Haapsalu’s history as a resort town goes back to the 19th centurty.
For many years, locals have claimed that the sea mud has a curative effect. A military doctor, Carl Abraham Hunnius, founded the first mud cure resort in 1825. News of the curative mud quickly reached the aristocracy of Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire. Ever since then, Haapsalu has been a popular summer destination where people from all around the world come for medical treatment. Today, there are three mud cure establishments in Haapsalu varying in size and location. In the 19th century, Haapsalu also became famous for its shawls, a delicate craft made by local women.
Modern Haapsalu is also an economic as well as educational center of the Lääne County, featuring a university college and a vocational school. The port of Rohuküla, serving the ferry traffic to Hiiumaa and Vormsi, as well as cargo vessels, is located nearby.