The Black Forest in southwestern Germany is not only the source of much fairy tale lore – it’s also where the concept of walking in the forest for pleasure was developed. No matter the season, it’s a hugely popular holiday area for Germans and tourists alike. Here’s our pick of the area’s top activities.
Watersports on the Titisee
Stop giggling – it’s pronounced ‘titty-zay’. This 2 km (1.2 mile)- long lake was carved straight out of a glacier, which makes the water a special green blue colour. On the surface, holidaymakers enjoy windsurfing, waterskiing, swimming, kayaking and boating.
The Schwarzwälder Kirsch cake at Café Schäfer Triberg is nothing like the creamy, blobby confection you find in grocery stores. The baker Claus Schäfer got the recipe from his father who got it from Joseph Keller, inventor of the Black Forest cake. Layers of chocolate cake infused with cherry brandy and topped with fresh whipped cream, sour cherries and shaved chocolate…..definitely worth the trip.
A day at the baths in Germany is a pleasure no matter the weather. In winter, or after a long day of sport, the heat does wonders, but in summer also, reading or sitting in a warming pool outside is also something special. Bad Wildbad has been a spa town for hundreds of years. These days, there are two baths in town: Palais Thermal, decorated like a Roman Bath, and the more modern lines of Vitale Therme.
The closest a person can get to the James Bond Monaco vibe in Germany is at the casino in Baden-Baden. The town has long been a playground and health resort for the wealthy and as such, the casino requires men to wear a jacket and tie if they wish to gamble. If you didn’t have room in your suitcase for a tux, the next best thing is a 40-minute guided tour of what Marlene Dietrich called the most beautiful casino in the world.
This spot is a bit of a contrast to the cuckoo-kitsch style that is so common in the Black Forest, but a delight nevertheless. The museum building was designed by Frank Gehry and its contents hold all the shaped plywood, plastic and teak that you would expect. On the same campus, you can also find buildings by Nicholas Grimshaw, Zaha Hadid and Alvaro Siza. A two-hour architectural tour in English takes place at noon and 2pm daily.
This is an adventure that will require a car and a designated driver. Once those have been sourced, then you can set off on the 160-km (99-mile) Badische Weinstrasse between Laudenbach and Weil am Rhein. Look out for castle ruins, and plenty of small wineries and small stands selling Flammkuchen. If you want to buy, try stopping off at the Durbacher Winzergenossenschaft, a local wine co-operative in Durbach.
Kinzig and Gutach Valley
Also requiring a car, but also well worth the effort, is a drive along the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse from Baden-Baden through the picture-perfect villages in the Kinzig and Gutach Valley. Plan a stop in the brewery town of Alpirsbach, and get your Instagram ready for the half-timbered houses in Schiltach and Calw.
Somewhat surprisingly, the group of nine villages known as Baisersbronn is something of a foodie hotspot, with no less than three Michelin-starred restaurants embracing the magic of the ancient forest to produce something truly supernatural on the plate. You’ll have to book ahead, but it’s worth making a night out here the focal point of a trip to the Black Forest.
Go for a hike
Of course, the most obvious thing to do in a forest is to walk in it. The Black Forest has delights aplenty, including heather-strewn moors, glacial lakes, virgin coniferous forests and deep valleys. As much as is possible, nature is left to its own devices, with the most untamed section (some 100 square km (39 square miles)) in the north between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt. You can drive through on the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, but the experience will be so much more magical on foot.
Also advisable with a car, this spot some 4 km (2.5 miles) south of the Kinzig Valley is the home of the Schwarzwälder Freilichtmuseum, a reconstruction of an early-17th-century farmstead. The museum showcases original farmhouses that have been brought piece by piece to the museum site and painstakingly reconstructed, alongside barns full of wagons, horn sleds and animals to pet, not to mention demonstrations on how to smoke meat and fish.