The B’s of Baden-Baden: Bath, Beer and Bretzel

Talk about alliteration: my latest adventure was to Baden-Baden in Germany’s Black Forest for the thermal baths, beer, Black Forest cake and bretzels galore !

South Germany’s Black Forest was surprisingly close to Zürich, just an hour and a half north of here.  This deep green woodland area stretches north from Basel in Switzerland for about 160 km up to Pforzheim in Southwest Germany, with its western edge at the Rhine, extending east for about 40 km.  Our main destination was near the northern limits of the forest, in Baden-Baden.  No, not to see Obama, Sarkozy and Merkel; yes, for the thermal baths!  We stayed at family-run Hotel am Markt, a really great find (with a delicious and generous buffet breakfast) on a small, charming square, our window looking down at the Stiftskirche (Baden-Baden?s first parish church) and the Roman baths just a short walk away, along the pedestrian cobblestone streets. Normally a very peaceful spot too.  That is, if there aren’t 500 police officers on the square – Obama happened to be arriving the very day we left, on that very square!  If ever you find yourself in the city of NATO’s 60th anniversary, here’s a word of advice: don’t go anywhere without your passport as well as some paperwork from your hotel.  I will admit feeling rather special though, being escorted to our hotel each time we came and went!  The presence of police officers was truly impressive.  We were almost the only 2 people in the city not in Germany’s green police uniforms.

Baden-Baden Baden-Baden

But back to those baths… Baden-Baden is the ultimate spa town, the name itself, baden meaning bath in German.  People come here to spend hours in the thermal baths, the healing waters coming straight from the mountains – natural springs rising from depths of around 6,500 feet.  In the baths, the water temperature ranges from 32 to 42 degrees Celcius / 90 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit.  Take your pick between the ancient Friedrichsbad (Roman-Irish Bath) and the more modern Baths of Caracalla.  The former opened 120 years ago, in elegant surroundings to pamper the rich and famous. It was my first choice from the photos alone, but take note: nudity is 100% obligatory, men and women together.  And so it was, the modern yet also beautiful Caracalla Therme for us, with its marble columns and turquoise pools, both inside and outside. Also half the price of the other.  What to do first?  Hot and cold rock grotto, bubbling whirlpools, waterfalls, counter-current pool, massaging water jets, aromatherapy rooms, steam rooms, saunas… It’s all mixed, male and female, bathing suits on the main floor, but fully naked upstairs for more saunas, some even outdoors in little log cabins. Sorry, no photos to document all of that.  

All that sweating worked up an appetite.  To the local beer garden it was for a typical – and very seasonal – snack.  Beers in laughably large mugs turned out to be the minimum size you could order, and baskets of soft, doughy pretzels emptied fast.  Best of all, platters of plump white asparagus were on almost every table.  Baden-Baden is not only on the Black Forest Spa Route, but also along the Baden Asparagus Route!  Baden-Wuerttemberg is one of the most productive asparagus regions in Germany, and the harvesting has just begun. You can’t go to a single restaurant during this time of year that’s not offering its special Spargel menu.  Do take advantage.

Baden-Baden, Germany Baden-BadenBaden-Baden Baden-Baden

If you’ll be passing through this region in Germany in the next few months, definitely check out the numerous asparagus festivals, asparagus peeling competitions and fun asparagus-themed events all around.  I’ve already got Asparagus Day on my calendar for May 2010!  Perhaps a stop at the baths on the way…


Hotel am Markt
Markplatz 18
76530 Baden-Baden

Tip: this hotel (and many others in town) offers discounted rates for both thermal baths, so buy your tickets when you check in!


13 Responses to “The B’s of Baden-Baden: Bath, Beer and Bretzel”

  1. Sarah Musi says:

    There are cities named “Bath” pretty much everywhere in Europe thanks to the Roman military campaigns. There is also a very cute Baden in Switzerland nestled between mountains right on the bend a river that curves around their bases. As in most Roman bath cities, it’s full of ancient bath houses, many of which are still operational as well as several healing centers and lush parks for “spazieren gehen” and it’s home to one of the more famous homeopathic healing centers for life-threatening diseases in the world. They also have a great haberdashery there with some pretty great handmade hats.

  2. Shaun says:

    What a nice post…. definitely diarised!!!

  3. Lani says:

    I truly love asparagus and have marked my calendar for May 2010 but those pretzels….bretzels….whatever I want one. To be just one hour from Zurich and see so many different views of this planet is just amazing. Keep on driving and sharing…..

  4. Kylie says:

    Many thanks for this post.
    I was just in Basel today and made note to come back for the black forest but now also the baths! And the hotel sounds great!
    Thanks for the tips!

  5. Steve says:

    Awesome post. It’s not often I get a chance to read about healing, Obama, asparagus and nudity, all in the same article. Well done 🙂 This place looks spectacular. Did all the security make it more interesting, or was it intrusive? As usual, great pix helped tell your story. Thanks.

  6. Kerrin says:

    Steve, good question about the security. We thought it was quite interesting for sure – to see that many police in one area is truly unique. Nonstop police cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles, packs of officers, etc. – everywhere! Apparently there were 6,000 police officers in the city later that day. Again, being escorted to our hotel didn’t bother me at all – au contraire! Luckily we left when we did though. All the roads were closed and if we had waited another hour I think, we would have been stuck in Baden-Baden for another day!

  7. Marlin says:

    Well folks we are happy its all over. We live here near the Kurhaus where all took place. During three days we felt like staying in a maximum security prison. Actually there were 15.000 police in the city and the cost was more than 50 Million Euros. Now we are left with ruined parks and dirty roads but cleaning is under way. Luckily anti Nato protester were kept out. 40 policemen watched each protester. Was it all worth it ? Come and see us and enjoy the baths, beautiful restaurants and a unique medieval architecture !

  8. Kelleyn says:

    This asparagus is my husbands favorite. Everytime we go to Germany in the spring he has to order it. I am surprized that there wasn’t any ham with the asparagus. It must just depend on the region?

  9. josephine says:

    i’ve been daydreaming of escaping to a place like this – a town that’s clean and serene with wonderfully relaxing spas/baths and good food. great post! i’ll add this town to my must-see list.

  10. jen laceda says:

    Baden-Baden — the town so pretty they named it twice!

  11. richard says:

    Ha – the asparagus season! I like seasonal stuff, although you can be overwhelmed by it at this time of year – especially in restaurants where you can order anything as long as it has asparagus-something with it. Causes havoc with your urine though, if I can inject an indelicate note.

    Good info on Baden- Baden – I sometimes forget there is a lot worth visiting just over the border, and it’s easy by train from Zurich.

  12. Tammie says:

    Asparagus PEELING contest?! LOL Learn something every day — I don’t peel mine, maybe I should start. Those copper domed rooftops and that quaint cobblestone street! How delightful. And the hot baths/spa sounds decadent even with the nudity. Or maybe BECAUSE of the nudity? hmmmm…. And what about the asparagus and urine thing? I realize that’s so very indelicate, but it’s something I’ve always wondered about. LOL

  13. katy says:

    just had to say again how much I love your blog. White asparagus . . .really? I love tasting the regional cuisine, but this soft, mushy, pale veggie just doesn’t sound appealing to me. Hmmm. If I get over myself and give it a go, I’ll report back to you.

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