Take It Easy: The Architecture of Polish Spas
default, ladek_zdroj_forum.jpg, Ukrainian soldiers in the hot springs of Lądek - Dlugopole S.A., photo: Mirosław Jarosz/Foto Gość/FORUM
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According to the data of the Polish Ministry of Health, there are 45 spa towns in Poland. The status of a spa town is granted to places which have unique, natural mineral reservoirs or curative properties thanks to their local climate. Culture.pl presents a selection of Polish spas which, besides their therapeutic value, are worth visiting for their intriguing architecture.
Ciechocinek is thought to be the most popular Polish spa town. It is famous for its special mineral water type called iodine saline, which one can drink or breathe in so-called graduation towers. Local curative powers were discovered in the second half of the18th century, whereas the tower itself was built in 1824. Ever since the Ciechocinek's natural treatment facility was built during the interwar period, the city's popularity among visitors has constantly grown. In fact, most of the city’s buildings come from the 1920s and 1930s – except for three historic graduation towers from the first half of the 19th century.
It is also worth taking a stroll and visiting the interwar villas scattered around the town, as well as Łazienki, the monumental, richly decorated spa complex from the turn of the 20th century in the neo-romanesque and neoclassical style.
Ustroń-Zawodzie Health-Rehabilitation District, photo: Wojciech Kryński/Forum
Stretching out over 200 hectares, the Ustroń-Zawodzie Health-Rehabilitation District is one of the most interesting spa complexes in Europe. Built at the turn of the 1970s as a part of the holiday resort facilities for the towns of Ustroń, Wisła and Szczyrk, Ustroń-Zawodzie was being expanded to accommodate the needs of Śląsk’s factory workers. The large complex, consisting of a hospital, a sanatorium with a natural treatment facility, 17 treatment and rehabilitation houses, an exercise area, a pump room, a cinema, and more, can house 7000 visitors.
The district was designed by the Pracownia Projektów Budownictwa Ogólnego (editor’s translation: Laboratory of General Building Projects) – a Katowice-based architectural office run by Henryk Buszko, Aleksandra Franta and Tadeusz Szewczyk. The site’s most distinctive features are the treatment and rehabilitation houses in the shape of pyramids. The houses strewn across the area were meant to resemble a mountainous landscape. The unique architectural style of Ustroń-Zawodzie was depicted in the 2017 documentary called Uzdrowisko: Architektura Zawodzia (Spa: The Architecture of Zawodzie) directed by Ewa Trzcionka.
Spring Spa Park, Wojciech Natural Treatment Facility, Lądek Zdrój, photo: Marek Maruszak/Forum
‘There’s no such city as London, but there is Lądek, Lądek Zdrój’, says a post office worker in Stanisław Bareja’s iconic film Teddy Bear. But this Lower Silesian resort is known for something more than just this cameo. The mountain climate and numerous natural springs with curative waters have been attracting visitors for centuries. After all, Lądek is one of the oldest spa towns in Europe. Most of the Lądek’s spa buildings were built in the 18th and 19th century. Their richly ornamented, eclectic forms invite visitors to travel back in time: feel like the hero of an old novel enjoying the ambience of a historic resort. One of the most beautiful buildings in the city is the neo-baroque Wojciech Spring – a beautiful indoor pool that is open to the public. Worth a dip!
Zuber, Słotwinka, Jan and Józef are the names of the curative mineral waters drawn from Krynica Górska’s medicinal springs. They are then bottled and sold all around the country. However, they taste best in the complex’s 19th century Old Spa House or the modern, glazed room of the Main Pump Room from 1969. In Krynica, one will find both pre-war villas and holiday resort houses which date back to the 1960s. If you look carefully, you are bound to discover some real architectural gems among them. For example, the 1932 Patria Hotel commisioned by Jan Kiepura and designed by Bohdan Pniewski, and the blue, wooden Willa Romanówka. Today, it houses the Museum of Nikifor, the Polish primitive painter who was born in Krynica and created his art there.
Kudowa – Polanica – Duszniki
Eleven out of 45 Polish spas are located in the Lower Silesian region of Poland. Kudowa-Zdrój, Duszniki-Zdrój and Polanica-Zdrój (zdrój in Polish is a spring) are three neighbouring towns in the Kłodzko Valley (Kotlina Kłodzka) that share a rich reservoir of therapeutic mineral waters. The latter has the longest history – the medicinal value of local mineral waters was discovered back in the late 16th century by Jesuits.
Today, these three resorts have been entered into the Polish cultural heritage register because of their priceless 19th-century buildings and urban layout. In Duszniki-Zdrój an annual Chopin Festival takes place, and visitors can also visit the Museum of Papermaking and produce their own paper.
Located near Lublin, the golden era of this city began in the late 19th century. The spa was popular especially among writers, such as Bolesław Prus, Bolesław Leśmian, Maria Kuncewiczowa or Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz. Stefan Żeromski used to live in Nałęczów in a villa designed by Jan Koszczyc-Witkiewicz – nowadays the villa houses a museum devoted to its former inhabitant.
The small town, developed in the late 19th century in harmony with the idea of a garden-city, is full of old wooden architecture – most commonly villas. But connoisseurs or modernity will also find buildings of interest. For example, the Hydrotherapy Centre built in 2004-2005 or the sanatorium building located next to the Fortunat sanatorium, both designed by the minimalist architect Bolesław Stelmach.
Situated near Łódź, Uniejów is the newest Polish spa: it got its official status in 2002. Uniejów’s medicinal resources are geothermal waters drawn from the hot springs discovered here in 1978. Taking a bath in one of them can support the treatment of rheumatism, diseases of the skin and nervous system, as well as orthopaedic injuries. The water’s temperature is 68˚C (154.4˚F). It is rich in various elements such as sulphur, copper chloride, iron, sodium, iodine and fluorides.
The first pools in Uniejów were opened in 2008, the next ones – four years later. Not only are they modern but are also the perfect space to relax and play for people who do not require sanatorium treatment. Geothermal water heats up the football pitch of the local sports centre – thanks to the water, its grass is always green, even in winter.
Spa in Kamień Pomorski, Natural Treatment Facility, photo: Robert Stachnik/Urząd Marszałkowski Województwa Zachodniopomorskiego (Marshal’s Office of the Western Pomeranian Region)
The resources of the Western Pomeranian spa, saline and peat, support the treatment of locomotor and circulatory system disorders, neurological conditions and rheumatism. Close to the sea, Kamień Pomorski is surrounded by picturesque views of two bays in the Dziwna channel floodplain.
In the 9th century, it was a fishing settlement, in the 12th century the bishop's headquarters were moved here. This is why the town has a number of monuments – beginning with the medieval urban layout, a Romanesque-Gothic co-cathedral and the Renaissance buildings of the bishop's headquarters, ending on the 19th-century public utility buildings. Międzynarodowy Festiwal Muzyki Organowej i Kameralnej (International Festival of Organ and Chamber Music) has been held here since 1964 – Kamień Pomorski’s baroque cathedral organs are one of the most wonderful instruments in the whole of Europe.
Wieliczka is not only a UNESCO World Heritage List tourist attraction and a valuable relic of technological. It is also the only Polish underground spa. Its medicinal values were known already in the 19th century (the Saline Bath Site was opened in 1839). An underground sanatorium for asthmatics was opened here by mining physician Mieczysław Skulimowski. It is still open today and is designed to cure respiratory diseases. Even just being in a chamber located 100 metres underground has a beneficial influence on the respiratory tract.
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Konstancin-Jeziorna is an unusual spa town, in that it is located very close to Poland’s capital (some even consider it a suburb of Warsaw). But it is easy to forget the city’s hustle and bustle when walking around the Spa Park and breathing in the spray produced by the nearby graduation tower.
The only spa town in the Masovian Region is not only a place with numerous spas, but is also home to many celebrities. While walking around the town, one can see both stylish sanatorium buildings from the beginning of the 20th century and luxurious, modern villas.
Originally written in Polish, Aug 2017, translated by AS, May 2018