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The art of bathing naked in Baden-Baden’s Friedrichsbad

The Germans sure know how to take a bath!

In the spa town of Baden-Baden, one hour west of Stuttgart, 800,000 litres of hot mineral-rich water bubble up daily from 12 thermal springs.

It’s here that the Friedrichsbad elevates the simple act of getting clean into a decadent three-and-a-half hour ritual.

And just like you must go to a Turkish hammam in Istanbul, when in Baden-Baden, you must visit the Friedrichsbad!

In Baden-Baden, don't miss bathing at the Friedrichsbad!
In Baden-Baden, don’t miss bathing at the Friedrichsbad!

The Friedrichsbad, Baden-Baden: History

Friedrichsbad
Bathing at the Friedrichsbad is one of the best things to do in Baden-Baden (Credit: Friedrichsbad)

The Friedrichsbad spa was built at the end of Baden-Baden’s belle epoque as the summer capital of Europe, when Queen Victoria, Dostoevsky, King Ludwig of Bavaria and Brahms would stroll its leafy Lichtentaler Allee park.

Baden-Baden’s famous casino (described later by Marlene Dietrich as the “most beautiful” in the world) had closed, and the town needed a new attraction.

Hence the Friedrichsbad – an enormous neoclassical palace – opened in 1877, dedicated to the art of bathing.

And whether you spend a week or a weekend in Baden-Baden, be sure you set aside time for the Friedrichsbad.

German spa etiquette

friedrichsbad
Don’t be shy! Men and women bathe nude together at this naked spa (Credit: Friedrichsbad)

Be prepared to leave your modesty outside.

These Baden-Baden baths are co-ed most days. And even on days when men and women enter separate dressing rooms, everyone still comes together for a couple of stages in the middle.

The Germans are quite used to this. It’s only the tourists who look sheepish.

Friedrichsbad baths: 17 stages of bathing pleasure

Friedrichsbad
One of the Friedrichsbad’s gorgeous bathing pools (Credit: Friedrichsbad)

Bathers today follow a 17-step ritual combining Roman-Irish bathing traditions.

First you get butt naked (swimsuits are verboten); then you walk from one opulent tiled room to another.

The rooms are filled with clouds of steam, hot dry air or pools of varying temperatures.

Signs along the way indicate the recommended time to spend in each room.

Getting squeaky clean at this Baden-Baden spa!

Stage 1:  Shower

A white-garbed attendant guides you to the shower room for a strong hot dunk under shower heads as big as plates.

Stages 2 and 3:  Warm- and hot-air bath

You recline on a teak lounger in a vaulted warm then hot sauna room, while staring up at decorative tiles of peacocks, flowers and lily ponds.

Stage 4:  Shower again

Take another shower under those huge shower heads.

Stage 5:  Soap and brush massage

This is the soap-and-brush massage – lie down on a white marble bed in a white marble room, and a masseuse lathers you like a baby and scrubs you with a stiff brush. And, yes, she slaps you on the backside when done.

Stage 6:  Shower

Rinse off again. (You’re starting to feel quite clean by now!)

Stages 7 and 8:  Thermal steam baths

Then it’s on to a thermal steam room, with massive mysterious-looking copper pipes coiled around exposed rocks.

Grab a clean white fanny pad, and sit on a stepped pyramid-shaped block in the center. The higher you sit, the hotter the steam (48 degrees C).

Move on next to another room for a slightly hotter thermal steam bath.

Stages 9 and 10:  Thermal full bath and whirlpool bath

Next, statues of a Roman god and goddess greet you at a warm pool, which is followed by a cooler whirlpool bath.

We half-expected slaves to emerge and feed us grapes.

Stage 11:  Thermal exercise bath

Finally, you reach a large swimming pool, encircled by gold columns, with an elaborately painted domed roof (55 feet high) and stucco cupids.

credit Friedrichsbad
This circular exercise pool is quite grand, wouldn’t you say? (Credit: Friedrichsbad)

The water temperature is perfect here for swimming a few gentle laps.

Stage 12:  Shower

Head back to the shower room again.

Stage 13:  Cold-water bath

From here, a freezing cold plunge awaits. Yes, you must do it. And it feels very cold after all those hot-air baths and warm water soaks!

Stages 14 and 15:  Drying off and cream massage

The water journey ends with another shower and a gigantic warm corn towel, followed by getting your skin massaged and moisturized with lotion.

The best part of this Baden-Baden spa?

And then the best part – a well-earned nap (Stage 16).

Are you ready for bed?” an attendant asked as we were led to a heavily draped room, where she wrapped us up in blankets and offered to wake us 30 minutes later.

Stage 17, the last stage is enjoyable too, as you get to thumb through different language magazines in the reading room.

friedrichsbad - best spa in baden-baden
Column detail (Credit: Friedrichsbad)

Friedrichsbad Roman-Irish bath

Underneath the Friedrichsbad are the ruins of 2,000-year old Roman baths.

The Romans too liked bathing in stages, and the onsite museum has artifacts showcasing their bathing culture, like a strigl, a sickle-shaped tool used for scraping the skin after sweating in the caldarium.

(The “Irish” bathing part of this Germany spa is the hot-air bath or sauna component.)

Hours and Friedrichsbad mixed days

Hours:

The Baden-Baden spa is normally open seven days a week, from 9 am to 10 pm. The last admission is two hours before closing. (You’ll want to get there before 7 pm, however, to enjoy the full experience.)

It’s closed on December 24 and 25. Hours are shorter on December 31 (it closes at 8 pm).

Co-ed days:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, public holidays and February 14 are reserved for co-ed bathing.

Same-sex bathing:

Monday, Thursday and Saturday are set aside for single sex bathing.

Men and women go through the bathing stages separately, except you still join together for a few stages, including Stages 10 and 11. (You could skip these, but then you’d miss the Stage 11 pool with that gorgeous soaring domed-roof.)

Modern Caracalla Spa (not a naked spa)

Caracalla Spa
Don’t worry about going naked at Caracalla; swimsuits are worn here (Credit: Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH)

Steps away, there’s also the modern Caracalla Spa, with more than 32,000 square feet of pools, including an outdoor area in the gardens

But it’s without the gawk factor – bathing suits are worn there.

Caracalla Spa
The outdoor area has two heated marble pools; they’re magical when it’s snowing! (Credit: Baden-Baden Kur & Tourismus GmbH)

For more information

Friedrichsbad spa in Baden-Baden:

For more details, see the Friedrichsbad website.

Caracalla Spa, Baden-Baden:

See the Caracalla website.

Where to stay in Baden-Baden

Hotel Belle-Epoque is a lovely luxury hotel in Baden-Baden
Hotel Belle-Epoque is a lovely luxury hotel in Baden-Baden

We bedded down at the lovely Hotel Belle-Epoque.

A villa built in 1874 and now a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, it has 20 rooms and suites decorated in Louis XIV, Victorian and other different styles.

Hotel Belle Epoque, Baden-Baden: Check rates and availability here

Other beautiful European hotels? See our post on our favorite romantic hotels in Europe

Would you be comfortable bathing nude at co-ed baths?

Let us know in the Comments below!

Experience more of Germany!

Read our posts on:

Berlin | One day in Berlin. Crazy? Or not?

Dresden | What to do in Dresden? Gape at the treasure in the historic Green Vault museum. See the beautiful Zwinger Palace. Bicycle along the Elbe River. And more!

Bonn | From visiting the Beethoven House to taking a Rhine river cruise, there are lots of lovely things to do in Bonn.

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About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Bill

Friday 2nd of April 2021

I absolutely love the Friedrichsbad. It's so very relaxing, much more than any other spa I've ever been to. Bring clean underwear and socks.

The Hotel Am Markt is just a few steps away, less expensive than the resort hotels but perfectly clean and welcoming. Just be aware of the church bells - they will entertain and/or annoy you during the day, but they turn them off during the night.

Janice and George

Friday 2nd of April 2021

Nice to hear you've enjoyed the Friedrichsbad too! And thanks for the hotel tip -- readers are sure to appreciate this :-).

Melissa

Friday 7th of June 2019

Good that you could embrace that ! I'm not sure I would feel comfortable being naked around strangers. Its interesting to visit other countries and experience it. Were there full body massages there ? I hope there are private rooms? I'd like to visit but wanted to ask questions before I go lol ! ?

Janice and George

Friday 7th of June 2019

It did take us getting up our nerve, for sure! But all the other people in the spa were strangers, and we knew we'd never see them again, so we went for it! The soap-and-brush massage is full body. But it's more a "cleansing" massage, not like a traditional massage where your muscles are kneaded. So in this sense, the Friedrichsbad is a different type of spa. And, no, there are no private pools or steam rooms. But there are private changing rooms to undress at the beginning and get dressed again at the end :-).

Todd

Wednesday 2nd of January 2019

Hello to Canadian nude bathers, Just read your article about Friedrichsbad. Interesting and hopefully you will enjoy my experience (my story). July 2018 was my first time to fulfill a personal goal (legal public nudity) after attaining milestone age. Even though I was anxious about being naked with others (with or without my wife), I was reminded that I had nothing else to lose other than my clothes. So, I was on business trip and stopped at Baden-Baden to experience public nudity. First, I went to Caracalla Therme as I would still have a towel to limit my nakedness. After a few minutes, I was relaxed and enjoyed the saunas completely naked. Ok. After 2 hours, I decided to go to Friedrichsbad. I decided to pay for 4 hours. I went on Sunday, a mixed gender day. I even used the lockers for females on same gender days. If I was going to go, I desired to experience all. Ok. Enter locker room and become naked with only the sheet for hot lounge chairs. Go forward and meet 3 fully clothed female attendants. They were professional and gave good guidance. Continue forward to showers and hot, dry saunas. Ok. Next was soap massage with anxiety building as I knew that I would start face up, manhood full view. I was concerned as I had female attendant. What would happen? Thankfully, I remained calm enough. Whew! Female attendant was very professional even with smack on bare butt. After that experience, I was relaxed and enjoyed all other stations. In tea room, I walked out on balcony, naked. There were a few visitors below but no anxiety as I was naked with others a few minutes ago. Well, I was on another business trip in October and went back. No anxiety just complete relaxation. Then, I visited Palais Therme in Bad Wildbad. This is a unique sauna. There is an indoor and outdoor pool. Outdoor pool overlooks the town. Beautiful. Indoor pool is used for multiple purposes. I was the only naked bather so I enjoyed a relaxing swim. Hopefully, you have enjoyed my story, my experiences. To those who read, being naked with others is an anxious experience but one not to miss. Being naked with others can be enjoyed without the sexuality with nakedness.

Janice and George

Wednesday 2nd of January 2019

Thanks for sharing your experience! It's too bad that most of us North Americans aren't comfortable bathing naked in public. But that's our culture. So it's good to hear your story; it may inspire others to try and overcome their discomfort when visiting countries like Germany, where the spas really shouldn't be missed :-).

Jim Duffin

Tuesday 12th of July 2016

I went there last year and had a very good time. It was August and very hot, after the baths it was the cleanest I'd felt the whole trip. The nudity was a bit different but I figured that I would never see any one there again and I really wanted to experience the Roman bath. I would most definitely go there again.

john derrickson

Monday 29th of October 2018

The 17 stages are fantastic. The staff members are helpful and most speak some English. Do not worry about the nudity-how else do you fully enjoy any spa if you are dressed?

We visited on a Saturday, a "same sex" day, and pleasantly we met up at stage 11, the cool large communal swimming and conversation pool. It was a pleasant surprise as we did not expect this.

Our favorite stages were #3, the hot dry heat, and #10, the warm whirlpool bath. Stage 17, the nap, must wait. We just ran out of time this trip.

JPD USA 10-2018

Janice and George

Tuesday 12th of July 2016

Thanks for sharing your experience... The nudity is a bit strange for us North Americans, but the bathing experience is worth it, as you know...

Lesley Peterson

Monday 14th of October 2013

I love decadent three-hour rituals, staring up at peacock tiles and bathing in chlorine-free water! My mother went to this spa, I believe. The punchline of her story was that her glasses fogged up. Yes, she wore her eyeglasses. All the better to see, my dear. Or perhaps not to trip while wandering from one bath to the other. BTW what's a warm corn towel? Sounds rough:o

Janice and George

Tuesday 15th of October 2013

So funny! But if you need your eye glasses, you need 'em! Good question about the "corn towel." We had to do some research on that one. We believe it refers to towels that absorb water well. But if other readers can add to this, we'd luv to hear from you!