Some of the best spas in Germany are located in Baden-Wuerttemberg. This southwestern state has a wealth of hot mineral springs, making it Germany’s leading destination for spa holidays. It also borders France and shares that country’s love of food, so you can eat exceptionally well there.
What to Expect at a German Spa
Spas in Germany are quite different from American spas, with elaborate facilities that let you spend an inexpensive day going in and out of saunas and mineral pools, and a more relaxed attitude towards nudity. Treatments are good but the rooms are not the pampering palaces of the U.S.
For spa-lovers, highlights of Baden-Wuerttemberg include Baden-Baden, the historic spa town where crowned heads of state and European aristocrats gathered in the 18th and 19th centuries. You can still get a taste of the life they enjoyed at properties like Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa.
Baden-Baden sits at the foot of the Black Forest, where you’ll find more great resort spas like Hotel Bareis and Traube-Tonbach. Finally, there’s a wealth of baths in cities like Stuttgart (which also boasts the Mercedes-Benz museum) and the amazing Bad Duerrheim, known for its salt water, fango treatments, and a fantasyland “sauna world”. (Think igloo rooms, open fires you can warm your feet by, chamomile-scented steam rooms and a real live person to whip the air in the Finnish sauna -- to make it even hotter.)
- Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden: This elegant 19th-century property in the historic spa town of Baden-Baden has an international clientele, including loyal visitors from Texas and California. Though it’s in town – a short walk from shopping, opera, gambling, and the baths – it backs a stream that gives it a woodland feel. The spa is elaborate: you can consult with a doctor, dentist or get a delicious “massage sampler” from a strong Tunisian therapist who can put your body to rights in an hour. The glass-walled swimming pool is enriched with ozone to cut down chlorine. If you go, don’t miss Baden-Baden’s famous hot mineral baths: the historic Freidrichsbad and the modern Caracalla.
- Hotel Bareiss in the Black Forest: This charming Black Forest resort has exquisitely decorated guest rooms (Martha Stewart would approve), great hiking, and some of the best food in Germany. There are eight tremendously charming restaurants here, each with its own personality and cuisine. They serve everything from rustic regional dishes to elegant cuisine by chef Clauss Peter Lumpp worthy of two Michelin stars. The spa is simple – no dim lights and New Age music here – but after a day hiking or Nordic walking, you can get a massage from a highly trained osteopath. Most of the guests are native, so it’s for people who want the sort of authentic German holiday most Americans never experience.
- Hotel Traube Tonbach: Another great Black Forest resort decorated in a distinct regional style that combines Swabian carvings, crystal chandeliers, and pastel plaids. The spa’s sauna and steam facilities go beyond what Americans are used to, with salt inhalation chambers and ice fountains. You can also get a traditional German hay wrap here, a detoxifying treatment where you’re wrapped in wet, organic hay for twenty minutes (a bit itchy, but interesting!) Take a ride up into the mountains in a carriage pulled by a pair of sprightly workhorses and learn the history of the Black Forest. Germany’s foremost chef, Harald Wohlfahrt, has earned an impressive three Michelin stars at Schwarzwaldstube.
- Hotel Schassberger: This country manor on Lake Ebnisee in the Swabian Mountains, about 45 minutes north of Stuttgart, has a great advantage for American travelers. Ulrike Schassberger, the seventh generation to run this hotel, worked at the Culinary Institute of American for several years and has a perfect command of English. Her brother, Ernst Karl, has trained with some of Europe’s greatest chefs and can give you a cooking class – also in excellent English. The spa is small but has everything you’d need.
- Parkhotel Jordanbad: This is a modern hotel near the charming medieval village of Biberach, which was once ringed with towers and retains its historic character, making it well worth a visit. Parkhotel Jordanbad has two great draws: it’s right next to the public baths (Jordanbad) and it has built “World of The Senses,” where you explore sensation, scale, and offbeat experiences like sitting in a Mongolian yurt.
- Der Oschberghof: Golf, anyone? This elegantly modern hotel has an 18-hole golf course, spa, and an ultra-chic pool area. I loved the facial in a room with a glass wall, looking out onto the parkland setting. So far from the dark cocoons of American spas! This is a great business hotel, and lots of meetings go on here.
- Le Meridien Stuttgart: This is the finest hotel in Stuttgart, a pretty and sophisticated city that is home to several mineral baths, the famous Mercedes-Benz museum and a brand new modern art museum called Kunstmuseum Stuttgart. The hotel is sleek and modern, and so is the spa. Perfect for business travelers.