Ryanair fly to Karlsruhe-Baden from Stansted with fares rarely more than a fiver. Flight timetables are perfect (out Friday evening after work, back Sunday night) meaning you can spend a long weekend enjoying the spas at Baden-Baden. There are two: the modern Caracella, which has a family atmosphere with large thermally heated pools, and the Roman Friedrichsbad. Enjoy coffee and cake in one of the smart cafes in the pedestrianised town centre and maybe take in the opera or a concert in the cultural district. You needn't worry about paying extra for hold luggage because in the Roman baths (and parts of the Caracella), it's compulsory not to wear clothes, so you can ignore the airline's swingeing baggage restrictions.
You should definitely visit the modern Caracalla spa (Friedrichsbad is the older, rougher around the edges and also more expensive bath house) when in Baden-Baden or the local area.
Entry can be purchased for 2, 3 or 4 hours for 12, 14, 16 Euro accordingly. I'd advise picking 4 hours for the extra 4 euro as time flies once you're inside. With over 3000 square metres of indoor and outdoor pools, it rivals any spa I have visited at 4 times the price elsewhere in Europe.
Once you have spent an hour or so relaxing in the pool and loungers make your way upstairs to the Roman sauna scape. Be warned though, this area is completely nude as a multilingual sign warns you on the door and you discover quite abruptly upon entering.
My boyfriend and I were quite shocked at first being of a classically prudish English nature but when in Rome as they say. After removing your swimwear you are free to enjoy a wonderful series of connected saunas, steam rooms, plunge pools, hot tubs and relaxation areas at your leisure. Especially recommended are the outdoor Swedish and Norwegian log cabin saunas (and ice cold outdoor showers between the two) along with the blue space room where you lie on plastic pods in a dimmed blue aura and feel ambient music vibrate inside the bed and through your body. Be careful not to fall asleep as we did though and miss your time limit, a penalty fare of 3 euros per 15 minutes is charged when leaving the spa.
For those who may also feel a little prudish, I can say after our initial nerves we found the atmosphere upstairs to be very respectful and relaxed as well as obviously highly liberating and invigorating. The unwritten rule seems to be very much a stare into middle distance with the odd curious glance down or across permitted, definitely no staring or pointing though. We visited on a weekday afternoon and the majority of visitors were middle aged men and women both single and in couples but it was also refreshing to find younger French and German couples and singles in their early twenties, like us, enjoying the sauna without any qualms.
One final word of warning for ladies though, 95% of girls on the continent seem to be opting to visit waxing salons for Brazilians or Hollywoods before their visits, whether or not this was inspired by our own WAGs visit to Baden Baden earlier this year I wouldn't like to say.
Caracalla Therme Spa website:
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