Belle époque

  • The Belle Époque in Vichy

The Belle Époque in Vichy

The largest thermal spa in the world.


In the 19th century, two emblematic buildings, the Thermal Spa and the Casino (built during the Second Empire), symbolize the thermal spa culture of Vichy, uniting health and pleasure.

Thanks to favorable economic circumstances and a period of political stability, the growth in the number of visitors to Vichy was uninterrupted, from 26,000 visitors in 1872 to 108,000 in 1913. Vichy became therefore the "Queen of the Thermal Cities."
If drinking mineral waters is a classic part of the spa experience, thermal techniques have evolved: the ancient practice of taking thermal baths has gradually given way to more active shower treatments. The range of treatments has grown (thermal gas showers and baths, inhalation, sprays, gargling, steam baths, etc.). Combining massage and thermal techniques, the renowned "Vichy shower" was perfected in 1896.

With the opening of the "world's largest thermal spa" in 1903, Vichy adopted medical techniques to increase the effectiveness of its thermal treatments, giving rise to electrotherapy and mechanotherapy. This push for innovation led to the discovery of a central truth: physical exercise contributes to the effectiveness of the spa treatment. Henceforth, physical activity, including gymnastics, fencing, tennis, and golf, has become a key component of the thermal spa experience.

During this prosperous cultural period when France shed its bright light of civilization all over the world, Vichy not only benefited, but it also played an active role. A client base from all walks of life and from all social classes was attracted to Vichy by its rich artistic and musical offerings.


Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1897

Emile Zola (among guests of Vichy). Reconstruction of the city. Thermal views are getting their modern look.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1900

The price of Tunisia Talib Bay (among guests of Vichy). The illustration of the car – a new vehicle that changed the whole tourism industry.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1901

Réjane (in performance). The Art Nouveau style theater opening. Vichy’s thermal waters are attracting the people from all over the world who are coming for their health: Russians, Japanese, Greek…

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1902

The Duke and the Duchess Clermont-Tonnerre (among the guests of Vichy). The opening of the first in the world mechanotherapy center (rehabilitation by manual, physical, or mechanical means).

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1903

Sarah Bernhardt (in performance). The grand opening of the Vichy Thermal Center: the domes in Middle Eastern style is a tribute to the guests from Middle East.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1904

Paul Choudens - the publisher of Faust and Carmen (among the guests of Vichy). Vichy brand (established at 1893) presented all over the world (bottled water, pastilles, bath salts, etc).

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1905

Eleonora Duse and Buffalo Bill (in performance). The inauguration of the new Post Hotel. On the poster – Casino hall.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1906

Réjane (in performance). Tennis that came to Vichy at the end of 19 century is becoming one of the most popular and high society’s kind of sport.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1907

Mr. Nenot (the architect of the Sorbonne) and Mr. H. Rogers (the American billionaire) among the guests of Vichy. The artist A. Guillaume illustrated the bottle of Vichy mineral water that was served in all Vichy’s restaurants.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1908

Xavier Leroux, composer (among the guests of Vichy). Establishment of the golf club. Building of the new modern pavilion of Vichy’s source Célestins. Michelin publishes its first road maps.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1909

The princess Anna Oblensky (among the guests of Vichy). Opening of the first aerodrome in Vichy.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1910

Mr. W-C. Reick, Director of the New York Times (among the guests of Vichy). The pavilion Célestins becomes tourist’s favorite place.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1911

Konstantin Korovin, Russian painter (among the guests of Vichy). As many other balneal resorts, Vichy welcomes Club-House (English style), which soon becomes a place for high society meetings.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1912

Mr. Montgolfier and Sultan of Morocco (among the guests of Vichy). Air show with Roland Garros. Pond with swans in the park becomes one of the points of interest in Vichy.

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1913

Lord Rosebury and the Prince of Bourbon (among the guests of Vichy). Gerorges Charpentier, European champion in boxing, fights in Vichy. First flights are offered in Vichy!

Vichy Guide for foreigners – Season 1914

Mr. and Mrs. Michelin (among the guests of Vichy). Calm and relaxing atmosphere, everybody is resting, walking and talking. And only tricolour flag on the top of the Thermal Center reminds of widespread patriotism…