LuxeGetaways Magazine – Fall 2016 | For the adventurous travelers looking for a piece of luxury in Germany’s wine country, here is an inside look at three of the top hotels in Germany’s resort playground. The state of Baden-Württemberg, commonly known as Southwest Germany, is home to several scenic medieval towns with bounteous vineyards on the gently sloping hills surrounding them. Amidst these villages and vines are some of the country’s best hotels, each with a stunning spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant. And, although luxurious, these hotels also offer tremendous value.
I visited three of these star-rated hotels during a recent trip, which are part of a hotel collection known as the “Best of Southwest Germany.” Nine five-star hotels make up this group – most family-owned and operated since the 1700’s – and each has its own unique style. Find out which hotel is the one for you on a guided tour of this under-rated region, and an inside look at three of these luxury resort hotels.
Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, Baden-Baden
Baden-Baden is found on the northern edge of the Black Forest – a lovely spa town dating back 2,000 years. Driving in from Frankfurt along the super speedy Autobahn, all the while trying to figure out how to work the German GPS system, I arrived jet-lagged and harried to the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa.
As soon as I checked in, I went for a rejuvenating tea in the French country-styled Salon Lichtental, where the delicious breakfast was served until the decent hour of 12pm. Five minutes in, I was noticeably more carefree, taken in by the quiet charms of the sophisticated room and gracious service.
Service throughout the hotel was impeccable. While I was having breakfast at these very same digs the next morning, I asked my waitress if they happened to have rhubarb yogurt. No biggie – but it is often fairly common in Europe. Before I knew it, the hostess was also involved as we worked to clarify what “rhubarb” was in German, but it was a bust — the hotel did not have any.
The next morning – and you know where this is going – as soon as I sat down, both the waitress and the hostess came to my table, smiling, as they presented me with four jars (two for me and two for my traveling companion, “just in case”) of the best rhubarb yogurt known to man or woman. The hostess had gone out of her way to pick up a variety just for little ol’ me. Five-star hotels are lavish in their design and furnishings, but service is where they are defined.
Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa sits on some of the most beautiful gardens in this under-rated region of Germany, backing onto the beautiful Lichtentaler Allee. It is an elegant hotel purchased by its namesake, court tailor Anton Brenner, in 1872. It is now part of the Oetker Collection (as in the pizza people), who also owns the venerable Le Bristol Paris and The Lanesborough London.
Most of the rooms and suites are decorated in a French chintz style that is traditional, but not frilly or old-fashioned, and all are a good size. For the best views, the rooms looking out over the park-like setting are the ones to book. The scenic backdrop is worth the extra pennies.
In 2015 the hotel opened Villa Stéphanie, and unleashed their new wellness concept to the world. Villa Stéphanie is entirely devoted to the world of the spa, and everything you think that means. Sitting amongst the hotel’s shrubbery and flowers, it houses a plunge pool, gym, hamam, two saunas and 15 treatment rooms with private terraces. These are the rooms to reserve if you prefer modern over traditional décor. It also connects directly to Haus Julius, the hotel’s medical center. With Haus Julius, the hotel is a full destination spa that offers nutritional counseling, life coaching, and a digital detox program that takes you off the electrical grid with the press of a button in your modern room. Doctors here specialize in dentistry, dermatology, gynecology, physio and aesthetics – perfect if you are looking for a place to get a little “work” done and then hide out around the pool for a few days.
Other amenities at the hotel includes a main indoor pool, two lounges, three restaurants onsite, including the two-star Michelin restaurant Brenners Park-Restaurant, and one just offsite on the Allee called Rive Gauche (my favorite, serving southern Italian food). There is also a full-service Kid’s Club so that the adults can enjoy that precious pool time. A Classic Room starts at €230.
Things to do in Baden-Baden
- Visit the Museum Frieder Burda to see this collection of contemporary art.
- Splurge and enjoy a cocktail at the James Bond-like Casino Baden-Baden.
- Walk around the lovely French-inspired town of Baden-Baden for shopping, and be sure to pause at an outdoor café for a freshly baked croissant.
- Visit the eggs and other exquisitely designed trinkets at the Fabergé Museum.
- Tour the nearby Rebland wine region, and in particular, stop by the scenic Weingut Schloss Neuweier to meet the personable winery owner and have a tasting.
- Baden means bath in German so bathe you must. The options are either the traditional (nude) Friedrichsbad, or the modern (clothed) Caracalla Spa. This is not a time to be a prude, so go au naturel, as many will not get a second chance to enjoy this localized experience in such a grand setting.
Hotel Bareiss, Baiersbronn-Mitteltal
Driving from Baden-Baden to Hotel Bareiss brings you right into the heart of the northern Black Forest. While you gently climb uphill to the hotel’s entrance, it is a fairytale approach with red flowers overflowing from the balconies – the perfect southern German-style architecture reminiscent of medieval structures. Spread out over several separate buildings, this luxe resort complex even includes the abodes of the Bareiss family.
The hotel’s interior does not disrupt the fantasy, with heavy, carved oak furniture, rich reds, forest greens and golden hues. It has a feeling of coziness rather than grandness, although the hotel certainly fits into the category of a grand hotel.
Service was both admirable and warm during the stay. For example, someone from the hotel staff asked me one evening if I needed help in finding something. I responded that I was looking for the closest lounge to try the locally made, cult-favorite Monkey 47 gin. My plan was to sip on it while I packed. The friendly dirndl-draped staff member insisted that I head to my room while she got this juniper and herb delight for me.
The 99 rooms – traditionally decked out in a combination country house/regal salon design – are comfortable and large, with a double room starting at a mammoth 388 square feet. Whether a single room, double room, apartment or penthouse suite, each room also has a spacious balcony in which to take in the magnificent view. We suggest that you request a room at the front, in order to get a balcony draped in those bright storybook red flowers.
Hotel Bareiss is truly a resort destination, as they leave a daily program of activities in your room every evening similar to what you find on cruise ships. You can take an aqua fitness class, go on a day trip to Strasbourg, watch a fashion show in the library, take a guided tour of the hotel’s heat and power plant to learn what the hotel is doing to support sustainability, or see some local ruins on a guided nature hike. Your day can be as jam-packed or “loosey-goosey” as you desire.
If you do decide to go solo and hang around the hotel, it does not mean that you will be at a loss for things to keep you occupied. Hotel Bareiss has five restaurants, including the impressive three-Michelin-starred Restaurant Bareiss. For only €99, you can enjoy a seven-course lunch here; this is truly a remarkable value with dishes that include the yummy goose liver crème brulée to start. This is where food and art meet. Additionally, if you are able to splurge for dinner, they offer a nine-course dinner for €178, or even an 11-course meal for €215.
You will also find three lounges, a salon, a spa that offers every treatment imaginable, the Sattelei Hiking Hut (also serving food and drink), bike rentals, nine indoor and outdoor pools, and a sauna circuit. There is even a kid’s club and a teenager’s club so that Mom and Dad can enjoy some alone time.
Hotel Bareiss also has something that no other hotel in the area has: the 300-year-old Morlokhof, a farm owned for generations by the Morlok family. For lovers of spirits, whether alcoholic or ghostly, Morlokhof has an eerie history that will feed your imagination. The Morlok family was known to be “healers” whose lotions, potions and spells were a combination of Christianity and paganism. Since 1789, when Johann Georg Morlok first purchased the farmstead, each successive generation of townsfolk would visit “The Morlok,” and these miracle cure stories were passed down all the way to the present day.
In 2003, Hermann Bareiss purchased the farmstead to simply ensure its preservation. During a renovation two years later, a hidden box was discovered under the floorboards, which contained the original Morlok’s recipes and concoctions that he had created using herbs from his garden. Inspired, the hotel went back to these herbal roots to make their own alcoholic concoction, the tasty Morlokhof Kräutelikör, in my non-expert opinion a more refined Jägermeister. Today, you can visit the farmstead and have dinner there in the original farmhouse… if you dare. A price for a single room at Hotel Bareiss starts at €216, which includes half-board (for those not familiar with this term, half-board means that your breakfast and evening meal is included).
Traube Tonbach, Baiersbronn-Tonbach
The five-star, 153-room Traube Tonbach Hotel sits on the brink of the newly formed Black Forest National Park. What this means to the intrepid traveler is that everywhere you look, you are surrounded by green fir trees and undulating slopes that beckon you to hike the 550 kilometers of trails.
Traube Tonbach also organizes daily activities for its guests, including the little ones, but know that this is the hotel to choose if a quiet, natural retreat is what you crave. Many of the activities focus on hiking, and often led by members of the Finkbeiner family, who have owned this property since 1789. In fact, the original house, which opened first as a restaurant for local loggers, is still one of the hotel’s restaurants today.
The hotel boasts four full restaurants – including the three-star Schwarzwaldstube – plus the Blockhütte, their forest hikers’ hut serving hearty fare with a local slant including authentic Black Forest cake. My particular favorite was the multi-course Chef’s Menu at Restaurant Köhlerstube (Current Gault & Millau Rating: 16 points), with its modern take on regional foods. You should also make a pit stop at the Bauernstube, the original 1789 dining room serving traditional specialties, if only to get a feel of its quaint 18th century authenticity.
A standout at Traube Tonbach is the über-modern décor found in the Haus Kohlwald located across the street from the main hotel building. The 22 rooms and suites are done in grays and warm whites with hardwood floors, green-tiled bathrooms, and colorful accents. These, as with every room in the hotel, have a terrace or balcony with seriously serene views. I was impressed by the size of the rooms, as well as the clever design quirks – like the elk outline on the wall, which perfectly encapsulates the current Nordic design trend.
The Haus Kohlwald also houses an equally modern sauna and plunge pool; and in the main building, there is a full-size indoor pool as well as an outdoor saltwater pool. Other wellness features include a fitness studio that hosts a variety of planned classes, e-bike rentals, and a beautiful spa with an extensive menu that even includes a Thai-trained therapist for an authentic Thai Massage.
Service at times proved to be exceptional: driver Michael led me on a private tour of the nearby Rastatt Residential Palace, and he was so personable and full of information on living in the area that I thought, maybe, I should just stay. And the Finkbeiner family was always on hand to say hello and talk to guests as they did the rounds at dinner every night. Now that is a hands-on approach. Prices start at €169 for a Standard Single room and €239 for a Standard Queen room.
Things to do in Baiersbronn
- Visit the historical Buhlbach Glassworks, where the champagne bottle was created.
- Hike, e-bike or Segway through one of the 54 trails in the Black Forest, stopping at a hikers’ hut to sustain yourself with local specialties.
- Baiersbronn has two three-star Michelin restaurants – one at Hotel Bareiss and one at Traube Tonbach – and one two-star Michelin restaurant, so gourmet-it-up (in fact, the state of Baden-Würtemburg has more Michelin stars than any other part of Germany).
- Go on a guided culinary hiking tour, or walk your way through a four-course dinner, with a visit to different restaurants for each course.
- Golf, fly-fishing, tennis, paragliding – any sport that suits your fancy is available.
- Visit the nearby Baroque town of Rastatt and its Residential Palace that was built to imitate a much smaller version of Versailles, or the Favorite Palace, housing the world’s largest collection of Meissen porcelain.
When it comes to getting there, many airlines in the United States and Canada fly to Stuttgart. Baden-Baden and Baiersbronn are about a 90-minute drive from Stuttgart (the capital of Baden-Würtemburg) and Strasbourg. Cars can be rented in these cities, or visitors can take a train to Karlsruhe. Hotels mentioned in this article offer a pick-up service from the rail station.
Each of these hotels certainly has its own distinct charm: Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa is ideal if you want a city hotel fashioned in the lavish Grande-Dame tradition; Hotel Bareiss is perfection if you want an authentic German hotel experience that is also a luxurious one; and finally, Traube Tonbach is nice if you want a quiet luxury retreat in either modern or traditional surroundings. Regardless of which hotel you choose, you will surely be graciously taken care of each step of the way.