Some stereotypes exist for a reason, and when it comes to Germans and spa culture, the stereotypes are all true.
As an overly conservative Brit (another correct stereotype), I very vividly remember my first full-on German-spa-day: the swim-up bar, the rapids, the garden saunas, all experienced while naked. It was bizarre but wonderfully down to earth. Just like that, I was hooked. Plus, after attempting an ice-pool plunge, being naked is the last thing on your mind!
When you break it down, it’s easy to understand why these wellness rituals are so widespread. A couple of rounds in the sauna leaves you feeling completely and contentedly exhausted, it’s a kind of active relaxation. And besides, lounging around, lazily swimming and getting massages is one of the rare times we allow our bodies to just stop and our thoughts to drift. When I think about it, we really should do it more often...
With this in mind, here’s a wrap-up of my go-to German spas. Whether you’re a sauna novice or committed convert, they’re well worth a visit.
Baden-Baden is the chic spa town in Germany. Its natural springs are credited with curing both Roman Emperor Caracalla and Mark Twain of rheumatism, as well as with saving Baden Baden from the Black Death. Visit the palatial Friedrichsbad, with marbled, mosaic halls, for a dip in the numerous thermal-water pools, followed by a trip to the sprawling Caracalla Therme, located next door, for your sauna fix.
Spreewald Therme, Brandenburg
You’ll find the Spreewald Therme at the heart of the UNESCO biosphere reserve. The spa is renowned for its natural saltwater pools, which come from an underground depth of 1,350m. Apparently the high temperature, the water pressure and the minerals dissolved in the saline solution are good for your skin and respiratory system. I personally loved curling up in front of the huge open-fireplaces after an ice dip.
This is more hipster-hideout than traditional-spa, but I love it none the less. Hidden at the heart of Berlin behind the main train station, it boasts 11 saunas, two pools and a gorgeous garden full of pavilions. Design and decor are Balinese-inspired, and the striking statues are bought from Indonesia. And yes, I spent a perfect evening here all alone to celebrate my 28th birthday.
I love Sonnenalp in Osterschwang for its views over the Alps from the pool. Plus all that fresh-mountain air must be good for you. If you’re feeling plush, you can treat yourself in its Michelin-starred restaurant.
Sächsische Staatsbäder, Saxony
Hidden amid dense forest in the foothills of the Erzgebirge mountains is Bad Elster, whose volcanic springs are said to have powerful medicinal properties. But a trip to its spoiling spa is worth it regardless of your medical needs!
Neptunbad, North Rhine-Westphalia
Neptunbad in Cologne is a hidden gem, and worth visiting for its range of treatments such as chocolate, salt and honey peels. The rooftop terrace is perfect for lounging around naked in the sun with a good book and glass of something special.
But if you’d rather sweat in private, check out the spa and sauna collection for a detailed property list.