88km (55 miles) SW of Heidelberg

The notion of the old-fashioned European spa town lives on in Baden-Baden, where the bath-conscious Roman emperor Caracalla came to ease his arthritic aches 2,000 years ago. Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm I, Napoleon III, Berlioz, Brahms, and Dostoevsky are among the elite who put Baden-Baden on the map as the most elegant and sophisticated playground in Germany. Tolstoy even set a scene in “Anna Karenina” here. Baden-Baden still evokes an aura of privilege, though there’s nothing stuffy about this lively little city that tumbles across green hillsides above darting streams. You can join a well-heeled European crowd and soak in the waters, see the sights and some world-class art, stroll and hike, attend a performance in one of Germany’s most acclaimed concert halls, even try your luck in the casino. You can easily visit Baden-Baden on a day trip from Heidelberg, but after so much exposure to the thermal waters and evergreen-scented fresh air, you may not want to venture any farther than a bed in one of the resort’s pleasant hotels.