Before we explored Neptunbad we had a chat with the spa manager Michael Küpper to find out more about the inner workings of Germany’s oldest bathhouse…
USC: What’s the story behind Neptunbad?
Michael: Neptunbad was built in 1912 and is the oldest bathhouse in Cologne. This part of the city used to be a working quarter and people used to come here on Saturdays to wash themselves – back then people didn’t have running water in their houses.
Then in 1950 after World War II swimming became a popular sport in Germany so Neptunbad became a place where people learnt how to swim.
Then in 1990 the state couldn’t afford to keep the it open so the bathhouse closed. There were lots of ideas about what to do with the historical building – some people wanted a discotheque – but the pubic wanted to keep its original use. So in 2002 the current owners Marcus and Stefan bought the building and renovated it into a spa, sauna and wellness space.
USC: What activities can you do here?
Michael: We have a beautiful spa area for day guests and members. We want it to be a place where you go between work and home. You can come here, enjoy yourself, relax and do something good for body and your health.
It’s also a great place to socialise. Once a month we host a games evening where we play monopoly, poker or chess. And once a month we have Neptun Lights where we turn off all the lights and everything is candle lit. There’s chilled out music and we project films of nature or water on the walls. You can just watch, listen to the music, drink a cocktail and relax.
USC: And USC guests can experience all of this too?
Michael: Yes, the day guests can come to the spa and sauna area. We have an 18 metre pool which is normally used as to cool down but in the morning from 7am – 9am you can take swim courses like aqua fit.
USC: Is there a strong community here?
Michael: Yes, and people can pick their routine. Lots of people come regularly to do yoga or fitness classes so they all make friends and will have lunch together after their class. They even have their own Christmas and Halloween parties as well as our community party. But if you just want to free train in the gym then that’s also fine.
USC: And how do parties work here? Do you have DJs and dancing?
Michael: We have DJs in the reception area and lights on top of the balcony. It makes a really nice discotheque and there are tables and chairs where everyone can sit, stand and talk. Usually about 400 members attend the parties. Often we’ll hire a pianist and singer. Our parties used to hold 700 members but that was a bit too many!
USC: Are these parties for your employees as well as your members?
We have separate staff parties as about 180 people work here. We have a lot of students who work in the sauna two days a week. Our employees love what they do because they’re also able to use the wellness facilities in their free time as they get reduced membership cost.
We want our employees to also be our guests so they know what they’re working towards. So we have a Christmas and summer party for them.
USC: And they mainly work in the sauna?
Michael: Yes – this is a job I used to do as a student at Claudius Therme and I loved it. People come here to relax and enjoy themselves and have a great day so when you are friendly and gentle that is reciprocated by our guests. That makes the job really special. But I think doing the sauna more than twice a week becomes difficult because it gets exhausting, so that’s why two days a week works well.
USC: What’s your role here?
Michael: I’m the manager of Neptunbad. It’s owned by two brothers, Marcus and Stefan, so if I have questions or want to change prices or build a new sauna then I talk with them and they make the ultimate decisions. But it’s my pleasure to decide everything specific to the house – rules, employment, marketing, everything. I think this is the reason why all of these spas are successful – because each manager treats it as his or her own and so takes a lot of pride and works much harder. It’s our passion.
USC: What’s the background of the two owners?
They used to manage Aqualand in Cologne, which is a fun swimpark for kids, kind of like Tropical Islands. They then bought Claudius Therme and transformed it into the spa you see today, and then they bough Neptunbad. They also own a farmhouse spa and Vabali in Berlin and Düsseldorf they’re opening a new Vabali in Hamburg in 2019. And as you may be able to tell, they hire the same interior designer for all the spaces.
If you’d like to pamper yourself this winter, visit one of our many spa and wellness partners across Germany, Italy and France.
And take a look at the Neptunbad website for all information on the spa.