Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit is one of the most historic on the F1 calendar, having first hosted a Grand Prix in 1924. It’s a notoriously long and difficult track, winding through the picturesque Ardennes countryside, making it a favorite for spectators and drivers alike. Beyond the revving engines, Spa is renowned for its natural springs and hydrotherapy facilities of which there are many, as well as its pretty provincial style houses on the riverbanks. Over the years, the town has evolved to cater to its affluent visitors who come for the calming natural beauty as much as the Formula 1 buzz, and is home to a number of luxurious hotels and superb restaurants.
Take a recommendation from Niki Lauda and check into the Radisson Blu Palace Hotel in the town center, located a convenient 15 minute drive from the racetrack. Rooms are bright, spacious and simply furnished, designed to promote relaxation and positivity, whilst the abundant breakfast buffet is the dining highlight. The hotel’s private funicular grants guests privileged access to the natural wellness centre, Les Thermes de Spa, famed for its indoor and outdoor thermal baths, panoramic saunas, Jacuzzis, aromatherapy areas, treatment rooms and aqua gym. Hostellerie le Roannay is another popular Grand Prix hotel for its beautiful countryside setting, proximity to the thermal baths, gourmet restaurant, expansive wine cellar and private helipad.
For ultimate grandeur, Manoir de Lebioles country estate and hotel has its own stunning spa facilities and one of the best restaurants in the area, headed by talented chef Olivier Tucki. The set menu ranges from 4 courses to an indulgent 7, including delights such as blue lobster and courgette flower infused with saffron. Whilst restaurant Le Grand Maur is another popular countryside spot, hosting seasonal dinners in a pretty villa (you can check into a comfortable rooms here too). Highlights from the summer menu included candied pigeon thighs, cooked in a red wine and dark chocolate reduction, accompanied by a wine tasting.
Those flying in purely for the racing thrills, tend to opt for Hotel De La Source that overlooks the circuit, with especially glorious views from the suites. Its contemporary and business-like in design with a sleek in-house wellness centre, restaurant and bar that fills with crowds in the evenings, giddy from a tense day of spectating.
On site at Spa Francorchamps, the paddock club offers its signature high-class hospitality above the pit garages with private viewing suites, indulgent dinning and an open champagne bar. Or else try the more intimate F1 Garden Party area that boasts its own private, covered grandstand (particularly welcome as the weather can be unpredictable) with breakfast and lunch hosted in the grounds of the circuit’s Villa de la Source.
Whilst Spa might not host all night extravaganzas a la Monaco, the town is the proud home of the world’s first casino, built in 1763. Here you can play at one of the two beautiful antique roulette tables or try your hand at poker or blackjack whilst La Brasserie du Casino’s large terrace provides panoramic views of the twinkling city at night. Real partygoers head further afield to the province’s capital, Liege (approximately an hour’s drive from the circuit) for its selection of trendy night spots, such as Soundstation, a club housed in a former train station that hosts live jazz, rock, blues and more electronic beats. On a longer trip, the city’s food market, La Batte (the oldest and largest in Belgium) is worth wandering through for the delicious aromas alone. Here you can buy fruits, cheeses, meats and try the famous local delicacy Boulets à la Liégeoise, ‘meatballs with fries’. There’s some wonderful museums too such as the splendid Grand Curtius, located in a large renovated 17th century mansion, that presents a broad sweep of art exhibitions from prehistoric stone chippings to art-nouveau sculptures.
Similarly, the waterfall in the village of Coo makes a perfect day trip. The leisure park at the foot of the waterfall’s 15metre drop offers activities such as go karting, kayaking and mini-golf, and there’s a chairlift that takes visitors high above the village for breath-taking views over the Ambleve valley. Or end your Grand Prix experience with a few days in the bustling Belgian capital, Brussels where you can easily hop on a flight to the next glamorous destination.