Baden bei Wien: A Spa near Vienna
By the late 19th century, Vienna′s nobility and aristocracy had two favourite spas: Bad Ischl in the Salzkammergut and Baden bei Wien ("Baden near Vienna"). The advantage of Baden was clearly its accessibility: Only 25 kilometres south of Vienna, a tram connected the trendy spa town directly with the National Opera in Vienna. As much as Emperor Franz Joseph I was a shaping figure for Bad Ischl, Emperor Franz II of the Holy Roman Empire (later to become Franz I of Austria) was crucial for the development of Baden.
Baden had been a spa town ever since Roman times. Soldiers from nearby Vindobona and other army bases recalled Mediterranean culture and lifestyle in the hot waters of Baden′s sources. Later, it remained to be a popular destination for excursions to the countryside from Vienna. It wasn′t until an extensive fire almost extinguished Baden in 1812, though, that it got its current Neoclassical face.
For sightseeing in Baden, start at the Hauptplatz or main square where you can see the Rathaus or town hall built by the architect Josef Kornhäsel in 1815. Kornhäusel was a very significant contributor of house designs in the years after the great fire, so you will stumble upon his name all over Baden. Another important building at the main square is the Kaiserhaus (Emperor′s House), a surprisingly modest building where Emperor Franz I used to spend his summer vacations.
Sightseeing where Sado-Masochism was Invented
Other celebrity guests include Ludwig van Beethoven, whose commemoration is ensured through a small museum called "Beethoven Schauräume" near the Rathaus, and the Count Leopold of Sacher-Masoch, a historian and writer whose claim to fame is that he gave his name to sado-masochism (no museum for that one). There are several anecdotes told about Beethoven and his stays in Baden, which you will hear about with no doubt on several occasions if you go to the town. For this article, let′s move on to the real attractions of Baden.
The spa itself is called "Römertherme" ("Roman Spa") and described in the article on spas and Thermen of Austria. There is also an open-air pool called "Thermalstrandbad" which is operated separately. Associated with this popular hot-water-goodness is the Kurpark, a beautiful piece of landscape architecture blending well into the hills of the Vienna Woods.
Memorials recall the days of the great composers in Baden, including Beethoven, Johann Strauss and his rival Josef Lanner. Nearby, you will find a stage where concerts are performed during the summer and the Undine Fountain with its elaborate decorations and ornaments.
The famous Casino of Baden
There is also another interesting park in the south of Baden, called Doblhoffpark. It is arranged by the formerl palace of the Doblhoff family, which is now a hotel, but the park is open to the public.
The other big deal in Baden is the casino. Gambling is legal but regulated in Austria and used to be tightly monopolised. Large casinos like the one in Baden are still run by a company owned by the public. Baden′s casino is alongside with the ones in Schloss Klessheim in Salzburg and the one in Velden in Carinthia probably the most legendary of the country.
It is located in and associated with the Kurhaus. A formal dress code applies and you will have to pay a minimum amount to enter, but the experience and atmosphere make this a well-worth investment.
More Sightseeing in Baden & Surroundings
Otherwise, Baden can offer some fine museums. The Kaiser-Franz-Josef Museum north of the Kurpark houses a large collection of Habsburg memorabilia, armour from the past four centuries and some interesting references to the 30 Years′ War, for which some crucial moves were made in Baden. As far as Habsburg-worshipping goes in Austria, this is among the more interesting places and worth seeing.
Another rather peculiar site is the Rollett-Musuem with a collection of busts and a vast array of anatomical specimens like skulls and death masks. It is housed in a 1905 neo-Renaissance building outside of the town centre and also recommendable. The Frauenbad Gallery features exhibitions of contemporary art.
Baden makes a good starting point for excursions to the Vienna Woods, with popular hiking routes especially among the Viennese. Otherwise, you can go on trips to Heiligenkreuz Abbey, Wiener Neustadt or the northern Burgenland. Laxenburg with the Baroque summer castle of Joseph II is also within reach.