The history of using Vrnjačka Banja mineral waters dates back to the distant past when Celtic Scordisci inhabited these areas. After the Roman conquest of the Balkans in the last centuries of the old era and several centuries of the new era, mineral water was used for drinking and bathing, as evidenced by a Roman spring found during the capture of Vrnjačka Banja hot mineral water in 1924 and numerous coins depicting Roman emperors.
It is probable that the newly settled Slavs in the Middle Ages also knew about the healing properties of the Vrnjačka Banja waters. Following the Turkish conquest of the Balkans, there is almost no data on Vrnjačka Banja mineral water use, except in a few untrustworthy legends saying that the Turks learned about the healing properties of water at the end of their rule and used it as such.
After the liberation from the Turks in the early 19th century, Prince Miloš hired Saxon geologist Baron Herder to investigate the mineral springs in Serbia, including Vrnjačka Banja hot mineral water. There are reliable data that the inhabitants of the village of Vrnjci and its surroundings used hot mineral water for healing in the mid-19th century; Janja Bishop of Ziča also used it for bathing and drinking.
However, the history of the modern Spa in Vrnjci dates back to 1868, when Kruševac district mayor Pavle Mutavdžić, along with several benefactors and prominent people from Kruševac, Karavnovac (Kraljevo), and Trstenik established the Foundation Society of Sour and Hot Water in Vrnjci. That same year, two hot mineral water springs were captured, and the construction of spa facilities, primarily baths, began.
The first season of the following year, 1869, confirmed the justification of founding such a society and the perspective of a new spa.
After several years of stagnation due to a lack of funds for the construction and authorities’ care, in the eighties, when the Spa in Vrnjci became state-owned, and especially after the construction of the villa of General Jovan Belimarković, Deputy of King Alexander Obrenovič, Vrnjačka Banja began to develop into a modern spa.
In 1885, the Kosta Petrović-Rakica National Inn began operating as a real restaurant. Enterprising people from the surrounding towns built their villas and boarding houses, the central spa zone was arranged, and in the mid-1990s, the first Vrnjačka Banja regulation plan was developed.
The number of visitors grew from year to year. Banja experienced a heyday in the years before the Balkan wars. It then got many modern boarding houses, a new bath, one operating and one planned cinema. Before the wars, the Stalać-Požega railway was constructed to pass by Vrnjačka Banja, so the Spa got good traffic connections with most major cities in Serbia.
Vrnjačka Banja experienced stagnation during the wars of 1912/18. In 1915, several allied hospitals were accommodated in spa boarding houses and resorts. After World War I, there was a sharp rise, peaking in the late 1930s.
The zest did not wane even in the years of economic crisis when modern villas, sanatoriums (Sv. Đorđe, Živadinović), and a modern bath were built, a large hot mineral spring was captured in 1924/25, the Vrnjačka river was arranged, parks were expanded and landscaped, roads were built, and the water supply and sewerage network was expanded.
According to the 1933 census, there were 133 craft and trade shops in Vrnjačka Banja. Cultural life flourished as well – fairs, concerts of classical music, and performances of renowned guest theater groups were organized.
The “Goč” Tourist Association was founded, and after the adoption of the Law on Spas, boarding houses and villas were strictly categorized. According to the 1935 census, there were 257 of them. That year the Spa had 28,080 visitors, far more than any other tourist destination in Yugoslavia.
After World War II, the guest structure changed: the state sent patients for treatment, the service level dropped, and many exclusive spa facilities were no longer in operation. Vrnjačka Banja experienced a rerise in the 1950s and 1960s with an increased number of visitors and the construction of new facilities.
The most significant recorded number of visits to the Spa was in the eighties – close to 200,000 visitors who spent two million nights at the Spa.