Baden-Baden is a German spa town on the border of the Black Forest. With its quaint village vibe, Baden-Baden is home to shops, restaurants and pubs, verdant parks and gardens, 2000-year-old Roman bath ruins and salt-rich thermal hot springs. A long-time favourite of European royalty (and nowadays celebrity travellers) visitors still flock to Baden-Baden to experience its cleansing waters.
The grand dame of the area’s spa properties is the 140-year-old Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, and it is the place to stay for a luxury Baden-Baden spa getaway. The flagship property of the Oetker Collection, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa promises “urban life in the countryside”. If the original Brenners hotel is the matriarch of the property, then Villa Stephanie, where I am staying, is the golden child. Housed in a mansion that was originally built as a royal residence in 1890, Villa Stephanie was launched in 2015 as a space solely devoted to delivering high quality spa experiences.
The five-storey villa is home to the Brenners Park spa, and has just 15 expansive and beautifully detailed guestrooms. It has more of a boutique feel than the Brenners hotel, as it is separate from the main building, connected only by underground and above ground hallways. The rooms adopt a more contemporary design than those of the Brenners hotel (which are of a more classical European look). They also offer a way to achieve a complete digital detox – they are free of ‘e-smog’ (electro-magnetic fields generated by electrical devices) thanks to a small switch that engages copper plates within the walls to block high-frequency signals including WiFi. Here you can take a spa treatment in a private spa suite, and there’s also a styling lounge, a 500-square-metre sauna, plunge pool, state-of-the-art gym, a hammam and separate women-only sauna.
Upon entry to the villa, I’m standing in an intimate sitting room with its own small front desk, lounges, chairs and a fireplace. Fabian Nusser is the manager here. He’s so proud of his Villa Stephanie, and he should be. It’s not possible to fault any of the Villa Stephanie staff, who are eager to provide guests with the very best of service at all times; the exclusivity of the villa allowing for a much more personal connection between staff and guest than I’ve experienced at other properties.
Connected to Villa Stephanie is Haus Julius, a 1700-square-metre mansion that exclusively addresses the medical needs of Brenners and Villa Stephanie guests. Services include aesthetic medical and dental care, naturopathy, obstetrics and gynaecology. Haus Julius also has a team of physiotherapists and nutritionists available to work with guests on health goals, providing individually tailored programs and menus.
As far as dining is concerned, breakfast is generally served at Salon Lichtental in the main hotel, although if you prefer, you can choose to have your breakfast in your room or the Villa Stephanie lounge room. In 2012, Paul Stradner was appointed head chef of Brenners Park-Restaurant and was awarded his first Michelin star the same year. He has since been awarded a second, making him one of the youngest chefs in Germany with two stars. Here he serves modern takes on classic dishes. Other dining options include the Wintergarten overlooking the park and serving dishes using local Black Forest ingredients. As well as the restaurant Rive Gauche, located a short stroll through the park which serves up Mediterranean fare.
After eating so much delicious food, I was able to take advantage of the Black Forest area for some much-needed exercise. I took a guided hike up to a scenic outlook – my visit was in early December and I was greeted with clear blue skies. Later that day I was met by Klaus from Rent-a-Sportsman, a Baden-Baden native who took me on a two-hour bike ride on scenic and undulating trails and roads while he told me all about growing up in the area and pointed out landmarks. After my ride I had a traditional hammam with legendary Brenners masseur Othman Challouf. The treatment was revitalising and Othman masterfully scrubbed and massaged out the soreness. I left Villa Stephanie – after all the spa treatments, good food and exercise – a happy man.