Haapsalu – also known as ‘the Nordic Venice’ – was awarded town rights in 1279, thus being one of the oldest and noblest towns in Estonia. According to the most widespread legend, Haapsalu was named after an Estonian holy place – an aspen grove (haab means aspen in Estonian). The centuries-old tradition of Haapsalu as a resort town is carried on by the historical figures who lived, relaxed and worked here as well as the modern health spas.
Haapsalu Resort is the oldest mud therapy institution in Estonia that has been in operation without interruptions.
The Resort’s history dates back to the year 1820, when a district doctor Carl Abraham Hunnius came to work in Haapsalu. While treating local inhabitants, Hunnius came across an interesting treatment method they used – sea mud. Dr Hunnius had the chemical contents of sea mud examined and tested the new method on his relatives and patients.
His results were excellent and several doctors and professors of the University of Tartu were enthusiastic about the new treatment method. In 1825, Dr Hunnius initiated a construction of the first mud therapy institution on the coast of Haapsalu Eeslaht. In 1845, another and much more convenient mud treatment institution was established on the coast of Tagalaht.
The small resort town with its many bays and islets became extremely popular among the rich aristocracy of St. Petersburg and the court of the Russian czars. Czars Peter I, Alexander I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nikolai II came to Haapsalu to improve their health, and enjoy the peace and quiet.
In 1867, a world renowned Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky spent his summer in Haapsalu. Here he created one of his first operas ‘The Voyevoda’ as well as a cycle of instrumental pieces ‘Memories from Haapsalu’.
Nicholas Roerich, a famous Russian painter, also discovered the charms of this Resort. His well-known works ‘Beyond the Seas There Are the Great Lands’ and ‘Varangian Sea’ were created during his last visit in 1910.
During the first Republic of Estonia (1918-1940), Haapsalu was still a popular summer resort. In 1938, a modern spa house was completed and by July the same year people from 21 different nations spent their holidays here.
Well-known professors, musicians, businessmen and other high-ranking public figures from all over the world spent their summers in Haapsalu. Some of the remarkable Estonian public and cultural figures joining them were Aino Kallas, Friedebert Tuglas, Villem Grünthal-Ridala, Oskar Luts, to name a few.
After the Soviet occupation of Estonia, the health resorts were reorganised according to Soviet laws. The sanitarium Laine, which was established in Haapsalu during the first Republic of Estonia, was extended and continued to operate successfully, welcoming people from all over the Soviet Union.
In 1991, Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union. With the regained independence, the gradual process of restoring mud treatment tradition in Haapsalu was also initiated.
The renovated Laine sanitarium was opened in 1994. In the same year, a small mud therapy health resort was established at the location of the former Bregfeldt institution, taking the same name in its honour. Located in the Paralepa pine forest, Fra Mare Health Spa first opened its doors in 1997.
Haapsalu continues to be known to the world as an idyllic seaside resort town.