Spa, the origin of "spa"

13/02/2020

Despite being known internationally for the Francorchamps motor-racing circuit, the town of Spa is above all a cradle of balneology. In English and other languages, this practice has been given the generic term of "going to a spa".

If we go back to the writings of Pliny the Elder, the watering point was already well known during the time of the Romans for its healing effects. But it was not until the 14th century that an actual urban centre sprouted up around the springs of ferruginous water, the most famous of which is still called Pouhon Pierre-le-Grand to this day.

The town reached its peak during the 18th century. In 1717, a visit by Tsar Peter the Great made the springs in Spa famous all over Europe. After that, nobles from all over the continent came for a stay every summer, creating a unique atmosphere. Spa became one of Europe's definitive spa towns alongside other prestigious towns like Bath and Vichy. It is now a candidate to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Even though it still retains the charm of a bygone era, the town has since been considerably democratised. The current spa centre offers visitors a complex of pools containing water from the local Clémentine spring that is naturally heated to 33°C. Those taking the waters will be delighted by water jets, jacuzzis, saunas and Turkish baths. They will also be able to recharge in relaxation rooms filled with the scent of Alpine herbs or even just lie on lounge chairs below the warm glow of infrared lights.

The town of Spa itself is also not without its own attractions, of course, including renowned restaurants and entertainment throughout the year, thanks to the motor-racing circuit, the prestigious casino and various events hosted there, such as the famous Francofolies. For nature lovers, it is also an excellent starting point for hiking or cycling tours to discover more of the Belgian Ardennes.