SPA, about 20km south of Verviers, 30km southeast of Liège, was the world's first health resort, established way back in the sixteenth century. Since then the town has given its name to thermal resorts worldwide, reaching a height of popularity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Later the town went into decline, but Spa is now on the way back following the opening of a 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 open moorland of the Hautes Fagnes.
Spa's tidy town centre holds a striking cluster of grand Neoclassical buildings, presided over by the three towering steeples of the church of Notre-Dame et St-Remacle. Chief among these are the former thermal baths. The neighbouring casino, the oldest in the world, was founded in 1763 under the improbable auspices of the prince-bishop of Liège, though the current building dates only from 1919.
Down rue Royale is Pouhan-Pierre-le-Grand, the town's main mineral spring (daily: April– Oct 10am– noon & 1.30–5pm; Nov– March 1.30–5pm; free), spouting an average of twenty-one thousand litres per day. It's housed in a barn-like Neoclassical pavilion and named after Peter the Great, who appreciated the therapeutic effects of its waters and visited often; for 0.25 you can try a cup of the cloudy water, which contains iron and bicarbonate of soda, allegedly beneficial for lung and heart ailments as well as rheumatism. A number of Spa's other springs – notably Tonnelet, Barisart, Géronstère and Sauvenière – can be visited on the baladeuse (a kind of toy train on wheels, which plies around the outskirts of town) which leave from a stop on the main square; trips (there's a variety of itineraries) cost about 5.
Five minutes' walk west of the town centre, the Musée de la Ville d'Eaux, av Reine Astrid 77, displays posters and objects relating to the resort and its waters (mid-March to June & Oct– Nov Sat & Sun 2–6pm; July– Sept daily except Tues 2–6pm; 3 combined ticket with the Musée du Cheval).