Europe’s oldest health resort, Spa is the original spa from which the English word derived. The healing properties of Spa’s warm spring waters were recognised as far back as the 1st century AD. Henry VIII of England, in need of a relaxing 16th-century bath after occupying Tournai, praised the waters’ curative powers. By the 18th century Spa had become the luxurious retreat for European royalty and intellectuals. Tsars, politicians and writers including Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas came to what became nicknamed the ‘Café of Europe’. In the later 19th century its popularity waned, but it has seen a certain rejuvenation since the 2004 opening of the sparkling new Thermes complex on a hilltop directly above town.
Meanwhile, selling the water remains big buiness, with millons of bottles filled annually at the Spa Monopole works behind the train station.