Belgian luxury: Discover wonderful, wonderful castle Boetfort

BELGIAN LUXURY Thermae Boetfort lagoon
Thermae Boetfort lagoon

In our latest Belgian luxury article Liz Newmark tested the revitalising Mother’s Day package with her daughter at the beautiful Thermae Boetfort.

It was something I’d promised for ages – a day out together at a spa. What I don’t think my 17-year-old daughter was expecting was that the special treat would begin at Weerde train station – the best option I found to get to Thermae Boetfort from Brussels without taking a bus. Still it was a perfect sunny day for cycling. We did not even get lost.

Thermae Boetfort is a wonderful place near Melsbroek, a unique wellness resort on a 400-year-old estate. The ancient picture postcard pretty castle, beautifully restored, houses a beauty institute open seven days a week for relaxing massages and wellness treatments. The restaurant, serving a range of delicious lunch, tea and dinner options, and in a mediaeval style setting, is on the ground floor.

As soon as you enter this calm, luxurious idyll you start to leave your stresses – and your mobile phones – behind. They are forbidden in the centre, although we did spot some rebels furtively using them by the luxurious heated outdoor pool. No need for bags either – everything is paid for by the bracelet you receive giving access to your lockers and the sauna and swimming areas.

BELGIAN LUXURY Thermae Boetfort castleJust one decision is needed before you put everyday life on hold – whether to choose the swimwear or nude area – with a high wall between the two. We opted for swimwear, although on the day we visited, the latter – which boasts a bigger pool – seemed more popular. Going naked also gives you the chance to dine outside – the lovely brasserie terrace overlooking the grounds is reserved for nude bathers.

We enjoyed the special ‘Mothers’ Day 2022’ package – ‘Revitalise’ – available until 15 May but if you have a voucher you can enjoy this option after the cut-off date. The very reasonable €150 for two deal gives unlimited access to the spa, use of a bathrobe, towels and slippers and the chance to take part in different scrubbing and relaxation sessions.

Icing on the wellness cake, you also experience two treatments. The first – a ‘Kasbah’ scrub in a beautiful tiled underground steam bath decorated with Roman gods – you do yourself. We were given an exquisite, lavender-rich cream with poppy seeds to slather on ourselves while letting the hot steam do its work on our pores. The time limit is 25 minutes – but you can leave when you like, and I doubt that staff would be beating down the door when your time is up either.

The highlight for me – I’ve never had a facial – was the 25-minute hydrating face massage. We lay down on luxurious, fluffy blankets on adjoining beds while experienced beauticians cleaned our skin with a purifying milk, a lotion and a peeling cream. And then, pure relaxation, we were treated to a massage with a hydrating gel mask. “If you come back more often you may look 25 years younger,” our beautician Lily said with a smile. A distant dream, but my skin did really glow. No need for my daughter to look younger, but she was very happy with her result too.

Thermae Boetfort bathThis was also a perfect opportunity to find out how Thermae Boetfort fares in comparison with other establishments and what clients appreciate the most. We were told, if you want a calm visit, go in the week. Easter is the quietest season. “But on bank holiday weekends, we get people queuing up way down the car park,” Lily told us, with visitors coming from miles around. A favourite treatment? This facial, I was not surprised to find out.

The sister establishment, nearby Thermae Grimbergen, opened a few years later, in 1995. Set in a stunning manor, and again rather remote as far as public transport is concerned, it also offers a Mother’s Day package. This swaps the Kasbah scrub and facial with a special 50-minute relaxing back massage and facial ‘a deux’ at €130 for two.

Both Thermes offer a range of massages. Take your pick from the traditional facial and head; foot and calf; back, shoulder and neck; or ‘body relax’. Or why not try the alternative ‘herbal cocooning’ thermal gel massage’, or a bamboo body massage with bamboo sticks. There are also the fascinatingly named ‘Lomi’ – a gentle rhythmic massage technique from Hawaii, a Detoxmassage with basil or a massage with Thai herbal stamps (Sabaaydi) .

For business manager Tine, the full body massage is the best: “It is the perfect way to forget about your stress. For 80 minutes you’re pampered from head to toe… The icing on the cake is the head and face massage, which makes you dream away completely.”

Marketing employee Jordy recommends the Hammam massage where your body is bathed in warm water. “It is 45 minutes of pure bliss… I could easily fall asleep during this treatment.”

Facial treatments too can include collagen masks, Pro Lifting Deluxe or a full 80-minute version with Vapozone steam treatment and an eyebrow wax.

Treatments aside, with ridiculously warm, 25 degree, March weather, we took full advantage of the swimming pool with its custom-built jacuzzis. If we could drag ourselves away from the water, or poolside terrace and deckchairs, we could choose from a wonderful colour therapy relaxation bath in the castle’s former wine cellar, a lakonium with far-infrared sauna therapy (‘far’ describes where the infrared waves fall on the light spectrum), indoor and outdoor saunas and a heated footbath. People daring to bare, benefit from no fewer than eight saunas and a cold plunge pool.

Offered free to any thermal bath visitor is an extensive programme of Aufguss (infusion) scrubbing and relaxation sessions hosted by dedicated ‘Aufguss’ or sauna masters. The Aufguss master pours water infused with essential oils on to the hot sauna stones, which raises the temperature and humidity. He or she then uses a towel to distribute the scented steam throughout the sauna. This promotes sweating, while the fragrance of the essential oils induces deep relaxation.

Scrubbing sessions are held in the steam baths. The Aufguss master gives you scrub salt, which you use to exfoliate your skin while the steam opens your pores. The master then distributes the steam through the room using a towel. The after-scrub relaxation is provided by ‘singing’ bowls and halotherapy.

If you do not feel like leaving spa heaven and want to experience more, you can treat yourself or special other to a range of ultra-comfortable, luxurious wellness and hotel packages including delicious breakfasts and optional treatments. Sadly, we had to get back on our bikes and go home to Brussels.

For more information:
Thermae Boetfort is open Sunday to Thursday 10.30am to 11pm and until midnight on Friday and Saturday. The private sauna can be booked from 9am. The centre is open all year round apart from Christmas Day. To see the dizzying array of sauna, massage, beauty, hotel or all-in wellness packages or to find out what the Thermes can offer your business or team, please contact 02 759 81 96.

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