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A Day at Carolus Thermen Spa in Aachen, Germany

By alison - October 30, 2012 (Updated: November 19, 2014)

Carolus Thermen Spa, Aachen, Germany

The main indoor pool in Thermal World (Photo: Bernd Stuhlmann/Carolus Thermen)

We absolutely love the spas in Belgium, so when a CheeseWeb reader recommended we visit Carolus Thermen in Aachen, Germany, we wondered how it would compare. It turns out, at least one German spa is just as good as its Belgian neighbours.

It may seem like quite a journey to travel all the way to Germany just to visit a spa. However, the trip from Brussels to Aachen, by car, is only about an hour and a half; comparable to driving from Brussels to Spa, Belgium. So, one bright late-summer morning, we decided to make the trip to Carolus Thermen.

We arrived at the Carolus Thermen, on the outskirts of Aachen, without difficultly, and found the spa’s parking garage with plenty of space for visitors. We entered the complex and followed the multi-lingual signs to the reception. There, we were efficiently signed in, in cheerful English (thank goodness as our German is appalling) and directed to the changing rooms.

Main Entrance of Carolus Thermen

Main entrance of Carolus Thermen Spa and Baths (Photo: Olaf Rohl/Carolus Thermen)

Once beyond the reception, the first step is to lock your valuables in a tiny locker near the front desk. This locker gives you a key, which corresponds to a larger locker in the changing rooms. The locker rooms are communal but there are plenty of lockable cabins to change in. With our swimsuits on, we set off to discover the spa.

Carolus Thermen refers to the spa’s different sections as ‘worlds.’ The first world we entered was Thermal World. Thermal Word contains the majority of the spa’s pools, both indoor and outdoor. This is a bright and open area, similar to that of Thermes de Spa in Belgium. There are Jacuzzis and ‘massage nozzles,’ a huge waterfall outside and a total of 8 pools of various temperatures.

Main indoor thermal pool at Carolus Thermen

Main indoor thermal pool at Carolus Thermen (Photo: Wi1234/Wiki Commons)

In Thermal World, there is also a large steam room, a relaxation room and plenty of loungers for sunbathing and relaxing, inside and out. There are also aqua gymnastic classes and meditation sessions you can take part in at no extra charge.

Giant waterfall and outdoor pool at Carolus Thermen

Giant waterfall and outdoor pool at Carolus Thermen (Photo: Wi1234/Wiki Commons)

Classes of any kind were not how we wanted to spend our day of relaxation, so we found ourselves alternating between floating around inside and enjoying the sun in the pools outdoors.

Eventually we decided to head upstairs to Sauna World and that’s when it all got a bit strange.

If you’ve read any of my other posts about spas in Belgium, you may note I was desperately clinging to my Canadian sense of modesty. Other than an uncomfortable incident in a Finnish sauna, I haven’t taken part in the European tradition of naked sauna relaxation – until Germany.

In order to enjoy the 15 saunas and steam baths in Sauna World, I had to strip off.

I’m not going to lie. I felt awkward as hell at first and was doing a kind of shimmy-dance from my bathrobe to my towel and back, between sauna sessions. But, before long, the awkward feeling wore off, as I realised no one was really bothered by it all but me. There was no need to be self-conscious as literally every body shape, size and age was on display. [There is a small separate sauna area for ladies only as well but as I was with Andrew, I haven’t seen it for myself.]

The lake sauna and sauna lake, Sauna World, Carolus Thermen

The creatively named lake sauna and sauna lake in Sauna World. (Photo: Olaf Rohl/Carolus Thermen)

The saunas themselves were lovely – really, the best I’ve been in. They range in temperature and style and our favourite part were the many sauna ‘rituals’ taking place. If you’ve never been part of a sauna ritual, I urge you to give it a go. There are many different types available at Carolus Thermen but most involve a staff member pouring water with scented essential oils over the rocks and heating the sauna up by waving a towel about. (Trust me; it’s better than it sounds).

Our favourite sauna ritual was the honey and lavender sauna. Here as the lavender oil scented the air, we were given a honey scrub to rub over our skin. Then we stayed in the heat as long as we could stand until exiting and rinsing off. Our skin felt and smelled great afterward.

Roman baths in Carolus Thermen

The Roman baths in Sauna Word; one large hot pool with two small cold plunge pools on either side. (Photo: Bernd Stuhlmann/Carolus Thermen)

Other areas of note in Sauna World (or Naked World as Andrew and I were jokingly referring to it) are the hot and cold plunge pools, a couple of lovely steam rooms and a snow room, which, as the same suggests, allows you to scrub yourself down with snow (it’s supposedly good for circulation after the hot saunas).

Oriental World of Baths in Carolus Thermen

Oriental World of Baths, in Sauna World, (Photo: Bernd Stuhlmann/Carolus Thermen)

The third area of Carolus Thermen is Indulgence World. This is where you can order additional spa services, from massages to facials and body treatments. As the entire spa felt like an indulgence to us, we didn’t purchase any additional treatments.

The fourth and final world is Gourmet World. This consists of three restaurant options at Carolus Thermen, of which we tried two. The first, Bella Vista, is accessed through Thermal World. This restaurant offers light meals, sandwiches and snacks such as currywurst and schnitzel (it is Germany after all). They also have salad and breakfast bars where you can serve yourself.

The second restaurant we tried was Lemon Grass and it is accessed through Sauna World (thankfully you must wear your robe inside!) The kitchen offers both European and Asian dishes, including a variety of made to order stir-fries. They also have a great fruit juice bar with fresh cocktails (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions available).

There is one more restaurant, Mediterranio, which can only be accessed from outside the spa. We found this a bit strange and didn’t eat there, but it did seem to have a lovely terrace.

So what was our overall impression of Carolus Thermen compared to the Belgian spas we’ve been to? We loved it and found it was most comparable to Thermes de Spa in Belgium. Here are a few of the pros and cons we found between these two spas:

Pros of Carolus Thermen:

  • Much better food options than Thermes de Spa
  • Much larger Sauna area
  • Better steam-rooms (in both Thermal World and Sauna World)
  • More loungers and relaxation areas

Cons of Carolus Thermen:

  • No non-naked saunas
  • Have to pay extra for Sauna World access
  • Sauna rituals are conducted in German (although it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s going on)

Equal at both spas:

  • Large modern thermal pools and Jacuzzis
  • Equidistant from Brussels
  • Helpful and friendly staff (in our experience)
  • Thermal pools are ‘family friendly’

So if you’re looking to shake up your spa routine, it’s worth checking out Carolus Thermen. We’ve already visited twice and are looking forward to attending some of their future events. But don’t worry, we won’t be giving up our Belgian spas any time soon. After all, more spa-going research is always needed and we here at CheeseWeb, love doing this kind of work.

Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen
Stadtgarten / Passstr. 79
52070 Aachen

Open daily from 9am to 11pm

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 3 hours ago

6 comments

  1. Comment by Marc

    Marc October 30, 2012 at 10:29

    Congrats, Alison !! (you know what I’m talking about here 😉 I’m very glad you liked the Aachen thermen so much, and that you did take “the plunge”. When I discovered them, I went three times in one week, even taking a day off, because the weather was perfect. I know that there is a “suggested” order of doing things, but I usually just mix steamrooms and saunas however I feel like. The Lemon Grass restaurant has a very nice balcony where you can overlook the lower grounds and the waterfall. I also enjoyed the drinking points, where you can get potable water for free, because saunas make you thirsty!

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison October 30, 2012 at 10:33

      Thanks Marc for the congrats and also for the wonderful recommendation! I honestly hesitated to post this because I don’t want to run into people I know there! I’m not THAT liberated yet 😉 I agree, Lemongrass is very nice, especially the terrace and I love the fresh juices (or cocktails if you need the extra kick). We were also given some fruit popsicles after one of our sauna rituals which was very nice. All in all a wonderful spot!

  2. Comment by Amy

    Amy October 30, 2012 at 16:37

    Sounds awesome! Those sauna rituals seem like they are worth stripping down for.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison October 30, 2012 at 16:39

      Definitely! The honey one smelled so nice I was tempted to eat it. 🙂

  3. Comment by Clive

    Clive October 30, 2012 at 22:02

    I liked the place very much when I went, so much more variety compared to the spa’s around Brussels (not I dislike our local ones). The underwater music in the large pool in sauna world was amusing to us, however unless you are a big fan of salted, dry bread (I am not) then the bakery sauna where you sit for 20 mins while they bake these things and then get to eat them is, well, less than thrilling!
    It was -7C when I visited with a friend, would like to explore the outdoors a little more. We both agreed that the lake sauna was our favourite.

    If you liked that then you’ll also like Claudius Thermen in Koln.

    Also worth to note that the city of Aachen is worth a few hours of your time.
    And Marc – you may have just helped solve the issue of what to do with a lot of holiday I have left to use up this year 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison October 31, 2012 at 09:15

      We didn’t try the bread oven sauna but I have to say it didn’t sound all that appealing to me either. My favourites were definitely the honey sauna and the ones outside around the pool. Sounds like we’ll have to make a trip to Koln to check out your recommendation!

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