A weekend trip to this Bucharest wellness retreat costs the same as a day pass to a London spa

Spa under the stars at Therme, which is open until midnight  (Therme)
Spa under the stars at Therme, which is open until midnight (Therme)

It’s 8pm on a Friday night and I’m looking out over a sea of bodies. Sipping my piña colada, I watch as a man leaps up and down on a podium in time to the bouncy beats that have started to crank up. Coloured lights slowly shift, casting shadows across the vast space, which is peppered with giant palm trees and exotic plants. It’s a lively scene – and it’s unlike any Friday night I’ve ever had before.

This isn’t a nightclub, but Therme, Europe’s biggest spa, and what seems to be the coolest place in Romania to spend your Friday night. While there may be plenty of booze on tap, the atmosphere here is extremely chilled, with rest, relaxation and self-care the order of the day. Doors open as early as 9am and close at midnight, making it the ideal alternative to a night on the tiles. And with recent figures suggesting as many as 39 per cent of young people are teetotal, this titanic temple to holistic health seems like the ultimate place to hang out.

Size is everything at Therme and its vital statistics are impressive. Opened in Bucharest in 2016, this sprawling site covers around 40,000 square metres of wellness, leisure and spa space over two floors. It’s home to 10 pools, six dry and four wet saunas, and the largest urban beach in Europe. Over 45 daily activities are included in the access fee, from Aufguss rituals (a Germanic sauna tradition) and themed sauna experiences to clay mask and scrub rituals.

The wellness retreat is home to nearly 1 million plants, making it the biggest botanical garden in Romania and the largest palm plantation in Europe. There are jacuzzis, hydromassage beds, day beds, a lazy river, and a gigantic “salt library” archway standing at more than 5 metres tall, consisting of 40 tonnes of Himalayan salt, said to purify the air. The Hollywood sauna has a giant 7 x 5-metre screen showing David Attenborough documentaries. You’ll also find 16 water slides, stretching over 1.7 kilometres. Constructed from wood, steel and glass, there’s a demonstrable lack of plastic on show. A 900-square-metre glass roof retracts in summer. Everything is extremely clean, new and shiny.

With seating and tables for drinks, the heated outdoor pool is a pleasant spot to relax (Joanna Whitehead)
With seating and tables for drinks, the heated outdoor pool is a pleasant spot to relax (Joanna Whitehead)

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Upon arrival, I make a beeline for the treatment area, where I’m presented with a menu of six different massage treatments. I opt for a one-hour CBD massage, where I’m pulled and pummelled like a tough piece of meat being tenderised. This costs 369 lei (£63.50) – and while I float out of my room feeling zen, it’s an indulgent extra rather than an essential component of the overall spa experience.

From here, I head to the Alhambra sauna, inspired by Andalucia’s landmark palace, before shuffling over to the Bavaria sauna, where temperature hits a toasty 90C. I step outside, letting my body temperature regulate, as per instructions, before heading back inside for a cold water shower. Later, I attempt to join a liquid gold session, where participants cover their body with honey, but it’s packed. Unfazed, I saunter off to float in the heated outdoor pool. It’s dark now and I gaze up at a pitch black sky speckled with stars.

Get an adrenaline rush on one of 16 different water slides (Therme)
Get an adrenaline rush on one of 16 different water slides (Therme)

Conversations with staff reveal that Therme attracts everyone from locals looking to relax after a day at the office, to tourists travelling from around Europe and beyond to visit what has become something of a TikTok sensation. This inclusivity offers a welcome contrast to the supercilious air that can sometimes sour the experience at other luxury spas.

In addition to the genuinely good atmosphere and excellent facilities, a major factor in Therme’s immense popularity is price. Entry varies depending on whether you’re visiting at a peak time (Friday to Sunday, and school holidays) and which part of the spa you want access to. A three-hour adult pass to The Palm costs 81 lei (£13.90), while a one-day pass with access to all three areas costs £29 between Monday to Thursday and £32 Friday to Sunday, including school holidays. You can rent a towel for 26 lei (£4.50). And with capacity for up to 4,000 people, it never feels cramped in the way that the UK’s significantly smaller spas sometimes can.

You won’t be fighting for space in the roomy saunas (Therme)
You won’t be fighting for space in the roomy saunas (Therme)

Compare this to day fees at some of the UK’s most popular spas. At Aire Ancient Baths in London’s Covent Garden, expect to pay a minimum of £115 for bath access only for a maximum stay of 90 minutes. Spa access of just two hours at Claridge’s is only possible when combined with a treatment; the cheapest available is £195 for a one-hour massage. Away from the capital, expect to pay £182 per person for a full day spa pass at Leicestershire’s Ragdale Hall (no treatment included), while half-day passes at Armathwaite Hall and Spa in the Lake District start at £125 including a 55-minute treatment.

On price alone, Therme is, indisputably, an absolute steal. But for top-class facilities and general vibes, it’s priceless. I’ve seen the future of Friday night – and it’s steamy.

How to get there

We flew with Wizz Air from London Luton to Bucharest Henri Coandă, where single fares start from £16.51 (book well in advance for the best price). Flight time is around three hours and 20 minutes.

Local taxis are prone to quoting inflated flat-rate prices, so we opted for an Uber, which cost £16 door-to-door and took 12 minutes. An Uber from Therme to the city centre costs about £30, depending on traffic, and takes around 30 minutes. There’s also a public bus (442) that runs regularly between the city centre and Bucharest Henri Coandă airport and Therme that costs just €1 (85p). Simply tap in with your card as you board – you can view the timetable here.

We booked into the four-star PeakTure Hotel, where a spacious and comfortable double room cost €69 (£59) per night when we stayed. From here, it’s only a five-minute stroll to the picturesque Old Town. The hotel also has a superb offer that includes two nights accommodation and two day passes for just €135 (£115) per person, based on two sharing.

Joanna travelled to Bucharest as a guest of Wizz Air.

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