Resting beside a small lake and encircled by the forest of the Normandie-Maine Regional Nature Park, the setting of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne commands relaxation. Not only is it privileged with a beautiful location, but the town is also home to the only thermal spa in northwestern France. Here’s everything you need to know if you want to add some indulgence to your visit to Normandy.
Bagnoles-de-l’Orne first gained notoriety during France’s illustrious Belle Époque in the early 19th century. Its picturesque lake-side setting and thermal waters, an emblem of opulence and luxury, attracted wealthy clientele who revelled in the idea of being surrounded by the healing properties of nature. Between 1886 and 1914, Bagnoles’ new affluent crowd began construction on a neighbourhood for the bourgeoisie and their opulent turn of the century villas continue to lend an air of elegance to the spa town today.
Come the 1920s, tourism flourished in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, giving rise to the development of new buildings that continue to anchor the town, including the Art Deco-style Casino du Lac and the palatial Résidence du Lac with its patterned facade.
While the ornate Belle Époque buildings and natural beauty add to the town’s charm, the thermal waters of Bagnoles-de-l’Orne are its biggest draw. The legend behind the healing properties of the thermal water in Bagnoles is said to trace back to the Middle Ages. The story goes that Lord Seigneur Hugues de Tessé left his faltering horse behind in the Andianes Forest that surrounds Bagnoles. To his surprise, his horse eventually returned home and was completely renewed. Unbothered by having been abandoned, the horse led his master to Bagnoles to drink the magic water. The Lord did so, and afterwards, he felt revitalised.
While most thermal water is found further south in France, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne is the only source in the country’s northwestern corner. It’s said that the hydrotherapy thermal baths in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne aid in muscle inflammation, arthritis, joint pain as well as treat skin issues and burns.
Even if you aren’t in need of healing any ailments, you can still treat yourself to some self-care with a stay at the B’O Resort. The resort serves as both a long-term treatment centre and a weekend retreat for pampering. Resort guests can reap the benefits of the thermal water when used topically in spa treatments, while the residents attending for chronic conditions heal over a three-week program.
For short-term stays, B’O offers rooms ranging from studios to suites in their newly-renovated B’O Cottage: a four-star property equally suitable for couples as it is for families. Other amenities include a large pool for adults and a supervised one for kids, a Turkish bath, an on-site restaurant and a free Kids Club so parents can truly unwind.
Make the most of your time in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne and discover the other sites the town bears. Its location in a regional park makes it an outdoor lover’s idyll with horseback riding, walking and hiking trails and mountain biking all on offer. Rent a paddleboat and cruise the waters of the town lake, a tributary of the La Vée river, or visit the superb arboretum at the former 18th-century castle turned town hall, la Roche Bagnoles.