During the czarist period, a number of resorts that were most popular among St Petersburg high society were located in Estonia. The first city to acquire the reputation of a resort town in early 19th century was Tallinn, but Kuressaare, Haapsalu and Pärnu were also gaining appreciation.
Although resorts were curing places by their name (a resort is Kurort in German, where Kur is cure and Ort is a place) they mainly encompassed recreational establishments beginning from cafés and restaurants to bandstands and bowling alleys. One of the most important buildings was a kuursaal (a resort hall) – concurrently a concert hall, a restaurant, a reading room and a hotel.
The main axis of resort life in Haapsalu, where even the members of the Russian Imperial Family used to spend the summer since the second half of the 19th century was the nearly one-kilometre-long Great Promenade, which linked a resort hall, various drink and music pavilions and reading maisonettes.
Haapsalu Kuursaal, designed by Architect Knüpffer in 1897 is a light and lacy, spectacular historicist wooden building. The building comprises a gable-roof hall, which reaches through two floors, and a partially boarded up gallery around it.
Haapsalu Kuursaal is the only resort hall in Estonia, which has been preserved in its original form. It was long believed that the building was completed only in Year 1905, but the latest studies of historians show that the resort hall has been standing on the Promenade since Year 1898 already.
In addition to its architectural value, Haapsalu Kuursaal has an impressive historical and cultural background. Kuursaal together with the band stand next to it was one of the midpoints of Haapsalu resort life in the first half of the last century. An orchestra played there twice a day, actors and musicians from Tallinn visited it, it was a place where people met and spent their time.
There were a restaurant with secondary rooms, playrooms and a library in the building.
Kuursaal has been through the ages the heart of Haapsalu as a popular resort town, where the synergy of culture, entertainment and catering establishment transformed it into a most valued entertainment spots in Estonia.