Budapest, Hungary: Spa-ing in an art nouveau masterpiece
In the new world, the spa experience can be a little too Yanni for some—and if the whispering, hot stones and pan pipes don't turn you off, the price tag often will. (That'll be $300. Namaste.)
But in the old world, spas are for everyone (and light on pretension). And there's no better place to "take the waters" than Budapest, a city built over hot springs, where the public bath tradition dates back as far as the 13th century.
The Gellért Baths, attached to the majestic Gellért Hotel across from the Danube River, are relatively young—they opened in 1918—and full of Art Nouveau details (if historical interiors are your thing, the tile mosaics alone are worth the trip).
The baths boast two effervescent sections, three outdoor pools and eight separate thermal baths—some of which are single-sex—plus plenty of extras like a Finnish sauna and cold-dive pools. And on the list of available treatments, there's something restorative for every part of your aching body, from foot massage to a tooth-and-gum shower.
Every age is represented here; it's not uncommon to see clusters of elderly gentlemen having a social soak on a sunny afternoon. They're a spry bunch, and the waters' healing mix of magnesium, calcium, sulphate-chloride, hydrogen-carbonate, fluoride and sodium might have something to do with it.
Our favorite part: You can lounge around the baths all day and get a massage for around $20 (and up). Our other favorite part: Floating chess boards.