European Thermal Heritage Day 2023 to highlight Mondariz-Balneario in Spain
The annual event was established by the Scientific Commitee of the European Historic Thermal Towns Association (EHTTA) in 2018
European Thermal Heritage day is at the heart of the EHTTA and its objectives. The association believes that thermal heritage represents a very particular European phenomenon, which includes natural, cultural, and intangible resources. The concept of thermal heritage is used to promote health and wellbeing, create original tourism destinations, and protect magnificent cultural landscapes.
Each spa town relies on its natural setting and the surrounding landscape which has been used and managed as a part of the ‘spa offer’ or attractiveness of the place since the 16th century, in other words the ‘therapeutic’ or spa landscape which is unique to spa towns. This has led to a specific historic urban landscape of transition which moves from the formal gardens in the centre of the spa town, formed around the principal public buildings to the wider ‘English’ style parkland of trees, shrubs and lawns, to the meadows and walks beyond leading into the hills and ‘wild’ landscape setting of the spa town.
European Thermal Heritage Day highlights the importance of thermal heritage as a centuries-old Europe-wide tradition. It also gains recognition and awareness of issues that affect the future of this valuable heritage. The event is regarded as an example of best practices among the Cultural Routes of the Council of Europe and won the Best Practices Award in 2019 for its concept.
“This year, 2023, the Declaration of Public Utility of mineral waters of Mondariz turns 150 years and we take this anniversary as an opportunity to celebrate the thermal heritage of the town and region,” comments Mario Crecente, President of the Scientific Committee of EHTTA. He went on to explain the reasons behind Mondariz-Balneario as a preferred location, where the event will take place on 11th October 2023.
As President of EHTTA, the President of the neighbouring Province of Ourense, Manuel Baltar welcomes the decision to have another important event held in Galicia this year. “It will foster the communication about the importance of thermal heritage and thermal tourism in this part of Europe, giving leading examples,” he says.
Background: History related to thermal waters
It is rather unknown that Galicia is the centre of the thermal and spa industry. The area is the number one hot springs destination in Spain with more than 300 hot springs in the region – making it one of the richest in Europe in terms of mineral and hot springs.
The historical origin of Mondariz Balneario is related to the value of its thermal waters. The boom to the thermal town of Mondariz Balneario was the rediscovery of the hot springs in 1862 and 1870. In 1880, Queen María Cristina gave to Mondariz the title “supplier of the Spanish Royal House” and with it the license to use the royal coat of arms. The success of this new-found impetus generated the construction of the “Gran Hotel”, designed by Jenaro de la Fuente and opened in 1898.
In the 1990s, a restoration phase began of important buildings and sites, followed by the opening of the new spa hotel, the congress centre and the recovery of the Gran Hotel building. During the last three decades, the recovery and repair process of the thermal and cultural environment has brought back the splendour of old times, which the town has been famous for.
ITB Berlin 2023 marked a significant milestone, with both The European Route of Historic Thermal Towns and the Great Spa Towns of Europe attending the show together. After attending ITB together online in 2021 and 2022, both organisations developed a strong partnership, with ITB Berlin organisers being an important feature of the “Medical and Health Pavilion” which was to be seen during the 2023 edition.