Image of spa buildings and colonnade in central Bath Image of spa buildings and colonnade in central Bath Show image info

Spa buildings in central Bath

Great Spas of Europe

The Great Spas of Europe project could see Bath become the UK’s first double-nominated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The project is a ‘transnational serial’ nomination involving 11 spa towns from 7 different countries, led by the government of Czechia (Czech Republic).

Spas were a huge European phenomenon from the 18th century to the early 20th century. The Bader Lexicon of 1854 lists 652 major European spas, but only a handful of the grandest spas now survive in an authentic form.  Each used natural mineral waters to treat pain and disease in the days before industrial medication and they are testimony to the development of medicine.  The towns have unique urban forms and significant architectural ensembles including special spa buildings and visitor facilities such as spa houses, colonnades, churches, theatres, casino houses, dedicated hotels and boarding houses. The combination of the fabric of the towns with their parks and green spaces and surrounding ‘therapeutic landscape’ is very important.  The spas attracted highly prestigious clientele and were resorts for the rich and famous in a pre-cursor to modern mass tourism.  

The nomination is officially validated on the UK World Heritage Site Tentative List and a summary of the Outstanding Universal Value of the Great Spas of Europe is shown here

The 11 candidate spas are: 

  • Baden bei Wien (Austria)
  • Spa (Belgium)
  • Karlovy Vary, Frantiskovy Lazne and Marianske  Lazne (Czech Republic)
  • Vichy (France)
  • Bad Ems, Baden-Baden and Bad Kissingen (Germany)
  • Montecatini Terme (Italy)
  • City of Bath (UK)

It has taken over 8 years of collaborative discussion and planning across Europe to complete the 1,434 page Great Spas of Europe World Heritage Site nomination. The submission will be passed to UNESCO in January 2019 and then there is a lengthy wait while the submission is analysed and assessed, firstly by ICOMOS (the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which is the advisor to UNESCO).  All being well, a recommendation will be presented to the 44th annual session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in June/July 2020 where the final decision will be made.  Read the submission media release here.

Bath's part in the transnational nomination was recommended for endorsement by Bath & North East Somerset Council in October 2018.  Read the endorsement press release here.