Baden-Baden for Families: Taking in the Waters, Culture and Nature
Last summer we spent a family weekend in German Baden-Baden as part of our 15-day road trip through Germany, Alsace and Switzerland. In fact, a dreamy spa town of Baden-Baden in South West Germany in the foothills of Black Forrest was my and my husband’s inspiration for this road trip. We strategically planned Baden-Baden at the end of our exciting but exhausting road trip and could not wait to soak our tired bodies in the town’s thermal spas.
What’s in the Water
The town of Baden-Baden, famous for its curative spa waters, world class culture and beautiful natural surrounds of the Black Forrest, is only a 1.5 hours by car from Frankfurt’s airport so it could easily be incorporated into your Germany’s road or train trip itinerary.
“Baden” means BATH in German and SPA comes from Latin phrase “sanus per aquam” which means “healthy through water”. The town owes its status to 800,000 liters of healing thermal waters which flow from 12 underground springs each day. The effect of Baden’s curative spring waters was known 2000 years ago when the spa culture began to thrive under the Roman Emperor Caracalla (the town was then called Aquae Aureliae). You can see the ruins of the Roman Soldiers’ Bath beneath today’s Friedrichsbad spa.
Baden-Baden regained its modern-era spa traditions 150 years ago when royals from all over Europe came to “take in the waters” and enjoy world’s top casino.
The town’s two public spas, modern Caracalla-Thermae and Historic Roman-Irish Bath Friedrichsbad use spring water from underground springs (at 2,000 meters/6,500 feet) which emerge at temperatures between 50 and 68 C as (mainly) sodium chloride with small amounts of other minerals such as lithium, cesium, silica, boric acid, manganese, magnesium, as well as traces of cobalt, zinc and copper that are thought to have a curative effect on cardiovascular problems, metabolism or respiratory complaints. The warmth of the spring water also aids blood circulation in the muscles, joints and skin. (You can read about our date night visit to Friedrichsbad here)
Family Spa Day
For our family spa day, we went to the 4000-meter spa “palace” Caracalla-Thermae (I will do a separate post this spa later this winter). With its indoor/outdoor marble pools with water massage jets and counter-currents (temperatures ranging from 18C to 28C), stone grotto, sprawling steam bath and sauna complex, and sun bathing lawn, this is one of the largest and most beautiful swimming and sauna complex in Europe . (€15 for 2 hour visit; €25 for all day ticket (children 7+ are welcome; on site child care is offered for younger kids at € 5 per child).
We spent 4 hours at the complex, alternating between the spa pools and the sauna complex and could not get enough.
After the baths, we were ready for our Guided Town Walk with our guide Valeria. Baden is made for walking as most everything is within 10 minute walk of the baths and casino. You can plan your own walk or arrange one through Baden-Baden Tourism Office.
From our hotel Magnetberg we walked down Sophienstrasse all the way to the center of town, Leopoldstplatz (all while discussing Roman bath culture and comparing the notes on spa experiences).
Don’t these 19-century buildings with wrought-iron balconies remind of Paris?
The tour culminated with the Kurhaus complex (built in 1824) which houses world’s most beautiful (according to Marlene Dietrich) Casino and cultural venues. Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler was inspired by the Russian author’s visit to the Kurhaus casino.
You can enter casino (only) on a guided tour which run in the morning (from 9:30am to 11:40am, April through October; 10am to 11:30am in winter). You can bring the kids and take the pictures. You don’t need to be on a tour to visit casino during the evening “operation” hours, but there is a dress code and no picture taking. (More about the “night” visit in the upcoming post “Date Night Bade-Baden”)
The area with lush greens and flowers around the Kurhouse is used year-long for cultural events and festivals.
Nearby Lichtentaler Allee is 1.5 mile oak tree-lined promenade along Oosbach River, past old mansions and famous rose garden. You can take it all the way to medieval Cistercian Abbey (where you can stay in the guesthouse and volunteer at their garden if you so wish).
Or just imagine yourself a hero of the 19-century Russian novel, in town to cure mysterious maladies of the nervous system. (In those days you drank your waters instead of soaking your body in them.)
Taking in the Nature: Mount Merkur
Blame the curative effect of the waters, but we still had it in us after the walk to get to the summit of the 2,191 foot Mercur Mountain (it’s a 5 minute drive from the center; you can also take bus 204 or 205). Well, we did not plan on actually making the 4.5km steep hike up. Instead, we took Merkur Funicular Railway (Europe steepest and most technically advanced funicular railway). It only took 5 minutes to the top, but with a 1,214 feet climb (inclines of 23 and 53%.), boy, we were surprised that no human operator was in sight.
But it was no going back, so at the top we had no choice but to take in the views.
You can also stroll the marked footpath or have a snack at the restaurant, but it was a bit too late for either of these activities when we made it to the top at dusk). Funicular operates every 15 minutes, between the hours of 10am and 10pm (don’t forget to press the BUTTON to go up, as no one is there to do it for you!). If you intend to use the bus service to get to the base, make sure to buy a combination ticket from the driver that covers the Funicular).
Taking in the Culture
The town has rich cultural traditions centered around its famous (Germany’s largest) Opera House. There are year-round music and dance events, except everyone takes a break for a few weeks in August when we visited.
On our final morning in Baden-Baden, (after a quick spa visit, of course) we headed to modern art Museum Frieder Burda, on Lichtentaler Allee. “Light Shadow” Exhibit showing plastic-sculptural reliefs of Heinz Mack and his art movement Zero was on display:
Where we Stayed
There are several world class spa hotels with unique wellness facilities in town. During our stay, though, we “sticked” to public spas and a family-friendly hotel. 3-star reasonably priced and centrally located Hotel Magnetberg (we paid 80 euros for a single room for our son) was a great choice. The rooms were tastefully appointed and very clean.
Baden-Baden Hotel Tip: Be sure to inquire about (and take advantage of!) the Baden-Baden Guest Card when staying in Baden-Baden hotels. These cards entitle you to discounted entry to Caracalla Spa, Casino and other city attractions.
Other Family-Friendly Ideas:
Be sure to check with Baden-Baden Tourism Office for a schedule of family-friendly events and festivals at the time of your visit. There are open-air music festivals in the summer and Christmas markets in the winter.
Wildgehege Wildlife Reserve (near Mount Mercur’ funicular base station) allows access to wild life encounters in the natural setting.
Waterfalls of Geroldsau offer a variety of walking trails leading to the picturesque falls.
Climb Yburg Castle (dating back to year 1200), 4 miles southwest of the center of town, for the views of Black Forest and the Rhine valley.
We would like to thank Baden-Baden Tourism Office for helping to arrange complimentary access to several activities mentioned in the story. All opinions are our own.
READ NEXT: Bade-Baden Part 2: Date Night.
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17 thoughts on “SPA Weekend in Baden-Baden, Germany. Part 1. Family Spa Day.”
This sounds like an amazing trip!
I’m a big Rick Steves fan and ever since I watched his episode on Baden Baden, I’ve wanted to visit. I love indoor/outdoor thermal pools. We’ve only visited one in Italy about 10 years ago and it would be great to go to one in Baden Baden. The Hotel Magnetberg looks so beautiful and certainly the place I’d want to stay in while there. Great tips, thank you.
Brenda, I am now searching for thermal pools for next summer and looking at Northern Italy to combine history, ambiance and relaxation. I agree with you on Rich Steve- I always use his materials to get ready for the trip. I feel that he is partial to Baden-Baden himself:)
Wow, sounds like you had a busy day! And you certainly did your research! I had no idea that spa comes from “sanus per aquam.” The things you learn from you fellow travel bloggers 🙂 It sounds like a lovely place and I hope I’ll get to see it some day!
Thank you, Jolanta! You will enjoy, I am sure!
I enjoyed all your photos. Baden Baden looks like a beautiful place – truly out of a 19th century novel.
Looks like you had an amazing trip! We are looking at traveling to Germany in the spring but I hadn’t even heard of Baden-Baden until this post. I really need to start researching more about Germany that spa palace looks like something that should not be missed 😉
Mama Munchkin, do come back for more of my German stories. I also strongly recommend watching free Rick Steves on lines materials on Germany- they give you a great feel and overview of the places that you may want to visit. Germany was a great place to travel with kids and quite affordable.
I’ve enjoyed reading about your trip as we are getting ready to take a similar trip next month. I went back and forth about staying in Baden-Baden and opted for Heidelberg instead. Baden-Baden looks like a great place, so I’ll have to save it for next time. Those spas sound amazing!
Have a great trip, Kirsten. Looking forward to your stories from this trip.
I loved my visit to Baden-Baden a couple of years ago and would love to return to this town and area of Germany. Sounds like you also had a nice visit! Highly recommend Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish baths if you return (and have someone watch the children); we really enjoyed it.
Jessica- we did go to Friedrichsbad- I will write about it in Baden-Baden part 2: “Date Night”. I will read and comment on your Friedrichsbad story but will keep it a surprise for my readers for now:) Thanks for stopping by!
Looks beautiful and a lovely place to just chill. I dont think I have heard of Baden Baden before but may have to look it up as I will have a few trips to Germany next year to visit family. #TheWeeklyPostcard
Oh my goodness! You had me at the first mention of hot water… This looks like my idea of Utopia. It’s already on my ‘hypothetical hot springs tour of the world’ list – and now I’m even more determined to visit! Can’t wait to read more about the spa “palace” Caracalla-Thermae!!
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Thank you so much for chronicles of your Europe trip! We are planning a driving trip starting in Frankfurt too and your blog is helping us plan accordingly! Thanks again for all of your tips and insights. We cannot wait!