National Geographic Traveller (UK)

24 hours in Baden-Baden

On the northern cusp of Germany’s Black Forest, find out why this hilly spa town gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2021 as one of the Great Spa Towns of Europe. Here’s how to spend the perfect day

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MORNING

Kick-start your morning over a locally roasted espresso at boho-cool Kaffeesack before exploring Baden-Baden’s historic heart. At the Kurhaus, you’ll want to see its riot of Corinthian columns; Trinkhalle, a neoclassic­al pump room, whose portico is festooned with mythologic­al frescoes; and the hilltop Stiftskirc­he church, which has towered above cobbled Marktplatz square for more than 1,000 years.

Pause among the flowers, fountains and sculptures in the manicured Lichtental­er Allee gardens on the Oos River banks. Here you’ll find Baden-Baden’s unmissable gallery, the avant-garde Richard Meierdesig­ned Museum Frieder Burda, which has high-calibre modern and contempora­ry art including Miró, Picasso and Pollock.

AFTERNOON

Hungry? Go for the daily special or a slice of torte (the Black Forest gateau is divine) at elegantly old-school Café König, once frequented by Liszt and Tolstoy. Or snag an al fresco table at park-side Rizzi, where the brasserie-style dishes like bouillabai­sse and homemade burgers are expertly paired with a glass of Riesling and Pinot from one of the nearby vineyards.

Part of Baden-Baden’s beauty is its proximity to nature, so spend the afternoon on a high. Hoof it up to Florentine­rberg for quiet time in Italianate gardens filled with orange, lemon and cypress trees. Or take the funicular up to 2,191ft Merkur mountain for gentle hiking trails, deer encounters and views deep into the Black Forest hills.

EVENING

Said to cure all manner of ills and make you feel 10 years younger, Baden-Baden’s hot springs are its raison˜d’être — take an early evening dip, not only a rite of passage, but also very relaxing. The slick, glass-fronted Caracalla Spa has a clutch of indoor and outdoor pools, grottoes and hydrothera­py channels. But if you’re prepared to bare all, head instead for the ornately domed Friedrichs­bad, for a ritual scrub-and-steam in its Roman-Irish baths.

For a spot of splendour and culture, have a flutter in the palatial Casino Baden-Baden that Marlene Dietrich called the world’s most beautiful, or get dressed up for an event at the Festspielh­aus, Germany’s largest opera and concert house. When it’s time for dinner, go all out with a French feast at a hot-ticket restaurant like elegant, Michelin-starred Le Jardin de France. Or keep it more casual at the tucked-away Weinstube im Baldreit, where regional flavours like Flammkuche­n (Alsatian pizza) and braised pork cheeks are matched with local wines. Wrap up the day with a dessert and coffee in its vinedraped courtyard.

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ABOVE: view of Baden-Baden
Friedrichs­bad spa ABOVE: view of Baden-Baden

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