World Heritage #1613 – Great spa towns of Europe

Last modified 10.02.2023 | Published 01.08.2022Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, North and Central Europe, Southern Europe, United Kingdom, World Heritage Sites

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Eleven great spa towns in seven countries across Europe are on the World Heritage List. They developed from natural mineral water springs.

The UNESCO World Heritage List includes over a thousand properties. They have outstanding universal value and are all part of the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

Official facts

  • Full name of site: The Great Spa Towns of Europe
  • Countries: Austria, Belgium, Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom
  • Date of Inscription: 2021
  • Category: Cultural

UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre’s short description of site no. 1613:

This transnational serial property comprises eleven spa towns, located in seven European countries: Baden bei Wien (Austria); Spa (Belgium); Františkovy Lázne; Karlovy Vary; Mariánské Lázne (Czechia); Vichy (France); Bad Ems; Baden-Baden; Bad Kissingen (Germany); Montecatini Terme (Italy); and City of Bath (United Kingdom). All of these towns developed around natural mineral water springs.

They bear witness to the international European spa culture that developed from the early 18th century to the 1930s, leading to the emergence of grand international resorts that impacted urban typology around ensembles of spa buildings such as baths, kurhaus and kursaal (buildings and rooms dedicated to therapy), pump rooms, drinking halls, colonnades and galleries designed to harness the natural mineral water resources and to allow their practical use for bathing and drinking.

Related facilities include gardens, assembly rooms, casinos, theatres, hotels and villas, as well as spa-specific support infrastructure. These ensembles are all integrated into an overall urban context that includes a carefully managed recreational and therapeutic environment in a picturesque landscape. Together, these sites embody the significant interchange of human values and developments in medicine, science and balneology.

My visit

I would have a long way to go if I wanted to visit all of these sites. In fact I have only been to one, in Bath (UK). On the other hand there are in my eyes more candidates to this inscription, perhaps most notable the natural mineral baths in Budapest, Hungary. I had a splendid experience there, so read about it.

Bath, the city, is actually already listed on the Heritage List, as no. 428. That inscription is partly because of the ancient Roman baths, but also due to its 19th century architecture.

Read about the City of Bath

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