Both unknown and famous visitors came from across Europe in the 19th century, causing the development and fame of the spa towns. Grand hotels, spa buildings, casinos, parks...a very airy urban setting grew with luxurious architecture.
Argelès-Gazost, Luchon, Molitg-les-Bains, Bagnères-de-Bigorre, Ax-les-Thermes…so many towns with admirable splendours from a golden era.

Eaux-Bonnes, Salies-de-Béarn, Eaux-Chaudes, Luchon,  Aulus…all over the Pyrenees; the grand hotels are persistent proof of the magnificence of the spa towns in the 19th century.

The myth of the Pyrenees, a wild mountain, had just been invented by the Romantics. It was a very popular destination.

Cauterets, known since Roman times for the quality of the sulphur-filled hot springs, and visited by Marguerite d'Angoulême, Queen of Navarre, in 1546, became a fashionable destination in the 19th century. The elite of the high society rushed there. The surrounding area with the Gaube lake, the Pont d’Espagne, the Marcadau valley, and the Vignemale beguiled artists.


Victor Hugo stayed in a little street which now bears his name and the Russian Princess Galitzine had a wooden isba built, which is still standing, in the rue du Mamelon Vert.

It was during that period that the Cauterets underwent enormous urban change with construction of the Thermes César in 1844, the grand hotels - in particular the Continental and the Angleterre - and several architectural follys, such as the “wild west” station. In fact, the station, built entirely from Nordic pine was Norway’s pavilion at the 1889 World Fair, which was dismounted and rebuilt here.


Lamartine, Flaubert, Maupassant, Mirbeau, Alfonso XIII, etc. stayed at Luchon. The “Queen of the Pyrenees” saw many changes: the construction of the Casino, the arrival of the train... In Ariège, in just a few years the spa activity transformed the small town of Aulus into Aulus-les-Bains. In 1849 the hotel already had three hotels for visitors and celebrities.
The 19th century shaped the architecture of the Pyrenees’ spa towns - like jewels treasured in their showcase.