If you want to bathe in style there’s no place more luxe than Baden-Baden, Germany’s most elegant spa town. Not only is Baden-Baden gorgeous, it’s a place with a past: the Russian writer, Dostoevsky, lost his money in the casino while the American novelist, Mark Twain, lost his rheumatism in the thermal baths.
These days, Baden-Baden is still a hangout for celebrities and the aristocracy, and wellness addicts of all stripes and types head to this elegant town in the Black Forest region of southern Germany, an easy 80-minute train ride from Frankfurt, to lose their aches, pains and stress.
And sometimes their clothes.
Where to bathe in Germany’s most elegant spa town: The Friedrichsbad
At the famous Friedrichsbad, a 130-year old Roman-Irish bathhouse where Twain himself once bathed, you’ll find richly painted tiles and a pool with an ornate Beaux Arts dome, but clothing is not an option. And don’t expect to get dressed again for awhile – the compete bathing process takes over three hours, a 16-step ritual involving steam, scrubs, thermal water pools of varying temperatures … and views of the opposite sex you might not want to see!
Where else to bathe in Germany’s most elegant spa town: Caracalla Therme
Buff bathing isn’t for everyone, but with 12 natural hot springs churning out an impressive 800,000 litres of steaming water a day, hydrotherapy (healing treatments using water) is Baden-Baden’s raison d’etre. If you’re reluctant to bare it all but still want to soak, head to the more modern Caracalla Therme where swimsuits are required everywhere but the saunas.
An airy take on a Roman temple, Caracalla, a spacious glass and marble bathing complex, is a watery wonderland of waterfalls, fountains and aquatic air jets as well as indoor and outdoor pools.
A spa town that never loses its popularity
The popularity of spa destinations might ebb and flow with the times, but Baden-Baden, 170 km south of Frankfurt, consistently stays top of the list. Attracting a diverse mix of retired millionaires, European aristocrats, water devotees and day-tripping tourists, it’s enduring appeal lies in its charming location along the River Oos, the clean Black Forest air, the gracious hotels, world-class casino and, of course, the magical springs. But its elite complacency isn’t for everyone.
“I fully believe I left my rheumatism in Baden-Baden,” Mark Twain wrote. “Baden-Baden is welcome to it.”
Travel tips for Baden-Baden
With its long history of water therapies and spas, Germany is one of the top spa destinations in the world. It’s easily accessible from Frankfurt by train to Baden-Baden. Trains leave both from the airport and downtown.
Hotels: If you want to spa with the rich and famous consider Baden-Baden’s celebrity spa hotel Brenner’s Park. If a fancy 5-star hotel is out of your budget, but you still want that old-world style, you might like the Hotel Zum Hirsch, centrally located at 1 Hirschstrasse.
For more information on Baden-Baden see the official Baden-Baden Tourism website.
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Article by Carol Perehudoff