Saarland Therme – successful German-French Wellness Cooperation
I am always thrilled when I can report about wellness from my home country Saarland, the small and charming region in the south-western part of Germany. And if it is about a successful German-French wellness cooperation, it is well worth telling you about it!
A unique local dialect, french savoir-vivre, great cuisine – a mix of local and Alsatian french, and a laid back lifestyle, make this area worth a visit anytime. Nature is everywhere around in large forests, old trees and parks even in urban areas.
Besides, the area is rich in Roman history, of which I am telling you more in my article Bathing History: The Romans.
So far I have failed to visit the latest regional wellness cooperation development, the Saarland Therme. Opened in 2012, this thermal spa adds greatly to a healthy lifestyle in the area, and on my recent visit I finally had a chance to go and see for myself.
History of bathing in Saarland and the recent development of a wellness cooperation
The facility is located in the little village of Rilichingen-Hanweiler on the upper Saar river right next to the French boarder, which belongs to the wider area of the capital Saarbruecken. This early settlement was cut through an ancient Roman way from Strasbourg in France all the way up to Trier in Germany.
I am going to tell you some very interesting ‘wellness things’ about Trier soon…
The former name of the village “Bad Rilchingen” refers to early bathing culture, hidden in the prefix ‘Bad’ which is the German word for bath.
In 1841, the first bathing centre using the healing natural salt water was opened.
Starting 1988 attempts were made to drill for thermal waters, which eventually and successfully lead to the opening of a wellness cooperation, the Saarland Therme in 2012.
The name of the village ‘Rilchingen” is known to every child in Saarland, for their bottled mineral water since 1935. I have enjoyed it during my entire childhood, as it used to be my parents favourite brand for bottled sparkling mineral water.
The car ride to Rilchingen from the city of Saarbruecken is short and easy, and well signed.
The first thing to spot is a startling alley lined by trees, leading all the way up to the building. With the rose – terracotta colour, the building reminded me immediately of an ancient Roman Bath House.
Parking is free, easy, and spacious.
We accessed the rather small entry hall over large and impressive stairs.
The Terracotta look of the building is meant to reflect a mediterranean, or so called ‘southern’ ambience, which however stands in contrast to the very oriental theme in the interior.
This to me Moroccan style is well drawn throughout the entire facility with lovely little elements. I was very surprised of the very oriental orientation of the facility, given the Roman history in the area.
I personally prefer a Nordic or Asian ambience, however that is a matter of taste and does not reflect on quality.
Check In – Check Out
The main reception desk is small, with only 2 stations for handling arriving and leaving guests, which was fine on arrival around late early morning.
Staff were friendly, but be aware, English language is not a priority, yet you can get on well with German or French equally. We were given some verbal info after we denied the question if we had visited the place before.
Visitors are provided with a convenient key chip (no pre payment required), that serves for cash-less payment throughout the visit, and also locks the individual locker.
On check out, visitors pay their full amount. We left the facility on a Friday evening around 6 pm and had to queue for check out.
In general, I found the check in/out area not highly suitable for convenient and efficient business process: the ladies locker room is located behind the line of leaving visitors through a very narrow aisle, that also hosts small booths for hair drying.
I experienced the locker rooms equally cramped, although different sections are available: for men, for women, mixed and handicapped.
The ground floor is reserved for a variety of pools, that are surrounding the largest main indoor pool:
- outdoor pool
- Arabian baths
- Sole (brine) floating pool
I really enjoyed the variety of pools available with many water features such as bubbles, swan neck massages, underwater jets etc.
My main concern however is the size of the two main pools. I assume that the facility was not very busy at the time I was visiting, yet the pools were rather busy already and all features such as massage jets occupied. I wonder how pleasant the experience would be on a busy night…
The floating pool for example is lovely, however got so busy, that not a single additional person could have entered. Very unfortunate was the layout: showers right at the entrance to the floating pool were very noisy.
What I missed most however was a proper swimming pool. No lap pool is available and swimming is near impossible in the rather small thermal pool.
My absolute favourite was the upper deck, an outdoor roof top garden for relaxing and sun bathing. A large Panorama Sauna, the Kelo Wood Eucalyptus Sauna gives great views over the gentle rolling hills of the area.
Spa Geek Knowledge
Kelo Wood, out of which the Eucalyptus Sauna at Saarland Therme is made, is also referred to as the ‘king of woods’ for saunas. Kelo is pine wood, which has its typical silvery colour from decades in polar air. The total dryness of this wood and the specific scent are ideal for a perfect sauna climate.
The main area for heat experiences is located on the first floor, next to the restaurant, that you basically have to pass on your way to the saunas.
A dedicated ladies sauna, a basic steam room called ‘hamam’, herb and stone saunas and separate relaxation rooms, and foot baths surround a small warm water dip pool.
My general impression: in the entire facility only warm water experiences are available. The only change is an ice bucket and a tiny cold water basin for “Kneipp” water treading located on the ground floor. Lacking a fresh air area in the main sauna section on the first floor, the only option for immediate cool down after a sauna session is a cold shower.
We enjoyed one of the hourly Sauna experiences.
I had never experienced this kind of sauna session before, that was to last 12minutes.
Venue was the Kelo Eucalyptus Sauna on the top deck. The sauna master took his time to explain the procedure in both languages German and French and then started pouring Eucalyptus oil infused water on the sauna stove. He would repeat this procedure 3 times during the session, this way heating the room tremendously. After the first infusion, the sauna master – who told me that he performed this entire experience up to 5 times a day – skilfully waved the air with his towel. The second and third parts were then done with fronds, made from Eucalyptus branches, that were previously soaked in water. The sauna master would stroke the backs of the attendants with the fronds, thus giving a back massage aiming at relaxing the back muscles.
Just shy of being painful, the strokes were very enjoyable and invigorating, and I would have happily endured them for a much longer time.
A fitness section in the neighbouring building is available, however not connected to the Therme. Hence there are very little options for activities. Aqua Fitness Sessions are offered three times a day in the main indoor pool, however were cancelled the day we visited, so I unfortunately did not get a chance to join the class. There are no further activities such as Yoga or Nordic Walking etc. offered other than within the heat experiences.
Spa Treatments and Restaurant
The first floor of the building is a kind of open atrium style. You find the restaurant with lounge, heat experiences and treatment spa. The food, as expected in the area, is good and reasonable. The menu actually offers a wide variety of dishes. Seating is nice! Different sections and areas are available, making seating cosy and comfortable while providing some privacy at the same time.
What I found very strange however was the spa treatment reception located right next to the bar. The spa treatment waiting area was literally inside the restaurant.
Due to lack of time, I did not get to try one of the treatments I am afraid.
Not that I had a chance to try, but
- the long candle night (night of lights, every Friday, when the entire spa is lit by candles)
- the long sauna night (every last Saturday a month the entire venue is textile free and stays open until 3 a.m.)
- the long themal spa night (every second Saturday a month open until 3.a.m)
- the oriental night (every Saturday in summer, special musical and light entertainment, oriental cuisine, special artistic and musical events)
sounded very exiting!
My tops and flops
What I loved
- roof deck
- large garden by the outdoor thermal pool with jasmine, bougainvillea, olive trees and many more lovely plants giving a Mediterranean feel
- comfortable sun beds, chairs, loungers in a large garden areal
- cosy indoor relaxation areas
- the restaurant
- drinking fountain with the local healing water
What I did not like much
- size of pools
- lacking lap pool and other facilities for activities
- lack of a full hamam in an oriental spa
- crowded entrance and locker area
- the oriental theme without full oriental service alignment
Sum it up
To sum it up, I would say the Saarland Therme is a lovely facility catering for the local community. If I lived in the area, I would patronise the spa for relaxation. However I would not consider the facility a destination spa, not only for the lack of more active options.
But if you travel through Saarbruecken or happen to be around anyway, you may want to pay the Saarland Therme a visit and experience this wellness cooperation for yourself!