To recuperate from an indulgent festive season and celebrate the coming of spring, a spa break is the ultimate choice. And where better for a revitalising holiday than Germany, where wellness is a way of life and you'll find hundreds of historic spa towns with healing waters, eccentric art deco bathhouses and enormous therme complexes amid forests and mountains – not to mention a famously open-minded attitude to nudity.
So to reinvigorate yourself and get the year off to a promising start, head off to one of Germany’s top five wellness escapes.
Baden Baden, Baden-Württemberg
Baden Baden has been a fashionable resort for pampering escapes since the 19th Century
The Black Forest spa town of Baden Baden is one of Europe’s finest, beloved by wellness aficionados for its curative thermal waters. These bubbling hot springs have made it a fashionable resort for pampering escapes since the 19th Century, and still provide locals with nearly a million litres of hot spring water per day. There's a vast variety of hotels and resorts throughout the surrounding wooded valley. And the town caters to differing budgets, too, with luxe options like the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa alongside the more affordable Friedrichsbad, a mosaiced, marble Roman bath-style house dating back to 1877.
Bad Elster, Sachsen
Stay at the powder pink, lakeside Hotel Goldner Anker in the spa town of Bad Elster
On the other side of Germany to Baden-Baden, Bad Elster has a similar appeal but is quieter and less well-known. It’s sheltered by the forested foothills of the Erzgebirge (or Ore Mountains, close to the border with Czechoslovakia), which adds to the sense of calm imbued by a soak in the volcanic springs. Base yourself at the powder pink, lakeside Hotel Goldner Anker and make the most of the on-site wellness area before exploring the rest of the town.
Enjoy sparkling lake views from astonishing Bavarian spa retreat, Lanserhof Tegernsee
Less than an hour’s drive from Munich, this tiny town in the Bavarian Alps isn’t in and of itself one of Germany’s top spa destinations. But the presence of its Das Tegernsee spa retreat is what earns it a place on this list. The austere, modern aesthetic creates a particularly serene but still luxury environment and the facilities aren’t bad either, comprising of saunas and pools galore. But the setting is perhaps the most astonishing part – overlooking the sparkling waters of Tegernsee and built within the grounds of the Art Nouveau-style Sengerschloß castle.
Schloss Elmau is a revered, luxury retreat at the foot of the Wetterstein Mountains
Krün may not be a spa town but it is home to the extraordinary destination spa, Schloss Elmau. Found at the foot of the Wetterstein Mountains in Upper Bavaria, this sumptuous resort has hosted a bevy of famous guests including Barack Obama. Guests will have access to eight restaurants, numerous pools ranging from a 35ºC outdoor saltwater pool to a panoramic one on the rooftop, six spas including an Oriental hammam and two designated family spas. There’s also an ornate concert hall that hosts musical and theatrical performances, lectures, readings and other cultural treats.
Bad Sachsa, Niedersachsen
Stay at the dreamy, 5-star Hotel Romantischer Winkel in Bad Sachsa
Head to the hushed Harz Mountain spa town of Bad Sachsa and you’re guaranteed a relaxing wellness break, surrounded by the unspoilt scenery of the Harz National Park. The town also has the Vitalpark Bad Sachsa, where manicured lawns and flowerbeds are flanked by grand houses and regular concerts are hosted. Stay at the dreamy, 5-star Hotel Romantischer Winkel; sat aside the small Lake Schmelzteich, the hotel has an enormous outdoor pool and terrace by the water where guests can dine al fresco during the warmer months. While in winter, you can unwind in the on-site 3,500-square-metre spa with a steam room session or essential oil massage. And a foray into the Harz National Park is a must whatever the season.