Herculane Baths and spa is the oldest resort from Romania and South East Europe.
It was first documented in 153 AD. The first name of the resort was Ad Aquas Herculi Sacras Ad Mediam. It was given by the Romans, meaning the holy waters of Hercules from Ad Mediam.
The Herculane Spa is located in the south west of Romania. It was built along the river Cerna which has formed upstream the resort the gorges of the same name.
Located in a very narrow valley, the town is tightly delimited by Peak Vlascu (Southwestern end of the Cerna Mountains), by the Domogled steep peaks and by the Stan’s Peak (Part of Mehedinti Mountains).
A special charm of the resort is given by the steep of the mountains delimiting the settlement.
The mountain area bordering Cerna Valley is included in the Domoglet – Cerna Valley National Park.
It is an area with many opportunities for recreation in nature: rafting on, mountaineering, caving, canyoning.
The thermal-mineral waters are those who offered to Baile Herculane and its’ surroundings unicity.
The source of the spring waters seems to be in fact the surface water.
The water seeps underground and penetrate to depths between 1,000 and 2,000 meters. It heats up considerably (up to 190 ° C). After it rise to surface where it breaks in the form of springs.
The whole chemical process, which begins with the water infiltration into the underground and ends the day out as thermal springs, it can take decades and even thousands of years.
The water temperature is generally 35 ° -45 ° C, but in some cases up to 62 ° C. Water has a high degree of mineralization – as the result of the action of the hot water on the rocks crossed the way back to the surface.
During over 160 years of Roman dominion, Hercules baths became known throughout the empire.
The cult of Hercules was deeply rooted in the conscience of the Romans. He represented the perfect balance of physical strength and spiritual creative energy.
For them it was the Hercules Sanctus, the Salutiferus Hercules, the Invictus Hercules, the most popular heroes of the ancient mythology.
In the war of 1716-1718 Austrians defeated the Ottomans who were ordering the Banat at the time.
The region was declared the crown’s under the name “Timiş Banat” and administered directly by the Court of Vienna. Under the administration in Vienna were rediscovered the Roman baths and the resort started to develop.
Bathrooms were built and people were coming to treatment throughout the empire. Visiting the baths in 1852, the Emperor Franz Joseph I said that “now in the Cerna Valley is the most beautiful resort on the continent“.
The statue is actually a reproduction of one of the statues found in 1724 after excavation.
Six statues of Hercules were sent to Vienna at that time. Only three reached their destination. The rest sank with the ship they were carried on, in the Danube.
The best known statue, was returned to Herculane in a copy greatly expanded.
It was installed in 1847 in the center of the resort. This statue represents the hero, with the Nemean lion skin and with the club on the left shoulder.
Herculane Baths Resort nowadays: although it is a very important architectural heritage, the historic center suffers a fierce degradation. Even so, the historical buildings are outstanding beauties and worth visiting.
The Center of the “new” resort complexes hosts spas and hotels built during the communist period. The area is very beautiful but unfortunately not very well organized.
The tourist circuit of the Herculane Baths resort: Starting from the “new” center (Vicol Park area) we forward on the banks of Cerna till we reach the Market Bridge.
We cross the bridge on the right bank of the Cerna. Immediately, we see a building close, built in neoclassical style – Neptune Fountain III (or the Eye Spring).
Opposite it is a circular building with a conical roof accommodates the Neptune Fountain II (Stomach Spring). Its water is good for diabetes.
We continue upstream on the banks of Cerna to arrive at Baia Neptun (also known as Austrian Empire Baths). It is one of the most imposing buildings from Herculane Baths having its own bridge over the Cerna river.
From the main hall there are two opposing freeways towards the two pavilions: one with sulfur baths, the other with salt bath.
During the building was built, it had the most modern spa facility in Europe. The Neptune bathroom lacked a self hotel, but the Hercules hotel was around.
The metal bridge in front of the building is a work of art and it was built in the same period as the building.
Too bad that both the building and the bridge, are in an advanced state of decay.
Moving on Spring Street we reach the Diana Bath and the Diana Spring. It is also called the bath for the bone pain. The building, as we know it, was built in 1859. Now it has been refurbished. The roof has a terrace with parapet and in one of the corners you can find a statue of Hercules.
We are at the Hercules Market ensemble which consists of Hotel Ferdinand, Baths’ direction, the Statue of Hercules, Hall 6, Hall 5, the Roman Catholic Church, Hall 4 and Hall 3.
If we walk on the left side of the market, we see the Baths’ Direction, built in 1811 by Romanian border guards.
Next to it, is the most impressive building in the market: Hall 6 (or Dacia Hotel). The present building was built in 1906, with 6 levels bunk. At that time it was equipped with hydraulic lift.
On the right side of the Hercules Market the first building (next to the statue) is Hebe Bath. An interesting fact, is that this bathroom is connected to the Decebal Hotel through the Gallery of antiquities from the Stone Bridge (covered bridge). It was also called fever Bath swollen Both or sore wrists Bath.
The present building was erected in 1826 and rebuilt in 1864 with Stone Bridge next to it. Above the bath is a splendid Viennese-style gazebo. It has a red octagonal roof, is adorned with geometric ornaments fretted.
Follow the Hotel Apollo, the Hotel Danube (or Pavilion 4) and the Apollo Bath is located in the end market.
On the location of the Apollo Bath roman baths and a Hercules temple were discovered. Burned by the Turks in 1737, It was rebuilt between 1758 and 1760 under the name of The Great Bath. In only in 1852, was rebuilt in its current form. Currently, the building is in an advanced poor condition.
The Apollo Bath is communicating underground with Hall 4. It communicated also till the last World War, under the street with Hall 5. It had three white marble basins: one for men, one for women and one for the military.
The Roman-Catholic Church (Chapel) is the last building, which closes ot the north the Hercules Market. It is open for visitors all the time. It was consecrated in 1838. The Elisabeth Empress (Sisi) attended the services held in the little church every time when she was in Herculane.
Continuing walking along Roman street (For Roman hotel) we arrive at the home of Herculane Bath.
In the monumental structure of the hotel building, the old Romans Baths are incorporated.
Inside, there is still an ancient bas-relief depicting the demigod Hercules. To see the remains of Roman baths you have to enter the hotel. Unfortunately this is not mentioned anywhere on the outside.
Hercule’s Bath is the oldest bath in the resort originally built and used by the Romans.
With the occasion of the Herculane Resort restoration in the first part of the 18th century, they were discovered Roman ruins here: tub baths carved in stone for elbow and knee, excavations in the rock for general baths, coins etc.
Here you will see the famous relief next to the Hercules I Spring , depicting the mythical hero with a cup of thermal water in his hand, inviting us to drink from it.
It’s a nice objective but poorly signposted. It is difficult to understand which part of the building are vestiges! The guides are very disinterested. Entry fee is paid.
To visit the left bank of Herculane Baths we must go the same way to Stone Bridge (Covered Bridge), which lies at the end of the Hercules market.
We pass by Hall 2 (Decebal Hotel). This spectacular building, built by the architect Doderer in 1860 (As, incidentally, is written on the frontispiece) it was originally called “Hotel Franz Joseph I” and it has quite an interior. You can not visit it.
Opposite Pavilion 2 is the Elizabeth Villa. In this building queen accommodated when she attended Herculane. For her was made a reception hall Venice, decorated with mirrors and Murano chandelier.
In the Central Park we can visit the sumptuous edifice of Cazino. On the front it can be read „Saluţi et laetitiae” (health and happiness). This salute wants to show that the purpose of this place was to heal through joy. It was built in Austrian Baroque style, simply decorated and pleasant.
It has a beautiful covered terrace with a painted ceiling. The stairs leading upstairs, are leading to the famous Casino Hall. Within the ensemble were functioning the cafe, canteen, bazaar, roulette and baccarat games. It is an important tourist attraction worth visiting.
The circuit of the Herculane Baths can be made entirely on foot, walking.
As regard the time, it may vary between 2 and 4 hours, depending of the time devoted to each landmark.
If you stay in the area for several days, we suggest you find time also for a boat ride on the Danube in the Boilers area.
Orsova town is only 30 km from Herculane.