Lap of luxury: Baden-Baden

by Leigh Anne Lord
Stripes Europe

Located at the edge of the Black Forest, Baden-Baden is a sophisticated and cosmopolitan town that has a distinctly Parisian vibe. Whether you want to relax in one of the town’s therapeutic spas, feel the thrill of the roulette wheel or shop in its exclusive boutiques, Baden-Baden is, indeed, Germany’s little lap of luxury.

As early as A.D. 215, Aquae Aureliae, as the Romans called the city, was famous. History indicates that Roman Emperor Caracalla dipped into the thermal waters and his rheumatism was cured. In the 1300s, Strasbourg residents were given secure passage to Baden-Baden to visit the baths. While it is unknown if they “bathed” here, Franz Joseph of Austria, Napoleon III and Tsar Alexander of Russia met in the town in 1863.

Relax and indulge yourself

No visit to Baden-Baden would be complete without a trip to one of the city’s two spas, the historic Friedrichsbad or the modern Caracalla Spa. Erected in 1877 near ruins of the Roman baths, the Friedrichsbad is the ultimate spa experience. After getting past the one rule of the Friedrichsbad – clothes are not allowed – the next three hours are spent visiting each of seventeen stations. The first half is designed to slowly raise the body temperature with visits to various showers, warm and hot air stations and a fabulous soap and brush massage. The second half of the treatment slowly lowers the body temperature with a series of steam, exercise, whirlpool and cold baths, before the luxurious cream massage. To blissfully conclude, you are wrapped in a warm blanket and taken to the quiet room where you will, no doubt, fall asleep.

If parading around in your birthday suit has you a bit nervous, you can still take advantage of the healing aspects of the water by visiting the modern Caracalla Spa. Opened in 1985, the spa boasts an impressive non-nude bathing area; an indoor pool; two outdoor pools, which are maintained at a balmy 38° C even in winter; the Hot and Cold Water Grotto; an Aroma Steam Room; and the Saltwater Inhalation Room. The spa also contains a fabulous nude sauna area, wellness lounge and massage therapy facilities. The informative website for both spas is available in English.

Shopping, gambling and more

Baden-Baden is not just for spa-goers. Take a stroll through the delightful streets of the old town and shop in some of the city’s exclusive boutiques. The main shopping streets are Langestrasse and the pedestrian-only areas of Sofienstrasse and Gernsbacher Strasse.

Don’t forget, however, to walk down the cozy side streets to find quaint antique stores and other notable finds. Glance up at the buildings and you will begin to understand Baden-Baden’s connection to France. The building façades were designed by architects hoping to imitate the style of Paris.

Looking for exclusive designer names? Then head over to Lichtentaler Strasse. While on Lichtentaler Strasse, visit the Café König for coffee and cake. Locals are crazy about this late afternoon tradition and the Café König is one of the city’s best cafés. Since you are in the Black Forest, why not try the area’s namesake cake. The café is known for having the best Schwarzwaldkuchen in town, as well as fantastic chocolate truffles.

Explore the town’s “perfect for a picnic” park, Lichtentaler Allee on your way to the Casino Baden-Baden. At 250 years old, it is Germany’s oldest and most beautiful and opulent casino. The gaming rooms were redecorated in the style of the salons at the palaces of Versailles and the Tuileries. The casino is open for tours daily from 10 a.m. to noon. Call a few days in advance and book an English-speaking tour or simply show up and pick up one of the English brochures.

Classic gaming, roulette, blackjack and poker begin daily at 2 p.m. As you walk through the subdued parlors, you can almost imagine being in a James Bond movie. This elegance has its price … the casino has a defined dress code: coat and tie for men, dresses or suits for women. Not into gambling? No worries; it is almost as much fun to watch as to participate.

For more information, visit the city’s tourist website. From shopping to gambling to just plain relaxing, Baden-Baden offers a quick respite from the stresses of everyday life and everyone should explore its luxury.

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