The Summer Capital of Europe
Baden-Baden, located at the northern edge of the dense Black Forest, has been known as the “summer capital of Europe” since the mid-19th century, when Queen Victoria and Napoleon III basked in its curative springs. Its dignified old-world glory can be found in the dripping elegance of the gilt-and-stucco casino, in the shaded Lichtentaler Allee, a lushly landscaped promenade along the Oos River, and in the pastel houses where Europe’s royal families and high society made their second homes.
Today Baden-Baden is once again living unashamedly on leisure and pleasure. The new palatial Caracalla baths have no fewer than seven pools. There are 300 miles of hiking paths on the periphery of the Black Forest, and a 13-mile bike path meanders through rich farm country.
The rich and royal now stay at the Brenner’s Park Hotel and Spa. One of the few remaining grand spa hotels in Europe, the 125-year-old hotel commands a perfect location overlooking the Oos River. The columns and Pompeiian-style frescoed walls of the hotel’s large heated glass-enclosed schwimmbad call to mind the ancient Roman general Caracalla, whose Roman legionnaires first discovered the curative powers of Baden-Baden’s thermal springs in the 3rd century A.D.
The hotel also offers sophisticated beauty and health care, and a nearby golf course that the Duke of Windsor called “a real pearl.” In Baden-Baden the Belle Epoque lives on; the pace is as unhurried as in bygone times, when one came to take the restorative cures of the ionizing springs. “I fully believe I left my rheumatism in Baden-Baden,” wrote Mark Twain. “Baden-Baden is welcome to it.”