The Great Spa Towns of Europe

In 1987 the City of Bath in the UK was inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO. Bath therefore became the first and only spa town in the world to be included on the list.

By the 2000’s spa towns in Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany were also seeking this prestigious accolade and UNESCO, supported by its advisory body ICOMOS, suggested that a global study be undertaken to explore the potential of a serial nomination being developed to express the outstanding universal value of the European spa phenomenon.

With the advent of serial and transnational nominations UNESCO has established a mechanism to enable countries to collaborate closely in the protection and management of the most important cultural and natural heritage sites spanning borders and through the sharing of best practice.

Following a landmark international conference held in Baden-Baden in 2010, called “European Health Resorts and Fashionable Spas of the 19th Century” a working group was established by the Mayors of 16 spa towns to carry out the proposed study.

Seven countries working together

Seven countries, referred to as States Parties by UNESCO, also got together at ministerial level to cooperated on this venture, these being Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom. They established an International Steering Group (ISG) to guide the Mayors through this complex process.

A further group of independent international experts was also appointed by the ISG to prepare a comparative analysis, to conduct new original research, visit spa towns and to prepare a nomination dossier for submission to UNESCO. This project and the name of the series of spa towns became known as the Great Spas of Europe.

Eventually the experts and the ISG recommended that 11 of the 16 spa towns were the best representative group to illustrate the outstanding universal value of the European spa phenomenon and a nomination was submitted to UNESCO in January 2019. The nomination dossier is over 1000 pages long and was independently assessed by ICOMOS during 2019/20 and an evaluation report with recommendations was submitted to UNESCO in March 2020.

The eleven Great Spas of Europe:

On 4th June 2021, the Great Spas of Europe learned that the key recommendation to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee is to inscribe the Great Spas of Europe on the World Heritage List and a decision concerning this is to be taken in July 2021 at the committee’s 44th session.