We're just back from catching up with Anne-Greth Paulus, marketing director for the Baden-Baden Tourism Board in Germany. Here's the latest from the popular resort town...
As a community, Baden-Baden is applying to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We say it should qualify: It has been a spa destination for more than 2,000 years (its name literally means "baths"), and there are two notable properties that access the area's healing waters. Caracalla has both indoor and outdoor bathing areas as well as a new sauna area with both a Roman Sauna and a steam bath. The new Wellness Lounge has both Eastern and Western treatments.
The more contemporary Friedrichspad, meanwhile, includes an Irish steam bath. Cool touch: Visitors can follow a planned course of different baths for maximum benefits. An Ayurvedic center recently opened, and the Salina Sea Salt Grotto has a unique salted micro-climate.
But even those uninterested in spas can find something to do in town. The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden is Europe's second largest opera and concert hall (it can seat up to 2,500) and will host cultural events like the Mariinsky-Ballett St. Petersburg in late December, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (conducted by Sir Simon Rattle) next April and the Whitsun festival in early June.
The Museum Frieder Burda specializes in modern art, while the Fabergé Museum is the only one of its kind in the world, with over 700 pieces of art by Carl Fabergé. (Want to see those iconic eggs? This is the place.)
The center of town is the 190-year-old Kurhouse, which is host to the Grand Prix Ball, the Bal Paré, the Russian Ball and (at the spa garden) the annual Baden-Baden Summer Nights, an outdoor event with live classical music concerts.
On Monday, November 25, the Kurhaus/Casino will host the city's annual Christmas market, with more than 100 stalls for shopping. The Himmelsbühne open-air stage will present a different entertainment program every day, and a church alley will be decorated to look like a "fairy tale lane." (We'd like to see that one.) Take a look at the Christmas markets here:
Other activities in Baden-Baden can include hot-air ballooning, paragliding down Mt. Merkur, golfing (one course is in town, while another is just outside the city limits) and shopping on the Sophienstrasse. Brands like Escada, Hermès, Tourbillion, Mont Blanc and Van Laack have stores on the street, while hats and shoes can be made to measure at Olivier Maugé and Vickermann & Stoya, respectively.
Top hotels in Baden-Baden include the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa (a member of the Oetker Collection that we hear is about to begin a renovation to add medical spa suites); the Dorint Maison Messmer Baden-Baden (close to the Kurhaus); the Hotel Belle Epoque (which has its own park and serves a daily high tea); and the Aqua Aurelia Suitehotel (which has direct access to the Caracalla Spa.
While details are still scarce, we hear that there will be two new hotel openings and one notable reopening in the coming year, and that a new luxury property is currently seeking a management company.
Getting there: Baden-Baden is close to Switzerland and France, and its local airport has three flights per day to Berlin. Lufthansa flies directly from Newark to Stuttgart, where travelers can catch a train ride (45 minutes) to Baden-Baden.
Watch more about the city here: