There are some experiences that are so good that they stick in your memory like spilled honey. For us, the mega-spa Therme in Bucharest, Romania is a prime example. This “thermal wellness center” is the largest of its kind in all of Europe, and it truly is something you have to experience to believe. In fact, we constantly fantasize about returning to Bucharest just to experience Therme again!
What is Therme Bucharest?
So what exactly is this Therme place, and is it just a matter of scale? Designed by Germans and developed by Austrians, Therme opened its doors relatively recently – in 2016. This 37,000 square meter facility is technically located 20 kilometers north of Bucharest proper, but is easy to access with free shuttles from the city center. Staff maintains the indoor air temperature at 29°C and the water at 33°C, making it warm and comfortable no matter where you are. Geothermal heat from deep underground makes this all possible.
There are three main sections to Therme Bucharest, each of which has its own separate entry fee and locker room:
- Galaxy. The part with the water slides! Mainly for families and kids.
- The Palm. The largest section, with aromatherapy pools, swim-up bars, and an outdoor beach/lounge area. For ages 16+ only.
- Elysium. The most spa-centric area, for those who really want to pamper themselves. Ages 16+ only.
Therme really is something special; it’s not just a matter of scale. It is abundantly clear that the designers put a lot of thought and care into every square meter. Greenery and natural light permeate the whole facility, and fragrant aromas are even piped into some areas! Despite holding up to 4,000 people, you can still find private areas to relax in peace. And last but not least, there are some truly innovative spa features we’ve seen nowhere else in all our travels.
There is so much to Therme that one could write a book about it. But let’s go through one day from morning to night because, let’s be honest, you’re going to want to spend a full day here!
Arrival at Therme Bucharest
Therme opens at 9:30 on weekdays, and we recommend both getting there early and avoiding the weekend crowds if possible. If you’re staying in Bucharest, take the free shuttle from the Piața Romană bus stop. You can check the exact pickup time table and list of other stops here. Don’t worry about packing food – there are a variety of good restaurants and snack options on site. All you really need is a swimsuit, flip-flops, and towel (if you don’t want to pay to rent one there).
Once you get to the main lobby, you’ll have to pick a line based on what access you want to buy. The cheapest option is Galaxy only. The middle option is Palm + Galaxy. Most expensive (but best value) is Elysium, which includes access to all three areas. We highly recommend the Elysium all day package, at least if it’s your first time at Therme Bucharest. In fact, for the rest of the article we’re going to assume you pick that option.
After you pay your fee, you’ll receive a fancy wristband that lets you “scan into” the sections you paid for and tracks any extra purchases you make inside. It also locks and unlocks your locker, which is the final step before arriving at “tropical” paradise. Don’t forget to look over the event schedule and mentally mark anything that excites you as well. Certain activities only happen during small windows of time, so you’ll have to pay attention to the clock not to miss them.
Once you spill out into the Palm main pool area (#2 on the map), take a second to pull your jaw up from the floor. Take it all in! It’s a feast for the senses, and you’re in for an unforgettable day.
First things first, if you decided to bring anything besides yourself with you from the locker room, you’re going to need to find a place to put it. Personally, we don’t think this is necessary and only causes worry about losing your stuff, but we saw a lot of people do it anyway. Staff allow people to “claim” lounge chairs by dropping towels, clothing, books, or anything else on them. So you are incentivized to secure a juicy rest spot by claiming it early. However, we considered it pretty rude to do this unless you plan on actually resting there a large percentage of the time.
If you get there early and want to let your inner child loose, why not start by having your way with the Galaxy water slides? (#44 on the map) Seriously, we won’t judge you. The lines should be practically nonexistent early in the day because most kids are in school or at least haven’t been corralled by their parents yet. Besides, the water slides at Therme are fantastic!
After enjoying the water slides, explore the rest of the Galaxy area before the screaming kids get out of hand. This section actually has some nice spa features in addition to the “kids” stuff. Specifically, we recommend the wet saunas (#61 on the map). These have rejuvenating aromatherapy scents piped in, making a very pleasant experience. If you want, you can return to this area later for the infrared saunas (#59) or hydro-massage (#60).
If you get hungry or need a coffee after this, the Galaxy Restaurant(s) are nearby (#47 on the map). And of course, don’t forget to attend those special Elysium events if any piqued your interest.
The afternoon is the best time to get your relaxation on. Lucky for you, the options available at Therme Bucharest are endless. The “backyard” beach area (#14-27 on the map) makes a great hangout spot while the sun is shining. You can sunbathe in one of the may beach lounge chairs, chill in the “Island” hammocks (#18), and/or float in the Tropical Pool (#25).
A lot of the specialized Elysium sauna events take place in the afternoon as well (#28-34 on the map). We recommend attending as many of these as you can, as they are truly unique experiences. However, you may need a break in between sessions as the heat is really intense! It reaches another level because instructors “whip” towels around while giving their session. So you end up getting multiple blasts of extremely hot air that, while therapeutic, can be uncomfortable as well. Even if you can’t make it to each sauna room for the session, be sure to poke in to each one to see its creative theme.
Here we have to mention the Hollywood Sauna (#34) specifically, because you really do not want to miss at least one session here. Even though it sounds gimmicky, this session was our favorite part of the whole spa. You start in a hot, dark room and slowly the music builds and the movie screen lights up with evocative imagery. Then attendants add aromas and “towel-whip” the hot sauna air around. Such an intense experience for the senses: sight, sound, touch, and smell!
A great way to cool down from the saunas is to relax in the mineral pools in Elysium and The Palm. The Selenium Pool (#35 on the map) was our favorite, but the ones in The Palm (#3) were great too – albeit a little overcrowded.
Chances are you’ve worked up an appetite by now. We recommend heading up to the beautiful Elysium Terrace (#40 on the map) to enjoy a delicious dinner out in the fresh air (weather permitting). Restaurant á la carte offers made-to-order dishes that are a step above the more cafeteria-like Galaxy Restaurant.
The Palm area is really where you want to be once the sun goes down. Try to grab a coveted spot at the jacuzzi section (#5) of the main pool. The main pool in general makes for excellent people watching and the warm water is pleasant to wade through. Perhaps the best part of the main pool though is the swim-up bar (#4)! Dapper bartenders can whip up pretty much anything for you while you relax on a bar stool in 33°C water. All you have to do is flash your wristband!
You can also bring your drink with you as you seamlessly wade out from indoors to outdoors through the giant glass façade. The outdoor pool (#6 on the map) and crazy river (#7) make excellent hangout spots and places to socialize. If one were to come to Therme Bucharest on a weekend, this “night life” aspect might be the best reason to do so.
One last tip: don’t wait until last call to leave. The shuttles back to town get swamped when the huge group that waited until the end all leaves at the same time. You risk being stranded for an hour or more (cold, outside) at the tiny little bus stop with barely any bench space. Better to take the second-to-last bus at 22:00 and save yourself the stress. Believe us, we learned this the hard way.
If you have any doubt about whether or not it’s worth it for you, just take the virtual tour on their website (click the icon on the slide). Pictures speak louder than words! Prepare for your mind to be blown.