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WAGS town scores a hit; Baden-Baden on a budget VICTORIA Beckham and the other WAGS loved Baden-Baden at last year's World Cup but you don't, need Posh's dosh to enjoy this German, spa town, as ALISTAIR GRANT discovers...

Byline: ALISTAIR GRANT

BDEN-BADEN may be home to more millionBires than anywhere else in Germany, but there are plenty of ways to have fun there without breaking the bank.

And, after the England football team's WAGS put the town on the map when they stayed there during last June's World Cup Finals, we've been back to see how it's enjoying its tourism boom.

Start by taking a stroll, or promenade as the folks from here would say, and just soak up the atmosphere. It costs nothing.

After a tiring walk, what better way to relax those aching limbs than a spa. Baden-Baden's hot waters have attracted tourists for 2,000 years. And the beautiful Friedrichsbad baths (Romerplatz 11) has been open since the 1800s. Visitors here have included Mark Twain, who wrote: "You lose track of time within 10 minutes and lose track of the world within 20."

You'll soon realise why. Just one thing to remember - most sessions (which cost from pounds 14) are naked and some are mixed male and female.

If you're more modest and want to keep your kit on then relax with a soothing late-afternoon dip in the Caracalla-Therme spa, where a two-hour session costs pounds 8. Remember to bring your own towel.

The kids will love the Wildgehege wildlife reserve just outside town, where red deer, fallow deer, sheep and wild boar roam in their natural habitat. And, best of all, entry is free.

There are great views from the summit of the 657metre-high Merkur mountain. Save your legs and jump on the thrilling funicular railway (a ticket costs pounds 2.70), then walk down to town along marked paths through lovely countryside.

The Mehliskopf bobsleigh track, 25 miles south of town, is a big hit with visitors, rich or poor. You hurtle down the run on a tiny sleigh. The cost is pounds 2.10 for one run, pounds 8.30 for five.

Baden-Baden has so many restaurants and nightspots that you could eat out and party every night for an entire month and never visit the same place twice.

For affordable dining, Wallstreet im Hamilton is a perennially popular place. This reasonably-priced eatery, next to the main square at Sophienstrasse 1, does German, Italian and Asian food and great brownies for dessert. Expect to spend about pounds 20 per person including drinks.

Leo's (Luisenstrasse 8-10) is another popular restaurant with a big choice on its international menu. Again, pounds 20 should cover the meal and a few beers.

Feel like splashing out? Then book a table at Restaurant Laterne (Gernsbacher Strasse 10-12). It certainly has the best location in town, opposite the Kurhaus, which is a picture day or night. The Black Forest menu changes regularly, depending what's in season, and you can expect to fork out pounds 40 a head.

Garibaldi's nightclub hit the headlines in the World Cup as the place where the WAGS knocked back champagne while belting out karaoke hits and dancing on the tables.

You can do likewise - it's at Luisenstrasse 4, round the corner from Wallstreet im Hamilton. pounds 30 should cover a bottle of bubbly.

To really do the whole Baden-Baden thing, put on your best togs (ties compulsory, gents) and head for the casino, in the Kurhaus building in the middle of town. Many have made (and lost) a fortune here.

If you've always wanted to sleep in David Beckham's bed, now's your chance. England's World Cup players ' stayed at the five-star Buhlerhohe Schloss-hotel, a giant country house 20 minutes' drive out of town. There are amazing views from the dining room across the Rhine Valley into France. Make time for a Black Forest beer in the wood-panelled bar.

Nor is the hotel ludicrously expensive at pounds 89 per person in a superior double (children under 10 stay for free in the same room). Go to www.buehler hoehe.de for more details.

Hotel Bischoff (www.hotelsbaden-baden.de) is, however, more of a bargain. Slap bang in the middle of the action in Romerplatz 2, this pastel-blue guest house is surrounded by giant potted ferns and has airy rooms, some with balconies. Doubles from pounds 21.60pp.

Or check out the Hotel Deutscher (www.deutscher-kaiser-baden-baden. de), a lovely three-star hotel in a great location on Merkurstrasse with elegant Mediterranean-style shuttered windows.

Renovated this year, it has 28 rooms over five floors with cable TV and an internet connection in every room. Twins from pounds 33 per person.

GETTING THERE..

GO by Raileurope, taking the Eurostar and changing at Brussels. Return fares from pounds 104. Call 08708 304862 or visit www.rail europe.co.uk

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Pictures: ALAMY/ DAILY MIRROR Go for a relaxing dip at the Caracalla-Therme spa
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 29, 2007
Words:785
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