Imperial spa guests

It was a big day for the people in the Ahr valley in the north of Rhineland-­Palatinate. On 28 July 1858, a real-life princess came to inaugurate the new mineral springs that had been discovered a few years earlier, marking the beginning of an unrivalled success story. One of the springs was named after Princess Augusta of Prussia who would later become the Empress of the German Empire as the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm I. The other was named after her daughter-in-law Victoria from the British royal family.

It was a festive inauguration event for a resort hoping to now make its name as a spa. A bathhouse and a pump room were built soon afterwards and composer Johannes Brahms himself came to Neuenahr for the tenth anniversary event. The town, which was not even on the map before 1875, was now christened Neuenahr and was causing a sensation.

The spa resort’s glory days were around the turn of the 20th century, when half of Europe’s aristocracy travelled to the Ahr valley to take the waters and recuperate. Lung conditions, rheumatism, gout, liver disease and gallstones were among the conditions it was said to help, but the theatre and sophisticated spa gardens also eased the process of convalescence. The rich and the beautiful arrived with their large entourages, checked into the grand hotels and promenaded along the river, which had been straightened especially for the spa resort.

Mineral spring in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

The mineral spring "Großer Sprudel" in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

One of the most unusual guests at the resort was communist Karl Marx. In 1877, he travelled from exile in London to the Ahr and moved into the Hotel zur Flora, which is now the Neuenahr town hall. He sought resolution for his liver problems in the very place where the world view of those taking a cure here had been so heavily lambasted in his writings.

Thermal baths of the Ahr, Ahr valley

Thermal baths of the Ahr in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

Doing yoga in the park, Ahr valley

Doing yoga in a park in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

The spa resort began to lose its shine after the First World War. Germany and Prussia were no longer monarchies, the world was in turmoil. But Neuenahr gradually began to rally. As of 1927, it earned the right to call itself Bad Neuenahr to designate its spa status and was once again a popular destination in the years before the Second World War.

It celebrated its real comeback in the post-war era. Bonn, just half an hour further north, was the capital of the new country of West Germany. The Ahr valley was now on the doorstep of the nation’s capital and a popular destination for all sorts of excursions and events.

The real highlight for the spa resort was the years between 1952 and 1959, when it hosted the German Press Ball. Famous German politicians and actors such as Theodor Heuss, Hildegard Knef and Romy Schneider stayed at the Kurhaus, dancing and partying, and providing ample gossip-column inches.

A walk through the spa gardens still gives a hint of how stylish things were in this bygone era. You can still take the spa water that helped relieve Karl Marx’s pain, and wander in the footsteps of Romy Schneider, who was famous back then for her portrayal of Sissi.

Every autumn, the spa gardens plays host to the Klangwelle, a fascinating spectacular featuring water, fire, lasers and music. In 2022, the spa gardens will also be one of the venues for the Regional Horticultural Show in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler. It includes a park to the north of the river Ahr, which is dedicated to Empress Augusta Victoria, who was married to Kaiser Wilhelm II. The people of Bad Neuenahr have always had a soft spot and a spare park with a mineral spring for a Prussian first lady.

Klangwelle event in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

The Klangwelle event in Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Ahr valley

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Ahr valley:

More information about holidays in the Ahr valley

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Ahr valley at Ahrtal-Tourismus Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler e.V.

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