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Baden-Baden

Germany

For a small town on the edge of a tranquil mountain range, there's something inherently hedonistic about Baden-Baden - heck, they even named it twice. Built around thermal springs, with numerous spas, a casino, an opera house and some incredible fine dining options, it's a throwback to a kind decadence now rarely associated with industrious, sensible Germany. Yet, Baden-Baden is anything but bolshy; located on the northern edge of the Black Forest, its natural surroundings and hiking opportunities help to keep the indulgence in check, and the elaborate-but-fading architecture of its town seems classy, rather than showy. What to expect from a weekend here? To feel relaxed, but never bored. 

The spa scene

It was the Romans that first discovered the healing powers of Baden-Baden's thermal springs, building a big fancy bathhouse, the ruins of which can still be visited today. Things have come a long way since then, and today the town is home to a number of spas, wellness centres, massage parlours and salt grottoes. 

One to try is the Caracalla Therme, an enormous spa complex that includes hot thermal pools, sauna, steam and aromatherapy rooms, and an outdoor relaxation area. If you're feeling bolder then a visit to The Friedrichsbad may be in order -this 140 year old bathhouse is set in a spectacular building and ushers you through the entire Roman bathing circuit, adding in Irish hot-air baths, and taking in 17 different stations in total. It truly is bliss, but there's just one thing - everyone is naked.

What else is there to do?

See a show: The town is home to one of the largest classical music halls in Europe, The Festspielhaus Baden-Baden. Built in the shell of a former railway station, it seats over 2500 people and stages performances from September - July of the following year. Check their website to see what's on during your visit. 

Try your luck: Once called the world's most beautiful casino, Baden-Baden's Kurhaus is nothing like the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip. Exuding a 19th century, old-money kind of vibe, it's lavishly decorated with imposing chandeliers, ceiling frescoes, ornate gold leaf mouldings and plush red velvet chairs. The minimum bet is €2. 

Get outside: Thanks to its location on the border of the Black Forest, the town is the perfect base for outdoor exploration; the Visit Baden-Baden website has suggestions for hiking routes of different length. If you're short on time then take the 204 bus to the base of the Merkur Mountain, which looks down over the town, hop off the funicular to the peak, then walk back down afterwards.

Getting to Baden Baden

Baden-Baden has its own airport, Karlsruhe-Baden-Baden Airport, which is well served by airlines from all over Europe, including budget carriers. The town also sits on a major rail line, and the city of Freiburg is under 90 minutes away. To get to Strasbourg (France) requires one change, but the journey only takes just over an hour.

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