The healing qualities of Vichy's rich-mineral waters have made this town famous all over the world, recognised for cosmetics, laboratories, octogonal soda pastilles and, of course, bottled water, today exported to more than 40 countries.
Throughout its history, Vichy has always developed, diversified and modernized. Today, it is a perfect destination for health and well-being seekers, a flowered town set along the course of the Allier river, full of green parks, cultural and sporting activities - since the 60s it's famous for hostings international waters sports competitions - and a rich architectural heritage, rich in fine examples of refined classic spa building.
The Municipality of Vichy is a founder member of EHTTA.
Romans and Gauls were the first to discover the properties of Vichy's springs, founders of Aquis Calidis, a town next to a passaage point upon the river Allier. In the Middle Ages several small villages grouped around a fortified castle and a monastery, forming two settlements: a feudal city on the Allier banks and, North-West of the castle, an open defenceless town.In the 8th and 9th centuries a primitive thermal establishmet operated between these two centers, close to the monastery .
The popularization of thermal water cures at the beggining of the 17th century moved King Henri IV to order the construction of Vichy's first modern baths, the Maison du Roy, starting a long tradition of royal visitors to the budding spa town. The establishment was further developed through years, specially thanks to Victoire and Adélaide, daughters of King Louis XV, who in 1785 promoted major transformations, including better roads, the design of an esplanade and the contruction of new thermal facilities.
Laetitia Bonaparte, mother of Napoleon 1st, also visited Vichy in 1799, and her stay bring further improvements to the town: new buildings to protect the fountains and paved paths connecting them with the baths and the hospital. Trough the 19th century the thermal quarter began to take form, developing over the old medieval town, and concert halls, ballrooms, promenades and other enterntainments facilities began to spread.
Vichy's First Golden Era
Although many royal figures favoured Vichy trough its history, it if the Emperor Napoléon III who decided to turn what was then a large village into the "Queen of the Water Cities", the greatest spa town in France. Under his command, new thermal facilities, access roads, hotel and elegants villas were developed, along with a new City Hall, the railway station and the famous Emperor's cottages, with a distinctive Alpine flair. His plans for Vichy also included the transformations of the Allier riverbanks: dikes were built along the Allier river, 13 hectares (32 acres) of landscaped gardens replaced the old marshes, and along the newly laid out boulevards and streets..
Soon, in 1853, the Compagnie de Vichy is settled in order to look after the economic interests of the springs resorts. By 1862 the bottling industry was established, and salts and pastilles already manufactered and exported. New thermal facilities welcomed flows of tourist and the population greatly increased.
Vichy's Second Golden Era
At the end of the 1880s Vichy began to modernized (electric lighting, tramway) and new thermal techniques were introduced, progressively attracting more and more curistes every year, which turned the "Queen of Spas" the epitome of La vie thermale by 1900s. The success of the water treatments led la Compagnie Fermière to developed the Spa quarter further, building new facilities as the Hall of the Springs, the Callou Baths (1933) and Lardy Baths (1937).
The Casino was expanded and the Parc des Sources, the promenande connecting the buvettes , was enclosed by a metal gallery from the World Fair of 1889.Villas and hotels continued to spread and in 1903 the Art Nouveau-style Opéra opened for the first time, soon granting Vichy the title of summertime music capital of France.
The II World War would put a brutal end to this development, and Vichy sadly became world-known as occupied territory. After the Liberation, the town faced the fall of social thermalism due to changes in population.
French writer Madame de Sévigné reported to the court of Louis XIV that the Vichy waters has had a beneficial effect on her complexion and hands, thus starting a trend for beauty tretments that continues to today.
She was one of the long line of visitor who contributed to build Vichy's history, including Victoire and Adelaide, daughters of Louis XV, Laetitita Bonaparte and, of couse, Emperor Napoléon III.
The mineral springs of Vichy belong to the family of sodic bicarbonated - carbo-gaseous waters, and are rich in trace elements.
Six springs are used for the drink course of treatment, and are divided into two groups:
Due to their rich mineral compositions, Vichy's waters regulate the biliary flow, have antispasmodic effects on the intestines and have proved beneficial in many cases of food allergies. On the skin, they have a revitalising and tonic effect, and their anti-inflammatory qualities are also prized for the Laboratoiries Vichy and its dermocosmetic line, part of the world-famous L'Oreal brand.
The Vichy Thermal Spa Les Dômes offers traditional hydrotherapy and drinking cures for digestive, metabolic, rheumatic diseases and allergies, while the new Vichy Spa Hotel and Resort Les Célestins offers guests the latest skincare and beauty techniques, as well as hydrotherapy treatments using the Vichy spring water, in a modern complex overlooking the Napoléon III Park.
The Vichy Method approach health and well-being from an holistic point of view, where the water cures (ranging from 5 to 18 days) are complemented with exercise and workout at Vichy's many sports facilities, wellness treatments like massages and modelling, peloid muds wraps, steam rooms and saunas, etc. and of course healthy diets. The Vichy Nutritional Centre is available for nutritional consultations, light cookery workshops, behaviour therapies and follow-up support for 6 months after the treatment.
Besides the drinking treatments, Vichy's thermal tecniques include the famous Vichy shower, mud applications, water massages, carbonated baths, steams, and thermalwaters instillations.
In 1990s the town started a major investments programme to achieve "a renewed thermalism" that would bring back to the town its forer popularity as a health centre. Actions included the renovation of the springs hall and galleries, the creations of the Celestins thermal spa and its 4-stars hotel, and above all the protection and recovery of the old thermal facilities, sometimes giving them new moderns uses, like the Lady baths, which today house the University.
Nowaydays, thanks to this recovery strategy, visitors can still enjoy the view of great pieces of heritage like the Grand Casino and the Art Nouvau theatre and stroll around the banks of the Allier river,today home to great lush parks and sandy beaches, along with many sports facilities.
Celestins is one of Vichy's best known springs, nestled in the park of the former Couvent des Celestins, overlooking the Allier.
An elegant Neoclassical building from the 19th century treasures the fountain of Celestins
The Grand Casino, today congress hall and opera, is one of the most emblematic building of the French Second Empire, and an emblem of Vichy
A view of the magnificent interiors of the Opera house of Vichy
The Hall of Sources houses the main healing springs of Vichy. Built 19803 in glass and iron, it resembles an Art Nouvau greenhouse
This impressive neo-Byzantine dome names modern Thermes Les Dômes, formerly the Grand établissement thermal, built at the beginning of the 20th century
The iconic Imperial chalets of Vichy, built in the 19th century with their Alpine flair, treasure many stories behind its colourful façades
Each spring, Vichy celebrates the visits and legacy of the Emperor Napoléon III and the Empress Eugenie, during an historic feast which includes costumed dances in front of the Grand Casino.
Shopping at the Fer-à-Cheval district, an extension of the iron gallery closing the Parc des Sources
Bow window villas (19th century) in Alquié Street show the British influence in Vichy