The History of Spa Pools


When we think about the spa pools of today, you might picture the multiple jets, the reclining seats, and the changing lights that look like the inside of a night club. It is a picture of luxury and relaxation and, and maybe even a little splurging. The steam and soaking is also thought to be good for you, inside and out. While these thoughts that we have about spa pools typically apply to modern ones, the truth is, they are actually applicable to some of the very first spa pools in history.

Origins of bathing

Luxury jets and fancy reclining seats aside, bathing meant something different to each culture that embraced it. For colder areas, bathing was simply a means of warming up after a cold day of working outside. To the Romans, bathing was a social gathering, and a place where politics or the gossip on the street could be discussed. To one of the first baths built for the public in modern day Pakistan, it was the source for spiritual cleansing. Overall, the very first spa pools were less about the luxury experience of today’s spa pools, and much more about the benefits of bathing, whether medicinal, practical, social, or spiritual.  

Among the most famous of ancient spas or baths are definitely the Roman baths. Besides their social benefits, Roman baths were the great equalizer, allowing for all members of the public to visit. Wealthy or poor, famous or unknown, everyone could enter for a small fee. While cleanliness was one objective for visiting the baths, relaxing and mingling was the more vital objective.

Healing was also still important to the Romans, just as it was and is for many other cultures. If interested, you can read about other forms of Roman pain relief, here. The Romans are also widely famous because of their incredible construction and heating systems, which were well ahead of their time. More details on the bath’s impressive construction can be found in this this article. Some remains of the baths, including the Roman baths built in Bath, England, are still standing today and can be visited.

Hot Springs

Bathing for many cultures was highly regarded for its medicinal properties. This was especially true with  natural spa pools, commonly known as hot springs, found all over the world. These hot springs are a result of pockets of water heated by volcanic activity or being deep enough in the ground to be heated by the earth’s molten core. Because of their high mineral content and natural heat, hot springs have been used from ancient times to the present for their healing properties. Bathing in these hot springs was thought to release toxins with their heat, and allow the natural minerals to soak in through the open pores of the skin.  

In ancient Japan, hot springs were used by Buddhist monks as a purification ritual, as well as for healing. These natural springs were often deemed holy water, and bathing in them was thought to cleanse one of any evil. The Romans also thought of natural hot springs as religious, as at the time, there was no scientific explanation for the phenomenon besides divine influence.  

19th and 20th century bathing

In the 19th and 20th century, cleanliness was becoming more widely accepted and practised. This was mostly the result of physicians starting to discover the benefits of hygiene and sanitation. Bathing became a routine for many people, and even became more stylish with places like Bath, England, revitalising the bath culture and using the old Roman bathing pools and hot springs once again.

In the mid to late 1800’s, bathing started to become common in the home, with homes starting to install their own bathtubs. Eventually, leading into the first World War, bathtubs became common in most homes. This style of bathing became predominant until more recently, with the introduction of modern spa pools and jacuzzis.

Modern bathing and spas

Today, we are more likely to hop in the shower than bother with a bath, especially on a daily basis. Convenience and efficiency are valued more than the relaxation and health benefits of a bath. However, as modern bathtubs have started to include amenities like larger sized tubs and jets, taking a bath is increasingly becoming a source of relaxation. Retailers have responded to this increase with selling more bath related items, like bath pillows, bath salts, and waterproof stereos.

The rise of indoor bath enjoyment has caused a rise in outdoor spa pools as well. Now, you can purchase spa pools that can accommodate multiple people, have purposely placed jets to facilitate muscle relaxation, and various forms of LED lighting. There are even spas that are built large enough to allow you to swim “laps” in the spa.  

We also still frequent hot springs around the world, like these ones. The medicinal benefits of hot springs is still valued, and are used for some of the same reasons as in ancient times. There have even been studies on the effects of bathing that support the apparent benefits. Athletes, elderly, or people suffering from muscular pain still use hot springs as a form of pain relief as well. Many resorts have capitalised on the natural hot springs and built spa facilities and lodging based around the pools.   

Now that you’ve heard all the great history of spa pools, it’s probably tempting to start looking for your own spa. The benefits of spa pools have been recognised for centuries, all the way back with the ancient Romans, to present, so the advantages are undeniable. And now, with all of the exciting new features that come with spa pools, you can enjoy the practicality and luxury of a spa all in one. Consider visiting Wellington BBQs and Fire in Wellington, New Zealand to get you started on owning a top of the line spa pool and get you relaxing in your luxurious new purchase.   


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