Health spas in France: practical info
3 different types of water, 3 different types of spa
Choosing between a spa, spring water cure, thalassotherapy and balneotherapy
What is the difference between "thermalisme" (a spring water spa), a thalassotherapy centre and a balneotherapy centre?
These 3 techniques differ in that they each use a different type of water.
Quite simply, thalassotherapy uses sea water, spa treatments use spring water and balneotherapy uses fresh water.
Sea water and spring water consist of elements (e.g. iodine, trace elements and mineral salts) which provide specific benefits for the body. These elements encourage well-being and can be used to prevent certain illnesses (therapeutic virtues).
What is a spa?
The word spa comes from the Latin "sanitus per aqua", which translates as "health through water".
A spa is a place of well-being, where visitors can relax both body and mind. It uses water-based treatments, as well as providing beauty treatments. The atmosphere of a spa (its ambience, scent, colours and welcome) is of primary importance.
Some thalassotherapy or spring water centres have a spa - so, what type of water do they use?
This depends on the centre. In spas in coastal locations, sea water is used. Most spring water centres will use hot mineral water, although some will also have a spa using fresh water.
France - the perfection destination for a spa holiday
We often hear the phrase "French-style professionalism", but what exactly do we mean by this?
France has long been aware of the qualities of sea, spring and fresh water and as a result is highly experienced in providing water-based treatments.
Spring water treatments, inspired by Roman Antiquity, came back into fashion in France in the 19th century and are able to prevent or treat certain ailments such as rheumatism and obesity.
Thalassotherapy was invented in France, and there are now more than 50 internationally renowned centres around the country.
The more recent balneotherapy uses a range of exclusive techniques to encourage health and fitness through the use of water-based treatments.
Carefully planned, personalised treatments, ultra-modern, high-tech equipment and highly skilled staff ensure significant improvements in the physical condition of patients, while our doctors, dieticians, physiotherapists, hydro-therapists and beauticians are all highly experienced and undergo regular professional training in the latest techniques.
In addition, hygiene standards and water quality are regularly controlled by official state organisations - another feature of our "French-style professionalism".
Are spa holidays available throughout France?
Yes - it all depends on the type of holiday that you're looking for.
Thalassotherapy centres are situated on the coast.
Spring water centres are located near to springs, often at the foot of a volcano or in the mountains.
Spas are found throughout France. Choose between a day spa (often located in towns and cities), which welcomes day visitors and has no accommodation on offer, and a resort spa, where accommodation (usually a hotel) forms a part of the spa and where visitors can stay for several days.
Staying in a health spa - treatments
What is the minimum length of stay recommended in a health spa in order for the treatment to be effective?
To allow the body to feel the real benefits of the treatment, the recommended minimum stay is 6 days; however, shorter breaks (e.g. a weekend) provide visitors with an insight into the benefits of a spa holiday.
Does a holiday in a health spa simply consist of treatments?
No. The aim of a spa holiday is to allow visitors to relax. Treatments are usually concentrated into a half day to enable you to make the most of the centre's facilities (swimming pool, sauna, hammam etc) as well as to rest, enjoy the sporting activities on offer (cycling, golf, tennis etc) and explore the surrounding region. Some centres also offer themed holidays (culture, music etc) depending on events taking place in the local area.
How many daily treatments are usually offered during a spa holiday?
A holiday usually includes 4-5 treatments a day, for 6 days. Treatments are usually concentrated into a half day.
What cosmetic products are used in fitness centres?
Each centre will use different products. Centres may be associated with specific cosmetic brands or may have developed their own range of products. Contact individual centres for further information.
Treatments: a glossary of spa-related terminology
Do all treatments take place in water?
No. Water plays a major part in a spa holiday with hydrotherapy treatments such as sea water showers, underwater jet massages and hydromassage baths being used, but dry treatments are also offered (relaxing massages, shiatsu, mud wraps etc).
How long does a treatment last?
Treatment times vary. Water-based treatments offered as part of a spa holiday generally last around 20 minutes. However, certain treatments such as massages and shiatsu last longer (25min to 1hr 30min).
Are all treatments one-to-one?
No. Group treatments such as aqua aerobics also exist. Some centres also offer "double" treatments rooms, where couples can be massaged in the same room at the same time.
What is the difference between modelage and a massage?
Modelage very lightly touches the skin, whereas massaging is a deeper treatment which works on the epidermis.
The skills required for these treatments are also different: beauticians can offer modelage treatments, while massages can only be given by a trained physiotherapist.
A practical tip if you're visiting a spa: make sure you take your treatment glossary on holiday with you!
The low-down on a spa holiday: what to bring, type of accommodation and food.
In health spas where accommodation is available, is there just one hotel category available for guests?
No. You can choose between different types of hotels, from 2-star to luxury 4-star. It's entirely up to you, depending on your budget and the region you wish to visit.
Do the restaurants only serve "light" cuisine?
No. All the restaurants in our health spas offer traditional cuisine, including the gastronomic specialities of their region. For those who prefer lighter meals (and for those on slimming treatments), the chef will also offer low-calorie options.
My partner would like to come on holiday with me, but doesn't want any of the treatments.
No problem. In all our centres, visitors who are not following a particular treatment can choose from a variety of leisure activities (including access to the health spa) and sports (tennis, golf etc), or can simply organise their time as they wish.
Are men allowed in the health spas?
Of course! Men now represent more than 40% of clients in French spa centres. A unique treatment just for men has even been developed for those who want to immerse themselves completely in the experience.
Can I bring my children with me?
Depending on the hotel, children are allowed to stay free of charge in their parents' room (depending on their age). However, children are not allowed in the treatment centres, with the exception of mother-and-baby programmes. Some centres offer crèche facilities for young children. Contact individual centres for further information.
What do I need to bring with me on my spa holiday?
2 swimsuits (swimming shorts are not allowed for men)
How much does a holiday in a health spa cost?
The price varies depending on the length of your stay, the treatments chosen (à la carte or a package), and the type of accommodation (half board, full board, type of hotel etc). For example, a single treatment (exfoliation) can cost around 40€ and a week's holiday (6 days with 4 spa treatments a day, excluding accommodation) can cost around 580€.