During our epic summer road trip from Cologne to Munich, we made a two night stop in the charming spa town of Baden-Baden. We loved it! It’s nestled in the southwest region of Germany’s Black Forest – close to the French border. Baden-Baden is home to thermal spas that have been luring visitors to the resorts of the town since the 19th century. While the town was originally a travel destination for Europe’s privileged elite, it’s now more accessible than ever. That’s why we decided to write this guide to the best things to do in Baden Baden.
Let this list inspire your own travel plans in Germany and give you an idea of what to do in Baden Baden. It’s full of culture, history, beauty and we think you’ll love the town as much as we did. We have also included links to each of these great Baden Baden attractions to help your planning.
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1. Caracalla Spa
Visiting Caracalla Spa is one of the premier things to do in Baden Baden and what we were most eager for when we arrived. In fact, we visited Caracalla twice during our two-day trip! It’s a magnificent complex of thermal baths designed in the tradition of old Roman baths.
The atmosphere inside the spa is super relaxing with both indoor and outdoor pools and jacuzzis. Inside a smaller bath is designed to resemble a rock cave with a warm water spout and cold water plunge bath.
On the upper level of the facility, you’ll discover an adult-only section of saunas, whirlpools, and baths. In this section of Caracalla, Spa visitors are to enjoy the facilities fully nude. Spa culture is different around the world, but in Germany, the etiquette is no bathing attire. We complied, but our American upbringing meant we were slightly out of our comfort zone at first.
Visitors under age 16 are permitted with parental supervision. Children under seven years old are not permitted, but there is a section of Caracalla that offers childcare.
2. Friedrichs Bad
The baths at Friedrichsbad are set in a lavish Neoclassical building from 1877 but beneath the surface are the ruins of Baden Baden’s ancient Roman baths. It includes a museum and exhibition area with audio guides. The most popular attraction is the modern bath facilities and Friedrichsbad is one of the best thermal baths in Europe.
The facilities of the thermal baths are incredible and there are additional services like the Irish-Roman treatment of 17 thermal stations. Admission is only available for guests over 14 and most days of the week, men and women bathe together. Many areas of the Friedrichsbad baths are without bathing attire.
3. Casino Baden Baden Spielbank
Even if you’re not into gambling or games of chance, you must visit the casino! Arriving at Casino Baden Baden Spielbank, we were floored by the opulence. The atmosphere was glamorous, posh, and smacked of old-money Europe inside the 200-year-old icon. It felt like we had walked into a Bond movie.
Because we didn’t pack a dinner jacket for this road trip, we had to rent one from the concierge staff before going onto the casino floor. We knew this would be the case and we were happy to oblige for the experience.
We got a drink and played some table games, but the palatial rooms were enough to keep us entertained. The decor is modeled after French palaces and you can’t help but feel regal as you walk the floor of the casino.
We can’t recommend visiting this historic structure and even if you don’t gamble you can. The casino is open for public tours.
4. Trinkhalle Pump House
Trinkhalle is an ornate colonnade located in the town’s Kurhaus spa complex. It was built in 1839 with 16 Corinthian columns and 90 meters of intricate frescos. Inside, the mineral waters are pumped and you can taste the water from the original springs of the town. They’re believed to have a healing quality due to the high mineral level. We didn’t try to drink from them during our visit, but I did try them a few weeks later in Karlovy Vary, another spa town in the Czech Republic.
The gardens around the Kurhaus and Trinkhalle are serene and it’s worth visiting for the grounds alone. You can visit the coffee shop there and sit on one of the benches in the colonnade for a relaxing treat.
5. Lichtentaler Allee
When you’re in Baden Baden, begin your day with a stroll through Lichtentaler Allee, a historic promenade and arboretum. It hugs the west bank of the River Oos and is lined with around 300 types of native and exotic plants and trees.
The entire trail is over 2 km long and first developed as a path between the monastery and town market in the mid-1600s. In 1850 it was fully developed and has been maintained and upgraded through the years. It’s one of the most charming spots in the whole city and one of the rare, free things to do in Baden Baden.
6. Museum Frieder Burder
If you appreciate modern art, make your way to the Museum Frieder Burder. It’s a tremendous example of modern architecture that showcases the private collection of published and art enthusiast, Frieder Burda. His collection includes over 700 works of art and several Picassos. The remainder of the exhibits focuses on German paintings and showcases artists from the post-war period.
7. Staatliche Kunsthalle
Along the Lichtentaler Allee is an elegant Neoclassical building that houses contemporary art – the Staatliche Kunsthalle or State Art Gallery of Baden Baden. It’s a great stop if you love art or simply appreciate the creativity. It opened in 1909, making it one of the oldest cultural institutions in the city.
We did not make it to the museum, because while we do enjoy modern art – we overscheduled our spa time. There is an online virtual exhibit that makes me excited to return to Baden Baden and explore the museum in person. It is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 – 16:00 and €7 for adult entry.
8. Faberge Museum
Fabergé is a Russian jeweler founded in Saint Petersburg in 1842. They’re known the world over for their handcrafted Fabergé eggs and supplied fine goods to the Russian and European aristocracies.
The museum was opened in 2009 and is privately-owned by Russian art collector, Alexander Ivanov. It exhibits over 1500 rare Fabergé items including a silver decanter and Easter egg from the last Imperial Russian Easter dinner in 1917. With such a large exhibit, check out our Museum Tips for all three of these intriguing museums in Baden Baden.
9. Fremersberg Tower
Most travelers make a habit of climbing a church, building, or another landmark to capture a view of the destinations they visit. In Baden-Baden, you should head slightly outside of the town and head to Fremersberg Mountain. That’s where you’ll find Fremersber Tower which offers breathtaking views of the Black Forest Mountains, Oostal valley, Rhine, and the Vosges Mountains.
The natural surroundings of Baden Baden are so unique and getting to see their beauty from a bird’s eye view is totally worth the 144-step climb – especially if you continue traveling through the Black Forest.
10. Hohenbaden Castle Ruins
One thing we learned on this trip was how much we love ruins castles (especially compared to ones that are still standing). We first discovered this at Rheinfels Castle near Saint Goar, then at Hohenbaden, and one more time at Obere Berg in Liechtenstein.
There’s something incredible about seeing only the foundation of castle walls remaining and wandering through the skeleton of a once-mighty fortress. It may seem counterintuitive, but in many ways, it’s more interesting to rebuild the castle in your mind than to see it restored or rebuilt. That’s exactly what you can do at Hohenbaden Castle or Altes Schloss (old castle).
The behemoth was built in 1102 and was the seat of the Margraves of Baden from the 11th to the 15th centuries. At the site of the ruins, you can discover the castle dungeons and climb the steep steps to walk along the massive castle walls. From the viewing terraces, you can take in the panoramic view of the city with the Black Forest and the Rhine plain in the background.
It’s another free thing to do in Baden Baden, a city that’s not known for being cheap, and there’s parking available on-site.
11. Merkur Funicular Railway
One of the coolest things in town is the Merkur Funicular Railway, Europe’s steepest funicular railway. It delivers passengers to the peak of Merkur and the tower, cafe, and gardens that are perched there.
We decided to walk up to Merkur from downtown Baden Baden. The journey began along Lichtentaler Allee and continued through the tranquil forest to the top of the mountain. From there we climbed the tower at Merkur Mountain and the views around Baden-Baden were incredible. We stopped at the cafe for a bite to eat and then took the funicular back into the city.
In retrospect, it would have been easier to take it up and then walk down, but we needed some physical activity. Round trip tickets are also available and the machines at the funicular are automated with english language prompts which made it easy to navigate.
12. Geroldsau Waterfall
Geroldsau is a six-meter tall waterfall that you can find south of Baden Baden on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse or the Black Forest High Road. We drove this route out of Baden Baden and it’s absolutely STUNNING.
Geroldsau is a short drive from Baden Baden. and you can reach it by pulling over at the free Wannacker car park. From there, follow the signs to the waterfall – it’s a short hike through the beautiful forest along the stream. We had to continue to our next stop, but if you’ve got the time and sturdy shoes you can hike a trail loop through the forest in about two hours.
13. The Russian Church
Whether you’re a spiritual person or not, visiting churches in Europe is just part of travel. Baden Baden is home to a Russian church that looks a little out of place but is beautiful nonetheless. This ornate, Byzantine-style Russian Church was built in 1882. The interior was based on the designs of master painter Grigor Grigorijewitsch. It’s lavishly decorated with religious frescoes and is a taste of Russian history in Baden-Baden.
If you’re interested in local services, they take place on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th weekends of the month. Saturday services are held at 17:00 and Sundays at 10:00.
14. Day Trip to Colmar
One of the best things about visiting Baden Baden is its location in the borderlands. This region of Germany not only has cultural influences from neighboring France, but you’re so close that it’s an ideal day trip to visit the Alsace.
Colmar is a beautiful town full of canals, half-timber houses, and delicious Alsatian food. It’s surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills with a medieval town center and picturesque cobblestone streets. In fact, Colmar is a popular destination for wine enthusiasts and there are many purveyors where you can do a tasting or arrange a vineyard tour.
One of the most picturesque areas of the city is the bridge-covered stretch of the canal known as Little Venice. You can even take a gondola ride along through the canal and float through the gorgeous city. Afterward, you can find a table at an Alsatian restaurant. We love the cuisine because it combines the techniques of French cooking with hearty German ingredients for delicious results.
15. Day Trip to Strasbourg
You can reach Strasbourg, France by car in 45 minutes or take a 60-minute train ride. A day trip to Strasbourg, France is a perfect addition to any Baden Baden itinerary. It’s another beautiful city with half-timber buildings and winding streets through the medieval center The former city-state is located near the German border and has even changed hands between French and German control over the years adding several layers of difficult history. That’s part of the reason why Strasbourg is the formal seat of the European Parliament.
The EU Parliament building is one of many landmarks in the city. It’s open to the public, but one of the best ways to view it is from the water. The River Ill forms a ring around the medieval center of the city and a series of locks and canals makes for an exciting boat tour from the water. It’s perfect to quickly get a glimpse of the city’s main attractions during a day trip.
One of the best things to do in Strasbourg is to visit its iconic Gothic Cathedrale Notre Dame. The historic church is stunning to tour and if you climb the tower stairs you can get a panoramic view of the city from the observation tower above.
Final Thoughts on Baden Baden
Baden Baden is such a cool town in Germany. It feels offbeat yet it’s full of old-world charm and notes of nostalgia for a bygone era. Spending time relaxing and living for two days in this glamorous destination was wonderful. I only wish we had more time and look forward to a return visit.
Be sure to let us know what you did in Baden Baden and leave your notes in the comments to help us learn.
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