Baden-Baden, literally “bathing” or “bath” in German, is a spa resort town at the edge of the Black Forest. In my opinion, no visit to Baden-Baden is really complete without hitting at least one of the town’s amazing spas. Baden-Baden has been known for its thermal waters from ancient Roman times! Today, it’s considered to be one of Europe’s best spa towns. This post explains the differences between Friedrichsbad vs. Caracalla spas, which are the two best spas in Baden-Baden and talks in-depth about the experiences at each.
Friedrichsbad vs. Caracalla Spa – Overview
I will first go over each of them and the experience separately and then talk about which one I think is best. These 2 spas are a few meters from each other and are run by the same company but the experience is what sets them a part.
- Friedrichsbad is a completely “textile-free” spa experience
- Caracalla has both textile-free and clothed areas but the sauna area is completely textile-free
- All textile-free areas are mixed gender
- More thoughts on being “textile-free” below!
First up in this Friedrichsbad vs. Caracalla spa comparison is Friedrichsbad. This is the older of the two baths and is set in a beautiful building that was opened in 1877. You really feel like you are back in Roman times, especially when you are bathing under the great dome. Friedrichsbad is open until 10 PM daily (except for a couple of holidays). Although open late, last admissions is a few hours before actual closing time.
They used to do timed tickets and even used to have days where genders bathed separately but they have removed both options since. Now, you just pay the admission fee and you can stay as much as you like. This admission fee comes with a free towel (essentially a cotton bedsheet), slippers, shampoo and body lotion. For an extra fee, you can get a soap-brush massage but those get booked out soon. If you really want one, go earlier in the day and make a reservation.
HERE is the website for more!
Experience at Friedrichsbad
The Friedrichsbad experience is unique because it’s a 17 step ritual called a Roman-Irish Bath. All stations are numbered and you go from room to room following the process. You can absolutely break from the routine and order and do what you want but there is a method to the process I think. Basically, it takes you from warm to hot to sweltering at various “air” rooms and then cools your body gradually at pools of varying temperatures.
Once you buy the ticket you will get a wristband that you need to activate as you enter. Once in, go to a locker, which you need your wristband to open and lock and put all your belongings in. And I really mean ALL of it! Grab a “towel” and slippers and head to the shower. Once showered, you enter a warm air room. The warm treatments are all timed and each room will display a clock so you can keep track of the time. You are more than welcome to stay as little or as long as you want in each room.
Next is a hot air room followed by a shower. If you pay extra for the soap-brush massage, this is where you will get it. If you’re thinking you haven’t broken a sweat yet after the “air rooms”….hold on as all hell is about to break lose! The next two steps of a warm thermal steam bath followed by a hot thermal steam baths will really make you break a sweat. Some people stand here to really feel the steam that comes from the ceiling area. If you are sitting, grab a mat. These are sanitized. Remember to clean the area you sat at after you’re done.
Next, you will shower so that you can start the water sections. Here, you will essentially get in to 3 pools of varying temperatures that keep going down (36C, 34C and 28C). The middle pool is where the beautiful dome is. The very last pool is 18C. It’s COLD! But don’t skip it. It’s not for too long anyway.
I did the ritual twice in the exact sequence and then did the hot thermal steam bath followed by the pools again. I can’t put in to words what this does to your body!
Caracalla is the newer of the two spas. This spa is massive and is broken into a few sections. You have the indoor and outdoor pools and steam rooms downstairs (all clothed areas) while you have the textile-free sauna area upstairs.
Purchase a ticket at the entrance. There are 2 options here. Either you can do the downstairs (bathing) area only or bathing and the sauna upstairs. There are also options for how long to stay which are 2 hours, 3 hours or all day. The difference between 2 hours and all day is 10 euros. They are open until 9 PM, so if you come early evening and this is your last activity for the day, it still may be worth it to buy the all day. Like at Friedrichsbad, this spa also has the wristband system for entering and using the lockers. In addition, you can also use the wristband to buy food and drinks at the café. You will be charged upon exit. Unlike at Friedrichsbad though, you need to bring your own towel. Or you can rent one for a small fee.
HERE is the website for more!
Downstairs is where the family friendly areas are. Here you will find a large indoor pool with cascading water sprouts that will get your knots off your back. The indoor area also has an aromatherapy steam room and a hot and cold pool. They say you need to do a round of the hot pool followed by the cold pool 7 times over. I did this twice over and felt like I was floating after! The outdoor area has 2 big pools with whirlpools in the middle. These are all heated. There’s also a waterfall and a couple of hot tubs outside as well.
Upstairs is the sauna area. There are several saunas of varying temperatures both indoors and outdoors. The hottest one is outdoors at 95C (203F). Holy smokes, it was HOT! I didn’t stay for too long here. There are also various plunge pools as well. The thought is that you go to a sauna , followed by a shower and then followed by a cold plunge pool.
Aufguss is a special sauna treatment where they infuse aromatherapy to the sauna. Basically they add water to the hot coal to create steam and then fan the steam your way. The starting temperature at this sauna room that I experienced an aufguss was already 85C degrees and this process gets the temperature up to 100C (212F) in there once they start adding the water and sending the steam your way. You start to sweat instantly and profusely! It honestly felt like hell and I temporarily swore never to sin again because I would not survive in hell if it’s anything like that! (LOL). Luckily this only lasts a few minutes. You just need to sit tight and hold on! Jump into a cold plunge pool right after a quick shower and I promise it would be all worth it!
There is a timetable for these treatments which you will see written down upstairs on a board.
- You have to shower between hitting a sauna and hitting a pool
- You have to sit on your towel inside the saunas and the towel must even be under your feet too (unless you are sitting in the 1st row where you feet are on the floor)
- You need to wash the area you were sitting at in a steam room (hoses are nearby)
- No cameras are followed (hence the lack of pictures!)
Friedrichsbad vs. Caracalla Spa – Which One to Pick
My suggestion? Do both! They are unique enough experiences that I think it’s worth it to visit both. But, if you are really pressed for time, I would say consider Caracalla over Friedrichsbad. The reason for this is because Caracalla is the bigger of the two and there are so many saunas and pools of various temperatures both indoors and outdoors. Where as at Friedrichsbad you are somewhat limited to the spa “routine”. Furthermore, the non-spa area at Caracalla is not textile-free so if being textile-free is not your thing, then Caracalla gives you options.
If you are going to both, do Friedrichsbad first and then Caracalls last. The reason for this is because there’s a lot more to do at Caracalla.
Thoughts on the Textile-Free Experience
Nothing about being Sri Lankan American prepared me for this experience and I really had to mentally prepare for this. After the initial shock, I realized that no one cared at all! There were people of all ages and all body sizes and forms and no one battered an eyelid or looked twice. There was absolutely nothing sexual about seeing people walk around in their birthday suits. I came out feeling very liberated and free. I would definitely go again!
Check out my detailed post on what to do in Baden-Baden HERE or below!
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Love spas and baths? have you tried a hammam? Check out my posts on a Moroccan and Turkish hammam below!