Arcades, palm trees, fountains and Europe’s largest “Wandelhalle”. Bad Kissingen is a spa location par excellence and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since summer 2021. With great cultural offerings, modern healing concepts and many green oases. Text: Anja Keul, Photos: Frank Heuer
Relaxing in Bad Kissingen
How does it actually work, the art of strolling? This comfortable and typical way of moving around for spa guests? Clearly, there should be no hurrying without looking to the right and left, and not simply having the next goal in mind, the next appointment. Instead: shift down a gear, take a brisk walk, and notice the smaller details along the way. Bad Kissingen is such a place to stroll.
First thing in the morning at nine in the Rose Garden, for example. Of course, you could rush over the Ludwigsbrücke bridge to get past the Regent's Building and into the area’s spa zone. But isn’t it much nicer to first let your eyes wander over the near 10,000 rose bushes. 130 varieties bloom in soft colours from pale yellow to pink and deep red.
Music in the Rose Garden
A velvety mist from the river Saale still wafts over the landscape garden laid out at the beginning of the 20th century, and it is here that the fan-shaped water fountain comes to life, splashing and hissing. Edith Piaf’s “La vie en rose” streams from the hidden loudspeakers and drowns out the pattering of the water masses. And every stroller on the bridge can’t help but smile.
In the evening, perhaps a “Rose-Spritz” with the rose liqueur specially developed for the spa by the young distiller Franziska Bischof is a good way to prolong this Mediterranean flair. Later, there will be a light & sound show at the multimedia fountain in the Rose Garden.
World Heritage with Vichy, Spa and Bath
Bad Kissingen is Germany’s best-known spa town and was awarded the UNESCO designation “Great Spa Towns of Europe” in the summer of 2021 together with other European spas such as Bath in Great Britain, Vichy in France, Spa in Belgium or Marienbad in the Czech Republic. An honour that pays tribute to architecture, culture and, of course, the area’s long-standing tradition as a spa. In total, more than 70 criteria tipped the scales for the award, which was preceded by a long application phase.
A cheerful, almost Italian flair fills the air, with arcades, palm trees and elaborately planted fountains. All this was created for carefree summer days, light chats, social encounters and, of course, drinking cures with the famous Bad Kissingen healing waters.
As early as the mid-19th century, the star architect of the time – Ludwig von Gärtner – built the first spa buildings by order of King Ludwig I. Decades later, his Munich colleague Max Littmann added today’s spa facilities, including the light-flooded “Wandelhalle” – a hall or vestibule of a public building built for the love of a gentle walk filled with spectacle.
Healing Water in the Spa Hall
The 90-metre-long Art Nouveau jewel still rests at the centre of Bad Kissingen’s spa activities. Several times a day, the so called Brunnenfrauen (fountain servants) serve the healing waters called Rakoczy, Pandur, Luitpoldsprudel “alt” and Max-Brunnen, as well as the Bad Kissingen bitter water, all from an impressive tap system. One rather popular option is the fortifying mineral water of the Maxquelle spring, which was first mentioned as early as 1529.
Several times a day, "Brunnen-Frauen" serve the healing waters
Outside of the serving times, you can help yourself at any time to the springs bubbling in the spa garden. These miracle waters possess the ability to regulate digestion, alleviate respiratory diseases, states of exhaustion and anaemia, and the beneficial effect of the waters were recognised more than 500 years ago.
Other springs, such as the Schönborn spring, are used for spa treatments and fill the pools of the modern “KissSalis-Therme” spa facilities.
Spa Music From the Seashell
The “Wandelhalle” also houses the so-called concert shell, a shell-shaped stage, where the Staatsbad Philharmonie Bad Kissingen gives spa concerts several times a week. Their repertoire comprises around 3,000 pieces. When the weather is fine, the shell turns outwards and thus points to the spa park.
There, guests sit on dainty white benches once designed by Max Littmann to match the overall ensemble. Visitors can enjoy classical music, operetta melodies, waltzes, polkas or even big band sound under the trees.
Tsar Alexander II took a spa treatment in Bad Kissingen, as did King Ludwig I with the (then scandalous) dancer Lola Montez or writer Theodor Fontane. Empress Elisabeth of Austria regularly travelled under a pseudonym. Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck temporarily moved his official business completely to Bad Kissingen between 1876 and 1893.
The Museum Obere Saline has an amusing permanent exhibition on the spa business of yesteryear: with artistic flair, the long-time spa guest Ferdinand Lorenz portrayed a spa society at the beginning of the 20th century, where the combination of drinking and healing cures apparently went together quite well.
Outstanding Concert Halls
The casino, housed in the red-plush noble ambience of the Luitpoldbad, also contributed to the amusement: floor-to-ceiling windows, velvet curtains and chandeliers preserve the glamour of the old days during the “big game” involving roulette and the like.
Acoustics have attracted stars such as Cecilia Bartoli
Just a short walk away are the arcades and the Regent's building – a German concert hall in the town Bad Kissingen. With the stately concert halls Max Littmann and Rossini, they house event spaces that are as magnificent as they are high-class.
The stunning acoustics of the cherry-wood-lined Max Littmann Hall have previously attracted world stars such as Cecilia Bartoli and Lang Lang to the annual summer-event, "Kissinger Sommer", in the small town of 21,000 inhabitants.
Don't Miss the Rakoczy Festival
Open-air events held in the courtyard of the Luitpoldbad, the “Kissinger Kabarettherbst” and the “Kissinger Winterzauber” round off the cultural programme. One special highlight is the Rakoczy Festival at the end of July. Here, locals in historical garments impersonate famous guests of yesteryear and stroll through the gardens and parks – commemorating the rediscovery of the Rakoczy healing spring in 1737, to which Bad Kissingen ultimately owes its status as a world-class spa.
Some actors have been involved for decades, including Peter Krug, who makes a wonderful Prince Regent Luitpold with his white ruffled beard, chain of office and regal uniform. He started out as the son of Ludwig III, and now he stands in the magnificent Rossini Hall, spreads his arms like a king addressing his people and smiles: “I grew into the ruler role like just that over time.”
A Stroll Under Old Trees
Bad Kissingen has plenty of green promenades: along one of the region’s rivers, the Saale, a walkway leads up to the graduation tower, which the spa owes to the former salt production. Even today, brine trickles over the blackthorn tufts on the wooden construction. This creates a micro-climate similar to that of the North Sea and has a beneficial effect on the respiratory tract.
In addition to the baroque spa garden and the rose garden, the extensive Luitpoldpark invites you to enjoy a stroll under old trees. In the “Klanggarten”, there is spherical music several times a day, and in the Barefoot Labyrinth or in the Kneipp landscape, you can strengthen and invigorate your immune system.
Forest Bathing and Spa World in One
In summer, forest bathing is offered several times a month as a preventive health measure, combined with elements of mindfulness, meditation and breathing exercises. If you fancy, you can take part in guided tours of the city with the night watchman or bath commissioner, in hikes or cycling tours into the surrounding countryside. Or why not spend a long afternoon in the spacious water and sauna area of the “KissSalis-Therme” spa.
A hidden oasis of tranquillity just a few steps away from the hustle and bustle of the town’s urban vibe is the quiet, romantic Schmuckhof, a small garden in the Regent's Building. Amidst its statues and illusionistic paintings, you can take a break from spa treatments and leisurely strolling there.
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