From Marlene Dietrich to Victoria Beckham, stars have long gone to Germany’s southwestern spa town of Baden-Baden for getaways. In a recent Instagram post, Beckham wrote that she and husband David Beckham were in the city in this fall “having our annual check-ups, MRIs … gosh checking literally everything. It is absolutely incredible.” Other visitors to the area have included President Barack and Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton, George Clooney, Rod Stewart and Richard Branson. The city — which denizens extoll as having a “fairy tale” atmosphere — is a haven for European and Arabian royalty as well.
A Roman town that dates back to Emperor Hadrian, the name “bad” means bath so the double use of “Baden-Baden” translates to the town of Baden in the region of Baden, located in Germany’s Baden-Württemburg state. It’s quaint and compact, making getting to anywhere in the city center possible within 10 minutes.
“Baden Baden is a place of five-star living, award-winning cuisine, fast cars, casinos and medical spas. Celebrities have the chance to enjoy life in Baden-Baden while remaining completely incognito while getting their Botox treatments, losing weight or escaping on a romantic date,” says Veronica Kohlbecker, co-founder of What A Wonderful World Escapist Concierge. She and her co-founder Hershey Gargash create travel guides for all ages and levels of travel for anyone to use. “It’s also incredibly family-friendly and wonderful for nature, sport and adventure,” adds Gargash.
Strasbourg, France is less than one hour away by car, and Basel, Switzerland, is an hour and a half drive away. With a warm climate in the early spring and late fall, the destination also offers many of the attractions and amenities of an urban metropolis in a small city. Its thermal pools, long a magnet for visitors seeking their health benefits, and the Baden-Baden Casino have in turn attracted luxury hotels and top-tier Michelin-starred restaurants, ultimately making the city multicultural — something that’s often hard to find in small towns. Russian, Arabic, English, French, German and Italian are commonly heard in the city streets. And the city has a surprising sort of Mediterranean feel about it.
Where to Stay
The Brenners Park Hotel and Spa is where the Beckhams, and other celebrities and royalty, stay when they’re in the city. With a 150-year history and 100 rooms, the property has an old-world charm that makes for a relaxing stay, whether in the grand Brenner hotel or the Villa Stéphanie on the same property. Many visitors come for its medical and spa treatment packages.
Describing the experience, Timo Maier, head of the spa, says, “When guests arrive, they start with a doctor consultation, body analyses to see how their body is doing, to look at their percentage of body fat and muscles that they have. We start with treatments and with healthy food diets and then go into personal training and at the end they have another consolation with the doctor and we make a second body checkup, and then there are vitamin infusions as well.”
Treatments and services at this wellness destination include everything from digital detoxes to unplug from the world to massages, facials, medical examinations, physiotherapy and even dental treatments, plus the indoor pool and saunas. Beckham, on her Instagram, said that her regimen included “daily vitamins, amino acids heavy metal chelation supplement to detox the body and my daily bespoke IV drip.”
Liliane Goschy Fritz is a trained physiotherapist, known by most all of Baden-Baden’s inhabitants. Calm in nature she’s a force of nature, passionate about the human body and helping people reach their fitness and healing goals. Her health club, Legend, located in the heart of Baden-Baden, is complete with wellness treatments including weight-loss coaching, nutrition counseling, facials, massages and hypoxic training.
“David and Victoria Beckham were here last week,” she notes. “Victoria was here with Dr. Köning at Brenner’s and she’s always taking care of her body. Things are done differently in the U.S. and the UK, but I think they like the way our medical treatments are here. This is their second or third time here in Baden-Baden.”
Goschy Fritz is also able to accommodate her high-end clientele at the Brenner Hotel, as she works with the team of doctors on staff. “I offer a better life quality from physiotherapy sessions, psychology sessions, burnout sessions, rehab sport, preventative sports and for children we have posture treatments, we help older people with falling prevention, personal training for people who just want to get fit, and coaching on better food habits and wellness treatments for relaxing.”
The city is also known for two landmark spas. At the Caracalla Spa, guests are able to bathe and use the sauna for an hour and a half at the base rate of $22. Open seven days a week, the Caracalla Spa provides some of the best thermal water relaxation that Baden-Baden can offer with its numerous pools, its spacious indoor area with a rock grotto, a relaxing aroma steam bath, the brine inhalation room and its Roman-styled sauna complex, as well as it’s gardens to sit and relax in during the warmer months.
The Friedrichsbad is a quintessential Roman-looking bath that’s been open since 1877. The thermal water is sourced from the slopes of the Florentinerberg hill in Baden Baden, natural springs that date back 12,000-17,000 years, and that discharge around 211,337 gallons of thermal water a day. Guests can enjoy 17 different bathing stations of changing water temperatures. Having been closed for most of the pandemic, Friedrichsbad is reopening Dec. 1.
Where to Eat
Newly opened in the heart of the city is Filios, a Greek restaurant with a chic bar and convivial ambiance. Under the vision of wife-and-husband owners, Jörg Rockenhäuser and Vasiliki Basia, Vasiliki is Greek but born in Germany and Rockenhäuser is German. Their vision coupled with the restaurant designed by Greek architects is three-fold: the beautiful nature of the Black Forest, a modern Greek menu and bespoke music. “We wanted to create more than a restaurant,” says Rockenhäuser, “so wherever you sit you have privacy and you aren’t seated so close to others and this is special.”
Another welcome option is The Grill, a stylish restaurant with a lounge-style terrace housed in the Baden-Baden Casino, whose main structure was built in 1824. The menu offers a range of sushi and steak options, and a reservation there ensures free entry into the casino.
What to do
Stop by Classic Cars Showroom by Autohaus Stefan, known for its customized Porsches, to get a test drive. Says Philipp Göller, who founded the business with his father Gerhard, a mechanic, “My dad is very pure but for me it’s important to have cars designed well and stylish. Cars are a form of art for me. And because we both wanted to create something new, we started to combine design talent with his technical aspects, and we started to build our own car. We love the brand Porsche and want to increase the positive output that the brand has produced over the years, not to change it but to simply make it better.” Today, Philipp Göller is back and forth between the company’s clientele in Los Angeles, Miami and Germany.
The Museum Frieder Burda is Baden-Baden’s modern art museum. Housed in a building designed by Richard Meier, it is one of the three main reasons people come to the city, after spas and the Casino. It recently mounted a Banksy exhibition.
Where to Shop
Black Forest Skis, founded by architect Florian Kohlbecker — who also created the virtual reality spaceships in the films Independence Day Resurrection and 2012 — are customized skis for different types of snow. “The core of my ski racing background started with powerful wooden skis,” he notes. “My architectural profession brought me to build the Sochi Olympic Games Ski jump and my carpentry skills from The Black Forest allowed me to produce technically advanced freeride and carving skis out of glass and carbon fiber, white ash and poplar or beech wood cores.”
His new ski design was tested out to fit various snow conditions. “Heli-skiing was the only way to reach challenging slopes with varied off-piste conditions in places like Georgia, Iran, Kamchatka, Siberia and, of course, The Black Forest. The skis withstood the test of ice, powder, korn snow and the test of unbeatable endurance,” says Kohlbecker.
Situated on Baden-Baden’s Lichtentalerstrasse 7, womenswear store Antora Selection offers luxury brands from Khrisjoy, Jimmy Choo, Chloé, Balenciaga and Valentino. Owner Andrea Wontorra goes to Paris and Milan fashion weeks to include the latest seasonal collections in her store. For bespoke footwear, craftsman shoemaker Vickermann and Stoya is the town’s go-to place for shoes that can stand the test of time.