It’s been blistering hot in Brussels for the past week or so. Although I love to see the sun, after melting in my 30+ degree living-room, I was ready to cool off. Fighting for a square inch of sand on the Belgian coast didn’t appeal and we’ve decided not to renew our gym membership, so the pool was out. Wondering where I could escape the heat on Saturday, I realised we hadn’t been to a Belgian spa in over a year.
Since it was after 5pm, driving to Thermes de Spa didn’t make sense, but we could easily get to Grimbergen spa for the evening. I did a quick check on their website and discovered they opened a brand new spa in May. Knowing I have a duty to investigate all things new and exciting in Belgium for you loyal readers, I packed my towel and swimsuit and headed to the Thermae Boetfort.
If you’ve never been to a Belgian spa, you’d be forgiven for wondering how this activity was going to help me battle the heat. Unlike their North American counterparts, spas in Belgium aren’t only focused on massages and facials. Although these typical spa treatments are available, the main feature in a Belgian spa is the thermal pool.
You pay a daily rate and have at your disposal: swimming pools, Jacuzzis, saunas, steam rooms and the like. They are great places to relax and unwind without the distractions of computers and mobile phones.
Having enjoyed the Grimbergen spa on many occasions, I had high expectations for their new venture. Thermae Boetfort did not disappoint.
A Visit to Thermae Boetfort
Pulling into the parking area, you are met with the view of the 400 year old castle Boetfort. It was built by Henricus Madoets, a wealthy inhabitant of Brussels, as a country estate. Now, the castle itself serves as the spa’s restaurant. But, more on that later.
The beautiful reception area was a good indication of what was to come. We registered and were given waterproof wristbands. These activate your locker in the changing area and are also scanned if you purchase anything at the restaurant so you don’t need to worry about cash while in the spa area. We crossed the garden and descended into the very large and modern changing area in the basement of the castle.
Like Grimbergen, Boetfort spa is separated into two areas: one for visitors who prefer to wear bathing-suits, and one for visitors who prefer to go naked. Being prudish North Americans, we always opt for the bathing-suit side, although I keep saying one day I will be brave enough to be truly European. It’s unlikely to happen anytime before I’m 80.
Exiting the basement toward the spa level, you first arrive at the steam-room. It is very spacious, has seating on two levels and is filled with eucalyptus scented steam.
As you continue upstairs, you emerge into a large light-filled room with lounge chairs. The windows overlook the pool and terrace, which is also filled with lounge chairs; a perfect spot for sunbathing. From this room you can exit via several doors onto the terrace or descend directly into the pool. The pool isn’t large like the one at Thermes de Spa, but it’s adequate for a dip to cool off. The terrace area is spacious and the lounge chairs are comfortable.
On the terrace there is a small, round, wooden building we called the hobbit house. Inside it was an Infrared sauna. I didn’t find it terribly warm or interesting but it could be a nice way to warm up on a colder day.
Also on the terrace are two Jacuzzis. These were comfortable and just the right temperature.
Back inside the spa building are more interesting areas to discover. There is a large traditional sauna equipped with coloured light therapy lights. Nearby is a large semi-circular foot-bath with heated benches; a comfortable spot to relax.
Heading upstairs into a loft area, there is a relaxation room with mats and pillows on the floor. Beyond it, there is a second sauna called the music sauna. This uses the loft space in an interesting way. Instead of flat benches like a traditional sauna, the wood here is moulded into a recliner-like seat, making it very comfortable.
My favourite spot however was the Relaxation Bath. This salty pool is located in what looks like an old wine cellar. The moulded pool has comfortable seating and a deeper area for floating. It is cozy and dark with changing coloured lights – it definitely lives up to its name.
If you get peckish from all the effort you spend relaxing, there is a beautiful restaurant in the ground floor of the castle. It seemed a bit odd to be sitting in such stately surroundings in my bathrobe, but it certainly felt decadent. There is also a terrace where food and drinks are served, if you prefer to enjoy the sun.
I haven’t yet sampled any of the additional services at Thermae Boetfort (or the nudist side of the spa) but if they match the level of quality I experienced during my visit, I’m sure they are superb. It seems as if the owners of Grimbergen spa took everything that worked, and improved on everything that didn’t to create a new and even better place to relax.
Located near the Zaventem airport, in the village of Melsbroek, it was a quick drive from the city and one that I will be sure to make again soon.
B – 1820 Melsbroek
Tel.: +32 (0)2 759.81.9
Open every day from 10.30am until 12pm
For more great castle articles, be sure to visit our Castles in Belgium page where you’ll find links to all of the castles in our little country.