The best Victorian novels have a habit of starting in Baden Baden’s casino, where throughout the 19th century a hodgepodge of bohemians, chancers and aristocrats would indulge in high stakes gambling and intrigue. This Roman bath town continues to attract a glamorous set who divide their time between retail therapy at Fendi and Gucci off the Lichtenallee, restorative spa waters, opera, art, gambling and fine dining.
Formerly the playground of rich Anglophones, Baden Baden is now home away from home for well-to-do Russians and barons of oil from the Middle East. Brenners itself has always attracted international party people as well as world leaders; Barack Obama and twenty-five heads of state stayed for the 2009 NATO Summit. The hotel’s subdued luxury and new Villa Stephanie spa also lure plenty of chic Germans, Swiss and Scandinavians.
A grandee of the Baden scene, Brenners is a masterclass in European opulence, its surface serenity covering innumerable layers of high-performance effort. The bellboy will hold the lift for as long as it takes for you and the manager to finish your conversation. Pink champagne will arrive in your room as if by magic an hour before dinner. The spa staff will quietly and swiftly mobilise across vast, watery spaces to locate your companion when you’re in the bio-sauna and he, it turns out, is taking laps in the frescoed pool room. Long hallways decked in 18th century French prints and period carpets are warmed with a luxurious aroma.
In the main hotel rooms are spacious and richly done, with paintings, prints, upholstery and marble evoking centuries past. Mixed in are newer pieces with clean lines that keep things from feeling stuffy or stodgy. Balconies are enormous and face the Black Forest and the pastures and trees of the Lichtenallee. The rooms in the newly opened Villa Stephanie building were designed so that guests after a digital detox can flip a switch that cuts them off from wifi, a service so expensive and finicky to put in place that Brenners is one of the few hotels in the world to offer it.
This is a destination spa in a spa town. As well as offering detox weeks, weight-loss programmes, yoga in the Black Forest and pretty much any ingenious combination for boosting well-being you can imagine, the new Villa Stephanie spa is also a world-class space – if a bit too big to be cosy. The facilities are complimented by brilliant treatments: a massage with a brusque older German man who opted for awkward chat over feel-good music was the most deliciously efficient kneading of muscles I have ever had. I sprang from the treatment table.
FOOD AND DRINK:
The bar has the clubby feel of a Scottish hideaway but with unexpectedly edgy drinks – think designer Dutch peanut butter and jelly vodka. Bar snacks are amouses bouches rather than peanuts. The restaurant is a two-Michelin star affair and that’s exactly how it tasted, from a glorious palate of melting foie gras to orbs of crimson venison to pear and quinoa crisp, served with top-drawer Austrian and French wine. It’s worth noting that my vegetarian companion was as happy as me.
Rates in a Stéphanie Classic Double Room start from €500 on a room-only basis. Breakfast is an additional €41 per person per day. Visit brenners.com/eng/villa-stephanie. Ryanair flies to Karlsruhe daily from £17.