain water that fell thousands of years ago and then sank to a couple of kilometres below the Earth’s surface. No one actually knows the exact location of the source of the springs.
Fun Fact: Each day the 3 springs churn out over 1 million litres of water! That’s a whole lot of rainwater that fell 10,000 years ago. If you thought it rained in England during modern times…
A Very Brief History of Bath Spa
The Thermae Bath spa is a tradition that goes back over 2000 years. It’s a city that grew in fits and starts with the periods of history jumping jerkily over hundreds of years as if the intervening years were the blink of an eye. Coming from a country like the USA which is only a few hundred years old, it’s amazing to think about this time line.
The Legend of the Leper Prince
First lets start with the founding legend of the city of Bath.
There was Prince Biadud, the son of the King of the Britons sometime in the 9th century BC. He came down with leprosy and got cast out of the kingdom. So he works as a swineherd until he has a Eureka moment. He sees his pigs get cured of scabies when they roll around the mud of the hot springs in Bath. He decides to wallow in mud himself and gets cured.
Returning leprosy-free to his father, he eventually becomes the 9th King of the Britons and goes on to father Kin g Lear (he of Shakespeare fame). Prince Bladud ’s so happy he creates the city of Bath.
We saw a statue of Prince Biadud at Cross Bath Spa who was fittingly watching over the bathers.
Prince Bialud sneaks a peek from behind the ivy
Enter the Romans
Fast foward to the Romans who did love their hot baths. In 70 AD, the Romans created the baths and a temple to Minerva at Bath. The Romans leave Britain in 410 AD and the Saxons take over.
There’s a few hundred years of decline in Bath’s fortunes until Edgar is crowned as King of England in 973AD at Bath Cathedral. Sadly that did not mean Bath’s fortunes rose again anytime soon though.
Quacks, Royals and Socialites
In the mid-16th century a Dr. Turner wrote about the medicinal benefits of bathing in Bath. Intrigued, Queen Elizabeth I visited in 1574, and was pleased enough to make Bath an official city. Assorted royals and their courtiers visited the city over the next 100 years, including the openly Catholic Mary of Modena.
Mary (married to the equally Catholic James II) couldn’t have a child but became miraculously pregnant after visiting the baths at Bath. Unfortunately, that child sparked the Glorious Revolution because the English did not want another Catholic king. The royal family got sent off to France and the English put James II’s more acceptable Protestant daughter Mary (and her husband William) on the throne.
Wow! Bath’s thermal waters were indirectly responsible for regime change in Britain!
Back in Bath, the Royal Family still favoured the city. Along with the royals came the aristocracy for spa breaks in Bath. The 18th and early 19th centuries saw the heyday of Bath and its baths. Jane Austen and her family came to Bath and catapulted the city into literary history.
There is evidence that Jane Austen’s father and brothers bathed in the same Cross Spa where we bathed! How cool is that??
The Royal Mineral Bath Hospital on one of the side streets near Thermae Spa
Decline and Fall
Bath fell out of favour in the late 19th century when the British discovered their love of the great seaside resorts like Brighton and the Isle of Wight. Although the baths at Bath had lost their luster, too, they were used as a rehabilitation centre by the UK military and the NHS.
In 1978, the spa was closed because it was in such bad shape.
The Phoenix Rises
After a multi-million dollar renovation, the Thermae Bath Spa UK was opened in its present form in 2006.
Bath stone and columns mark the entrance to the Thermae Spa
The Thermae Bath Spa Bath
The facade of the building may be Grade 1 listed but everything inside is state of the art and modern. The building is a masterclass in how old and new architecture can work together. It is constructed to be 6 stories in the back although you wouldn’t know it from the front facade which is a 4 story town house and shop premises.
The Pools at the Thermae Spa
There is an indoor Minerva Bath which is the largest the pools. It’s got massage jets, whirlpool and even a lazy river! Available for your use at both pools are blue swim noodles so you really don’t even need to make an effort to even float. That’s my kind of lazy.
The open-air rooftop pool offers divine views over Bath city and you can even get a peek at the Cross Bath nearby.
An aerial view of the Cross Bath Spa (to the right of the photo) as seen from the Royal Spa.
The thermal water contains over 40 different types of minerals. The four baths at the Thermae maintain a water temperature of 33.5 degrees Centigrade (92 degrees Fahrenheit). Nice and toasty even for the rooftop pool!
Fun Fact – The word spa coms from the latin “salus per aquam” which translates as health through water. Now go impress your friends with this random piece of trivia!
Treatment Facilities at the Thermae Spa Bath
There are 26 treatment rooms offering ever over 40 different types of therapies.
For example, you can have a Vichy shower where you lay on a table and shower jets are sprayed over you to enhance circulation and treatment benefits. I had a Vichy shower at Terranea Spa in Los Angeles and it feels wonderful! It is a specialist treatment and not many places have the facilities for a Vichy shower.
Other specialist treatments include Watsu Massage (a form of water massage) and Hot Stones Spa Therapy (where warm volcanic stones are used at pressure points to encourage relaxationf).
There are also the usual massages. body wraps and facials.
At its busiest, such for example the weekends, the Thermae Spa Bath gets over 1000 a people a day. On average though, you get about 700 people a day. During the quieter weekdays, you get about 400-500 people.
Tip – It is advisable to book well in advance if you want a treatment during weekends.
On site at the Thermae Spa Bath, there is a Visitor’s center, a restaurant as well as two boutiques. Everything you could want for a relaxing few hours in this historic city.
Cross Baths in Bath
The Cross Baths Bath is also located in a Grade I listed building. Across the street from the Thermae Spa, the Cross Bath Spa can hold a maximum of 10 people. It can be rented for private parties, proposals etc.
The Cross Bath Spa is located within a grand Grade I listed building.
The Cross Baths Spa has its own changing rooms and bathroom facilities. You can even arrange for the Thermae Spa to send over a basket of food and drinks if you wish to eat while you are at the spa.
The Cross Spring actually bubbles into the Cross Bath Spa through a stainless steel fountain sculpture by William Bye inscribed with words by former poet laureate, Ted Hughes. The spring water bubbles to the surface and then cleverly gets siphoned off and is gently treated before it enters the Cross Bath spa.
William Bye sculpture that brings the Hot Cross spring water into the bath
We can attest that it is entirely relaxing floating on a noodle or two as you listen to the seagulls fly overhead, surrounded by the mellow cream stonework of the city.
In the evenings, the lanterns are lit at the Cross Bath Spa setting a magical scene
My daughter and I were at the Cross Bath Spa with another 3 families. Three of the 10 people would have fit the 12-16 age bracket. I was surprised though to learn that everyone there was from different parts of England. Most were visiting Bath but one mother/daughter duo were specifically on a spa break in Bath.
Where were the international tourists visiting for a spa day in Bath?! What a hidden gem in Bath that they are missing!
We chose to stay at the four star Francis Hotel also conveniently located in the historic center of Bath. It is a charming hotel and very convenienly located. On previous trips to Bath, we have stayed at the No.15 Great Pulteney – Bath” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow noopener”>No 15 Great Pulteney, a 4 star boutique hotel which is in walking distance from the Thermae Bath but over the river that runs through the city.
Children from the age of 12 are allowed in the Cross Springs Spa in Bath England
Visiting the Thermae Bath Spa
You don’t need to make reservations to visit the Thermae Bath Spa but you do need to make reservations for specific treatments.
The Thermae Spa is located right in the historic centre of historic Bath near the Bath Cathedral, the Roman Baths and the Pump Room.
The address is on Hot Bath Street. Yes, really.
Thermae Bath spa is open every day of the year except 3 days at the end of the year (Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day). The Thermae Bath is open from 9 in the morning to 9:30 at night and the Cross Bath is open from 10 in the morning to 8 pm.
Booking and Entry
You get entry into the Thermae Spa in two hour slots and the Cross Bath in 1.5 hour slots.
Beauty treatments are only available at Thermae Spa. If you book a spa treatment that time is added to your two hour slot. You can also pay at entry for additional hours if you want to stay longer.
Tip: If you want to avoid busy times at the spa, you should choose to go at a time other than the weekends, summer and Christmas. Christmas you say? Yes, because Bath has a wonderful Christmas market which attracts many tourists.
You get complimentary towels, robes and flip-flops upon entry at both the Thermae Spa and the Cross Bath. Note there are only adult sizes for flip flops.
Even the teddy gets a complimentary robe to snuggle up.
You can not get multiple access entries that cover both the Thermae Spa and the Cross Bath.
One Thermae Bath spa deal offer is for Sunday afternoon which includes spa access and a meal at the restaurant
Another Thermae Bath spa discount offer is the twilight package where you can use the spa during weekdays in the evening. Imagine watching the sunset over Bath from the rooftop pool!
You can get also get a Thermae Bath spa discount package that includes the historic Roman Baths, a meal at the Pump Room Restaurant and a session at the Thermae Bath spa. And the best part? It doesn’t all have to be done in one day!
All of these Thermae spa deal offers would be great for tourists to the city who need some R&R after spending time enjoy Bath’s many attractions and walking its nearby hills.
The spas are accessible for people with disabilities. The Thermae Bath Spa has an elevator for ease of access. In addition, the pools have special assistance chairs for lowering people into the baths.
Visiting with Older Children
Children over the age of 16 are allowed access to the Thermae Spa but need to be 18 to receive spa treatments. Children from the age of 12 are allowed at the Cross Bath spa on a 1:1 adult/child ratio.
My daughter enjoyed herself immensely and has gotten a promise from me that we can go to the Royal Bath Spa when she turns 16.
We were guests of the Cross Bath Spa. All thoughts and opinions in this article remain strictly my own.
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During our two week trip to Japan, I was thwarted from visiting a Japanese onsen (hot springs) spa town favored by people in Kyoto by a child with an ill-timed ear infection. In Tokyo, however, I knew that the nearby Hakone hot springs were famous, too. Our last full day in Japan, I arranged a Hakone onsen day trip for my family to the Kowakien Yunessun hotel and spa complex. This Hakone onsen theme park is famous for its specialty baths (such as the green tea spa bath and the red wine spa bath). Moreover, unlike traditional Japanese onsens, the Hakone Kowakien lets you wear swimsuits and has has a family-friendly area with water slides and play areas. There are plenty of things that you can do with children in Hakone and this hot springs theme park is definitely something they will enjoy.
Why We Loved Our Hakone Onsen Day Trip to Kowakien Yunessun (And You Will Too!)
The Kowakien Yunessun Complex
The Yunessun onsen is a huge Hakone onsen hotel complex nestled in the mountains. I was worried sitting in the bus en route to Yunessun that I’d miss it. I needn’t have worried!
The Kowakien Yunessun complex is ginormous.
You should note that this Hakone hotel in Kowakien has hotel rooms and restaurants separate from the Yunessen onsen restaurants. If you are staying at this Hakone onsen hotel you don’t have to worry about Hakone onsen day-trippers taking over all of the hotel space.
Available to both the Hakone Hotel Kowakien guests and hot springs theme park guests, there is a giant gift area in the hotel where you could buy all types of Japanese souvenirs.
Of course, Yunessun has kawaii mascots that greet you throughout the complex and also provide plenty of photo opportunities.
The cutesy Yunessun mascots
Once you pass into the Hakone onsen theme park area itself, you can buy/rent swimsuits, caps, towels etc. We chose to rent towels but did not rent the brown robes. We did see people wearing the robes over their swimsuits but it is definitely not customary or required.
NB – You will not be allowed into the Yunessun Onsen if you have tattoos. The Japanese frown upon tattoos because they have been traditionally associated with Japanese organised crime (Yakuza).
The Swimsuit Area at Yunessun Onsen
The Hakone Kowakien Yunessun bills itself as a onsen theme park primarily because it has several hot springs facilities catering for children (such as water slides and a water play area)
Who Goes to the Hakone Onsen Theme Park?
We saw lots of families as you would expect. The majority were well-behaved Japanese children with some foreign families in the mix.
The children are allowed to use floaties and pool toys at this Hakone hot springs theme park. We did not find the Kowakien Yunessun spa particularly busy when we went. It is a huge space and can cater to large crowds.
What Is Available At Kowakien Yunessun?
The facilities are extensive and spread out over inside and outside.
Indoors there is a main pool and a small toddler water play area besides this pool.
The main indoor pool at Kowakien Yunessun
Yunessun Hakone has 3 restaurants in the hot springs theme park. The food is a lot like other theme parks you can go to – nothing special and geared towards child-friendly dishes. After all you are not at Yunessun for the food.
There is a poolside Japanese fast food restaurant.
Upstairs there is a snacks and crepes restaurant. It serves kid-friendly stuff like Japanese curry rice, corn dogs and crepes. To drink, you have a choice of sodas as well as bubble tea and Asahi beer!
Upstairs there is a fancier all you can eat restaurant. It’s got beautiful views and you need to wear house slippers.
As you would expect from a Japanese place, there are vending machines galore. You can pay for the items with your wristband.
Changing Rooms at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
The changing rooms are segregated by gender. Children over the age of 7 are not expected to be in the opposite gender’s changing rooms.
The very brown Kowakien Yunessun locker room
The lockers and general furniture are a sludge brown color. The lockers are closed with a wristband that also serve as your ticket to buy items at the Yunessun Hakone. At the end, you return your wristband and settle up your account.
The lockers and changing rooms are kept immaculate by cleaning staff. We did not find puddles of water on the floor which is always a problem with locker rooms in a thermal spa.
The Decor at Hakone Kowakien Yunessun
Kowakien Yunessun is decorated with a sunny Meditteranean theme with blue skies and white puffy clouds on the ceiling. The walls are painted to remind you of a white village a la one of the Greek islands.
The Kowakien Yunessun Mediterranean decor
Confusingly, you are greeted upon arrival by Japanese staff with leis and other props for a photo opportunity to pretend you are in Hawaii. The photos were quite steep to buy (1200 yen) and so we didn’t bother with the photos.
Ironically, the Yunessun setting in the mountains of Hakone is pretty beautiful in itself. Not sure why the Japanese need to pretend they are in Hawaii or in the Mediterranean. The large glass windows overlook dense forest-filled mountains of greenery. In Autumn, when the foliage turning colours of intense yellow, red and green, the view must be stunning.
The Different Pools at the Hakone Hot Springs
In addition to the main pool, inside the Yunessun Hakone complex there were quite a few specialty pools – a sake spa pool, a red wine spa pool, a coffee spa pool and a green tea spa pool. Sake is a Japanese rice wine but processed more like the brewing of wine. There is real sake, red wine etc poured into these pools but I wouldn’t recommend drinking from these spas.
The sake pool at Kowakien Yunessun is drip fed sake regularly.
The coffee pool really smelled like coffee but the other specialty pools smelled mostly like chlorine.
The Kowakien Yunessun coffee spa pool
Dr Fish is a fish pedicure pool where fish eat the dead skin of your feet, We tried this for the first time because it only cost 100 yen per person and lasted 5 minutes. I didn’t like it because I am really ticklish. Children from the age of 3 are allowed to use the fish pedicure pool.
Outside there is a small hot tub area and a large pool with a waterfall leading to an internal grotto. Having only heard about Hugh Hefner’s famous pool grotto at the Playboy Mansion, I can only imagine this grotto is what it looked like.
There are 3 water slides as well as a water play area for younger children. The play areas are all set up so that parents can sit in the hot tubs and still watch their children.
The Kowakien Yunessun outdoor slides
Other Kowakien Yunessun Amenities
In the relaxation area, there is a large tatami mat area with low tables with picture windows overlooking the mountains. With sockets on the walls, its a nice area to hang out in. We saw families playing cards, napping and generally chilling in the relaxation area.
Next door to the relaxation area there is a massage area. The booking system seems pretty informal and I had no problem getting an appointment.
The little old Japanese lady who did my massage spoke limited English. Yet, she was WAY stronger than I expected. I opted for a shiatsu massage (without oils) and I felt pummelled like a piece of meat. Especially after the hot water easing my muscles, the massage was exactly the icing on the cake I needed but it did remind me of a quote from one of my favourite movies set in Japan.
I was feeling tight in the shoulders and neck, and so I had a shiatsu massage in my room… And the tightness has completely disappeared and been replaced by an unbelievable pain.
– Bob Harris from Lost in Translation (2003)
Mori No Yu – The No Swimsuit Area
For me the highlight of the Hakone Hotel Kowakien experience was the traditional Japanese onsen, i.e., the no swimsuit area called Mori No Yu. It was quiet, peaceful and beautiful!
Unlike other thermal spas like Therme Wien in Austria, Yunessun seemed pretty relaxed about taking photos in the swimsuit area. I did not, however, feel it appropriate to take photos in Mori No Yu. So here’s a photo from the Yunessun website:
The Mori No Yu Traditional Onsen (Image Credit: Yunessun)
Like all traditional onsets, you need to scrub yourself down before getting in the pools. There are lots of showering cubicles both inside and out the secluded Mori no Yu area.
The Pools at Mori No Yu
I did not find Mori No Yu crowded (about 20 women) and usually I had a pool to myself. It was mostly Japanese women – maybe they cleared out when the foreigner came in?!
In the women’s area, there were 2 large indoor pools (one stone, and one wood) and 4 outdoor pools landscaped into the rock and 3 small tubs. The rock landscaped pools even had stone beds that let you lie down and relax.
I thought the small tubs were perfect for one person stretching out. It was like having a hot tub in a beautiful Japanese garden with mountain views.
I had to rely on my husband and son for their opinion of the men’s side of Mori No Yu. They said there were about the same number of men on their side too. They had 3 large pools both indoor and outdoor but had many more smaller tubs.
The Ambience at Mori No Yu
The atmosphere was peaceful and quiet (except for the slightly overloud tinkly music played over the loudspeaker). Some mothers were there with their little daughters but it was still peaceful and quiet.
Unlike western hot tubs, there are no age restrictions for children to use the hot tubs. Onsens are part of the Japanese culture and children are introduced to onsens early.
Locker Rooms at Mori No Yu
The locker rooms are similar to the Kowakien Yunessun locker rooms in that they are sludge brown color and work on a wristband system. You can just use any available locker and take the wristband.
Other Amenities at Mori No Yu
There is a little cafe, a tatami relaxation area and a massage area in Mori No Yu, too. So you don’t need to buy passes to both Kowakien Yunessun and Mori No Yu to have access to these amenities.
Buying Passes To Hakone Hotel Kowakien
You can buy passes to use just the swimsuit area (Kowakien Yunessun) or the no-swimsuit area (Mori No Yu) or both. We chose combination tickets in the hope that we could convince our kids to try out the traditional onsen. My son went with his father into Mori No Yu but my daughter flat out refused to strip in front of strangers. Sort of like the holy water baths at Lourdes, she was not to be persuaded from her opinion.
Transportation to Hakone Kowakien
From Tokyo, our Hakone onsen day trip was easy to organise.
Since we had our JR Passes, we took a Shinkansen from Tokyo station to Odawara station. From Odawara you can take the Romance Car or the bus. We opted to take the 45 minute bus ride (Bus H, Lane 3) through the mountains. The bus stops right outside the Hakone Hotel Kowakien spa stop (helpfully also called Kowakien).
Returning, we took the same bus from outside the Hakone Kowakien Yunessun. There is a doorman who will help you get on the right bus.
Our Opinion of Hakone Kowakien
We loved our Hakone onsen day trip to Kowakien Yunessun. I’m not convinced by benefits of the specialty baths such as the green tea spa or the red wine spa. I’m a big fan of traditional thermal baths so am a bit boring in that respect. But it is always fun to say you bathed in a green tea spa!
Why We Loved Our Hakone Onsen Day Trip to Kowakien Yunessun (And You Will Too!)
Thermal spas in Austria are a real delight. The water is so warm that there is no shock to the senses when you get into the water. Moreover, the mineral-rich water soaks away any aching muscles. When you are done with the water, you can relax on a lounge chair, visit the sauna or grab a bite to eat at the cafe.
We had our first experience of an Austrian thermal spa at Therme Wien which is in the outskirts of Vienna. This spa, recommended to us by my friend, was on my list of things to do with children in Vienna. And, did they love it!
Therme Wien has a series of different pools, indoors and outside. Supposedly the pools are various different temperatures but they all felt the same to me. While children are allowed in the main pools, there is also a separate children’s play area with slides, diving boards and sprinklers.
It was December but my crazy kids went on the outdoor slides. Apparently it was refreshing being cold on the slide and then getting dunked into warm water. I decided to take their word for it because I was cold just looking at them.
The biggest hit at Therme Wien for my children were the diving boards. For safety reasons in the US and the UK, diving boards are no longer a common feature in pools. I know we would not be able to get insurance on the pool in our summer house in the USA if we had a diving board. Therme Wien had diving boards at 2 meters, 3 meters and 4 meters. The 2 meter board was open all the time and the higher boards were open during supervised hours. My children who had never been on a diving board were enthralled with all the different ways you can jump into water.
Can I tell you how much of a joy it is to hang out and relax while the kids wear themselves out?
We had done a lot of historical and cultural sightseeing in Vienna and Therme Wien was the perfect place to relax. Interestingly, we went one time on a Saturday night because the pools are open late. The pools were full of two types of people – families or dating couples. My husband and I thought it was a great idea to encourage families to go to the pool together on an evening instead of crashing in front of the TV.
In many ways, it is like the subtropical swimming paradise at Centreparcs but much cleaner. I have to admit I hate community pools and (grit my teeth through the Centreparcs pools) because I fear exposure to all the germs just accumulating in a warm, damp environment. I thought Therme Wien was spotless and I saw cleaners on a regular basis keeping the floors dry and clean.
We liked thermal pools in Austria so much I am planning on taking the kids to a larger thermal spa complex in the Tyrol region at the end of May. After singing and dancing our way through the Sound of Music city of Salzburg, we will go to Aqua Dome, supposedly one of Austria’s nicest thermal spas. At Aqua Dome, the children have their own pool complex called Noah’s Alpine Ark. Children have supervised play time in the afternoon so that the adults can enjoy the waters too. I don’t know whose more excited about family spa time – me or the kids!!
Welcome! My family and I love to travel, to learn more about different countries and to experience new cultures. We also like our nice hotels, good food and other comforts. Join us on our adventures!