Bad Homburg: Public baths good for what ails you

Patrons lounge in the outdoor pool at the Taunus Therme, one of Bad Homburg’s three thermal baths. One million liters of mineral water are pumped through the pools every hour.


German spa town can accommodate any budget

By ROBIN HOECKER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 8, 2006

No matter what the ailment, from a backache to a raging hangover, the German town of Bad Homburg has what it takes to make you feel good again.

Known for its spas and health clinics, Bad Homburg is an affordable and accessible getaway.

It has achieved popularity because of its location within sight of Frankfurt’s silver skyscrapers, at the foothills of the rolling Taunus mountains, and directly above a source of thermal springs feeding into the public baths that gave the city its “Bad” prefix.

There are three main baths in Bad Homburg that differ in price and quality. Kur Royal is by far the most elaborate and expensive. Located in the heart of the Kurpark, its stone-pillared entrance is an impressive gateway to the world of aromatic salts, mineral pools and private massages that lies within.

The bath was used by Kaiser Wilhelm II when he established his summer residence in the town in 1888. Although open to the public a century later, you may still need to have royal blood in your veins to afford the fees (25 euros for two hours or 60 euros for a day pass. Massages, your choice of 20, and special treatments cost extra).

The more affordable and family friendly but crowded Seedammbad (3.50 euros for two hours or 6 euros for a day), and the middle-range Taunus Therme are a 10-minute bus ride from downtown.

A blend of Shangri-la-style pagodas and the wooden interior of an Alpine cabin, the Taunus Therme is a mix of luxury and affordability. A fee of 12.50 euros — 14.50 euros on weekends — covers two hours of access to the indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, tanning beds and saunas.

The process may be somewhat confusing for a newcomer. There are no signs directing customers that are written in English.

First, all Taunus customers are issued yellow tokens for free lockers in the labyrinth of co-ed changing rooms. Watch out for the labels that mark the beginning of the FKK Bereich, where clothing is not only frowned upon, but is forbidden.

For those who aren’t afraid to sport their birthday suits, the FKK area is worth the trip upstairs.

The European nude sauna culture can be overwhelming at first. If you’ve never done it, “monkey-see, monkey-do” is a safe bet. Here are a few tips for sauna virgins:

  • Wear shower shoes. Don’t wear them in the sauna, leave them outside, off to the side.

  • Make sure to alternate between hot and cold. An assortment of steam, dry and aromatic saunas, hot tubs and warm and cold pools make for endless combinations.

  • Rinse off each time you get out of the sauna or hot tub.

  • Bring or rent a towel, and lay it down in the sauna so that no part of your skin touches the wood.

Although the baths are the main draw, the town has other attractions, such as the Kurpark with winding paths, fountains and a golden Siamese temple.

Climb the Weisse Turm of the 17th century palace for a view of the Taunus mountains and Frankfurt’s skyline. The golden-tiled interior of the nearby Erlöserkirche is also worth a visit.

On the QT

DIRECTIONS: Leave autobahn 661 at exit 3 and drive toward Bad Homburg Stadtmitte. Signs are also posted from autobahn 5. Using Frankfurt’s public transportation, take the S-bahn No. 5 about 20 minutes north to Bad Homburg. The Kur Royal is in the Kurpark downtown; the Taunus Therme and Seedammbad spas can be reached with bus 4 or 6 from the main train station.

TIMES: The Taunus Therme is open 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily; 9 a.m. to midnight on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Kur Royal is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

COSTS: Taunus Therme costs 12.50 euros for two hours, 17 euros for four hours, 24 euros for the whole day. Add 2 euros for weekends and holidays. Towels can be rented for 4 euros, with a 10-euro deposit. Check the Web site www.taunus-therme.de, with an English-language option for special deals.

FOOD: Taunus Therme has two bars and a restaurant within the compound, though it is advised not to drink alcohol before going into the saunas or hot tubs. In the town, many restaurants are along Louisenstrasse or near the Kurhaus. There is also a casino with a restaurant in the Kurpark.

INFORMATION: Find information on the baths and the city, in English, at www.bad-homburg.de. There is also a tourist information center in the Kurhaus downtown.

— Robin Hoecker

A golden pagoda stands guard at the edge of Bad Homburg’s Kurpark, a playground for Kaiser Wilhelm II in the 19th century. The park contains gardens, fountains and statues as well as a casino and the Kur Royal thermal baths.