Great Spa Towns of Europe - The spa town of Baden

Built on water: Staying and healing in the Vienna Woods.

Alongside ten other important spa towns, the Great Spa Towns of Europe, Baden near Vienna has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List as of 2021 - as a testimony to the rich spa culture that has decisively shaped Europe's cultural history.

The spa industry flourished in Europe between 1700 and 1930: Healing mineral and thermal springs attracted wealthy guests from all around the world who sought treatment for their ailments, but who were also completely unwilling to forgo society, luxury and entertainment. The spas that arose exerted a strong artistic, political, and social influence on society and continue to make an important contribution to European culture to this day. Austria's contribution to the Great SPAS of Europe is the spa town of Baden near Vienna. The historic spa and bathing complexes, pump rooms and houses, promenades, parks, pleasure gardens and spa hotels, which have been preserved to this day, are witnesses to an impressive world whose footsteps are increasingly being followed again today. 

Bathe like the Romans and the emperors

The Romans valued the warm healing springs of Baden so much that they even named the location after these springs: ‘Aquae’, or ‘Bäder’ in German. The spring tapped into by the Romans continues to bubble away today and is also open to visitors. This is also the case for the 13 other sulphur thermal springs in the city area; these carry warm ‘yellow gold’ to the surface from a depth of around 1000 meters, which reaches up to 36°C. However, Baden gained its reputation as a health resort around 1,700 years after the Romans discovered the spring. Empress Maria Theresa frequently visited Baden. The Theresiengarten (now the spa park) and the Theresienbad (now the site of the casino) were also named after her at the time. From 1796 to 1835, when Emperor Franz I and his court spent every summer in the spa town, Baden was even labelled as the secret capital of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy for a few months each year. Everyone who was anyone in Vienna, only 26 km away, followed the emperor and travelled to noble Baden for the spa treatment, including the nobility, the rich bourgeoisie and, of course, numerous artists.

The musical metropolis of Baden 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart visited his wife, Konstanze, who was undergoing treatment in Baden. Antonio Salieri, court music master and Mozart’s supposed rival, also spent several summers in Baden curing his rheumatic condition. Ludwig van Beethoven, who visited Baden 17 times, worked on his compositions in the spa town and even wrote sections of his Symphony No.9 here. The masters of operetta felt particularly at home here, however. The great figures of the genre - such as Joseph Lanner, Johann Strauss and Franz Lehar - lived, played and composed in Baden, and they are still honoured today in the Baden City Theatre and at the Operetta Festival in the Summer Arena. It is not without reason that Baden also still bears the honourable title of ‘operetta metropolis’.

Refreshing present

Much of the splendour of the noble spa town, situated between the Vienna Woods and vineyards, has survived into our own time. Take a stroll through the city and you’ll notice plenty of greenery, a number of villas, a lot of flair and a casual dolce far niente, fitting for a spa vacation. People stay in fine hotels, meet up at a spa, at trotting races (Baden was a centre of equestrian sports in the 19th century) and perhaps even at the casino, which is housed in the former spa house and is seen as one of the largest and most beautiful casinos in Europe. People also meet at wine taverns here, of course. Wagging tongues even claim that many a famous guest has travelled to Baden not for the spas or the healing waters, but rather for the taverns and their wines.