In a recent headline The New York Times described Baden-Baden as, “The Belle Époque meets the Age of Instagram”, and it’s certainly true that the town’s rich history blends seamlessly with a highly contemporary lifestyle. But what else make this small but cosmopolitan town in the foothills of Germany’s Black Forest so appealing? First there is the strong historic appeal. Baden-Baden dates back 2,000 years to the Romans, who originally discovered the mineral springs and built the first thermal baths in the town.
For centuries after, royalty and celebrities alike travelled to “Europe’s summer capital” seeking the therapeutic properties of the town’s natural resources.
But while a grand past can sometimes cast a long shadow, this certainly isn’t the case here. Twenty-first century Baden-Baden captures all of the vibrancy of its regal past, but combines it with a new energy.
A contemporary pulse beats through Baden-Baden’s picturesque street and plazas, all the while achieving that delicate balance of old and new. The Museum Mile exhibits up and coming artists alongside timeless masterpieces, while the Museum Frieder Burda, built by New York star architect Richard Meier, includes a private collection that is an absolute must for art-lovers.
The Festival Hall, Europe’s second largest opera and concert hall, hosts a star-studded line up of opera, ballet and classical music concerts, including the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Mariinsky Ballet. But for those looking for more a modern beat, the SWR 3 New Pop Festival attracts a roster of international stars.
Baden-Baden has always enjoyed an air of cultured sophistication, but the town is in the process of reinventing itself to ensure it offers something to people of all ages and interests. Whether they cruise into town in a classic car, jet in from New York or drift down on a paraglider from the peak of the Merkur Mountain, everyone who visits Baden-Baden does so to enjoy what the local tourist board describe as “the good-good life”.
Sit back and relax
For those seeking wellness and relaxation, the town’s two thermal baths are among the best you’ll find anywhere in the world. The modern Caracalla Spa boasts more than 4,000 sqm of bathing and wellness space and is a dream destination for a soothing, relaxing dip in thermal water. Here you can languish in hot and cold-pools, enjoy an aromatic steam bath or simply kick back in a stylish wellness-lounge.
Just around the corner, the historic Friedrichsbad draws on 140 years of bathing history – when it opened in 1877 it was considered the most modern bathing establishment in Europe. The Friedrichsbad combines Roman bathing culture with Irish hot-air bathing traditions. Guests experience a rejuvenating therapy across a circuit of 17 stations with changing temperatures that soothe mind and body.
But it’s not just the spa culture that attracts visitors from all corners of the world. In the picturesque streets and avenues of the neo-baroque old town of Baden-Baden, exquisite boutiques invite visitors to experience luxurious shopping at its best. Those looking for luxury products, designer labels, unique antiques and jewellery will find they are in the right place, and will be spoiled for refreshments afterwards. Baden-Baden’s restaurant scene ranges from Michelin- starred establishments, such as the restaurant Le Jardin de France, to cosy little taverns. Rebland region, located six km outside the town, is the second largest Riesling growing district in Germany and is an insider’s tip for food lovers and connoisseurs of fine wines.
Out and about
Baden-Baden’s location at the foothills of the Black Forest means exploring the surrounding area is a must. Starting in Baden-Baden, the Black Forest Scenic Route (Schwarzwaldhochstraße) offers a stunning opportunity to see the town from a different angle. Whether you’re looking for a romantic stroll, or an invigorating hike, the routes are here throughout the year. As magnificent views of the Rhine valley and the Vosges open up, you’ll hear nothing but the wind in the trees and the sweet sound of bird song.
The region is also home to one of Germany’s finest golfing regions – the Golfregion Baden-Alsace. Across the eight championship golf courses in and around Baden-Baden players of all levels can test themselves on the immaculate fairways and greens, all against the most stunning backdrop.
A great way to end a day in Baden-Baden is with a visit to the Casino Baden-Baden. Germany’s oldest casino, and one that German actress Marlene Dietrich described as “the most beautiful casino in the world” is where guests can indulge in a world of roulette, blackjack, poker and slot machines amid Belle Époque arcades and magnificent state rooms.
Historic and beautiful, Baden-Baden is a true urban oasis. It’s little wonder that it was so popular in days gone by, and that it continues to be so popular today.