As winter has taken over Brussels, it’s becoming harder and harder to find something to do for an entire day. While cozying up under a fluffy blanket with a cup of hot cocoa or mulled wine is one solution to keep warm this season, there is a much better alternative, that will not only keep you warm, but will also completely take you mind off the sludgy slippery road home or anything else that might be going on.
Nestled on the estate of an over 400 years old castle, just outside Brussels, Thermae Boetfort is a unique wellness resort. Dating back to 1581, the castle captures your attention from a distance, but the magic only begins once you pass through the fortified wall and step inside. The vast offer of baths, saunas and treatments available ensures there is something to do to easily fill out an entire day.
While in the summer you take a plunge in a cold bath after a sauna session, in the winter, all you have to do is step outside, maybe wander around the big garden for a little while. Alternating between the heat of the sauna and the cold of the plunge baths or, this time of the year, the outside, not only gets your body more easily used to the winter temperatures, but also improves blood flow and increases the production of white blood cells, strengthening the immune system.
With opening times from 10:30 am to 11 pm (and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays) and more than double the capacity of its sister in Grimbergen, Thermae Boetfort gives you more than 12 hours a day to make full use of all the facilities and extensive wellness treatments available. Each of the 2 sections, curia and moenia – the swimsuit and nude, respectively – not only has enough saunas, baths and jacuzzis to fit every taste, but aufguss, scrubbing or relaxation sessions are organised in both parts, to make sure nobody is left out. Or, to give migrators from one section to the other that much more to enjoy.
Curia comprises three saunas, both indoors and outdoors, a lakonium with FAR infrared light, a steam-bath, two custom-built jacuzzis, a heated outdoor swimming pool, a heated foot bath, two relaxation areas, a terrace and, my personal favourite, a colour therapy relaxation bath, burrowed in the former wine cellar of the castle. Going underground makes it quietest and most intimate place in the entire resort, but, if you’ve ever felt uneasy in an elevator, take your time going in, as the space is quite tight.
Moenia has all that and more. It has 5 more saunas than curia, one extra outdoor relaxation bath, a cold plunge pool and a Silence bar set in the former stables of the estate, in the attic of which sits a third relaxation area, where the singing bowls relaxation session takes place. While the name of the castle sauna might make you believe it is inside the castle, or at least that’s what I thought before getting there, the reality is much better. Set on the opposite side of the grounds than the castle, the sauna has a full glass wall, offering great views of the entire estate.
Each season, the team at Thermae creates specially curated packages and bundles, that include not only access to all the baths and sessions, bathrobe, towel and slippers, but also different treatments and massages, or even overnight stays in the rooms placed in the original annexes of the castle, for the ultimate wellness meets history weekend. The Heikki is the perfect pampering set up, including a full body scrub, followed by a hydrating lavender wrap complete with a relaxing face and head massage, leaving you with an entirely new, incredibly smooth skin.
I can think of no better way to end the week than with a gin tonic, in a hot tub, admiring a beautifully restored castle, adorned with golden lights and surrounded by sparkling Christmas trees, then rushing through the cold to the next sauna session to make sure you’re all warmed up before heading home. The winter bar, serving mulled wine, is also about to open, making the atmosphere that much more festive.