There is an Indian saying which literally translates to ‘Whatever you are looking for might just be in front of you, without you even realizing.’ Something similar happened to me recently, when I was searching for the ultimate travel destination to experience fall colors for the first time in Europe. I was spoilt for choices and confused at the same time. It was then that a friend suggested me to plan a trip to the fairytale land of Black Forest.
I soon realized that this was indeed the fall trip I was looking forward to. Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is the most idyllic place in Germany to enjoy the fall season and a quick weekend travel trip if, like me, you live in the Netherlands.
Since we only had a weekend to afford, we had to plan smartly to make the most of it. I would say we were successful. By the end of the trip, we had traveled to more than 6 cities/towns/villages and covered most of the attractions that the Black Forest is famous for.
In today’s blog post, I will share my tips and experiences on how to plan an almost perfect Schwarzwald trip complete with the forest of oaks, good local food, scenic countryside and more.
#1. Plan a road trip instead of train
Public transport and railways are super comfortable in Germany. However, a car gives you the freedom to go anywhere and everywhere, and believe me with those pretty little villages and castles on the hill, you will not regret it.
It’s easy to rent a car from Frankfurt airport or Berlin and you can explore off the beaten path. The roads are really good and signage are easy to understand. TIP: Data connectivity on your phone can be patchy in the forests. Just make sure you rent a car with GPS maps. Also ‘AusFahrt’ means ‘Exit.’
#2. Plan during early fall
Most of the travelers visit the Black Forest during summers as the weather is ideal, you can get more sunshine and daylight to be outdoors for a longer time as compared to the cold and short days of winter. But we found early fall, as one of the most beautiful weather to witness the various colors of the leaves. Also, we got the best of both the worlds, it was not bitter cold, less crowded and enough daylight.
You can see layers of fall colors stretching up to the horizons, patched up with densely covered greens and it will remind you of all the German fairytales including Hansel & Gretel, Rapunzel and more.
TIP: If you plan to see the fall colors in the Black Forest, just be prepared for the unexpected rains or keep a tap on the weather forecast apps and dress accordingly.
#3. Make a base around the radius of a town, instead of staying in one
We had initially planned on staying in the town of Baden-Baden but it made sense to try out other options since we had a car. We found a good property near Ettlingen motorway on the doorway of Black Forest. That was to be our base for the next 2 days.
It was perfect! The parking was cheap and we could get out onto the highway anytime and towards any part of Black Forest.
#4. Take the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse route
As we love scenic road trip sceneries, the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse route was on our bucket list. The Schwarzwaldhochstrasse, Germany’s oldest panoramic road, stretches around 60km between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt. It has inspired mostly all of the Grimm Brother’s fairytales and you can see why. It was like we were on a fairytale adventure of our own.
#5. Hike along the Triberg Waterfall
Triberg is a small town and home to the largest waterfalls in Germany. We parked our car at Lake Bergsee and hiked to the falls. I think this is a doable stretch for non-hikers too. It is only 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your speed and the path along the river is really beautiful.
I could imagine Red Riding Hood, hopping around the woods, followed by the big bad wolf and Hansel & Gretel getting lost in those woods.
The waterfall, divided into three levels, is not that large but gorgeous nonetheless. There was an entry fee of €5 per person to get inside the waterfall trail. There are also friendly brown and furry squirrels around the hiking trails, and they would adore you for offering some peanuts. If you don’t want to hike, there’s a waterfall parking as well, which is around 75 cents for 30 minutes and it is just 10 minutes away from the main waterfalls.
#6. Visit thermal baths of Baden Baden
I really liked Baden-Baden as it’s a small yet vibrant city. You’ll find the best German beer pubs and cozy dinner options over here with a mix of Roman-German culture. The marketplace has a lot of traditional food and shopping options. The restaurant decorations give a local feel. We found it really cute.
Baden-Baden is also known for its spa culture with a bouquet of choices in thermal baths, public pools, dry and steam saunas and more. So, go ahead and pick one.
#7. The World’s largest Cuckoo clock in Schonach
The cute little town of Schonach, on the way to Triberg, is home to the World’s largest cuckoo clock. The clock more like a duplex house and I think it’s a must visit for anyone going towards Triberg waterfall. There’s also a museum which has a €2 per person entry ticket and an interesting souvenir shop, which has a wide collection of cuckoo clocks, German watches and an amazing collection of fruit wines from the Black Forest region.
#8. Catherdral and dinner at Freiburg
Freiburg is another major town in Black Forest region, where you’ll find a lot of tourists. We landed in the heart of the cobblestone town in the evening (almost dinner time) and we were awestruck by the beauty of the huge gothic Freiburg Cathedral tower standing tall, right in front of us. We couldn’t resist entering and I guess we were just in time for the Sunday mass.
The harmony of the church choir washed our fatigue away. Once outside, we noticed one of the unique features of this town – Bächle, narrow drains on both sides of the streets. They say, if you accidentally fall into the Bächle, you have to marry someone from Freiburg. (Isn’t that funny?!)
Also, if you’re going to have dinner at Baden Baden or Freiburg, be patient as your dinner might take time coming but when it arrives it is super yummilicious.
#9. Satisfy your taste buds with the sinful Black Forest cake
Dare not miss the original Schwarzwälderkirschtorte (Black Forest cake). Every bite of this sumptuous chocolate cake explodes with the flavor of maraschino cherries (I can still feel it!). Locals will tell you, the look of the cake is inspired by the traditional costumes of country girls, which includes dark or brown skirts, white shirts, and cherry red hats.
We had our special Black Forest cake in Triberg at a cozy restaurant looking out to Lake Bergsee.
#10. Complete your trip with a Castle or a Fortress visit
The Black Forest is home to several castles and the country has also restored them beautifully. Especially, around the Baden-Wurttenberg region. You should visit at least one of these castles where the fairytales like Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and Frozen originated. Also, you can visit Burg Eltz between Frankfurt and Koblenz.
If you really want to explore more then check out one of the best-preserved fortresses of Germany – Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. Nestled in the hills overlooking the city of Koblenz city along the banks of beautiful Rhine river, it is accessible via cable car ride of €12. It comes under the UNESCO Upper Middle Rhine Valley World Heritage.
Koblenz itself is one of the most beautiful and romantic German cities. It is the city where the two famous rivers, Rhine and Moselle meet and the city has a bunch of attractions along Rhine Gorge.
I think we outdid ourselves finding out the best locations of Black Forest without much hiking. And of course, we will go back to this scenic land to explore more. But till then, I hope these tips will help you plan your perfect trip. I would love to know if you found the article useful. Share your thoughts in the comment’s section below. Also, if you’ve already been to the Black Forest and have tips and suggestions, do share with me, I’m all ears in that case.
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