The Height of Relaxation and Luxury: Baden-Baden, Germany
Jan 29, 2016 05:21PM
By Vanessa Orr
The central dome within the Friedrichsbad Spa; photo © Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH
For more than 125 years, the spa, which features a combination of Roman and Irish bathing traditions, has welcomed visitors who are drawn to the area for its waters’ curative properties. The water rises from approximately 6,500 feet below Baden-Baden, reaching the surface at a temperature of between 115 and 153 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is filled with salt and minerals that are credited with promoting good health and well-being, as well as helping with cardiovascular problems, ‘metabolism upsets’ and respiratory complaints.
The spa itself is a feast for the eyes; golden lions and ivory cherubs watch your progress as you travel through the 17 stations, which include sauna and steam rooms, and warm and frigid pools. It was a little unnerving at first to realize that you make the trips sans clothes or towels, but after a fairly intense soap-and-brush massage, followed later by a cream massage, my inhibitions disappeared along with my sore muscles. This is a spa where it’s all about being in the moment and truly relaxing, and it doesn’t take long for that mindset to take hold.
Baden-Baden, known as the Summer Capital of Europe, is a place where they have taken relaxation, and luxury, to an art. At the Caracalla Spa, for example, you can bathe in a 4,000-square-foot glass temple that features waterfalls and whirlpools; or you can spend an evening in Germany’s oldest casino, which was described by no less than Marlene Dietrich as “the most beautiful casino in the world.” Located in the Kurhaus, a Belle-Epoch style building constructed in 1824, you can easily imagine fortunes being won and lost by the royals who used to play there; now the public is welcome to try their luck within the extravagant, chandelier-laden rooms.
Art and culture are also a big part of Baden-Baden’s allure, and there are a wide range of options depending on your interests, from a visit to the Museum Frieder Burda, where you can trace the history of modern art over the past 100 years, to the Baden-Baden Museum, which offers insight into the area’s history as a spa town and health resort dating from Roman times. And then there’s the Fabergé Museum, the only museum dedicated to the history of the creator of the world-renowned Fabergé eggs.
Even if you’re not a jewelry collector, this is a stunning place to visit. Carl Peter Fabergé not only supplied Russian czars and aristocrats with stunning objets d’art, but created gold, silver and precious stone masterpieces for leaders around the world, including the British monarchy. The museum features more than 800 items that were once in the collection of Alexander Ivanov, the director of the Russian Museum, including the world’s largest collection of cigarette cases, miniature figurines of animals—including a silver-and-ruby decanter and shot glass set designed in the shape of hares—brooches, necklaces and more.
Of course, no museum dedicated to his art would be complete without his most famous work, and visitors can delight in the beauty of two Imperial Easter Eggs and a Rothschild Easter Egg. It is amazing to see these priceless ornaments up close and realize the history behind them; the Imperial Constellation Easter Egg, for example, was made as a gift for Empress Alexandra for Easter in 1917, but was never finished or given to the imperial family as a result of the outbreak of the Russian Revolution. Other famous jewelers of the time have some of their work displayed as well, including Bolin, Boucheron and Cartier.
One of the things that I most liked about Baden-Baden is that it’s a very walkable city, so it’s easy to take in the sights, as well as top-of-the-line shopping and cultural events, without having to go very far. A lot of it is very hilly, though, so you will get a lot of exercise—I admit that I greatly enjoyed the walk down into the center of town from the charming Hotel Magnetberg, which perches high on a hill—and appreciated the taxi ride back up. One not-to-be missed stroll is a walk along the Lichtentaler Allee, a parklike boulevard featuring majestic trees, elegant mansions, and ornate bridges that cross the River Oos. If you’re more energetic, you can even take a jogging tour of the area—I chose instead to enjoy a lovely glass of wine on the terrace of the Restaurant Rizzi overlooking the park.
Despite the fact that everything is very high-end in the area, the people were absolutely welcoming and lovely, and I wish that I had been able to stay longer—and make more spa visits—
in this beautiful town in the northern Black Forest.
Friedrichsbad Spa: www.carasana.de
Caracalla Spa: www.carasana.de
Casino Baden-Baden: www.casino-baden-baden.de
Museum Frieder Burda: www.museum-frieder-burda.de
Faberge Museum: www.faberge-museum.de
Hotel Magnetberg: www.hotel-magnetberg.de
Restaurant Rizzi: www.rizzi-baden-baden.de