Fancy a dip in ancient baths, a float in geothermal springs, or a chance to reveal all to the ancient Romans? Then Baden-Baden, the idyllic and international spa and wellness town tucked into Germany’s Black Forest, beckons.
Baden-Baden and the Roman Art of Bathing
The Romans were the first to discover the healing powers and bathing culture that flourished under the Roman Emperor Caracalla. These traditions have been preserved in their structure and original functions as well as their uses as historic buildings, earning Baden-Baden a reputation as a health destination and one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe. In 2021, the town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With more than 1000 protected historic buildings and garden monuments in town, Baden-Baden, including its historic town centre (a conservation area) is worth a spot on the top of your must-visit list.
You won’t be alone. Baden-Baden has enchanted a-listers and royalty alike, from Queen Victoria to Victoria Beckham to other celebrities and travelling elite. But you don’t need a crown, a star on Hollywood Boulevard, or even ancient Roman lineage to enjoy Baden-Baden.
Built around its thermal springs. legendary healthcare practises and ancient traditions, Baden-Baden welcomes anyone to enjoy its soothing spas, abundant nature and culture, sumptuous hotels, and the architectural gems that have earned it a nod from UNESCO.
The Grande Dame of Spa Towns
The Belle Époque period of the 19th century was known as Europe’s Golden Age, a time of rich cultural history associated with the jet-set. Baden-Baden became a meeting point of the elegant high society during this romantic period, when fashion was luxurious and indulgent, laced with fur and gold ornamentation, pearls and feathers. This was a time when ladies wore ballooned attire, nipped in at the waist, puffed at the sleeves trimmed with a wide-brimmed hat, a perfect ensemble for walk along Lichtentaler Allee, a historic park and arboretum, as well as a 2.3 kilometer strolling path along the west bank of the River Oos.
Baden-Baden was a showcase for opulence: crystal chandeliers, antique furniture, pedestrian walkways, terraces and balconies, much of which is still noticeable today.
The Waters Flow Through Baden-Baden
For health and wellness, architecture, art, and nature, Baden-Baden has attracted the rich and famous for centuries. It offered a taste of the good life and still does for well-heeled wellness seekers.
The developments around the thermal springs from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century have been preserved and exemplify the authenticity and integrity of Baden-Baden. Walk around the town’s quaint streets and you will see and hear the thermal water of its twelve springs rising from a depth of around 2,000 metres underground.
According to the Baden-Baden website, these springs push out close to 800,000 litres of heated (up to 68°C), mineral-rich water per day.
What, no clothes?
The Friedrichsbad Spa is an historic setting and spa-like temple, a living example of a Roman-Irish bath that opened in back in 1877. Bathe like ancient Romans in silence and in thermal water tapped directly from the spring. Step in between walls decorated with Majolica tiles. FYI:: Freidrichsbad is a clothing free spa. Sheets are handed out to aide your modesty.
Indulge in the 17-step ritual along a numbered circuit that takes you from room to room, ritual to ritual, a tradition that dates back 145 years. But don’t expect cushioned benches or chairs. The wooden slatted loungers are somewhat hard, but they are heated and guarded by the watchful eyes of Roman statues from the pillars and cornices above.
This memorable spa experience takes around three hours. On entry you are provided with footwear and a sheet covering and at the end, there’s a pre-heated sheet and body lotion to apply to softened, rejuvenated skin. For the finale, aromatic tea is offered in the reading room or simply enjoy the calm atmosphere in the darkened relaxation room. (Open daily from 9 a.m. -10 p.m.)
A Spa with A Sauna or Two
The Caracalla Spa is a contemporary, spacious landscape with saunas for every purpose and at eye-watering temperatures. There are attractive indoor and outdoor pools, a current channel, two whirlpools, waterfall jacuzzi seats and hot tubs where you will spot ladies enjoying the thermal waters, in full make-up and hair secured to look their best, (well, you are in Baden-Baden!).
Comfortable loungers frame the pools and decorate the lawns, a hot and cold-water rock grotto sit at the side close to an aroma steam bath and the halotherapy salt inhalation room. There are regenerative sauna experiences on the upper floor as well as two log cabins made of Kelo wood in the form of a forest and a fire sauna outside. For those opting for beauty and indulgent experiences, a wellness lounge offers Asian-inspired and traditional treatments.
High-Class Spa and Therapeutic Medicine
Villa Stéphanie is a high-class spa where guests enjoy recuperative, preventative and beauty treatments in elegant surroundings. Here comfort and exclusivity befit the celebrities, royalty and the high society of today that regularly frequent this establishment.
Villa Stéphanie is part of Brenner’s Hotel & Spa and offers a range of bespoke, tailored holistic health programmes. From check-ups to rehabilitation, medical diagnostics and specific treatments, the integrated approach to health is headed by Dr Konig to offer health and holistic treatments for body, mind and soul using the expertise of state-of-the-art clinics with personal care and attention that attracts a regular flow of repeat guests.
Baden-Baden Beyond the Spas
Originally designed and built for pedestrians, Baden-Baden is a place to unwind and relax, whether it’s soaking in thermal waters, admiring historical architecture, or sitting at outside tables under the trees. It’s a walkable town with bridges over the River Oos, which lead to the boutique shops under the colonnades, and a coffee at the established Café Konig, the oldest in Baden-Baden.
Choose to explore by horse and carriage or bicycle. Take in a museum or two. The Museum Frieder Burda’s modern contrasts the Fabergé Museum, dedicated to items made by the famed Russian jewellery firm.
The Baden-Baden Casino is a must-see with a spectacular interior, ornamented with crystal chandeliers lighting up gambling tables, a dance floor and a trendy beef and sushi restaurant.
Baden-Baden brims with character. If you’re looking for a place that reminisces in the past yet has evolved to the present with its traditions firmly in place, you’ll love Baden-Baden.
Why is it named twice?
Former U.S. President Bill Clinton on a visit to Baden-Baden remarked it was so nice it was named twice, and he might be on to something.
The double name, however, is due to a 1931 decision to abbreviate ‘Baden in Baden’, which referenced the German word for bath, a reflection of the importance of the town’s thermal waters and 2,000-year-old bathing culture, as well as the state of Baden-Württemberg, in which the town is located.
Where To Stay
The Brenners Park – Hotel & Spa which remains in family ownership.
Heliopark Bad Hotel zum Hirsch which is one of the only hotels that has thermal water piped to guest bath tubs.
Geroldsauer Muhle offers rustic-chic accommodations.
Flights to Frankfurt or Stuttgart are serviced by many European and International airlines. Baden-Baden is a 2-hour drive from Frankfurt. Stuttgart is about 1.2 5hours. Baden-Baden train station is an ICE stop of the Rheintalbahn and offers excellent connections to all German and major European cities.
BeSeeingYou In: Baden-Baden, Germany
Good To Know: The public spas are usually open until 10 p.m.
WOW! Factor: The Friedrichsbad Spa – it’s like a history lesson in spa traditions
Tip: Don’t be modest, nobody else is
Author bio: Jane Wilson,
Photos courtesy of Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GMBH