There’s nowhere better for a healthy vacation than in the birthplace of German wellness. Welcome to Bad Wörishofen, Germany. This spa town — former home of famed Catholic priest and wellness leader Sebastian Kneipp — is the ultimate, healthy European getaway. This entire charming German village fully embraces health, with a ton of free wellness activities within walking distance from anywhere in town.
The pace within the village of Bad Wörishofen is leisurely and relaxed. Water is central to this community. Here, it’s common to see people wading barefoot through the stream that cuts through town. There are water basins in a “spa park.” People immerse knee-deep in various pools scattered throughout town. In fact, even the name “Bad” means “bath” in German.
Guided by a “barefoot expert,” visitors can enjoy 25 interactive stations along the 1,550-meter trail. The stations feature various surfaces to experience with your feet, from mud to sand to water. Bonus: Walking barefoot strengthens the foot muscles and the senses (and it feels amazing to stretch your toes and feel the ground after an international flight).
But to really understand Bad Wörishofen, you have to also understand Sebastian Kneipp.
Who was Sebastian Kneipp?
Bad Wörishofen, where Kneipp lived for 42 years, is especially famous for its hydrotherapy that Kneipp developed. “Kneipp therapy,” as it’s called, was inspired by a small booklet that Kneipp stumbled across when he was a student suffering from tuberculosis. He tried out some of the hydrotherapy techniques and miraculously cured himself of his disease.
Kneipp began recording his experiences and observations with hydrotherapy in a book, which he ultimately published under the title, “Meine Wasserkur.” The book became famous and drew other sick people from around the world to visit Kneipp, in search of their own “water cure.”
Ultimately, Kneipp created more than 120 different water treatments. He approached health by treating the entire body. It was a holistic approach to healthy living. His doctrine combines five pillars: water, plants, exercise, nutrition and balance. And while Kneipp died in 1897, his philosophy is more relevant today than ever before. Living in harmony with nature, sustainability and mindfulness is on everyone’s mind these days.
The Monastery Hotel
Visitors to the village are encouraged to embrace some of these long-used treatments at the monastery's unique Kneipp hotel, KurOase im Kloster. The hotel is located within the Dominican convent, the birthplace of the Kneipp cure.
You are immediately transported to a place of rest and relaxation. What makes it so unique is the ability to experience soothing silence, meditation, spa treatments, GiGong classes and Kniepp treatments, all within the walls of the monastery grounds and gardens. The hotel was originally a health resort, transformed into a health hotel, with 65 rooms, a beautiful garden, library, salon, healthy food and a ton of history. Kneipp once walked through these halls; it was here that he developed his water-centric wellness approach. And it’s still practiced — and effective — 125 years after his death.
Bad Wörishofen is definitely an epicenter of health in Germany, but you can easily make a healthy vacation elsewhere in this country. In fact, it’s only an hour away from Munich.
In Munich, stay in the luxurious Sofitel Munich Bayerpost hotel. Here, make a spa appointment for a relaxing massage (especially needed after traveling). You also find that a highlight of Munich is biking along the scenic river for 12 kilometers. Invariably you’ll find yourself at an authentic beer garden. Enjoy one of the best beers you’ve ever had in the city where Oktoberfest began.
In and around healthy towns like Bad Wörishofen and Munich, needless to say, it’s easy to find delicious and healthy food. Highlights include the Sonnengarten restaurant and the Klinglwirt, a quaint eco-restaurant in Munich Haidhausen. This restaurant serves mostly organic food. These types of food establishments are called Slow Food, while we may think of it as a type of Farm to Table.
In the Bad Wörishofen-Munich area, you can also enjoy relaxing concerts in the park, variety of trails, Nordic walking parkours, and thermal baths. Take a bike tour through the Isar River meadows (and stop to jump in the river water along the way). While in Germany, you also must visit a castle (or two). Consider a stroll through the stunning gardens of Nymphenburg Castle, past basins, lakes, ponds and fountains, all reminders of the importance of water for a wellness activity.
A Return to Travel
The last morning in Bad Wörishofen, I awoke to the bells tolling in the bell tower. I immediately felt the need to go out and walk barefoot on the dewey grass in the courtyard and pay homage to Kneipp. Before I left, I took a moment to relax in the sunshine with an Aperol spritz at a village outdoor cafe. The server told me, “Thank you.”
“For what?” I asked. I had not even ordered from her.
“For coming back,” she said.
I was the first international visitor she had served since before the worldwide pause. I truly felt honored. It was a shared moment of normalcy, hope, and healing. And it was appropriately experienced in a town founded on wellness.
Plan your own visit to Germany. May you find yourself barefoot in the park, enjoying your own moment in the sunshine. If you need ideas, reach out at www.spatravelgal.com or follow me on Instagram @SpaTravelGal