Just before sunset we arrived at our next stop, Baden-Baden.
If you haven’t brushed up on your German in awhile, Baden means bath – so there’s a little foreshadowing of things to come.
One of our favourite things to do in a new town is to tour around and learn about its history. Thankfully, the tourism centre of Baden-Baden set us up with a one-on-one tour, teaching us about the town’s oldest spots, the history behind its casino, and the legends of old royalty.
Our hotel was a little outside the town centre, but thankfully, the walk was more than pleasant as we headed through the Rose Garden and down Lichtentaler Allee.
^ See that gloomy looking area above? That my friends, is why it’s called the black forest ^
The garden, Beutig, is preened and sculpted each year with over 10,000 roses, all eager to compete for a title of excellence. Each year, only those that actually win the title are selected and planted the following spring.
Stopping to sniff a few of the prized possessions, my favourite was Prima Ballerina. Winning since 1957, it was my favourite bloom of all. The scent was sweet, flowery, and passionate.
Another top contender? Marie Curie.
After walking through the rest of the park, it was no wonder the town is such a hub for summer getaways. The town caters to guests, and our guide informed us that if you’re a golfer, they’ll pair your handicap with the weather to help you find that perfect course for the day. I may not golf, but even I can appreciate service like that.
Lichtentaler Allee was absolutely gorgeous, and I’m sure it’s even more beautiful on a sunny day. Had it been summertime, I would have been dying to grab a picnic lunch, a blanket, and plop down for the rest of the day.
Unfortunately, we had to get a move on with our tour.
We weaved around the streets of the (new) old town, but most of the shops closed by 6pm. So instead, we glanced in the windows of the luxury boutiques and made note of the cafes with the most delicious looking chocolates.
^ The official chair of Baden-Baden ^
We even got to visit the original site of the thermal waters – and stick our hands under to feel just how hot the water really is – and I can assure you, it was boiling hot!
Now that the sun had set and the street lamps were lit, we began our next mission: find a place for dinner.
Because Baden-Baden is such a luxury destination, we figured we would splurge a bit and go for a nice meal. Quickly checking the Michelin Guide, we headed into Rizzi.
Located in an old-looking home, Rizzi is contemporary and warm, with a crackling fireplace waiting at the entry, and cozy tables perfect for two.
A quick glance at the menu and we knew we had selected the perfect spot. Steak, steak, and more steak.
Starving, we waited at the bar until our table was ready – watching the bartender work his magic with each creation.
As an entree, we ordered the Flammkuchen. Not actually knowing what it was, we assumed it would be something small.
The joke was on us, however, when out came a massive flatbread pizza, topped with chorizo, black truffel, and arugula.
All of a sudden we realized this wasn’t the fancy kind of place where you leave hungry – it’s a place for eating. So, we dug in.
Demolishing the majority of it, we kindly asked for a small break before our entrees made their way out.
A petite filet (literally called the “steak madam”) with green beans and potatoes for me.
And the snitzel for the Mr.
The meat was tender and the sides comfortable and home-cooked. The atmosphere was perfect for a cozy date night, as candles flickered and guests quietly laughed between each other.
Absolutely stuffed, we sadly declined dessert and headed back out into the night.
Having learned about the history of the casino during our tour, and seeing the red carpet all set up – I felt like it was calling our names for a visit. One of the oldest in Europe, it was a haven for gamblers seeking a night of fun, long before casinos like those in Monaco opened up shop.
Neither of us being big gamblers, we headed in for a
quick peak snoop hoping to spot a celeb or two. Designed to mimic some of the great palaces, the furniture in the Kurhaus was covered in red velvet and the rooms were ornate. It’s had quite the history, riddled with closures due to prohibitions, secret gambling, and luxurious parties. Detailed paintings covered the walls, and even the door handles were sculpted with care.
Sitting at the bar, I imagined how intriguing it would have felt back in the 1820s, with socialites filling the rooms and guests floating from table to table. Sadly, no photographs were allowed during the night – so you’ll just have to go and take a peak for yourself.
The next morning, we headed to the baths to really get the full Baden-Baden experience. The hot springs, discovered by the Romans in 210 A.D. (no, that isn’t a typo), have been filtered into two spas depending on your preference of bathing wear. The luxurious Friedrichsbad is more traditional and ornate – but, bathing in the nude is mandatory.
Instead, choosing the more modern of the two, we headed into Caracalla and spent the next three hours floating and circulating through a variety of hot (and cold) pools, steam rooms, and saunas. Sheer and utter bliss, it was exactly what we needed to really get into that true vacation mode and we were both extra smiley upon leaving.
Rumour has it that the baths have healing power for various health conditions like arthritis, but I’ll leave that up for you to decide. If anything, the rumours that it relieves stress and tension are definitely true.
Now, I’m not much of a museum-goer. In fact, I pretty must detest them. But, Baden-Baden has quite a few historical gems, and we felt a little obligated to stop into one of its many museums.
The Museum Frieder Burda sparked my interest as a more-modern museum, and it had an interesting photography feature on display; so, we got tickets and headed on in. The featured exhibition, by world renowned photographer Andreas Gursky, uses technology to combine two photographs into one – changing reality. This exhibition was the kind of museum I could seriously get behind and I’m quite glad we decided to stop in.
All three floors of the museum were filled with various sized photographs – and we walked through trying to decide where one photograph ended and the other began. I can’t remember the titles of my top 5, so I’ll call them: Four Leaders, Rhein II, Montparnasse, Cows and Fashion Show. I won’t spoil the exhibit for you, since I highly recommend attending if you’re in the area. The show is on until January 24, 2016 and admission is 12 euros for adults.
Before leaving, I insisted we head into Cafe Konig for their world-famous Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (black forest cake).
A staple for locals and tourists, we sat in green velvet chairs and sipped our afternoon tea. Each layer of cake was utterly moist, sandwiched between melt-in-your-mouth whipped cream, and sour cherries coated in kirsch liquor.
If you’re in Baden-Baden, Cafe Konig is a serious must. Even if you don’t enjoy sweets, you can still revel in the atmosphere of such an iconic location. Plus, they offer “real” food too.
After finishing our cake, I picked up a few chocolates for our journey to France – and sadly neglected to purchase the BEST cookies I’ve ever had. Resembling gingerbread tea cookies, I’m sure Cole wishes he told me to buy them then and there (if only so he didn’t have to listen to my whining for the next week). Good news though, I located them in Frankfurt just before our flight home. See those leaf-shaped cookies above? Those are them. Swoon.
On the way home, we couldn’t pass up one last opportunity to walk through Lichtentaler and crunch a few fall leaves.
Of course, Baden-Baden didn’t let us leave without once more showing off some of its spectacular rolling hills and fall colours.
The making of this post was sponsored by the City of Baden-Baden, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. It was a destination we selected for our journey down the Rhine, regardless of any collaboration opportunities. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend you make the trip through the black forest, and stop in Baden-Baden for at-least one night. Bring some fancy duds, head into the casino, and eat some delicious food. The town is peaceful, gorgeous, rich in culture and has all types of luxury to fit your budget. It’s quite a well kept secret among the German and French population – and I for one, can see why!