We know you've probably spent a day or two at the spa, but tucked away on the eastern side of Belgium is a city that holds a unique place in the history of massages and facials. Known as the "Pearl of the Ardennes," the town of Spa has been frequented for hundreds of years by international visitors who come to witness firsthand the healing powers of its natural spring waters. So much so that all other spas that have come after it have borrowed its name. The next time you have a weekend off across the pond, head over to Spa for a little physical and mental relaxation.

Spa's History

The use of water in healing the human body is not a new or novel concept. It's believed it was first practiced by Roman soldiers who would soak their weary bones in pools of water after a long war campaign. They considered hot spring water to be the most effective so it was only a matter of time before they began building baths around naturally occurring thermal pools.

The Roman Empire's vast reach ensured the discovery of Spa's spring waters in the 1st century but they didn't get the attention they deserved until it was rediscovered and billed as an official destination in the 16th century. Two hundred years later, it reached its zenith when Czar Peter the Great arrived in 1717 and the waters were said to have been cured him of liver disease. Royalty and artists from all across the globe began showing up, in part to take advantage of the springs, but also to hob nob with other notable visitors. Its popularity and the massive exchange of ideas that occurred during visits became so commonplace, it eventually became referred to as the "Cafe of Europe."

Two world wars and a series of economic factors led to a decrease in Spa's popularity for a time, but visit today and you'll find once again it has become a popular center for rest and relaxation.

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Les Thermes de Spa

There are several springs scattered around Spa that are always open and accessible. One is said to help alleviate infections of the respiratory tract, while another claims to possess the ability to cure sterility. For an experience more luxurious than a casual dip, however, book a treatment at Les Thermes de Spa. Opened in 2004, the center has more than doubled its number of visitors in the last decade. You can spend a few hours booking treatments or opt for an overnight to really pamper yourself. The spa, which is dominated by curvy lines and soft natural light, has both indoor and outdoor pools, spas, and relaxation rooms. Curl up in a copper tub for a carbonation bath, reduce muscle tension in the peat bath, or let your cares melt away during a hot stone massage. These treatments, along with more than a dozen others, are the perfect way to unwind before heading back out to the chaotic reality of the modern world.