It isn’t easy to find a cosmopolitan city in the countryside offering tranquillity, luxury and excitement. Yet, Baden- Baden ticks all these boxes. And to top it off, this idyllic international spa town is home to some of the country’s most sumptuous hotels, diverse and exciting gastronomy, and offers everything from nature-imbued activities to cultural highlights, fun sporting opportunities and thrilling social events, ensuring that you won’t go home disappointed.
FOUR speaks to Cornelia Stahr, Head of Global Marketing for the Baden-Baden Tourism Board to learn more about the delightful city, and what visitors can look forward to over the coming months…
Can you give us a brief overview of Baden-Baden, its history and what it is most famous for?
Historic and beautiful, Baden-Baden is an oasis for wellness but also culture and nature seekers. Baden-Baden dates back over 2,000 years to the Romans, who enjoyed the natural thermal water to ease their aches and pains. The city has since become an iconic centre of relaxation, developed amid the quite glorious surroundings of the Black Forest.
Historically, Baden-Baden has always appealed to those in search of luxury – an appeal that has only grown over time. Effortlessly combining centuries of history with contemporary luxury living, Baden-Baden is a perfect haven for the discerning traveller.
During its heyday, the Belle Époque, Baden-Baden was undoubtably the ‘summer capital of Europe’. European aristocrats, international jet set, Russian writers such as Turgenev rubbed shoulders with magnificent musicians and the likes of Brahms and Clara Schumann at the Kurhaus or at the legendary Casino of Baden-Baden. The iconic buildings are reminders of this golden age and are still present all over the town. They are a contributing factor of the UNESCO World Heritage, which Baden-Baden was honoured with in 2021 as part of the ‘Great Spa Towns of Europe’.
Going back to its Roman roots, today, the town’s two thermal baths with its healing waters, the modern Caracalla Spa and the historic Friedrichsbad Spa, along with the many exclusive spa-hotels, offer an unforgettable wellness experience.
In brief, Baden-Baden has been for centuries famous for both, relaxation and excitement. Offering a spectacularly diverse range of opportunities for both, Baden-Baden is the perfect getaway for travellers from around the globe. Known as the “Green city of short distances”, this verdant oasis located at the foothills of the Black Forest also boasts endless opportunities to revel in nature, shopping, art and culture.
In July 2021, Baden-Baden was named a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the “Great Spa towns of Europe” – what does this mean for visitors?
Visitors can experience and explore Baden-Baden’s heritage in various ways and with all their senses.
They can take a dip into history by relaxing in the warming waters of the historic Friedrichsbad spa. It reflects over 140 years of bathing history and brings traditional Roman bathing culture and Irish hot-air indulgence to the modern day. Sheer bathing bliss is achieved by following the 17 steps of the spa’s invigorating ritual. Mark Twain was a fan of this monumental bathing temple with Roman-Irish steam bath as said after a visit soon after opening in 1877, that ‘after 10 minutes you forget about the time and after 20 minutes you forget about the whole world’.
Take a guided city walk to see and hear all about the historical buildings and sites across Baden-Baden’s city centre which makes up a traditional European spa town of the 19th century.
Taste a scoop of ‘World Heritage’ ice cream at the ‘Eismanufakur’ along the colonnades in front of the Kurhaus. History has never tasted better!
Tell us more about Baden-Baden and what makes it so special.
Seldom is it easy to find a cosmopolitan city in the heart of the countryside that offers both tranquility and excitement. Yet, that is exactly what Baden-Baden is: an idyllic international spa town in Germany’s Black Forest. Offering a wealth of stylish things to do and places to stay – discover the luxury of living the good-good life in Baden-Baden.
This charming city combines Mediterranean flair with the elegance of the Belle Epoque and is well-known to tick all the boxes: natural hot thermal springs and soothing spas, quality hotels, gourmet restaurants, tempting shops, plenty of stunning events and a great cultural offer. All in a relaxing green environment, where everything is only an easy walk away. For people seeking wellness and relaxation the city’s two thermal baths as well as a variety of superior spa- and wellness hotels offer soothing recreation in the warm thermal water and high-quality treatments. Having rested in the welcoming waters, visitors can then begin their exploration of all activities that the city has to offer, from exclusive shopping paradise to mouth-watering culinary choices, to an abundance of events.
Music and art enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the wealth of cultural offerings that Baden-Baden affords. The Festival Hall Baden-Baden is Europe’s second largest opera and concert hall, hosting international opera, ballet and concerts at the highest level. A must-see for visitors who love art and architecture is the Museum Mile Baden-Baden. And for an evening filled with excitement, thrills, and unrivalled luxury, there is no better place than Germany’s oldest casino, the Casino Baden-Baden, once named the most beautiful casino in the world. If the casino does not strike your fancy, there is a year-round variety of events in and around the city, including international horse races, vintage car meetings, food and music festivals, summer concerts and much more.
Baden-Baden is a truly enchanting place, exuding class and sophistication at every turn. However, for every piece of modern luxury, there is an equally charming reminder of the city’s ancient culture.
What are some of the less commonly known things about the town that make it a must-visit destination?
Wine lovers rejoice as they can venture out to the city’s wine region, the Rebland – one of Germany’s well known Riesling growing district. Baden-Baden is a goldmine for gourmets, but the city is also a mecca for wine connoisseurs. In the surrounding Rebland wine region there are countless sun-drenched vineyards producing delicious bottles of Riesling, Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Gris, sparkling wines and schnapps to explore.
The views in the countryside are as impressive as the wineries, with grapevine-encircled venues looking onto a castles, estates and endless rolling hills. An idyllic backdrop to sip good wine and eat fine food to, Baden-Baden is a true feast for all the senses.
Here are a few more fun facts that not many people know about Baden-Baden. They all add up to make our city so special and true bijoux. First, we are a relatively small city, with only 55.000 inhabitants but with huge offers when it comes to art, culture, entertainment, restaurants, hotels, sports as well as first class spa & medical facilities, that rivals any first world metropolis.
Furthermore, Baden-Baden is secretly known as city of roses. We boast with two rose gardens, the Rose Society Garden as well as the Gönneranlage. Just visit the wonderful Rose Society Garden in full bloom on the low-lying slopes of the Fremersberg mountain and see for yourself. Arches of roses span the paths, flowerbeds and meadows covered with countless colourful blooming flowers everywhere the eye can see, and arbours covered with roses invite just to sit, to rest and to take in the scent of this sea of roses.
Here, every year an international jury of rose growers and experts gather to evaluate the new roses of the current year and finally award the most beautiful one with Germany’s highest honour, the “Goldene Rose” of Baden-Baden. This Competition for New Rose Varieties in Baden-Baden is considered to be one of the most important of its kind in Europe.
The other rose garden, the Gönneranlage in the city centre, along the Lichtentaler Allee parks & gardens, was originally build as a romantic gesture by a wealthy businessman in the 19th century. He surprised his wife not only with a bouquet of roses, but he gifted her with an entire rose garden instead.
Another great way to get the heartbeat racing in Baden-Baden is to try out one of the many outdoor sports, such as rock climbing or paragliding. Outdoor lovers who might take to take it a bit easier, we recommend taking the funicular rail up to Merkur Mountain, at 668 meters, the highest peak of Baden-Baden. Or, simply take in the beautiful nature all around Baden-Baden by hiking some, or all, of the Panorama HikingTrail, voted Germany’s most beautiful hiking trail in 2020.
Baden-Baden has a very noteworthy restaurant and bar scene, can you tell us a few choice venues and what visitors can expect?
Gastronomy abounds in Baden-Baden. From world-renowned Michelin-starred restaurants to charismatic local taverns, with a range of international and local cuisines available, delicious food is always just around the corner. The city boasts with two 1 Michelin star restaurants. ‘Le Jardin de France’ at the Stahlbad, which was able to hold on to its star for the last 25 years and newcomer ‘Maltes hidden kitchen’. Headed by talented young Chef Malte Kuhn, this restaurant has turned from hidden gem to shining star on the dining scene since receiving his first Michelin star earlier this year. By day, an elegant Kaffeehaus and by night, the tables turn and the switch from hot coffee to haute cuisine takes place and Malte’s magic becomes alive.
The food and bar scene in Baden-Baden is vibrant, and there are countless options from glamorous & exotic to local & authentic to tickle your tastebuds.
The Casino Baden-Baden, arguably the most beautiful casino in the world, is home to ‘The Grill’, which has a focus on beef & sushi specialties. The drinks and cocktail menu are impressive to say the least.
Also, a must-try for foodies is Baden-Baden’s ‘Fritz&Felix’ restaurant, located at the iconic Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa. Here, the food is self-proclaimed authentic, honest, and aromatic all made on a large grill that was custom made in Spain and positioned in full view of the diners in the middle of the restaurant. Order an accompanying drink from the adjacent bar to taste the bar’s mantra: ‘drink fresh, stay local’.
Speaking of locals, here are two watering holes in town that only the locals know:
‘CaféBar Bruder & Schwester’ at the cozy Huber’s Hotel (Merkurstraße 9, 76530 Baden-Baden) as well as the trendy ‘NoName Bar & Trinkstube’ (Kreuzstraße 3, 76530 Baden-Baden).
No visit of Baden-Baden would be complete without indulging in a piece of Black Forest gateau at the legendary ‘Café König’ (Lichtentaler Str. 12, 76530 Baden-Baden) Famous writers, such as Tolstoy and fellow writer/composer Franz Liszt used to be regular customers here during the late Belle Époque.
What are some of the best seasonal highlights when visiting Baden-Baden at different times of the year?
Baden-Baden is always in season! Immerse yourself in a colourful arcadia and delight all your senses with Baden-Baden’s variety of annual events in and around the city, including international horse racing, vintage car meetings, food and music festivals, concerts, opera, ballet, and much more. Those with a passion for music and art can immerse themselves in the wealth of cultural offerings that Baden-Baden has on offer all year round. Here are some highlights:
Spring time, when all the flowers and trees are in full bloom along the 3 km long Lichtentaler Allee
Summer time, boasts with open-air-concerts, food&music festivals, but also the vintage car meeting is a popular annual event highlight
Fall, the SWR3 New Pop Festival showcases famous music artists as well as stars of tomorrow all across Baden-Baden and on the stages of the theatre and the Festival Hall. The Festival Hall Baden-Baden is Europe’s second largest opera and concert hall. Hosting international opera, ballet and concerts at the highest level, the Festival Hall Baden-Baden is known for its great acoustics and presenting world-renowned artists.
Winter time, a very special highlight between November and January is the Christmas Market in front of the illuminated Kurhaus/Casino. The Christmas Market, called here “Christkindelsmarkt“ is an extraordinary experience for all senses: numerous festively decorated huts and stalls sell unique handicrafts, seasonal delicacies and precious gift items, aromas of roasted almonds, gingerbread and traditional mulled wine waft through the air and carols and life music are all around. A must for food and wine aficionados are the luxurious gourmet igloos.
What do you think is most important thing to visitors when they travel nowadays, and how do you think Baden-Baden lives up to this?
Guests nowadays prefer to stay longer in one place to properly unwind, to reconnect with themselves and to recharge body and soul. To be in and around nature goes hand in hand with the desire to slow down and deeply relax. Baden-Baden offers countless wow factors, such as the unforgettable vistas from Merkur Mountain, the stunning countryside surrounding the area or the Lichtentaler Allee park and gardens, a 3 km long green ribbon going through the city centre, allow visitors to breath in fresh air from the minute they arrive.
Wellness of the highest quality is delivered by Baden-Baden’s spas, spanning from public spas, such as the traditional Friedrichsbad and the expansive Caracalla Spa, to private spas and first class hotel spa facilities, such as the Villa Stéphanie at Brenners Park Hotel & Spa.
Authentic local experiences, unique to our town and area are also in demand as guests want to get under the skin of our city in their search of a meaningful connection with Baden-Baden whilst on holiday. An incredible offering of food, local wines and superb hotels, combined with a full calendar of events across music, art and culture along with an array of activities – indoors as well as outdoors – attract old and new guests alike, year after year.
Modes of transports for arriving in Baden-Baden might have slightly changed as more tourists are now conscious about arriving by train, even from the UK. Baden-Baden is conveniently connected to the train network and is linked to the high-speed trains of neighbouring France. To handle the increased demand in private aviation, Baden-Baden’s local airport, just 15mins away from the city centre, is always ready and on standby.
What memories do you hope travellers are left with when they leave Baden-Baden?
We want to give travellers leaving Baden-Baden the feeling they have just experienced something special and one-of-a-kind here. They will remember that we are a destination away from crowds and mass tourism and appreciate that we are Europe’s hidden gem; an unforgettable city where wellness meets world-class gastronomy and opulent nightlife.
The city is fusing a highly contemporary lifestyle with a deeply rooted history, bringing thus the Belle Époque bliss to the 21st century. For our guests, Baden-Baden could be a home away from home with beautiful panoramic views, surrounded by vineyards and the Black Forest. It is a safe place to escape from the mundanity of modern life and recharge one’s batteries. Thus, offering international guests a taste of “the good-good” life of Baden-Baden, which is a unique jewel that delights with its vibrant character, picturesque landscapes and so much more.
It is a destination not to be missed by any traveller, as they will leave feeling deeply satisfied and relaxed, at the same time, replenished and inspired within body and soul.
What can visitors look forward to for 2022/23?
There is never a shortage of things to see and to do in Baden-Baden, from natural, hot thermal springs and soothing spas, to thrilling adventure, quality hotels, gourmet restaurants, tempting shops and a myriad of cultural offerings.
Towards year end we are looking forward to the start of our unique and incredibly beautiful Christmas market, which opens on 24th November and goes on until 6th January. This definitely gets all visitors into the festive mood. The market stretches from the Kurhaus Colonnades past the exclusive boutiques towards Baden-Baden’s impressive Kurhaus building. Numerous decorated huts surrounded by aromas of roasted almonds and gingerbread as well as the traditional mulled wine offer the opportunity to enjoy a special Christmas ambience. The New Year will be welcomed in style with a New Year’s Eve concert followed by a Gala ball at the Kurhaus.
2023 will boast again with an impressive line up of international stars and artists at Baden-Baden’s Festspielhaus, such as Kirill Petrenko conducting the Easter Festival in April. There will be a wine & gourmet festival in June and a new hotel opening towards the end of 2023.
Baden-Baden is a truly enchanting place, exuding class and sophistication at every turn. However, for every piece of modern luxury, there is an equally charming reminder of the city’s history. A must-see for any traveller, this is one destination that cannot be missed. Hope to see you soon in Baden-Baden!
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