Although the Black Forest is located in one of the sunniest areas of Germany, its name dates back to a time when thick trees shielded the forest floor from light. While there are more clearings now, the country's largest and most renowned forest remains a real-life Grimm fairy tale dotted with gingerbread villages and serene wood-fringed lakes.
With its stunning scenery, clean air, dozens of mineral spas, plentiful wineries, and numerous small towns, travelers can easily spend a day, a week, or a month exploring this region between the Rhine River and the Alpine foothills of Switzerland. The Black Forest Railway is a popular activity within the forest, stretching for 93 miles (150 km) through the region and passing several magnificent waterfalls along the way.
Day trips are available from Frankfurt, Zurich, and Strasbourg, each typically including a stop at the spa town of Baden-Baden, home of the famous Kurhaus Casino. If you have more time, embark on a multi-day tour for the chance to experience a wider swath of the Black Forest's small towns.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A visit to the Black Forest is perfect for spontaneous travelers and outdoor adventurers; you'll find ample hiking and biking in the area.
- Keep in mind that Black Forest area highways are often steep and winding; give yourself plenty of time to get from place to place.
- To avoid having to drive yourself, book a Black Forest bus tour.
- Don't forget to pick up a tourist map of the area with attractions, cycle routes, and hiking trails marked.
How to Get to the Black Forest
The Black Forest region is tucked into Germany's southwest corner, in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. The beautiful university city of Freiburg im Breisgau is an ideal starting point for your exploration, as well as a must-see attraction in its own right. The Frankfurt Airport is the closest international airport, while the Strasbourg Airport in France is also conveniently close. Between local and regional lines, it's easy to reach just about any corner of the Black Forest by bus or train, but some visitors opt to rent a car for self-guided tours.
When to Get There
Many travelers consider early fall and late spring the ideal time to visit the Black Forest, when the weather is temperate and the region—one of the most-visited mountain areas in Europe—is less crowded. If visiting between June and August, be sure to book your hotels and spas well ahead of time. Also keep in mind that some hotels and restaurants in the area close for about a month during winter.
Highlights of the Black Forest
Besides Baden-Baden and Freiburg, the Black Forest is dotted with plenty of other beautiful areas and must-sees, depending on your interests. The northern portion of the forest is home to the rolling vineyards of the Badische Wine Route, while in the central area, travelers will find excellent beer in Alpirsbach, plus cuckoo clocks and one of Germany's largest waterfalls in Triberg. In the south sits the wine region of Kaiserstuhl, as well as Lake Titisee, one of Germany's most scenic lakes.