The Black Forest is perhaps best known as the setting for some of the Brothers Grimm’s finest fairytales, including Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel. Upon first glance, it isn’t hard to see why. There is a very real sense of magic present throughout this corner of southwest Germany, dominated by a sprawling woodland that offers plenty for the visitor. Far more than cuckoo clocks, spa towns and the eponymous cake, the Black Forest invites relaxation and reconnection with nature. Discover the best things to do in Germany’s Black Forest region.
Who can resist the lure of an authentic German bakery? With Black Forest cake found in bakeries around the globe, it’s no surprise that the delicious dessert’s home has its share of amazing pastry shops. For those unfamiliar with Black Forest cake, introduce your taste buds to this layered chocolate cake made with cherry alcohol as soon as possible. This German slice of paradise can be found in nearly every Black Forest bakery, but it’s recommended that you head to Cafe Schwarzwaldmaidle in Feldberg or Schopflins Backhaus in Freiburg im Breisgau.
The small town of Triberg is a key destination for most Black Forest travellers. The Erste weltgrößte Kuckucksuhr giant cuckoo clock and Schwarzwaldmuseum of Black Forest culture are great photo ops, but all else in the town plays second fiddle to the Triberg Falls. These falls are the tallest in Germany and can be admired from multiple angles via a nearby pathway. Instead of an about-face after snapping pictures of the falls, follow the trail for a fantastic hike into the mountains.
Though small, the town of Titisee-Neustadt is immensely popular with visitors for its laid-back Seestraße promenade and easily accessible hiking trails. Rowing out to the centre of Titisee’s glacial lake to cast a line or enjoy a few moments of solitude can be a blissful experience. To see the lake from every vantage point, consider walking the 90-minute trail that circles the water or hiking to the top of Hochfirst mountain for a bird’s-eye-view. Too much lake for your liking? Hop on a bike and tackle more than 8,000km (4,971mi) of mountain trail until the blue beauty of the water beckons you back.
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Since the Romans built the first thermal baths in Baden-Baden over two millennia ago, men and women have sought rejuvenation from the 12 hot springs in this spa town. There are two thermal bathhouses in Baden-Baden. Caracalla Spa is a luxurious retreat complete with a rock grotto, current channel and grass area to soak up the sun after a swim; while the Friedrichsbad is a Roman-Irish bathing temple that transforms body, mind and spirit through a 17-station circuit. Whichever you choose, be sure to scope out the preserved ruins to see how the Romans rocked their spa sessions.
Some visit the Black Forest to hike; others sneak away to Schluchsee to spend a little time in the water, far away from the crowded spa towns. Schluchsee is a glacial lake that was expanded to become the highest reservoir in the country. Summer trips to Schluchsee are ideal for long swims, smooth catamaran rides and picnics on the shoreline. If you’ve got kids in tow, the Aqua Fun waterpark and Spass Park Hochschwarzwald amusement park offer a little extra lake-front fun.
At the foot of the Hornisgrinde mountain sits Lake Mummelsee, conveniently located on the Black Forest High Road. Legend insists that mermaids call these waters home, though you’re much more likely to find visitors enjoying a morning cup of coffee as they head out on the trail up Hornisgrinde. Water activities such as renting a pedalo are ideal for warmer months. Visiting when the area becomes a winter wonderland? Plan a walk on the pathway around the lake and take in the snowy mountain views.
Worn out from all of the Black Forest’s hiking trails? Rest up without missing out on the views by enjoying a drive along the Schwarzwald Hochstrasse, also called the Black Forest High Road. This popular 60km (37mi) stretch of roadway is open to vehicles, cyclists and hikers, which means you’ll be sharing the unobstructed views with other visitors. Thankfully, the stunning vistas present more than enough photo ops to go around. Don’t try to tackle all 60km like a race; the small towns and nature trails are worth every generous pitstop.
The Freiburger Münster is much more than a cathedral. It’s a landmark that the locals cherish, a near millennia-old church that survived the challenges of every century, including bombings during World War II. This gothic cathedral is a testament to the past, present and future of Freiburg im Breisgau – a piece of living history that will continue recording generation after generation of life in the Black Forest. Whether climbing to the lookout or enjoying its 300-year construction effort from the Munstermarkt farmers’ market just outside the cathedral’s door, the Freiburger Münster deserves a moment of reflection and reverence from every visitor.
Do you have the time to visit one of Triberg’s most famous shops? You’ll certainly have no trouble finding a moment to spare once you’ve stepped foot in the House of 1,000 Clocks. Let the minutes pass by as you appreciate the fine detail carved into each and every cuckoo clock adorning the walls of this fifth-generation family business. If there’s one quintessential souvenir from the Black Forest, it has to be a cuckoo clock, and Triberg is the best place in the area to invest in one.
The Grimm Fairy Tales may paint a vibrant picture of the Black Forest, but only the Black Forest Museum will give you a true glimpse of the history, culture and way of life in this enchanting part of Germany. Learn about the traditional customs and costumes, take a guided tour to discover the area’s mining history and find out why cuckoo clocks are among the many handcrafted goods the Black Forest is famous for.
Forget rollercoasters, the Black Forest version ups the average amusement park by offering toboggan rides through the mountains. Sommerrodelbahn Gutach races riders over bends and through tunnels, sending crisp mountain air across wide grins for 1,150m (3,773ft). Once the ride ends, there’s no doubt you’ll want to do it again. For those who wish to sit out a ride, a beer garden, playground and ice cream cabinet are toboggan-free ways to stay cool and comfortable.
Dorotheenhütte Glassworks challenges you to create your own Black Forest souvenir. The art and history of glassblowing are on full display at this museum and workspace. Visitors even get the chance to blow their own glass vase to take home. Don’t worry about blowing countless vases for family and friends – much better to stop by the year-round Dorotheenhütte Christmas Village and pick up a few stocking stuffers that won’t exhaust your budget or your lungs.
After an hour at the German Clock Museum, you’ll never view time the same way again. Deutsches Uhrenmuseum is a chronological celebration of timekeeping and clock-making. Located in Baden-Württemberg, the German Clock Museum an uncanny collection of old clocks, including a few cuckoo clocks from the 18th century. Any timepiece aficionado will love viewing traditional pocket watches alongside atomic clocks and Stone Age calendars at this Black Forest landmark.
The second-longest river in Europe gains its strength in the Black Forest and there are few places better to view the rising waters than from the Upper Danube Valley Nature Reserve. This serene and secluded park outside of Baden-Württemberg can be explored on two feet or two wheels. The Danube rolls alongside as you hike up cliffs and down into meadows. Castles, ruins and abbeys are scattered throughout, creating a walk through hundreds of years of Black Forest history.
How can you earn one of the best views of the Black Forest? A two-way cable car offers an instant trip to the top of the Schauinsland, though there’s also a roadway that cars and motorcycles can climb to reach this mountain’s summit. The Swiss Alps, Rhine Valley, and Voges Mountains are visible from the mountain side and there’s no better way to take in these magnificent views than taking the time to appreciate them on a long, rewarding hike.
Feldberg mountain is the highest in the Black Forest and as such it offers a variety of options for adventure. From climbing to hiking to mountaineering, there are plenty of choices for those looking to scale Feldberg. The ski lift and cable car are ideal for those with less of an active streak whilst skiing and snowboarding are popular options among those making the descent.
This treacherous road to Hollental was originally named for its treacherous terrain but navigating it is a far less frightening ordeal these days. A surprisingly spacious highway and a railway both provide a smooth and safe ride for sightseeing in the Valley of Hell.
Home to a castle for almost a thousand years, this site in The Vosges Mountains has remained relatively untouched since the 17th century. The site was given a more modern update in recent years. A beer garden now rests on the shoulder of the Schlossberg, granting the best views in Freiburg.
Take a moment to stop and smell the roses in Baden-Baden at the Rosengarten auf dem Beutig. This lovely rose garden features the romantic flower in every colour imaginable. Should you miss the roses in bloom, you’ll find other delicate flowers to admire throughout the gardens. Only a 20-minute walk from the centre of Baden-Baden, a visit to the Rosengarten auf dem Beutig can instantly become an amorous picnic for two lovers.
A beachy getaway within the Black Forest, Badeparadies Schwarzwald is a little slice of Caribbean paradise in Titisee-Neustadt. Renewed vitality awaits in the textile-free Palais Vital-themed sauna; while pina coladas, mai tais and white Russians loosen every muscle in the Palm Oasis. While the intrepid children are orbiting 23 slides in the Galaxy Schwarzwald, parents are free to indulge in a Black Forest Mist steam bath that’s out of this world.
Lace up a pair of comfortable hiking shoes for this exciting trek through the Black Forest. Over the river valleys and through the forests to Wehraschlucht’s gorge, the full Schluchtensteig trail runs for just under 120km (75mi) reaching an airy 3,000m (9,843ft) above sea level. The majestic gorges are well worth the six-stage hike, which takes most a few days to complete.
Along the southern edge of the Black Forest is the town of Nagold, peacefully surrounded by woodlands and offering the chance of a stroll through a Stone Age settlement. Hohennagold Castle sits in ruins, welcoming visitors into the town. Nagold itself is a pretty town with a handful of shops, restaurants and plazas. With trails along the Nagold River and the Schwarzwald Nature Park nearby, this small town is an ideal place to rest tired feet and replenish supplies for yet another hike through the Black Forest.
Explorers who want to conquer the Black Forest cannot claim victory without taking on Hornisgrinde. Though not the most challenging hike in Germany, but the sheep-lined mountain sides are too picturesque to resist. The largest mountain in the Black Forest, Hornisgrinde’s observation deck offers a unique view for every season and its sunsets cannot be missed.
What better way to experience the Black Forest than a stroll among the treetops? Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald in Bad Wildbad takes visitors on a 1,250-m (4,101-ft) walk alongside the trees. Although the walkway does stretch up to 20m (66ft) high, the mild grade allows strollers and wheelchairs to easily climb towards the sky. Skip the treetop walk and opt for a ride on the Sommerbergbahn funicular railway or wind up the spiralling observation tower for an unbeatable view. With an Adventure Forest playground and educational activity stations throughout the park, Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald is a family-friendly way to enjoy the Black Forest without trekking too far.
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