Why You Should Visit Baden, Switzerland
I live just a few minutes away from the gorgeous little historic town of Baden, Switzerland. Baden has all of the allure of a normal Swiss city, but it’s got more charm than most places I’ve encountered during my time here. I thought that everyone knew about Baden but I’ve found that I was wrong, which, in my humble opinion, is a great disservice to any traveler or Swiss resident.
There are so many reasons to visit Baden, either for a quick day trip from Zurich if you live here (it’s only a 20-minute ride from Zurich HB!) or as an overnight stop on your Switzerland itinerary. Baden offers colorful buildings and cobblestone streets, mouth watering food, and thermal waters for all your wellness needs. There are so many reasons that make Baden, Switzerland worth a visit.
Baden, Switzerland: A History of Relaxation and Wellness
The myth of Baden (which literally translates to ‘Bath’) tells the story of a poor maiden and her husband, who lived thousands of years ago in a small hut by the river of what would one day become Switzerland. The maiden realized that she was dying. She told her husband by picking up a dying rose and telling him that she was like that rose — destined to wither away into nothing. The husband was so heartbroken that he took the dying rose from her hands and angrily threw it into the roaring river. To his surprise, he watched as the once grey and withered rose bloomed back to life before his very eyes.
He realized that these were healing waters they were living on, so he took his maiden every day to the river and dipped her into the healing waters until she was filled with youth and vitality once more. Thus, Baden began its long standing reputation of being a healing place with healing waters.
Realistically, the thermal waters that gave Baden its name were created when tectonic plates shifted together and formed the 18 hot springs that allowed Baden to become the wellness hub it is today.
Roman Times and Beyond
In Roman times, Baden was known as “Aquae Helveticae” and was the place to be for wellness. Romans came from all over to find relief for various diseases and some just came to, as we’d say today, treat themselves.
Baden’s thermal springs offer the highest mineral concentration, with temperatures getting to around 47 degrees C (116 F), so it makes sense why people have been flocking to this gorgeous town to seek relaxation for almost 2,000 years.
The history of Baden is actually much more complex than just being a hub of wellness for the Romans. Popes, writers, crusaders, philosophers, and aristocrats have been coming to Baden’s thermal waters for as long as they’ve existed.
In the 17th century, Baden was a place for the wealthy. Aristocrats would sail their boats down the Limmat and bring all of their expensive clothing and furniture to show off their immense wealth as they relaxed in private baths and indulged in wellness treatments. This is where the term Badenfahrt originated — a name you may recognize nowadays as the famous festival that happens in Baden every ten years!
These days, Baden offers wellness for every person, in every walk of life and has established itself as a cultural hub, while still continuing its legacy as a wellness city.
There are free thermal baths located all around the city and also incredible spas, but I’ll get to that later.
Learn about Baden’s History
I went on a tour with Stadt Baden, where I learned all these interesting facts about Baden’s history. There’s so much more that I’m not even covering right now so I’d definitely say that the tour is worth it. The specific tour I took was only offered in German but you can do what I did, and bring someone who speaks German (Thanks, Michael) to help translate if you’d like. I got a lot out of it, though, even with my minimal German skills! You can read more about the tour and book your tickets here.
If you’d like to take a private tour, though, the tour is also available in English and French! A private tour is for a maximum of 25 people and costs 250 Swiss Francs. Check out all the public tours here.
If you’ve ever been to Zurich Old Town and have felt enchanted by the slanting buildings and cobblestone streets, you will love Baden because that’s the entire town. Baden’s city center is highlighted by the city tower (Stadtturm), which was once a prison tower and the entrance to the city and is now the guiding light that welcomes you to the center of Baden’s Old Town.
Every building in Baden has so many little details that you could spend hours looking at. Baden, Switzerland is basically a photographer’s dream.
Here are just a few pictures of the gorgeous architecture that you’ll encounter in Baden:
Walking and Hiking Trails in Baden, Switzerland
There are so many places to take a stroll in Baden that highlight the beautiful city views and stunning skylines. Here are a few:
Hike up to Stein Castle on the Chänzeli Tour
Stein Castle is one of my favorite places to bring guests, because how often do you get to explore an old medieval fortress for free? At Stein Castle, you can see gorgeous panoramic views of Baden while learning a bit more about Baden’s history. This is one of my go-to places during Autumn because you can see the reds and oranges of the changing leaves from above and it’s got that gorgeous-yet-spooky vibe that only a ruined 11th Century Castle can have.
Get to Stein Castle by walking the Chänzeli Tour, which will take you up and down the Klus Gorge, through Baden Old Town, past the Limmat, and will give visitors the chance to experience Baden’s urban spaces and it’s wildlife all in one go. It’s a gorgeous walk and you’ll find a few “Chänzeli’s” or lookout points along the way, ending at Stein Castle!
According to the Stadt Baden website, the Chänzeli Tour is about 1,300 vertical steps so it can be as tough or as easy as you want it to be. It’s the perfect hike to see all of the beautiful views that Baden has to offer. Read more about it here.
Take A Leisurely Walk By The Baden Limmat
One of my favorite things to do on a sunny Saturday is to take the elevator in Baden down to the Limmat and walk up and down the path. This part of Baden sometimes reminds me of going to Central Park when I lived in NYC because once you ride the elevator down and step out towards the Limmat, all the city sounds stop and you’re met with the rushing of the river and the chirping of birds. It’s serene and the perfect place to take a moment for yourself, to feel one with nature and the world.
This route is also how you’ll get to one of my favorite summer bars and is the most scenic route to get to the outdoor thermal baths.
There are actually way more hiking paths in Baden, some that I’m just finding out about right now. I don’t want to write about them because I haven’t actually done the hikes yet but this brochure on the Baden website tells you everything you’ll need to know. There’s apparently a hike that allows you to see beavers in the wild! Definitely need to do that and report back.
Wellness for All + Spa Day Heaven
As I’ve mentioned a dozen times in this post already, Baden, Switzerland is the hub for all things wellness. Here are all of the wellness spots (both free and otherwise) that you can enjoy while visiting Baden:
Outdoor Wellness Spots:
Long gone are the days when only the rich could enjoy Baden’s thermal waters. Now, located just at the end of the Limmat path, there are multiple spots where the everyday person can dip their feet, their hands, or even their entire body into the mineral water without paying a cent.
Located along the bank of the Limmat, you can take off your shoes and dip your fit into warm thermal waters while gazing out at the Limmat and the colorful buildings that lay upon it.
If you walk a bit further and go up the stairs, you’ll see a bridge that takes you over the Limmat to Ennetbaden (literally means Next to Baden). Before you cross the bridge, there are little water stations where you can dip your hands or your entire body into the thermal waters. The largest one is about the size of your average jacuzzi, called the Bagno Popolare, and it’s filled to the brim with the hot spring mineral water for you to soak in. There are always people there, regardless of the weather or the time of day. I’ve even seen people hanging out there during the winter! It’s so cute and emphasizes Baden’s dedication to wellness.
Quick Note: The Bagno Popolare site will close on the 13th of September due to construction. The new location and date of reopening isn’t known at the time of publishing, but see information on their website for updates.
Since I partnered with Stadt Baden for this post, they also put me in touch with their partner, the Limmathof Hotel and Spa, who gave me and my bf entrance to their Novum Spa for the day! And let me tell you…it was absolute magic.
The Novum Spa in Baden, Switzerland includes an ice room, a Finnish Sauna, sitting room, a steam room, and of course, the thermal baths which are filled with warm, mineral-enriched water (up to 36 degrees Celsius). Each corner of the thermal baths has different massage jets for ultimate relaxation. We spent about four hours there, going back and forth between the steam room, thermal baths, and ice room. It was absolute heaven. Then, the weekend after, we came back and got massages, which I would also highly recommend. I felt so lucky to be apart of this wellness journey that the Swiss experience all the time. I’ve never felt more relaxed and my skin has never looked better after a long soak in the mineral waters!
You can check the prices for a day at the Novum Spa at Limmathof here or you can book the private spa for a romantic afternoon.
Limmathof isn’t the only place in Baden that offers spa treatments, though I’d say they are the best. You can also visit:
The Atrium Blume Hotel, which has a Roman bath and you can also drink from the “fountain of youth” and view the beautiful flowery gallery inside!
For an entire list of every wellness spot in Baden, Switzerland, check out Stadt Baden’s website here.
What to Eat
Have A Spanischbrödli
You can thank the Spanischbrödli, a buttery, flaky pastry filled with hazelnuts and apricot jam, for the popularity of the train line between Zurich and Baden, which used to be nicknamed the Spanischbrödlibahn. In the 19th century, the native to Baden pastry was banned in Zurich for some obscene reason, and as every banned thing usually is, it became a cultural sensation. The aristocrats of Zurich would send their servants on the train to Baden to bring them an illegally large quantity of Spanischbrödl’s back for them.
A long history
After Zurich became less aristocratic, the Spanischbrödli lost its infamy but was soon revived by Swiss bakers in 2007. It’s now the go-to local delicacy and you absolutely have to try it when you come to Baden. I actually didn’t try it until just this past weekend, because I am a bad Badener I guess. But I can absolutely see why the rich people of Zurich basically built a train line just so they could consume the pastry in large quantities. It’s mouth-watering.
You can buy a Spanischbrödli at Moser’s Bakery, conveniently located in the Baden Bahnhof, or at the following local bakeries: Bäckerei Lindi, Confiserie Himmel, and Beck Arnet. I’d say grab one for your train ride back to Zurich so that you can eat the delicious snack while imagining that you’re a Zurich aristocrat smuggling it home.
Restaurants and Cafes
As a self-proclaimed foodie, I am always on the hunt for incredible food spots in my city. Luckily, Baden has so much good food to offer. I don’t even think people know how cool the food scene is here. Every spring and summer, there is always some sort of food festival going on and during the holiday season, fondue chalets pop up throughout the city. Here are some of my favorite places that are open year-round:
This place has the best burgers in Switzerland hands down. All the ingredients are locally sourced, even the potatoes for the french fries come from a local farm! They are melt in your mouth good and give me a little taste of home (they kind of remind me of a more expensive Shake Shack). My go-to order is the classic cheeseburger and the housemade iced tea!
Really incredible Italian/Mediterranean food with, again, locally sourced ingredients. I would highly recommend the Burritina because how can you go wrong with a ball of cheese and a glass of wine?
I am very picky about my Mexican food and usually the Mexican food in Switzerland is horrendous. My go-to in Zurich is always La Taqueria, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the same owners of Manito opened up a taqueria right in the middle of Baden so now I don’t always have to go to Zuri anytime I’m craving a burrito. Me Gusta serves authentic Mexican-street style food and serves up a bomb, melt in your mouth burrito.
For the fancier pallet, there’s Restaurant Lemon which is the perfect pre-movie restaurant as it’s right across from the theatre. They serve up local, market-fresh cuisine. Their crispy chicken sandwich is to die for. During the holiday season, this is where you’ll find one of the coziest fondue chalets!
This cozy cafe is nestled in Baden Old Town and is the perfect place to have your morning coffee or an afternoon tea and cake. The decor reminds me of a cute BnB (because it is one!) and the entire vibe is extremely homey. Also, incredible coffee. Try the carrot cake, it’s divine.
I stumbled upon this place after our stay at the Limmathof and oh my god. The coffee! The service! The chocolate cake!! This may be my new go-to coffee place in Baden.
What to Drink
Though the nightlife in Baden is, of course, not as expansive as it is in Zurich, there is still a great scene, regardless of if you just want to have a glass of wine or party all night. Here are a few of my favorite spots to grab a drink:
Unvermeid Bar (across from Teatro Palino)
I love bringing my friends here because it reminds me of a bar that I’d go to in Brooklyn. The decor is all old antiques and you can lounge on the antique sofas as you drink one of the cheapest but most delicious glasses of Pinot Grigio that you can get in Switzerland. Another reason I really love this place is that it’s LGTBQ+ friendly! The owner is a trans woman and Unvermeid Bar is always hosting drag nights or theatre performances across the street at the old Teatro Palino. If you’re lucky, the owner’s cat may be roaming around, taking orders for pats on the head. I love this little place.
If you’re feeling lucky, head over to the Grand Casino for a night of gambling fun and a few drinks. It feels very old-world in the Casino, so it’s kind of like you’ve traveled back in time to old Hollywood glamour. You can also visit the Casino’s club, Club Joy, where they often host 80s and 90s themed nights or have concerts.
Time is a staple in Baden, often filled with every walk of life (that is legal to drink, of course). I like this place because it’s got no frills, good beer, and a really interesting shot called the Washing Machine that is a guaranteed good time. (Note: Closed on Sundays).
This snazzy bar is a great way to have a cocktail and see stunning city views of Baden. One of my favorite things to do is grab a glass of wine with a plate of olives and falafel while watching the sun go down over Baden. (Note: closed on Sundays).
If you want to enjoy a drink and a mezze plate by the Limmat, Triebguet is the perfect place for that! This adorable outdoor bar is settled down by the Limmat and is only open in spring, summer, and early fall. However, you can have the first fondue of the season in September, something I’m definitely going to do soon!
I know that every British pub in the world looks the same and if you’ve been to one, you’ve been to them all, but the Pickwick Pub in Baden has a nice charm to it because it’s where all the expats living in Baden or its surrounding areas go to hang out and the pub is centered right in the middle of Old Town so it’s a great place to just sit outside, have a beer, and relax.
Where to Stay
Limmathof Hotel and Spa
After the amazing time I had at the Limmathof Novum Spa, Michael and I decided to book a night’s stay for our anniversary. I have to say we were impressed. We booked the Superior Double Suite in the newer part of the Limmathof (there is the old historic building where the spa is and the new, modern building across the bridge, we stayed in the latter). The bed was extremely comfortable, the shower was to die for, and we had a gorgeous view of the Limmat. Staying at the Limmathof guarantees you entry to the Novum Spa so it’s really the perfect place for a staycation! Book your stay here.
Other Hotels in Baden, Switzerland:
This is the hotel I mentioned above with the gorgeous flower gallery inside. I definitely want to stay here on my next staycation.
This hotel is located in the movie theater complex, so staying here means you’ll be closest to the flicks and summer food festivals!
Hotel-Restaurant Linde Baden
The Hotel Linde is a modern and gorgeous hotel very close to Schulhausplatz.
Baden Should Be Your Next Adventure
Baden is a beautiful, culturally rich town with jaw-dropping architecture, healing waters, and natural wildlife. It’s the epitome of what makes Switzerland so special.
So, if you’re planning your trip to Switzerland or are just looking for a weekend of relaxation, you should absolutely include Baden on your itinerary.
You won’t regret it.
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