Băile Herculane, the Herculane Baths, is one of the well-known and beautiful balneo-climatic resorts in Romania and is one of the oldest spa resorts in the world. It is situated in the South-West of the country (Banat region), between the Cernei and Mehedinţi Mountains, in the fascinating valley of the Cerna River, surrounded by forests, at 19 km from Orşova and 41 km from Drobeta Turnu-Severin, at 160 m altitude.
The thermal and mineral waters of the Herculane Baths were first discovered and exploited by the soldiers of the Roman legions that conquest Dacia since 105 – 107 A.D.; the mineral springs from here were named “Thaermae Herculi” and were mentioned for the first time in a document in 153 A.D. The Romans called this area “Ad acquas Herculi Sacras” (the ‘Holy Water of Hercules’), due to the healing properties of the waters and this is were the actual name comes from.
There are numerous remains from the Roman times: aqueducts, baths, statues, coins and votive tabulas raised for the Gods as a sign of gratitude for healing diseases. The Roman patricians used to come to the resort, and the waters from here became known all over the Roman Empire. Even Emperor Marcus Aurelius himself came here for treatment! Throughout the years, numerous celebrities stopped at Băile Herculane, including Goethe, Andersen, Emperor Franz I and his wife, the Empress Charlotte, Archiduke Karl, Emperor Franz Josef and his wife, the Empress Sissi. In 1852, the Emperor considered Herculane Baths the most beautiful baths of the continent and the Empress, in her's diary, presented the spa as a marvelous and distinct place.
The climate specific to the mountainous depressions, with sub-Mediterranean influences, encouraged the proliferation of a very rich and varied vegetation, air rich in negative ions, and a special landscape, especially the numerous mineral springs rich in sulphur, sodium chloride, calcium, acid carbonate, calcium. All of these render the resort as an ideal place for relaxation and a site to remake holiday all year long. In the resort there are several hotels and villas, many among them having their own treatment centers with hydrotherapy, kinetotherapy and electrotherapy equipment. Diseases successfully treated here include rheumatic, gynecological, peripherical nervous system diseases, and diseases of the digestive system.
All sights worth seeing are grouped in the historic centre. The majority of the ancient Roman baths were destroyed during the Turkish and Austrian-Hungarian occupations, but a few have been preserved in the Roman Bath Museum inside teh Roman Hotel. One can actually feel the heat from the natural 54°C water running under the hotel. The resort’s central pavilion was built during the 1800s by the Habsburgs as a casino and restaurant. It's been converted to house a few shops and a small History Museum. There's a 200-year-old Wellingtonia Gigantea tree beside the steps leading up to the museum, famed for its enormous size. Across the river are the derelict Austrian baths. The Railway station was built in 1879 in neo-baroque style and the central body of the building with a majestic dome is decorated with representations of mythological characters including the legendary Hercules hero. The building was used as hunting house by Emperor Franz Joseph. Mt. Domogled (1100m) towers over Herculane Baths to the west, making for an excellent backdrop in Cerna Valley, where the resort lies. This forest reservation has been protected since 1932, housing rare trees, turtles and butterflies.