The spa town of Băile Herculane has a long history of human habitation. Numerous archaeological discoveries show that the area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era. The Peștera Hoților (Cave of the Thieves), contains multiple levels, including one from the Mousterian period, one from the Mesolithic period (late Epigravettian) and several from the later Neolithic periods.
Legend has it that the weary Hercules stopped in the valley to bathe and rest. During the 165 years of Roman domination of Dacia, the Herculaneum Spa was known all over the Empire. Unearthed stone carvings show that visiting Roman aristocrats turned the town into a Roman leisure center. Six statues of Hercules from the time have been discovered. A bronze replica of one of them, molded in 1874, stands as a landmark in the town center.
In modern times, the spa town has been visited for its supposedly natural healing properties: hot springs with sulfur, chlorine, sodium, calcium, magnesium and other minerals, as well as negatively ionized air. Before World War II, when the first modern hotel was built (i.e. H Cerna, 1930) it remained a popular destination with Western Europeans. During the Communist rule, mass tourism facilities were built, such as the 8- to 12-storied concrete hotels Roman, Hercules A, Hercules B, Afrodita, Minerva, Diana, UGSR, etc. which dominate the skyline. It was visited by all kinds of people, but was especially popular with employees and retirees, who would spend their state-allotted vacation vouchers there, hoping to improve their health. Today, they share the town with a younger crowd. New privately owned pensions and hotels appeared after 1989, along the Cerna/Tiena river banks, spread from the train station to the end of the hydroelectrical dam. Some of the Austro-Hungarian era buildings are derelict for the time being, including many of the baths, because of post-communism property related issues.