What exactly is a Balneari?

One of the most exciting things I discovered after moving to Catalunya was that there are lots of places where  hot mineral water springs directly from the earth.  A spa built around this spring source  is called a Balneari.

This natural mineral healing water is sometimes as hot as 74 degrees centigrade and the mineral composition varies from place to place.

alt="Balneari Titus"
The waters are warm and inviting

The Romans made good use of the local mineral waters and I am sure the Arabs did too but I believe that so long as there have been humans living in the area, they would have been enjoying the healing and relaxing properties of the water.

I imagine it goes back to the beginning of civilisation.

Early on I decided to visit as many mineral spas as possible and to write about the experience here on The Catalan Way.  I  have a dream of writing a guide to the Hot Springs of Catalunya which would mean I have to do a tour every year to review each and every one.  Bliss!

I haven’t managed to visit them all yet even once, but slowly and surely I am working my way through a list of about 21.  Some of them are not yet developed and can be found in wild and wonderful places.

Last weekend I went with my friend Cristina to try out Balneari Titus which is halfway between Arenys de Mar and Caldetes on the Mediterranean coast

alt="balneari Titus"

Practicalities first

You can get there by train from Barcelona on the coastal route to Sant Pol. Get off at Caldes d’Estrac and walk to the Balneari. It takes about 20 minutes.

If you drive you can see the entrance easily from the NII. Coming from Barcelona go through Caldes D’Estrac and when you see a little mountain on your left there is a roundabout and the lane to the balneari is sign-posted. There is plenty of free parking.

We booked for a basic circuit of the waters plus a session in the steam room(hammam)

The basic circuit costs 20 euros and we paid 10 euros extra for the hammam.

Things to take with you

Bathing hat, bathing costume, towel, wrap, flip-flops and toiletries, bottle of water.

Some places provide towels and wraps, Some require hats. Some offer free water. These are the sort of things I notice and will include in every balneari review.

What happens in a balneari?


They are all different which is one of the pleasures of trying out new ones.

In general you will be going around a series of pools and special showers with water jets and letting the healing properties of the water do its magic on your body and spirit.

It is important to know, and I wasn’t sure of this at first,  is that although many people visit balnearis because they have been sent by their doctor for treatments, they are also just places to relax and to restore your vital energy through the healing qualities of the water. You bathe your body, the waters cleanse and nourish your soul.

Balneari Titus


Titus is a small balneari close to the sea only about 30 km from Barcelona. There don’t have a large  choice  in terms of pools and showers but it was a pleasant surprise.

In the main room there is a smallish pool, a jacuzzi and a corridor of little water sprays that blast you with cold mineral water as you walk along a path of pebbles.

The steam room was separate and as we walked there we passed several interesting rooms for doing steam inhalations  and massages and individual bathes.  Look at the web site and you will see there are many extras you can try, but we didn’t.

I like to be free when I am in a spa and they do vary in this respect. Sometimes you are at the mercy of a system which guides you from one thing to another.  I like to be shown around at the beginning and then left to my own devices. Titus came out somewhere in the middle here – we were left alone to enjoy the pool and jacuzzi but we were also told when to visit the hammam and how long to stay there.

We were incredibly lucky as there was no-one else using the balneari at all. We had the pool totally to ourselves.   When we were taken to the hammam I was disappointed that we were only given 10 minutes to relax there.   The steam room itself was clean and pleasant with a shower inside.

We were also told when to use the jacuzzi and the staff member put it on for us. I have no idea how long we were in there, it felt like half an hour but must have been less. This was almost the best part of the whole visit. The water didn’t smell of chlorine as some jacuzzis do. It was comfortable and the sprays were neither too strong nor too weak. We both entered a dream world and started singing mantras and dancing under the water. I am not a jacuzzi fan normally but this one was lovely.

Then we were able to return to the main pool and spend time there doing water massage and floating and relaxing.   Someone popped their head in to tell us our time was up but it didn’t feel pushy or intrusive.  We had been there just over one and a half hours in total.

The water at Titus is high in sodium chlorides and bicarbonates. I only judge water by how it makes me feel and what effect it has on my skin.  On both counts I would say this water is excellent. I felt relaxed but not drained, my skin and hair were soft and still are three days later.  The previous week I had been in bed with a bad cold and the spa helped me make a full recovery.


To sum up


-Compared to other balnearis Titus is expensive. 30 euros was a lot for a small installation which doesn’t provide towels or wraps or anything free to drink. The time in the Hamman was far too short and 10 euros was too much to pay for this extra.

-There is only one shower for women to use at the end.  As we were alone this wasn’t a big problem but if there had been even just two more people it would have been annoying.

-There was no free water available although there was a vending machine. It is important to drink when in a balneari so I thought this was a bit mean.


-The staff were quiet, helpful and friendly. I hadn’t taken a wrap as I assumed they would provide one but when I asked they gave me a dressing gown for no extra charge.

-They are open all year round apart from the first two weeks of January

-The water has a soft gentle cleansing quality and the temperature is perfect. It emerges from the nearby hill at 39 degrees centigrade.

-The pool room is small but well designed and there is a window with a sea view.  When the outdoor pool is open you can walk there from this room through the garden.

-The jacuzzi was fabulous.

Would I go again?

Yes I probably would if I wanted somewhere close to home and if I thought it would be quiet again. The price is a bit high for what is offered so I won’t rush back  but I would be happy to visit again one day.

If you want to read about a past visit to one of my favourite balnearis go here

I am hoping to visit at least two more balnearis in the next month and will let you know what they are like and how they compare to Titus. If you don’t want to miss my reviews of the hot spring spas then do join my email list on the top right of this page to get the posts as soon as I write them!  







Virtual Vermut

It’s Friday and time to wind down and relax.
Which is what we did. We went to La Garriga to the Balneari for a few hours of swimming and floating and steaming and cleaning. We had invited a friend from Barcelona to come as a birthday present and it was even more special as we had the place to ourselves almost all the time

We were there over two hours and it cost about 30 euros each.
It was my second visit there and next time I must try the other one – Termes de La Garriga. Then there is the Victoria in Caldes,  several in Santa Coloma de Farners and the special one in Puigcerda. If I am ever to write the English guide to Catalan balnearis (mineral bathes) I better start exploring.
If we sat together for a vermut today I would probably show you my photos of the wall near our house
I love the colour of this door. The notice is about the Grua which is the lorry that comes and tows away your car if it is parked in the wrong place. Here they are taking a coffee break near the Toy bar.

It’s easy to be in the wrong place as almost every second door is an entrance to a garage and you can’t park or even stop there. It makes Granollers a nightmare for parking

Also I always hesitate before saying ‘I am sorry’ as the words are too close for my liking. An apology is Em Sap Greu Greu and Grua – not so different.  The literal meaning of Grua is a crane. Then there is the word Gual as seen above. What on earth does that mean?

I have been in a cooking phase this week. Is it something to do with the absence of resident adolescent?  It is heart sinking to cook when he is around as he won’t eat anything that isn’t simple meat, pasta, pizza or chips. Somehow it takes the fun out of it. And he hates anything spicy.
So this week I have made
1/ Nut and Vegetable rissoles
2/ Rice Pudding
3/ Mexican Tortillas
4/ Baked salmon with potatoes dauphinoise
5/ Fideua`

This last you do in a paella pan – the sort with little holes in them

I hadn’t made this dish before and it is typically made with seafood and a fish stock. I was experimenting with a vegetarian version and it worked better than expected, especially nice with a little alioli on the side.  And a glass or three of cava.
And now as I am trying to watch Pa Negre on the TV why not drop by Bodhi Chicklet and see if she has dug out her bottle of vermut.  I need to concentrate to understand a film totally in Catalan. It was put forward for the Oscars this week as Spains foreign language film and almost got nominated. Imagine that – and it’s not in Spanish!

Thermal Baths

I first heard about mineral bathes when I read Shirley MacLaine’s book Don’t Fall off the Mountain where she describes amazing experiences in the Peruvian Andes. Later I went travelling there and after walking the Inca Way to Machu Picchu our group was taken to a beautiful place called Aguas Calientes which I still dream about. It was a small outdoor pool with very basic changing facilities and a little bar selling beer. We went at night and bathed our walk weary bodies in the hot mineral waters while gazing up at the stars and mountain peaks all around us. It has become one of the places I travel to in my mind when I want to feel at peace.

Since then I have always felt drawn to places with natural hot springs. I felt very excited when I discovered that Catalunya has many towns and villages with balnearis – some are more basic and some are pure luxury. I wrote before about the Safareig in Caldes de Montbui and also about our visit to the Bains St Thomas in Catalunya Nord.

The idea of going to laze around in hot bathes on a regular basis could seem a bit self indulgent so I decided the best idea is to write about them, thus bringing in the justification of ‘work’ to my cunning plan to visit them all!

This week we went to La Garriga to see what happens in the Gran Hotel Balneario Blancafort.  It is a huge complex – a very up market hotel with the thermal mineral spa inside, gardens dotted with sculptures, a large indoor carpark and apartments for holiday rental. We rolled up in a tiny Peugot, carrying backpacks and looking not at all like the sort of people who would actually stay here. But everything from the first moment at reception was perfect and welcoming. You can have a two hour stay in the spa for 38euros and after showing us around they left us to relax in peace and do things in our own time. There are several large swimming pools, some with different temperatures, some with water jets for muscle massage. Saunas and hot humid rooms, showers with special sprays pointing at different parts of your body. A semicircular walkway where round pebbles massage your feet while hot jets of sulphur water pummel your legs. Places to relax – if you only had time!  And hot herbal drinks always available so you don’t dehydrate.

You can’t take photos inside the bathes so to see how it looks you need to take a look at the web site. The decoration was beautiful – whites, blues and greens, carefully placed plants and stones and interesting paintings and sculptures all around. There was no sense of rush or being monitored – if you needed help someone was there but for most of the time you were left to relax and enjoy.

Bains de St Thomas


We went in the van to Catalunya Nord last week so called as it is widely seen as being a part of Catalunya although officially it is on the French side of the Pyrenees. Past clamp downs on the language mean that only the old and the young now speak Catalan there but it is now taught in schools. The highlight – for me – was our afternoon in the hot sulphur bathes of St Thomas. Being a great fan of indulgent lazing about I always head for these places if they are available and luckily for me there are lots of centres – Balnearis – to try out. Some are closer to home and I will write about them as I gradually work my way around them!Set in the mountains it is the perfect way to relax after a long walk up one of the highest mountains in the region – Canigó.