SPA, about 30km southeast of Liège, was the world’s first health resort, established way back in the sixteenth century: Pliny the Elder knew of the healing properties of the waters here and Henry VIII was an early visitor, but it was Peter the Great who clinched the town’s fame, heralding it as “the best place to take the waters”. Since then the town has given its name to thermal resorts worldwide, reaching a height of popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when it was known as the “Café of Europe”, being graced by monarchs, statesmen, intellectuals and aristocrats from every corner of the continent. Later the town went into slow decline – when the poet Matthew Arnold visited in 1860, he claimed it “astonished us by its insignificance” – but Spa is now on the way back following the opening of a new thermal complex, Les Thermes de Spa, on the hill overlooking the resort. Furthermore, the town below still preserves an endearing sense of faded distinction and continues to draw a loyal clientele of elderly locals, whilst also making a good base for excursions into the Hautes Fagnes, a short drive to the south and southeast.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Belgium features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
20 fascinating second cities

20 fascinating second cities

Barcelona, Spain It's usually the capital cities that get all the attention, but what about a country's second city? These are twenty of our favourite secon…

02 Oct 2014 • Rebecca Hallett camera_alt Gallery
Map: beer from around the world

Map: beer from around the world

Beer-lovers rejoice: the British Government recently announced that a pint of beer in the UK will be a whole one penny cheaper than before. Not exactly saving a…

31 Mar 2014 • Charles Parkes insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Weekly newsletter

Sign up now for travel inspiration, discounts and competitions

Sign up now and get 20% off any ebook