Spa heaven

A relative newcomer to the spa world, Villa Stéphanie has already set the bar with a revolutionary fusion of medical wellness, lifestyle management and luxurious pampering, says Gerri Gallagher.

Villa Stéphanie’s showstopping Roman bath-style pool overlooks the elegant parkland of the Lichtentaler Allee and the burbling River Oos


Fast cars, classical composers and fairy-tale castles are three things that Germany does exceedingly well, but let’s not leave sensational spas off the list. Some offer detox and weight loss programmes; others specialise in sleep therapy, lifestyle management and holistic healing; and a handful might tackle medical diagnostics. Finding one spa that ticked all those boxes, however, was impossible until 2015, when Villa Stéphanie opened.

Despite its recent arrival in the German spa market, Villa Stéphanie is way ahead of the pack, although you could argue that it has benefited from a geographical head start, given its location in the historic spa town of Baden-Baden. For Baden means “bathing” in old German, referring to the natural thermal waters enjoyed by visitors since Roman times. During the 19th century, Baden-Baden became the quintessential, and the most fashionable, continental spa town, attracting well-heeled visitors from across Europe. Among those visitors were many royals, who would come to take the waters and consult the many medical specialists based here, or catch up with other royals. Villa Stéphanie is named after the fashionable French princess, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, who married into the Grand Duchy of Baden’s ruling house, and whose descendants include the reigning monarchs of Belgium, Liechtenstein and Monaco.

A discreet Belle Époque beauty, today the Villa Stéphanie is nestled alongside her grande dame sister, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, overlooking the elegant parkland of the Lichtentaler Allee and the burbling River Oos. But for all the grandeur of its heritage and setting, a look inside the villa makes one understand just why this spa has so rapidly become a world leader in “medical wellness”. Spread over 5,000 square metres on five floors, there’s a showstopper of a Roman-bath style pool opening onto the park, and a sauna area – with plunge pool, private gym, hamam and ladies’ thermal suite – that could make Finland weep with envy. The 12 guest rooms and three suites are noteworthy not only for their country house elegance (a Farrow & Ball palette, Porta Romana lamps, Loro Piana throws, contemporary art) but also for their walls. And we’re not talking wallpaper. Every wall is equipped with a shielding metal mesh and special coating that wards off rays from neighbouring rooms and blocks high-frequency signals. Guests can disable the wi-fi with a flick of a switch on the bedside table. Digital detox is serious business here, but then so is everything on offer.

The Villa’s bucolic grounds are perfect for walking and jogging


The pool and sauna look out on beautiful woodland


Treatments include the Classic Facial


The medical and holistic diagnostics are headquartered in the neighbouring Haus Julius, which in the 1920s was a doctors’ surgery. In bright, white, high-ceilinged rooms, the crack medical team – headed up by the dashing Dr Harry König – begin by having a heart-to-heart with every guest about their lifestyle, sleep, emotional mindset, habits, injuries or general concerns. They then conduct a full body examination, including ultrasound, laboratory analysis, lung capacity measurement, physiotherapy assessment to identify any potential weaknesses or innate predispositions to serious diseases.

The brilliance of this practice is that it integrates orthodox medicine with holistic healing – both preventive and palliative – and the specialists on hand are wide-ranging.

It’s easy to image how, along with the undeniable delights of a stay in the Villa or Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa, an annual trip to Baden-Baden might become a delightful and useful part of one’s health-care routine. There’s also expertise on hand in the elds of gynaecology and midwifery, operative and non–operative ophthalmology, gastroenterology, dentistry and orthodontics, cosmetic beauty – the list goes on and on. In fact, whatever it is that ails you, it can be addressed here with a ground-breaking combination of traditional medicine and natural therapies, including Chinese medicine, vitamin drips and acupuncture. This is innovative wellness fast- tracked in the most glorious of settings.

Even the exercise and nutrition programme kicks off with an extensive performance evaluation by a private coach. The QPNT (Qualified Personal Nutrition Trainer) assessment comprises body analysis as well as visceral fat, lactate and foot pressure measurements. Yes, foot pressure. From these results, a bespoke schedule of exercise (yoga, kick-boxing and hiking or bicycling in the nearby Black Forest) is created, whether you’re booked in for the three-day Re-Balance package or a life-changing six-week overhaul. Every spa meal is a collaborative effort between the chefs and personal trainers, with the guest’s individualised goal in mind. Never has beetroot carpaccio and Asian chicken curry with coconut froth tasted so good.

With medical care and nutrition sorted, there’s physiotherapy to be considered. From her dedicated studio, Martina Nesselhauf works wonders on ailments resulting from injury, illness or disability. Her innovative mix of movement, exercise and manual therapy – whether it’s craniosacral massage, lymph drainage or underwater massage – means that if you’ve been plagued with chronic pain, after a course of treatments it should become a thing of the past.

Dr Harry König conducts in-depth interviews at Haus Julius to ascertain guests’ health needs


Another transformative experience is a session with magic-fingered Othman Challouf, the Villa’s resident shiatsu guru. He practises the revolutionary massage treatment Kiyindo Shiatsu, which was pioneered by Pierre Clavreux in 1992. This name translates as “pain relief by touch” and focuses on manipulating the body’s energy to relieve tension and sore joints. Using his hands, elbows, knees and fingers, Challouf combines hard and soft pressure on the body’s meridians and acupuncture points, promoting self-healing and restoring the flow of vital energy. After 60 minutes of being pummelled, pushed and stretched, and with all those nasty toxins expunged, you emerge feeling ten feet tall.

For guests who have come for pampering, relaxation and beauty – as well as a medical MOT – there’s a spa menu that’s practically encyclopaedic. How to choose between Lomi Lomi, an ancient Hawaiian massage, or the Abhyanga Ayurvedic full body massage is anyone’s guess. One possibility is to work through the entire menu. The Aqua Organic Clarifying Treatment offers cleansing at its most rigorous. A cane sugar and coconut skin peel gets rid of dead skin cells and is followed by a body wrap of white alumina, jojoba, almond and sunflower oils. While the wrap is doing its nourishing, the therapist performs a facial cleansing and massage. Or there’s the Sisley Phyto-Aromatique Facial with energetic massage techniques using blossom-extract products. As if by magic, 80 minutes later, fine lines and wrinkles are diminished, skin is glowing and you are a lifelong convert to Sisley. Even pregnant women have an option: the Bamford Pregnancy Massage developed by a prenatal yoga expert. And the seven treatment rooms look like no others: plantation-shuttered windows and bleached wood floors make each a sensual, cosy cocoon; the double treatment room even has a canopied bath/Jacuzzi.

Villa Stéphanie is all about enhancing long-term wellness while in residence and beyond. Before checking out, guests are presented with a folder filled with all their results, medical and fitness, as well as suggested menus, recipes and tips on follow-through. The personal connection continues post-departure with impressive after-care. The doctors and personal trainers are only a phone call away and happy to answer questions and give encouragement. It’s no wonder then that Villa Stéphanie’s star has risen so far, so fast.

More information here.

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