In the third edition of our four part luxury travel views column from our Summer 2021 issue, LUX editor-in-chief Darius Sanai checks into Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in the scenic spa town of Baden-Baden
Drive north from Switzerland into Germany and along the flatlands of the Rhine valley, and you would have forgiven me for wanting to leave as quickly as I arrived. Yet just a few kilometres to your right you can see the undulating crest of the Black Forest (in reality a range of low mountains, not just a forest). Baden-Baden is a spa town set at the entrance to a valley; above it the road winds into the mountains, and the town itself is pleasingly encased by a variety of greens from meadows and trees.
The heart of Baden-Baden is a park, which runs along the mountain stream that flows through the town and beyond its famous opera house. This was a celebrated 19th-century retreat for the aristocracy, and the grandest location then is the grandest location now, the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa.
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Stroll through the hotel’s lobby from the entrance on a quiet street (Baden-Baden is mostly about quiet streets) and through onto the terrace and garden on the other side, and you can walk across a private bridge across the river, with its panoply of ducks, through a gate for the guests of the hotel only, into the park and surrounding gardens. From there it is a five-minute walk to the cafés and promenade at the centre of town. Perfect for a Victorian used to being shuffled around in their landau carriage.
The hotel itself remains true to its history. This is part of the impossibly aristocratic Oetker Collection, which runs, among others, the old money Le Bristol in Paris, the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, and The Lanesborough in London.
There is a tranquil feel about this place, particularly if you choose a room overlooking the park – really, the only option you should consider. Your view is a canopy of trees and the stream: no roads or traffic in sight. Wander downstairs and sit out on the terrace for a drink, surrounded by trees.
It was a warm night when I stayed, and the combination of a very genteel 19th-century ambience and the very 21st-century cuisine of Fritz & Felix, the hotel’s contemporary-cool restaurant, was addictive. Corn salad with quinoa and pomegranate; local char (a hugely underrated fleshy white fish) with pumpkin, coconut, chilli and mandarin; pata negra with string beans and pied de mouton mushrooms. The southwest of Germany also makes some excellent pinot noir wines: it is very close to Burgundy, but as the climate is a little warmer and more continental, the Baden pinot noirs are a tad richer and softer than a typical Côte-d’Or red; and mine matched the pata negra very well.
The Brenners is fabled for its spa, which is the kind of place you go to for a six-month programme to reshape your body and soul, rather than a simple treatment, though you can do that, too. There’s a big indoor pool with French windows opening out onto the gardens, and you can lounge outside when it’s warm.
Anyone who knows the Oetker hotels also knows the staff are among the best in the world at personalised treatment of guests, a kind of old-world je ne sais quoi without ever being too formal or in the way. A warm wave goodbye, water bottles installed in the car, just concluded a perfect memory. If I’d had more time, there would have been plenty of exploring Baden-Baden and its theatres, and the surrounding Black Forest and its walks and inns.
Book your stay: oetkercollection.com
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue.