Great Spas of Europe (Italy)

Date of Submission: 01/07/2014
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Italy to UNESCO
Ref.: 5928
Word File Word File

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The serial transnational property the Great Spas of Europe is a selected group of spa towns that is testimony to places for healing pain and disease with mineral waters generally before industrial medication developed in the Nineteenth Century. The series comprises historic European spa towns where the integrity and authenticity of the component parts of the series are evident in their urban form and component spa buildings. 

The therapeutic role of the towns developed from early thermae and through the Middle Ages. The peak period for the towns followed the eighteenth Enlightenment and the development of medicine and leisure in the nineteenth century. As a group they represent distinguished spa towns and recognised as such from the eighteenth century to the 1920s.

The towns are complete with similar spa features and significant architectural ensembles including special spa buildings: spa houses, colonnades, churches, theatres, casino houses, dedicated hotels and boarding houses. Each of the spa towns have the potential to demonstrate they make a substantial contribution to the outstanding universal value of the serial property.

The individual component parts of the series demonstrate attributes of European spas providing medical treatments through applying mineral and thermal water including drinking cures, bathing, irrigations, hydrotherapy and mud treatments. The towns are testimony to the development of medicine. The combination of the fabric of the towns with parks and green spaces and surrounding landscape is very important. Many treatments centred on taking exercise in the surrounding landscape area so that the close relationship of the fabric of the spa town to its surroundings presents a therapeutic landscape.

The principal towns grew into fashionable centres until 1914 and are a remarkable cultural and social phenomenon that made a contribution to European Culture and society for over two and half thousand years. Individual component parts of the serial property are towns which developed around mineral springs but these towns influenced other kinds of spas, such as seaside or climatic resorts and where the European tradition became established spas throughout the world.

The Great Spas of Europe demonstrate all aspects of spa medicine and reflect an international character of the development of medicine. The serial property is a geographical, historic and cultural group which represents spa activity, cultural exchange and contributed to cultural development throughout Europe.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

Currently 4 Czech component parts, 6 German component parts, 2 Austrian component parts, 1 Italian component part, 1 Belgian component part and 1 French component part are evaluated due to their contribution to the whole nomination including:

CZE-KA-01           Karlovy Vary                                       N 50°13´20"         E 12°53´06"

CZE-KA-02           Mariánské Lázně                              N 49°58´40"         E 12°42´13"

CZE-KA-03           Františkovy Lázně                            N 50°07´11"         E 12°21´06"

CZE-ZL-01            Luhačovice                                          N 49°06´37"         E 17°45´48"

DEU-BW-01        Baden-Baden                                    N 48°45´43"         E 08°14´27"

DEU-BY-01          Bad Kissingen                                    N 50°11´55"         E 10°04´33"

DEU-RP-01          Bad Ems                                               N 50°20´3"           E 07°43´9"

DEU-HE-01          Bad Homburg vor der Höhe         N 50°13´44"         E 08°37´39"

DEU-HE-02          Wiesbaden                                        N 50°05´05"         E 08°14´51"

DEU-NI-01           Bad Pyrmont                                      N 51°59´00"         E 09°16´00"

AUT-N-01            Baden bei Wien                                N 48°0´35"           E 16°14´11"

AUT-O-01            Bad Ischl                                              N 47°42´41"         E 13°37´22"

ITA-PT-01            Montecatini Terme                         N 43°53´4"           E 10°46´28"

BEL-WAL-01        Spa                                                         N 50°29´36"         E 05°52´00"

FRA-C-01             Vichy                                                     N 46°07´25"         E 03°25´13"

GBR-BAS-01       The City of Bath Spa                        N 51°22´53"         W 02°21´31"

Description of the component part(s)

The spa infrastructure clearly demonstrates a source of innovation on an international scale. Changing medical advice determined the management and promotion of the spa towns. They grew and were adjusted regularly to respond to developments in medical science by introducing specialised treatment rooms, new buildings and other features. Accordingly defining authenticity of these towns and spa buildings reflects a dynamic concept.

The large spa towns with authentically preserved urban structure of spa ensembles are concerned. One of the characteristic aspects of the spa towns is a division into functionally different suburbs, a spa suburb with majestic balneotherapeutic facilities, housing suburbs, and nearby suburban areas (springing up when linked by rail). A typical feature of the spa towns in the series is a fusion of the built-in part of the town with parks and greenery and a close link to the surrounding landscape. The spa towns enjoy a special relationship between their urban fabric and surrounding landscape. This landscape setting was promoted and managed as an essential part of the ’spa offer’ and contributed to the cure. Accordingly, there are complex cultural values associated with landscape in and around spa towns. The landscape setting of the spas was an essential part of the prescribed spa cure and so the area surrounding the spa town with the spa buildings is held to be a “Therapeutic Landscape”. There the spa life entered thanks to the promenades for activities and social gatherings of spa guests in an aesthetically extraordinary ambience. This initiated the construction of various small architectural objects to increase the quality of trips and experience. These have been preserved to the present. The landscape herewith merged naturally with the picture of the town.

Internationally significant spa towns were a progressive element in urban planning where the functions of a town based on European standards were integrated harmoniously into the landscape. They are interesting settlements with metropolitan, innovative at that time infrastructure but with their own population by some degree smaller. The typologically rich and unusual offer turned spa towns into competitors to the metropolis and capitals of those days and at the same time it made them popular seaside and climatic resorts. Spa facilities and housing complexes were built by local contractors, foreign benefactors with foreign designers. As a result, the ambience of the spa towns intensified in their cosmopolitan character.


Karlovy Vary

Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad) is the biggest spa town in the Czech Republic with a high concentration of thermal springs outlets. The concentration of architectural wealth makes it the largest spa complex in Europe. Karlovy Vary represents a spa town founded in the Middle Ages (and bearing the name of Roman Emperor Charles IV) and a spa town where the spa functions and activities connected with mineral springs dominated during its further development. The spa area spreads in a picturesque deep valley of the Teplá River, embraced by the forested hills. The town picture is highlighted by a generous construction dating to the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century in the styles of Historicism and Art Nouveau. Without any doubt, the world renowned design studio of F. Fellner & H. Helmer from Vienna was of the greatest importance for the architecture of Karlovy Vary. Apart from concentrated compact spa housing in the valley, the town is characterized by noble villa districts on the slopes of the valley and in the further suburbs. The complex is complemented with parks and forest parks with a number of outstanding solitary objects (outlook towers, summerhouses etc.) and a network of trails for trips. Karlovy Vary is a typical spa town of cosmopolitan character when speaking of style and atmosphere. The spa clientele was composed of European heads-of-states and royal families, noblemen (statesmen and politicians, famous writers, music composers and scientists. The international significance of the town is reflected in churches of several faiths.  Within the series Karlovy Vary represents a great spa town of the valley type which is clearly separated from its business and administration centre on the confluence of the Teplá and the Ohře Rivers and whose spa area is instantly linked with surrounding landscape. Thanks to the degree of preservation of its urban structure and architecture, the town, as a whole, belongs to exceptionally intact and valuable sites. The same is true when the town's link to the surrounding landscape is concerned.

Mariánské Lázně

Mariánské Lázně (Marienbad) ranks among one of the most spacious spa towns in Europe. The town was founded in the period of Classicism at the beginning of the 19th century. Its authors turned the surrounding unpleasant swampy valley into a charming town of parks with Classicist and Empire houses, gloriettes, pavilions and colonnades. The core of the spa town is a central park with the Spa Colonnade in the wider part of the forested valley. Spa and living buildings encircle this central park as a ring, they rise to the hills and can also be found down in the valley. Classicist spa buildings (pavilions over the springs and part of the houses) dominate the architectural concept of the town. Spa architecture, houses and villas dating back to the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century prevail. They represent a variety of architectural styles ranging from Historicism to Art Nouveau. Well preserved treatment houses and hotels as well as various structures above the springs and colonnades are the town’s most characteristic structures. The international significance of the town is reflected in various churches. The character of spa buildings classifies the town as part of the European cosmopolitan spa towns. Thanks to the degree of preservation of its urban structure and architecture, the town, as a whole, belongs to exceptionally intact and valuable sites. The same is true when the town's link to the surrounding landscape is concerned.

Františkovy Lázně

Františkovy Lázně (Franzensbad) is thanks to its size and significance as well as quality of preserved buildings one of the most significant spa towns in Europe. The spa town was founded in 1793 in the proximity of great number of acidulous springs and it was called after and in honour of Emperor Franz II of Austria. Local healing springs had been known in the Middle Ages. Although the spa town was established similarly like Mariánské Lázně in the Classicist period, Františkovy Lázně represents a different concept of an urban composition. The spa town centre, founded on a square ground plan with a parallel network of streets, is characterized by a high concentration of Classicist, Empire and Historicism houses of an exceptionally artistic and complex impression. Since its foundation the town was built purposefully and homogenously. A set of spa buildings is surrounded by a large park in which individual, mainly Classicist spa objects above springs are situated, with a high architectural quality. Along the park circumference there is a ring-shaped younger part of the town, which is composed of spa houses in the styles of Historicism but also of an orthodox and an evangelic church, all of high quality architecture. The complex comprises all typological kinds which a spa centre of European significance needed –hotels and boarding houses, pavilions over the springs, a colonnade, large spa facilities, a church, a theatre, small constructions and sculpture elements. Thanks to the degree of preservation of its urban structure and architecture, the town, as a whole, belongs to exceptionally intact and valuable sites.


Luhačovice is an architectural unique and remarkable set of buildings which gave foundations to the newly established spa town at the end of the 19th and in the first third of the 20th century. Local spa buildings are an example of modern spa architecture of the beginning of the 20th century inspired by the English house and vernacular architecture. The first spa houses were built here after 1792 and in 1809 there were already some prepared walking trails. During the 19th century the number of spa houses was increasing and the spa district was being enlarged, including houses and their premises and surrounding landscape. The main pre-requisite of a entire spa area which has been preserved until now was a foundation of a public limited company in 1902, which bought the whole district. Architect Dušan Jurkovič, whose involvement has been dominating in the spa picture to the present, carried out the main modification works of the premises. A unique and rare set of spa houses prevailingly dating to the first third of the 20th century was built. They are located freely in the large central spa park that forms the spa core and represents an urban and architectural intactly preserved complex. In Luhačovice, spa houses, boarding houses and villas in the direct neighbourhood of the central spa district were springing up in the still intactly preserved suburbs. Thanks to extraordinary quality of the local mineral springs, natural conditions and long-time tradition of successful treatment, Luhačovice is a spa town one and only in history and practice of balneology itself. Unparalleled appearance of the dominating buildings is based on motifs of regional vernacular architecture which are applied side by side inspiration in cosmopolitan spa centres. Hereby Luhačovice significantly add to the picture of expression diversity of the contemporary architecture for identical curative and social functions of the Great Spas of Europe.



Baden Baden, situated on the western outskirts of the Black Forest, is without any doubt one of the most important spa centre in Europe, whose name is a symbolic bearer of the subject matter of the series. Bathing in Baden-Baden is a tradition dating back to Roman Antiquity. It was founded in 80 A.D. by the Romans in the place of a former Celtic settlement and named Civitas Aurelia Aquaensis. An interlude (lasting from the 12th century) as the residential city of Baden having ended in the late 17th century, the city was systematically redeveloped as a modern spa town from the earliest years of the 19th century onwards. Located in the valley of the river Oos, the town extends to the slopes of the surrounding landscape. The urban structure consisting of all layers of urban development is preserved in unique diversity and density. The town is composed of several areas of specific types of buildings and ensembles which represent an internationally known and frequented spa in the 19th century as an almost ideal type of the phenomenon: At first, the bath district incorporates the twelve thermal springs, the roman bath ruins, a rare example of a baroque bath inside the New Castle, an finally the “Friedrichsbad” (1877) demonstrating innovative balneology by the end of the 19th century. Secondly, there is the well preserved spa district consisting of the earliest preserved European example of a “Kurhaus” in its centre. The building dates back to 1821 and was built by Friedrich Winbrenner, one of the most significant representatives of early classicism in Germany. Its interior comprises four rare examples of fine ball rooms decorated in the baroque styles of Louis XIII. to Louis XVI. for the French casino tenant Bénazet in 1855. Besides the "Trinkhalle" (1839-42) by Heinrich Hübsch and the Theatre (1860-62), designed by French architects, there still exists a historic chestnut-lined alley, planned in 1765/66 as a link from the old town to the than planned spa district in the wider landscape. Among further representative areas of a great spa town are several villa districts with sacral buildings of different religious denominations (e.g. Russian Church, 1881/82, English Church, 1864-67) built by foreign guests, who frequently settled down here. An exceptional building is the Sturdza Chapel, built in 1863-66 for Mihail Sturdza, Prince of Moldavia, after designs by Leo von Klenze. There are also a wide number of great historic hotels (e.g. Badischer Hof, 1807 by Weinbrenner which is known as the first Grand Hotel in Germany) as well as parks and green spaces. The ideas of Enlightment are reflected in numerous tangible and intangible relicts. The Lichtentaler Allee was designed as an English landscape garden inviting to informal get-together and social mixing of guests. Internationally renowned artists, composers (i.a. Hector Berlioz, Jacques Offenbach) and writers (e.g. Ivan Turgenev, Fyodor Dostoyevsky) had a further impact on Baden-Baden's particular atmosphere of the then called "capitale d'été". The town functioned accordingly as a place for the so called “diplomatie thermale” on several occasions  – for instance in 1860 when ten German princes met Napoleon III, or the meeting of the three emperors in 1872: Wilhelm I, Franz Joseph I and the Tsar Alexander II. Notably the Kurhaus with its famous casino played a key role as an international meeting point even across classes. Due to its publicity under the tenant family Bénazet the casino became the focal point of the spa in the course of the 19th century. As it is well preserved and still operating it helps to put Baden-Baden as a unique representative of the so called “Spielbäder” of the mid 19th century.

Bad Kissingen

Bad Kissingen is situated on banks of the Fränkische Saale, a river whose name makes reference to salty water. Documented evidence of salt production at the site dates back to the year 823. Health spas using mineral spring water were first established in the Early Modern period, then reached an initial high point in the Baroque. After 1815, the Bavarian State invested heavily in the spa district, causing an enormous economic upswing in the town of Bad Kissingen. The royal court architect Friedrich von Gärtner built the “Kursaal”, followed by the novel cast iron pavilion over the two important springs of “Rakoczi” and “Pandur”. For the spa's drinking regimen he constructed arcades and a depot for storing jars of the widely-known “Kissingen” mineral water. The boom in the spa industry which followed led to the construction of several bathing establishments, beginning with the “Salinenbad” in 1842, then the “Kurhausbad” and the “Luitpoldbad”. The foundation of the German Empire and the establishment of a link to the railway system in 1871 gave the spa town another significant boost, one that manifested itself in urban expansion and the construction of elegant residential areas. Bad Kissingen became the informal diplomatic arena, a place where decisions of global significance were made. Ecclesiastical buildings of different denominations, among them a Russian Orthodox church, bear witness to intercultural exchange. The town also developed into a meeting place for artists and writers New and highly representative spa buildings were commissioned, e.g. spa theatre, Wandelhalle (covered) walk with an integrated pump room, Regent's House (all by Max Littmann). From the nucleus of the very early Baroque spa garden, a dense fabric of garden and parkland developed around the spa area, with the landscape gardens of the “Kurpark”, the “Altenberg” and the “Luitpoldpark”, and finally the formal “Rosengarten”. Beginning in the early 19th century, the spa town gradually spread out over the surrounding landscape, eventually coming to include promenades along the river and footpaths into the woods leading to popular restaurant destinations, to noteworthy natural sites and to scenic lookout points. By the beginning of the 20th century, all of the elements typical of a great European spa had been established. The heart of the spa area is now surrounded by gardens and villa districts whose borders show a fluent transition into the cultural landscape of the spa. All of these structures and buildings of the "Long 19th Century" are used in their original purpose and well-preserved.

Bad Ems

Thermal springs and a picturesque natural setting assured to this site, known by the Romans and placed on the Upper German-Raetian Limes, have a high profile throughout history. Bad Ems is characterized by its early heyday and socio-political, historical significance, but in particular and preserved to this day, by its consistent urban closeness, its integrity of classical spa structures and its visually undisturbed embedment into the surrounding landscape. The rise of Bad Ems to a prosperous spa town can be seen in individual, well preserved buildings from the end of the 17th century. At that time, after the end of the Thirty Years’ War, the spa industry experienced a substantial boom. The most notable buildings dating from this period are the Kurhaus, the two grand guest houses “Mainzer Haus” and “Zu den vier Türmen”, as well as the Kapelle Maria Königin, a catholic chapel located in an otherwise protestant area. Most of all, however, the town is dominated by a number of buildings dating back to the 19th century when Bad Ems was one of the most significant spas in Germany. The most striking of these is an ensemble of buildings stretching out along the banks of the river Lahn. In Römerstraße, running parallel to the right bank, a number of buildings have survived from the times of the Duchy of Nassau, including the prominent Kursaalgebäude and Kurmittelhaus. The present-day townscape of Bad Ems is characterized by the grand villas located in Wilhelmsallee and the promenade on the left bank of the river such as Schloss Balmoral and Villa Monrepos. The structures that have survived until this day include not only the actual spa buildings, but also other facilities that had been of great importance to the spa industry, for example, the Malbergbahn funicular, a typical 19th century facility for leisure and recreation, or the historic Bohrturm, a drilling rig for pumping spring water built in 1939. Through the centuries, the romantic site, embedded into a harmonic bend of the river Lahn, seduced scores of artists, hosted kings or tsars regularly and served as scenery for the famous Emser Depesche sparking the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. The 19th century has reinforced the picturesque charisma by reconstructing towers of the Limes and thereby further places of destination as the still existing promenades criss-cross the environs most obviously.

Bad Homburg vor der Höhe

Since the middle of the 19th century Bad Homburg, together with Baden-Baden and Wiesbaden, has made up the “great Trias of the Rhenian spa-towns” (Th. Fontane) and they were ranked among the most sought-after spa towns in Europe. In the 17th century, Homburg had become part of the principality of Hesse-Homburg and enjoyed its first cultural prominence during the later years of the Enlightenment. The princes laid out a garden landscape (Landgräfliche Gartenlandschaft along a poplar-lined avenue (Tannenwaldallee), and this headed towards the Upper Germanic Limes on the ridge of the Taunus Mountains. The rediscovery of the mineral springs during the first half of the 19th century turned the residential town into a fashionable resort with international sports clubs, a casino of 1841 and a theatre and these attracted a large international clientele. This is reflected today in buildings such as the English Church, the Russian Church, the Russian presbytery and the Sala Thai, which was a gift of King Chulalongkorn. Homburg became a trend setter in fashion (Homburg hat) and sports, especially in tennis (from 1874) and golf. Edward Prince of Wales was one of the initiators of the installation of the golf court in 1889. Later, it was in Homburg where the red clay surface for tennis courts was developed. From 1840, a new and meticulously planned spa district took shape between the valley of the springs and the Baroque town. Its main spa promenade forms the connection between the spa district and the spa garden. The whole new quarter was built with Neo-Classicist villas and has survived as a harmonious ensemble. All the major spa facilities and buildings including courts for the above-named sports are integrated in the park, along with the fountain structures, the whey house, the Kaiser-Wilhelms-Bad, the colonnade of the Orangery and the Madeira House. The Landgräfliche Gartenlandschaft together with the Hardtwald hill and the unique spa park (of 44 ha) designed by P. J. Lenné were formed into a “therapeutic landscape”. Within the series of great European spas Homburg represents an excellent example of a small, but distinguished international spa town integrated in a large and well preserved very special historical “therapeutic landscape” connected to World Heritage Site at the rebuilt Roman fort “Saalburg”.


The thermal springs rising at the foot of the Taunus hills are among the hottest, and most abundant, in Europe. They were the starting point in the history of the city of Wiesbaden. Even in pre-Roman times they were known for their medicinal properties; the first thermal baths were built in the city’s Provincial Roman era, in the vicinity of today’s Kochbrunnenplatz. Today the site is occupied by the Kochbrunnen pavilion and by parts of the former pump room that have replaced earlier structures in the same place. From the early 19th century onwards, Wiesbaden experienced an unparalleled and breath-taking development, building on an unbroken spa tradition going back at least to the Middle Ages. The spa town was systematically transformed into a glamorous, fashionable and ultimately world-famous resort. The outlines of the streets forming the Historical Pentagon which even today determines the city’s layout had been established in connection with the building of the Kurhaus just outside the old city centre, a building that was to define the architectural type for the entire 19th century. Subsequent town planning divided the urban space into areas with specific functions. Even today the city’s social structure can still be seen manifested in the built-up areas. The still-dominant streets and open squares took shape, the remarkable buildings reflecting every architectural phase of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the spacious public parks; consequently, and in contrast to most other spas, the bathing cure took place in private bathhouses and spa hotels. Surrounding the spring area on Kochbrunnenplatz were the Grandhotel Rose, the Palast-Hotel, and the Hotel Schwarzer Bock with its surviving historic bathing facilities. It was only from 1913 that a public baths and central spa came to existence: the Kaiser-Friedrich-Bad. The generously laid out new spa district just outside the old town centre, created specifically for an international spa clientele, still constitutes an architectural ensemble of outstanding quality even today. It includes the Neues Kurhaus, the colonnades flanking the Bowling Green, and the theatre with the lobby as a later addition. At Wiesbaden, the outstanding example was the building of the “Casino-Gesellschaft” on Friedrichstraße, with its magnificent stairs and lavishly decorated main hall. Among the public parks, the most valuable examples of garden art are the Kurpark, expanded along Promenadenweg all the way to the ruin of Sonnenberg Castle; the Bowling Green; the park of Warmer Damm with the nearby English Church; and the Nerotalanlage. They still contribute significantly to the character of Wiesbaden as a green spa city. The further extension of the picturesque landscape park in the upper Nerotal valley and on Neroberg hill with its belvedere temple includes also the Russian Church. Both the church and its cemetery testify to the spa town’s international standing. The building type of the mansion, or villa, as a significant architectural feature of fashionable spa towns, is even today represented at Wiesbaden in almost every stylistic variant of the 19th century. This large and multi-faceted mansion landscape of quality developed in the wake of an influx of affluent “permanent spa visitors” from all of Europe.

Bad Pyrmont

The 19 mineral springs have been in use since antiquity. The name Pyrmont appeared in 1184. Since 1668 the area between the castle and the old village (Oesdorf) has been systematically developed as a spa town. The developments in the architecture and the gardens which began at that time characterize Bad Pyrmont to this day. The harmony of landscape, gardens, castle, medicinal springs, colonnades and the accompanying lodging houses and entertainment buildings they set the standard for the development of European spa town culture. Bad Pyrmont was, and still is, a spa town that offers the complete spectrum of natural medicines and healing methods: mineral springs, salt and thermal springs, and therapeutic mud packs. From 1668 onward Count Georg Friedrich von Waldeck-Pyrmont began to develop Bad Pyrmonts’s architecture as a therapeutic spa town. At that time the fashionable spa already possessed the double avenue of lime trees south of the "Brunnenhaus" which still characterizes the town today. In the second half of the 18th century, a precisely arranged system of axes consisting of numerous promenades was developed between the castle, the old farming village and the landscape of mineral water springs, so that in particular the artistry of the installations was prominently expressed. Bad Pyrmont remained a fashionable summer resort in the 19th century and a location central to European communication. In its time, this wholeheartedly Baroque garden, town and landscape design had no parallels in its opulence and set the standard for numerous other spa towns. Its essential design structures remain intact until today. Hauptallee, the original core of the spa town is still, as it always was, a simple sand avenue. Ancient lime trees dominate the scene on this promenade, unique in its tradition. In the development of parks as part of the artistic landscape gardening that took place in the 19th and early 20th centuries the original system of avenues was taken into account. Both tradition and a contemporary answer to the expectations of recuperating guests can be seen here in a special way. Buildings from every construction phase have been preserved and thus emphasize the continuity of the spa and bathing activities from the 17th century until today.


Baden bei Wien

Baden bei Wien is one of the most important sulphur spas in Europe. The local thermal springs had been used for healing purposes ever since the ancient Romans, who called this locality Aquae Pannoniae. Baden began to develop as a spa town toward the end of the 15th century. Following a major fire in 1812, the town and its spa facilities had to be completely rebuilt and a great number of its Classicist townhouses and Biedermeier villas date back to that time. The appearance of the town, as we know it today, is owed to a leading architect of that era, Joseph Kornhäusel. Among the most significant spa buildings there are Josefsbad, Leopoldsbad, Frauenbad, Engelsbad, Franzensbad, Grand Hotel Sauerhof, Kurhaus, and the theatre. The whole spa town has preserved its charming Neo-Classicist appearance to this day with numerous living objects for residents and spa guests. Later the architecture of the spa was inspired by Venetian architecture and the French Neo-Renaissance style. Baden is famed for a quality spa park with many constructions used for social activities and within the series it represents a completely equipped spa town with a long history in the approximate vicinity of the capital of Vienna.

Bad Ischl

Bad Ischl, situated in the heart of the Salzkammergut (Saline Chamber), is, without a doubt, the famous spa with a long tradition and the most popular spa town with international clientele. The local spa is also the oldest saline spa in Austria. The oldest salt baths in the former mines were so successful that another saline bathhouse (Tänzlbad) had to be built in the home of the treasurer of the town's salt bank, Michael Tänzl, as far back as 1825, to satisfy demand. In addition to being used in the saline baths, salt treatments were also administered in steam baths, part of the most important curative procedures. Another significant spa building is the Pump Room (Trinkhalle – Solbad), constructed in 1829-1831 and designed by architect Franz Lössl. The greatest share of credit for Bad Ischl's fame however, is owed to the fact that the Habsburg Imperial family used to stay here in a building named Imperial Villa (Kaiservilla). The spa town of Bad Ischl has preserved its Classicist appearance to this day, thanks to its structures in the typical, Austrian Biedermeier style, complemented with details of various styles of Historicism, including Art Nouveau. Within the series, Bad Ischl represents a specific type of a mountain spa town with mineral springs, a well-preserved urban structure and several important architectural dominants.


Montecatini Terme

One of the most famous and sophisticated Italian spas is Montecatini Terme, is located in the Tuscany Region. The springs in this region had been known about since the Middle Ages, and were first owned by the Medicis and then the Habsburgs of Tuscany. In fact, it was the Archduke Leopold I of Tuscany (Pietro Leopoldo) who began to use the sulphuric springs more frequently during the late 18th century, thereby inciting the general development of the little town beneath the hill, as a new spa town. Officially, the origin of the spa dates back to 1773. But the spa still has the atmosphere of the beginning of the 20th century, i.e., the era of its greatest boom, when most of the buildings there were built – the baths, casinos, theatres, hotels, and private houses. In the centre of this spa town is a vast park with numerous spa facilities. Among the most significant spa complexes there are Terme Tettuccio, Terme Regina, Terme Torretta, Terme Tamerici, Terme Excelsior. Particularly typical are its elegant colonnades, most of which were completed during the first half of the 20th century in a style that accounts for nicknaming Montecatini Terme, the “Italian Carlsbad”. The building’s travertine-columned galleries (“Gallerie delle Acque”) are complemented with aerial, Bernardini-style colonnades with Tuscany columns (similar to Antique stoas or peristyles). The concave curves of the an urban solution stressing as the main spa area a large park divided into differently structured parts by their architecture linked to the popular colonnades with pillars in the ancient traditions. It complements spa towns of a similar concept. At the same time, each of the spa towns is absolutely unique by appearance and unmistakable. The celebrities who attended Montecatini are numerous: actors, writers, music composers, artists, and royal families.



Although the name Spa comes from the Latin sparsa fontana (gushing fountain) and was already known in the first century A.D., it was in the 18th century that Spa acquired its international reputation to the point where today its name is used as a generic description for fitness centres and baths. The reputation of its water is such that it has been exported since the end of the 16th century, but it was in the 18th century that medical prescriptions for the cure were combined with entertainment, relaxation and excursions. After Tsar Peter the Great took the cure in 1717, the town became the fashionable rendezvous for the European aristocracy, increasingly drawn to it by the elitist entertainment that could be found there. It was at this time that Spa was nicknamed the “cafe of Europe”. The evolution of many of the thermal resort's activities reflects changes in aristocratic practice of the 18th century, and then the intellectual and artistic currents of the 19th century. The town thus developed in an organic manner around its main spring, extending towards the other springs located in the surrounding countryside. The first network of walking trails (the Fountain Tour created in 1749) connecting the various springs, offers views of the surrounding hills and affirms the close link between nature and a thermal cure. Spa's therapeutic landscape, still visible today, is thus formed. The protection of the water has, since the end of the 18th century up to the present time, also had a considerable effect on the evolution of the landscape and the development of the town. The protected catchment area is one of the largest in Europe. Despite its area of 40 km², Spa has all the attributes of an authentic thermal spa town: numerous springs embellished with decorated pavilions, the spa complex, public parks and a covered walkway, major hotels, very many walking trails, viewpoints, a casino (one of the first in the world), a theatre and ballrooms, places of worship, a Masonic Lodge, a golf course and an aerodrome, as well as many villas in the surrounding area. Spa thus perfectly completes the transnational series of assets proposed as the Great Spas of Europe through its international and world reputation.



Located in Bourbonnais, on the banks of the river Allier, the waters of Vichy have been in use since Antiquity. Experiencing success from the 16th to the 18th century, they born, from the creation of the first park by Napoleon I and certainly during the Second French Empire, a thermal town that would serve as a model in terms of its urban organisation (roads radiating from the station towards the baths and parks) and its prestigious architecture. Napoleon III furthered its development as a holiday destination with the theatre and casino. In 1903, the ensemble was rebuilt by Charles Lecoeur, especially the oriental baths, an Art Nouveau opera building, and pump rooms and gallery arcades connecting the grand hotels with the diverse thermal and social functions. Vichy is equipped with palaces and districts, and stretches out to sporting facilities such as the Hippodrome and golf course. The eclectic architectural style was developed here through the construction of baths, theatres, hotels and above all villas of all styles. The ‘queen of spa towns’ (“reine des villes d’eaux”) which is a slogan born in the 1900s – is still world-known place with dominating thermal and tourist activities.



Bath has been a place of healing for over two thousand years. The baths ensemble was managed for 350 years by the Romans and then for 800 years by a monastic administration. The relationship of the baths, Abbey, monastic infirmary and the medieval hospitals are testimony to Bath as a healing place through the Roman and medieval period. In the Sixteenth Century the springs and baths devolved to the City Corporation and from the Eighteenth Century the baths ensemble was renewed. Around these, lodgings and buildings to house and entertain visitors were introduced. In the 1730s the General Hospital was built providing treatment for the poor. The City Corporation promoted the city for pleasure as well as a place for healing and so created and managed a nascent tourist industry. From a seventeenth century revival, Bath developed into one of Europe’s fashionable resorts. The first eighteenth century terraces, crescents, circus and squares provided lodgings close to the baths and pump room ensemble. These arrangements had an influence on urban planning. Associated paved parades proffered views across the valley. Later crescents were built across hills with promenades providing prospects across the valley. Terraces on nearby meadows were associated with several eighteenth century Pleasure Grounds. Sydney Gardens survives. Complex and interrelated ideas and beliefs are associated with the healing properties of the water from the Hotsprings. The relationship of the baths, monastic infirmary and hospitals are testimony to the direct evolution of these beliefs into eighteenth century medical practices and diagnostic medicine. Visitors were encouraged to take exercise through walks and rides in the surrounding countryside. This with the city creates a therapeutic landscape. The management of the spa resort by Masters of Ceremony and their adopted ‘Rules of the Bath’, contributed to the creation and evolution of a polite and mannered society. The city made a unique and special contribution to literacy, and literature and was the source of ideas and developments in natural philosophy and emerging science. It contributed to the spread of ideas of the Enlightenment and is testimony to an essential contribution to medical theories and practice.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The serial transnational property the Great Spas of Europe is composed of the most important spa towns in the world. The development of the spa town produced a very specialized form different from other commercial and political settlements. The form of the spa ensembles is dictated by the location and properties of the mineral water, mineral sources and medical advice of the day.

The spas have distinct buildings including pump rooms, baths and treatment rooms with related Assembly Rooms, parades and promenades, pleasure gardens, churches of several faiths synagogues, hotels, theatres, casinos, libraries, and coffee shops. The complex relationship of these ensembles distinguishes these resorts from other settlements.

Spa towns were carefully managed, policed, regulated and promoted from the Seventeenth Century onwards. The spa towns represent an early model of a tourist destination and their management led to the development of a nascent tourist industry. Whole towns were promoted and, for some this included branding and marketing of water and other products.

Promotion of the spas included hosting royalty and celebrities so that the reputation of the spa town was enhanced by these celebrity connections. Most spa towns were refreshed and rebuilt several times to respond to advances in medicine and changing demands and expectations of curists and visitors. Defining authenticity of these towns and spa buildings reflects a dynamic concept.

There is a special relationship between the urban fabric and surrounding landscape. This was promoted and managed as an essential part of the “spa offer” as part of the cure. Accordingly, there are complex cultural values associated with landscape in and around spa towns. The area surrounding the spa town with the spa buildings is held to be a “Therapeutic Landscape”.

Criterion (ii): The Great Spas of Europe, developing around natural mineral springs, bear an important testimony of  conscious human care for health which was developing around mineral springs in Europe for centuries and herewith connected specific lifestyle. In addition, the Great Spas of Europe illustrate the influence of innovative ideas on modern development of European towns from the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. They are a proof of the development of absolutely specific towns following the strengthened relationship between people and nature and its multilateral curative sources. Since the Great Spas of Europe started to provide new public spaces and buildings of grand design for meetings and communication, they became significant centres where a new social order arose. They greatly assisted in the transformation of the society which led to its democratization, gender equality and rise of the middle strata. At the same time, they were a meeting venue for aristocratic leaders of the society. Urban structures of spa towns or suburbs were designed to respect and use surrounding landscape of high quality, including promenades and walking trails and places, for treatment and relaxation stays depending on visitors' means and preferences. The Great Spas of Europe in their historic urban structure, relation to the surrounding landscape and in many other partial aspects and nature of the main buildings are a characteristic testimony how ideas of building a new society were realized and a significance of urban structures with new curative functions in the full spectrum of necessary infrastructure was developed. The towns carefully selected for the serial property evidence most significantly historic development of the spa towns and balneology in Europe which made an impact on the popularity and development of balneology in other parts of the world under the cultural and political influence of European countries. In the majority of cases when analysing their concept, architecture and construction, they represent concepts which proved to be innovative and exemplary.

Criterion (iii): The Great Spas of Europe are an exceptional testimony to foundation, development and continuity of a significant cultural tradition, namely the European spa culture, based on the use of mineral springs and a rich variety of baths and drinking cures. As a result of long-term stays of patients and other guests, the spa towns developed into important social centres of international character at the turn of the 19th and 20th century. The determining attribute of European spa tradition preserved in this serial property is a unique combination of treatment (baths, drinking cures, inhalations) and leisure time facilities providing entertainment and social activities in the first place (theatre, music, dance, hazard games and others) and physical exercise, sports and walks in well-tended landscape.

The Great Spas of Europe, were leading the development of “social spa relaxation” aimed at entertainment and leisure time activities. Last but not least, they represent a role of spa towns which pioneered modern infrastructure and which set the rules of hygiene.

The Great Spas of Europe demonstrate a preserved infrastructure till today that they were at the birth and later leading the development of European travel and tourism. At the present thanks to their compactness and high quality of preserved buildings, they range among sought-after destinations even for those who do not look for mineral springs primarily.

Criterion (iv): The Great Spas of Europe is a serial property which is an outstanding example of types of urban planning. It shows the most significant results of hundred years' development of spa towns, including buildings, consciously designed and landscaped ambience and modified surrounding landscape. The selected mineral spa towns show all characteristics of the given type in an unusually high concentration and quality. They have distinctive urban structures which combine built-in areas with parks and which incorporate surrounding landscape into the urban setting. This “therapeutic landscape” is clearly marked with quality and a great variety of objects for the main balneological and social purposes, such as baths and treatment facilities, social rooms, casino houses, theatres and concert halls, hotels and villas, perfectly embedded in parks, gardens, recreational areas, promenades or hippodromes. The infrastructure of the spa towns became part of the socially oriented environment for expanding European cultural tourism and it has had a significant impact in the present days, too.

Criterion (vi): The Great Spas of Europe bear a testimony to a successful social, scientific and cultural flourishing of Europe which contributed to shaping social traditions and ideas with outstanding universal value from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th century. Apart from their balneotherapeutic function, they were and they still are internationally notable venues for meetings, a social stage for diplomacy, international events, conferences, fairs, exhibitions and activities focusing on health, tolerance of religions and beliefs. The spa towns provided facilities for a wide range of artistic activities in the past. This is true also at the present: many eminent musicians and composers, painters, sculptors, writers, poets, fashion designers and other artists have been attracted to spa towns and their surrounding landscape. There a number of works was composed, created or introduced or exhibited for the very first time. From this point of view, the most famous European spa towns made a significant contribution to the formation and development of civic society and multicultural European society. As meeting points they were, in addition, a political stage suitable for official negotiations and non-formal meetings held by politician.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity


The Great Spas of Europe represent compact urban structures in all the parts of the series. Until now they have preserved an absolutely unique appearance with preserved and operating authentic spa infrastructure which corresponds to the peak period of each spa town. Spa activities and services still continue in the historic buildings. Although the spa towns underwent naturally some partial changes or alterations in order to keep the standards of services and hygiene in the past, all of them are highlighted with a concentration of carefully renovated buildings valuable from the architectural point of view which prove a gradual development of balneology and accompanying services. These units encompass all typological kinds needed in a spa town of European significance, such as spa houses, pump rooms, colonnades, churches, theatres, casino houses, hotels and boarding houses, small construction and sculptural objects, landscaped parks and walking trails in wider surroundings of the buildings, including appropriate small construction accessories and objects.


Each town is an exemplar of a European spa representing a component part of the serial property with exceptional integrity of individual component parts. Individual spa towns demonstrate a high degree of authenticity of preserved urbanism and architecture as well as balneological and accompanying functions. They represent towns exceptionally compact in their preserved historic urban structure which is integrally linked to the surrounding “therapeutic landscape”. At the same time, each spa town to a greater or smaller extent represents all the main aspects of balneology based on the use of mineral water. Individual component parts illustrate significant milestones in the development of balneology which uses mineral springs, including non-such buildings for treatment purposes from the 18th century to the 1920s.

In its entirety, the selection represents all the specified value criteria of outstanding universal value of the property. Each component part illustrates the above mentioned criteria in authentically preserved structure. The existence of attributes of outstanding universal value is for each unit of the series guaranteed by appropriate legal protection and by setting up a buffer zone. Any pressure of territorial and construction development are controlled by relevant tools and protection of values is supported by mutually interconnected legal measures in order to protect cultural values, mineral springs, nature and landscape in accordance with the laws and legislation of the individual state parties.

Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole

Individual component parts of the serial property the Great Spas of Europe were selected to represent to the greatest extent possible a comprehensive group. These spa towns with mineral springs were at the cradle of balneology and they influenced other kinds of spas, such as seaside and climatic resorts. The individual component parts of the series in their integrity and authenticity demonstrate exceptional evidence in their urban and architectural structures.

Another criterion is their significance for balneology. The next important view is the reputation of the town as a symbol of world and European balneology as well as its historic-social and cultural importance. Each individual spa has the potential to make a substantial and distinctive contribution to the OUV of the whole series.

As an urban form they represent a functional entity standing for a general type of an internationally renowned spa town from the 18th century to the 1920s with all its principal functional parts. The towns offer a full scale of spa architecture: spa houses, pump rooms, colonnades, churches, theatres, casino houses, hotels and boarding houses, smaller architectural and sculpting works etc. A specific quality is the integration of urban fabric with its setting including parks and greenery. Despite their fundamental functional similarities, individual spa towns of the serial property differ in their urban typology.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Great Spas of Europe served as a shining example for the very large number of spa towns and resorts scattered all over Europe in the 19th century, and today are representative of the phenomenon. Most of the spas were of merely regional significance. The Great Spas of Europe, on the other hand, were cosmopolitan in character and atmosphere and attracted visitors from all of Europe, facts that in their turn influenced the appearance of the respective cities. For that reason the Great Spas of Europe represent a logical selection, a group that was already beginning to emerge in the course of the 19th century. Typologically, the seaside resorts and climatic health resorts are separate groups with their own distinctive features. Compared to the Great Spas of Europe and invariably centred around mineral springs, they are the products of more recent developments within the European spa tradition; their basic topographic and functional characteristics alone, resulting in very different architectural features and urban layouts, would set them apart from the Great Spas of Europe.

The European spa tradition is set apart from those of the Orient (hamam), Japan (onsen) or Scandinavia and Russia (sauna/banya) by its basis in balneotherapy. One characteristic unique to the European tradition is that of “taking the waters”, which came to dominate spa practice from the second half of the 17th century onwards, furthering the development of a distinct type of settlement that by the 18th and 19th centuries could be found all over Europe.

The strength of the European model of the spa is such that it could be exported. During the nineteenth century, Saratoga Springs (USA) develops as baths and gambling houses, as well as in New Zealand, known sources of old as Rotorua, becoming spas. In the French colonies, a systematic exploitation is launched. Algeria sees the creation of typical European spas that side with the Moorish baths in Hammam Meskoutine, Hammam Salahine near Biskra or Hammam R'hira who enjoys proximity Algiers. In Tunisia, in the suburbs of Tunis, Hammam Lif combines bathing and hydrotherapy when Korbous becomes an orientalist spa through investments in a newspaper owner and promoter of tourism, Lecore-Carpentier. In many colonized countries, spas are created not far from capitals that Europeans must flee during the hot season, which is the case in Antsirabe, “Malagasy Vichy”, the largest station in Madagascar, a few hundred kilometers of Antananarivo; at the gates of Cairo, Helwan is a spa founded in 1872 by a German physician Whilhelm Reil; Dalat in Vietnam, launched by the Swiss doctor Yersin (1893), was the “summer capital” of French Indochina.

Within the UNESCO World Heritage List a comparison can be made with the following cultural properties, namely the cities of Bath, Budapest, Aachen and Salzburg, and sites, where the spa function is included, namely the Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus and the cultural landscapes Val d’Orcia (Bagno Vignoni) and Upper Middle Rhine Valley. At the beginning it has to be stated that, whilst the City of Bath is a proposed component part of the series, other sites are not included. These World Heritage properties are still enlisted because of different value criteria and they do not fill the gap on the UNESCO World Heritage List thematically which is demonstrated in the described serial transnational property above. In order to prove our statement we present the following analysis why these properties not been included:

Budapest (Hungary)

The city was entered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987, with subsequent expansion in 2002, not as a spa town. Budapest took care to preserve traces of its historic sites. Budapest is a town with one of the most beautiful historic urban landscape in the world, and a good illustration of the history of architecture in Central Europe. The subsequent extension of the scope of the world heritage site involved a 19th century urban entity called Andrássy Blvd. and part of the town historic district. Budapest itself features a number of architecturally significant spa facilities, such as examples of municipal baths established around thermal springs and used mostly for relaxation by the town's inhabitants and visitors. Most individual spa buildings demonstrate affiliation to Viennese styles, i.e., Hungarian forms of Historicism and Art Nouveau. Budapest is not a typical spa town that caters primarily to spa guests requiring treatment, as most of its spa facilities are relatively mono-functional. The most important of the town's spa locations are: Roman Baths in Óbuda District (Castrum Aquincum – Thermae Maiores) – formerly a military campus (castrum), Rudas Turkish Baths, Király Turkish Baths, Császár (Imperial), Rácz, Lukács, Margaret's Island Spa, and Széchenyi. However, Budapest does not have a character of a spa town. There are only singular spa buildings and facilities incorporated into the metropolitan urban structure. There is no complex spa district or a spa area. With regard to the fact that Budapest is not a typical spa town, it is not comparable with the other. Although there is a large number of spa buildings, Budapest is not a typical spa town.

Aachen (Germany)

The spa Aachen known as Dom has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1978. The gross of this town’s universally valuable localities comprises historic sites from the era of Charles the Great, in particular, a polygonal false-fortified chapel which is one of the most impressive domed structures north of the Alps with precious interior furnishings. Aachen has preserved its spa facilities and functions till nowadays. However, its inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List is owed to its architectural and urban treasures, the spa facilities of the town are associated with merely by extension as a secondary functionality. Given that the characteristic spa environment is not retained here and it is not comparable with the series Great Spas of Europe.

Salzburg (Austria) 

Salzburg can be recognised as a spa town. The World Heritage site is primarily the Monchsberg, the Aldstadt and the Neustadt on the north side of the river. The former Kurhaus stood immediately north of the World Heritage site boundary at the Neustadt and part of the associated Stadtpark is included in the World Heritage site. The Neustadt was founded in 1621. The Kurhaus was built in 1868 and the Kursaal in 1873. The present spa centre is composed of spa gardens (Kurpark). The spa buildings were destroyed during the World War II in 1944. The new Kongresshaus was built on site of the Kurhaus in 1950 and the Sheraton Hotel on site of the former Kursaal. It has not the completion of the spa environment and therefore does not fit into the series Great Spas of Europe.

Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus (Greece)

In a small valley in the Peloponnesus the shrine of Asklepios, the god of medicine, was developed out of a much earlier cult of Apollo (Maleatas) during the 6th century BC at the latest, as the official cult of the city state of Epidaurus. The group of buildings comprising the Sanctuary of Epidaurus bears exceptional testimony to the healing cults of the Hellenic and Roman world. The temples and the hospital facilities dedicated to the healing gods constitute a coherent and complete ensemble. It exerted an influence on all the asclepieia in the Hellenic world, and later on all the Roman sanctuaries of Aesculape. The emergence of the modern medicine in a sanctuary originally reputed from the psychology-based miraculous healing of supposedly incurable patients is illustrated by the functional evolution of the Hieron of Epidaurus and is strikingly described by the engraved inscription on the remarkable steles preserved in the Museum. This is only the beginning of a spa treatment remaining until today only ruins. The place is not in the form of characteristic spas of the 19th century. It is not a typical spa environment and therefore does not fit into the series Great Spas of Europe.

Val d’Orcia (Bagno Vignoni) (Italy)

The landscape of Val d’Orcia is a part of the agricultural hinterland of Siena wasredrawn and developed in the period of integration to the territory of the city state in the 14th and 15th centuries, reflecting an idealized model of good governance and creating an aesthetically acting picture. The landscape’s distinctive aesthetics, flat chalk plains with conical hills with fortified settlements on the top, inspired many artists. A revival in the economy and a certain stability led to the establishment of monasteries, greater use of the Via Francigena and the development of villages under a feudal system. Their images have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes. In addition there are also other spa complexes such as Bagno Vignoni. In this context of rare beauty an old and tiny medieval village Bagno Vignoni deserves a special mention. A spa place with an outdoor swimming-pool was created in the 16th century and is no longer completed into a large spa town. The inscription covers an agrarian and pastoral landscape reflecting innovative land-management systems and the Roman Via Francigena. Bagno Vignoni has not the completion of the spa environment and therefore it does not fit into the series Great Spas of Europe.

Upper Middle Rhine Valley (Germany)

In the Upper Middle Rhine Valley there are two spas. Bad Salzig is a small spa town of regional importance. A few buildings are well preserved. Assmannshausen has provided healing sources from the fifteenth century. The Kurhaus has been preserved. The water from the mineral springs in Rhens and Lahnstein was bottled and shipped since the nineteenth century. Both sites have not developed into spa resorts. The sites are not in the form of characteristic spas of the 19th century. It has not the completion of the spa environment and therefore does not fit into the series Great Spas of Europe.

When comparing similar properties entered on the national Tentative Lists, we state that at present on the national Tentative Lists there is no comparable property with similar characteristics of a serial transnational nomination the Great Spas of Europe available. The spa towns included in the currently valid national Tentative Lists (Karlovy Vary, Mariánské Lázně, Františkovy Lázně, Luhačovice, Spa) are all contained as a relevant component part of the presented series. At the same time, worldwide there are no such cultural properties which in their structure, typological facilities, extent and international fame could match the Great Spas of Europe. A detailed global comparison will be provided in a comparative analysis, an essential part of the nomination documentation.