The German spa town of Baden-Baden hosts a luxurious sanctuary of wellness in a historic building. The treatments at Villa Stéphanie sculpt you into a piece of art. By Sumeet Keswani
Few destinations in the world can claim their USP is wellness. Baden-Baden in the state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is one of them. On my last trip to the spa town, I aptly stayed in Brenners Park – Hotel & Spa. Apart from its charming history and aesthetic location—it’s set in a private park facing the famous Lichtentaler Allee, which was birthing premature cherry blossoms when I visited— the hotel has a dedicated House of Wellbeing in the adjacent Villa Stéphanie. Spread over an area of 5,000 square metres, across five storeys, it comprises rooms and suites, a 500-square-metre sauna, plunge pool, private gym, and hammam.
The hotel and Villa Stéphanie are internally connected, so I could have conveniently strolled from my room into the spa, clad in just a bathrobe and room slippers. But my evening appointment saw me sprinting up the street and swinging open the main doors of Villa Stéphanie quite dramatically. I had just arrived from the Caracalla Spa (carasana.de/en/caracallaspa), a cornucopia of hot thermal waters and Roman-style sauna. As I shoved all my belongings in a spacious locker and rinsed myself, I realised that the spa’s shower room could give those of most five-star hotel suites a run for their money.
My 60-minute aromatherapy session was assigned to Cristine, who was the oldest masseuse I’ve encountered. It was reassuring to be in the hands of someone who had 34 years of experience. She inquired about all my preferences—from the volume and track of music to room temperature and lighting— apart from the usual queries of massage pressure and essential oil. Then, Cristine went to work on my legs and back. Her ‘medium’ pressure felt like a reprimand for the weekly workout sessions I had missed (all 53 of them!). “You have a lot of tension in your back,” she remarked, much like my fitness instructor would if I ever showed up. Her strokes reminded me of the Swedish technique, but she seemed to have developed her own variation of it. Later, as I would relax in the spa’s lounge with a book on Van Gogh and some herbal tea, the receptionist would tell me that Cristine is a medical masseuse, who is trained in lymphatic drainage among other treatments, and that she always picks up new techniques from wherever she travels.
After a comprehensive massage, Cristine made me sit up so she could work on my shoulders. I felt like David being coaxed into shape under the able, if stern, hands of Michelangelo. To fill the silence, I asked her about the Caracalla Spa. She had a membership, she said, but she visited it only for the sports. I could tell, Cristine. I could tell. oetkercollection.com/hotels/villa-stephanie