Where the “Spa” Got its Name

Spa Belgium

Spa, Belgium. Copyright (c) of the Belgian Tourist Office NYC/USA

In a wooded valley in northern Ardennes, 22 miles southeast of Liege and 28 miles southwest of Aachen, lies Belgium’s charming municipality of Spa. Though the traditions of the spa, including water therapy, massage and other body healing treatments likely originated in ancient Rome, it’s the healing hot mineral springs of Spa, Belgium that gave the modern day “spa” its name.

The word itself is an acronym for the Latin phrase, “salus per aquae” – or “health through water.” Widely revered throughout Europe for many centuries, Spa’s natural waters are strongly believed to restore health to those who drink and bathe in it. The local surroundings of Spa offer nine springs; seven of the springs maintain an alkaline state, are rich in iron and offer what is considered to be one of the most relaxing experiences the natural world has to offer.

Historically, Spa, Belgium has been graced by a number of high-profile guests who came to pamper themselves and indulge in the healing waters; among them French playwright and novelist, Victor Hugo, and former ruler of the Russian Empire, Peter the Great. The water of Spa is said to have cured Peter from a severe and prolonged bout of indigestion. In modern day Europe, water treatments are still considered the hallmark of the spa experience.

Casino Spa Belgium

Copyright (c) of the Belgian Tourist Office NYC/USA

Once a destination only for the wealthy, today Spa sees the likes of both high-end vacationers and bargain travelers looking for a little pampering and R&R. Though Spa is most famous for its, well, spas, it offers a full range of attractions to visitors. The town hosts the annual Formula One Belgium Grand Prix, it’s a popular destination for its casino action and just this year, it hosted the Stage 2 finish of the Tour de France – after that grueling bike race, you know those guys needed a spa treatment.

The next time you visit a spa in your hometown or on your travels, you’ll be reminded of the history and tradition, inspired by this Belgian town with the eponymous name, in which you are actively participating. Even better – one day you might make the journey to Spa, Belgium and experience its healing wonders for yourself.

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