Of the two main thermal baths in Baden-Baden, the Caracalla Spa is much the more modern. The building is dominated by a massive glass rotunda with a domed roof that houses the large indoor thermal pool.
On arrival, you pay for a session of pre-defined length, usually 2, 3 or 4 hours. If, like me, you end up staying much longer you simply pay a little extra on exit in the automatic machine (so ensure that you have a few euros with you just in case).
The main indoor pool has a sloped access, like walking into the sea. There is plenty of space in here for getting a bit of speed up and getting the heart going in the warm water, but you can’t really do a laps regime. Around the edge are several (I’m sure they’ve got a proper name but I’ll be jiggered if I know what it is) high velocity neck showers. There are also two smaller circular pools with varying strengths of water jet in for a mini-Jacuzzi. This part of the building also contains a solarium area with low strength tanning bulbs, a couple of steam rooms and a very hot pool, alongside an ice cold one. Switching quickly between the two does wonders for your skin.
From indoors you can also access the outdoor pools area. This is ideal for the winter time when you can get to the chilly bit without exposing your wet skin to the elements. Out here in this first pool are about twenty bubbling seats of differing strength and reclining angle. Some of the stronger jets combined with the more recumbent position mean that you spend an awful lot of time trying to stay in one spot. In the centre is a very, very strong whirlpool that comes on every ten minutes that you have to stand in and hold on tight to the sides to avoid being thrashed around. Wonderful isotonic exercise.
The second pool outdoors (you have to be out of the water momentarily has a couple of lovely warm spa pools in it, and a vigorous counter current section to practice your stroke against, though most people go with the current and try to travel the farthest doing the least work.
The outdoor pools are surrounded by a large lawn which I am assured is used extensively for sunbathing, although as a regular December visitor I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone catching any rays.
Back in the main building, up a spiral staircase from the pool area is the ‘Roman Saunascape’. This is a very well equipped zone which is compulsorily nude throughout. It is acceptable to wear a robe between rooms or cover yourself with a towel. You will be quickly told however if you try to keep your swimming costume on.
There are five different saunas indoors of varying heat and specialities (i.e. crystal, traditional Finnish, aroma) and two splendid log cabin saunas outside which are very hot indeed. Also indoors there is a steam room, a whirlpool bath, several ice cold plunge pools, eight heated day beds, two proper capsule solaria, and a low-strength tanning area. There are also a few foot baths, and, again more for the summer, a naturist sunbathing terrace. Oh, and a relaxation room with subdued lighting and chill-out music, and a juice bar for all important re-hydration. I think that just about covers everything.
There is a big gym on the floor above too, but I’ve never been there – I am more into pampering my body rather than punishing it
You may guess from the comprehensive rundown of the facilities that this is my favourite area of the spa. I often overstay the four hours on my ticket as I move from sauna to whirlpool to steam bath.
If you are in Baden-Baden over the weekend, a visit to the Caracalla Spa in the early afternoon will set you up beautifully for a night out around the town.