Town’s rights were awarded to Haapsalu, -‘the Nordic Venice’, – in 1279, thus it is one of the oldest and noblest towns in Estonia. The most widespread legend says that the town was named after an Estonian holy place – an aspen grove (‘haab’ – means aspen in Estonian).
Historical figures, who lived, relaxed and worked here as well as modern health spas carry on the centuries-old traditions of Haapsalu as a resort.
Haapsalu Resort is the oldest mud therapy institution in Estonia, which has been in operation without interruptions.
Its 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 – 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 Tartu University were enthusiastic about the new treatment method. In1825, Dr. Hunnius initiated 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 with lots of bays and islets became extremely popular among the rich aristocracy of St. Petersburg and the court of the Russian czar. Czars Peter I, Alexander I, Alexander II, Alexander III and Nikolai II came to Haapsalu to improve their health and enjoy peace and quiet.
In 1867, a world renowned Russian composer, Pjotr Tšaikovski, spent his summer in Haapsalu, creating one of his first operas here, ‘The Vojevood,’ and a cycle of instrumental pieces, ‘Memories from Haapsalu.’
Nikolai Roerich, a famous Russian painter, also discovered the charms of this resort. His well-known works, ‘There are large countries behind seas’ and ‘Varjag`s motive,’ were created during his last visit in 1910.
In the Republic of Estonia (1918-1940) Haapsalu was still a popular summer resort. In1938, a modern spa house was completed and in July of the same year, people from 21 different nations spent their summer here. Besides professors and musicians, high-ranking public figures and well-known businessmen from all over the world spent their summers in Haapsalu.
Several remarkable public and cultural figures of Estonia, like Aino Kallas, Friedebert Tuglas, Villem Grünthal-Ridala, Oskar Luts, etc., had their holiday in Haapsalu.
After being occupied by the Soviets, the spa was reorganised according to Soviet laws. The ‘Laine’ health spa, already established in the Republic of Estonia and still operating successfully, was extended. Patients arrived here from all over the Soviet Union.
When Estonia regained independence, restoration of traditional mud treatment in Haapsalu was initiated.
The renovated ‘Laine’ health spa was opened in 1994 and on the former Bergfeldt institution`s plot a small mud therapy institution bearing the same name was established. In 1997, the Fra Mare health spa was completed under the pines of Paralepa.
Haapsalu continues to introduce itself to the world as a resort town.