Years ago I was watching a tacky daytime travel TV show with my mum, and the hosts were moseying around the German spa town of Baden-Baden. I had never heard of it before but thought it looked really pretty with the lush Black Forest Mountain surroundings and opportunities to swim in hot springs. Straight away, it went on my radar of places I’d like to visit.
I then found out it was only a 25 minute train ride away from the historic and quaint city of Strasbourg in France, and so my dreams of a Baden-Baden and Strasbourg combo tour were soon in the works.
Later, I threw in a whistle-stop tour of nearby Basel to the mix, and before I knew it, I had put together a trip consisting of seeing a little bit of three countries in just over three days! Here is how we managed to fit it all in.
We flew into Baden-Baden at about midday, and were soon off exploring this gorgeous little town. After taking silly pictures next to the dated cigarette machines by the fountain and a wander through the winding streets, we walked up to a view point over the city to look out across the quaint houses below. A storm was soon brewing, so we retreated inside for a warm drink to watch the rain pattering down.
When the sun came back out again, we sat in a traditional restaurant for dinner where a jolly waiter was on hand to help us with which sausage to sample and whether I should try the seasonal white asparagus dish or not. I did; it was delicious.
Today started off with a couple of hours at the Caracalla Spa, a thermal bathhouse with both indoor and outdoor options. We went for the package which included access to the sauna and spent ages looking for said sauna, until it came to our realisation that this was code for the nudist area and wasn’t the kind of sauna we were used to!
After we slowly started to turn into prunes, we left and caught some traditional dancing at an outdoor festival before hopping on the quick train over the border to the beautiful French city of Strasbourg.
The sun was blazing down in this corner of the Alsace region of France. The soaring sandstone cathedral imposing on the city and the narrow canals buzzing with happy people sitting on its edges confirmed my thoughts that this was the prettiest place I’d been to in a while, and the black and white timber-framed houses in the area known as Petite France also added charm to the city and felt like something straight out of the village in Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t quite the exact one that inspired film-makers though – that was Eguisheim, also in the Alsace region and about one hours’ drive away.
After a relaxing afternoon and an evening sampling local delicacies such as mushroom tarte flambée and duck confit, we called it a night as we had the whole of the next day to discover more of Strasbourg.
We began the day with a boat ride along the canals. What looked to be a promisingly peaceful trip soon took a turn when just before we were to depart, a group of 50 or so school children joined us with their giggles and shrieks that were extremely audible through my visitor guidance headphones. It became increasingly difficult to hear the English gentleman speaking on track 2 of the audio guide who was pointing out which building along the main canal used to be a slaughterhouse – I’m not sure I ever found out. Eventually, the captain himself got fed up and it wasn’t too hard to understand what he shouted at the kids.
We spent the rest of the day ambling through the picturesque streets of Strasbourg, taking it easy and soaking up the slow pace of life in this part of France.
On our final day, we had to be up and out at 5:30am in order to catch a 2.5 hour coach to Basel in Switzerland. We bought the bus tickets online for about £9 with Flixbus, and once aboard, I quickly nodded off for most of the journey over to this expensive-but-worth-it non EU country. When we got to the border we were woken by intimidating border control prodding us to show our passports and to explain why we want to go to Switzerland. All was fine and we were soon entering the third country of our quick trip.
Basel was grey but beautiful. The houses along the hilly backstreets were picturesque and we spent our 4 hours here before our flight home just wandering around and walking along the River Rhine.
I wouldn’t have thought it would be worth going to three different places in three countries over three days, but as long as they’re near enough to each other with public transport connections, it’s pretty easy to do and you can pack a lot in without it feeling too rushed.
Words and photos by Alice Bzowska