The Romans who first came in 210 AD had it figured out. Baden Baden was a pretty special destination, thanks to its beautiful location in the Northern Black Forest of Germany and incredible natural hot springs – more than 29 in the area. For centuries, the town has had an international reputation for healing and relaxation, drawing everyone from Queen Victoria to Napoleon, supermodels and pop stars.
In 1872, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa opened its doors during the area’s heyday. Nearby France had made a dumb decision. It banned gambling, much to the chagrin of many wealthy residents and visitors. That inspired an enterprising Frenchman named Jacques Benazet to cross the border and build a grand opulent casino in Baden Baden. It attracted an elite set who were as interested in frequenting the local spas to treat ailments as they were in playing baccarat and black jack.
Such illustrious guests needed a fitting hotel in which to stay. Many chose Brenners – and continue to more than 150 years later. It’s not just the location that pleases guests. Though it’s just a five-minute walk to downtown, close to the old-world spa like Friedrichsbad and set on pretty Lichtentaler Allee, a historic park, the hotel has a timeless grandeur.
Its high-level of intuitive service, cuisine and plush rooms keep travelers from around the world, including celebrities like Justin Bieber, Heidi Klum and George Clooney, politicians from Barack Obama to Bill Clinton, plus royalty through the ages, such as the Prince of Monaco and Britain’s King Edward VII.
There are rooms to suit every taste among the more than 100 available. Brenners has mini-hotels within the hotel. Park Villa is the ultimate in exclusivity with three floors of luxury for privacy-seeking VIPs with an entourage. Villa Stéphanie, the newest section of the property, caters to the guests staying for extended spa and medical programs with 12 double rooms and three suites, decorated in a contemporary, modern style. The rest of the hotel is more traditional, but is equally as sophisticated.
Guests need not leave the premises to enjoy the spa. In 1983, Brenners added its own onsite and has been building up its offerings ever since. There are two health and beauty spas and a full medical spa. You can get pretty much as service you can think of, depending on what you want to tackle. Get a mani-pedi or dive deeper with help from cosmetic surgeons, dentists, fitness trainers, dermatologists and aestheticians with a medical background. It features the best of European treatments and Eastern-inspired ones as well.
The number of services is substantial, so you’ll need to spend a bit of time deciphering the spa menu to find the right ones. The Secret of the Lotus program, for example, stretches almost four hours, beginning with a lotus ceremony, then moves to all-over skin exfoliation, cleansing, and milk bath. To finish, there’s champagne and munchies. Pretty sweet. Or there are more simple pleasures like a steam room and an indoor pool to enjoy.
It’s no surprise that there is also an emphasis on great cuisine. You can enjoy the creations of chef Paul Stradner in the Brenners-Park Restaurant. He’s one of the youngest two-starred Michelin chefs in Germany and has been racking up numerous accolades in the last couple of years. And he’s becoming well known for his mastery of vegetarian fare. Meanwhile, Wintergarten showcases the greatest hits of German cuisine, inspired by ingredients from the Black Forest, from chanterelles to trout.
Come morning, Salon Lichtental provides a perfect start to the morning with a breakfast buffet that eons beyond any one you’d find in North America, with a wide selection of cold and hot foods, from house-made muesli to pickled fish, freshly squeezed juices and local cheeses. You may also find real Black Forest cake for dessert. Everything you put on the lovely Limoges plates seems to taste even better in the bright sunny yellow room with tables covered in damask linen. And after a single visit, the servers remember your name, tea or coffee preference, and any special requests. Incredible.
Though there’s so many things about Brenners that makes staying put in the hotel very enticing, you’d miss out on seeing a wonderful town if you didn’t venture out. You absolutely must visit one of famous local spas, either the century-old Friedrichsbad where swimsuits are not allowed or the newer, more modern Caracalla Spa, which appeals more to those who aren’t keen on nudity. Get a day pass and hop from bath to bath with their varying temperatures and stations in between feature steam, cascading waterfalls and lounging areas. After going through the entire circuit, you’ll be ready for the greatest sleep of your life.
Visitors to Baden Baden should also carve out some time for the Fabergé Museum. It was opened in 2009 to house more than 700 items, including incredibly rare and valuable Fabergé eggs, from the collection of Russian Alexander Ivanov. And like many Germans, you’ll want to get out into the countryside to do some serious wine tasting, hike and soak in the natural beauty of this stunning area. Conveniently, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa makes a convenient, luxurious hub to explore its many wonders.
Michele stayed as a guest of Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, but as always, her thoughts and opinions are her own. Photos courtesy of Michele Sponagle and Brenners Park.