Our 4 day trip to Germany's Black Forest starts with a 1.5 hour flight from London Stansted airport.
Pre-Trip – Packing
I decided to try out my new Tripp 4 wheel cabin case – bought particularly because I loved the colour, bright green! It wheels along great, but being a hard case it has no outside pockets, which is a bit of a pain when it comes to getting the liquids out at security. However at least with Ryanair you get to carry a handbag/purse too, which helps.
Packing for our trip – which involves three changes of hotel – included:
- Spaghetti-strap top
- 2 long-sleeved t-shirts
- Smart jacket and trousers
- Spare trousers (I'm not a big fan of dresses)
- Merino wool poncho – to wear at dinner in Baden Baden (once at the beginning of our trip and again on our last night)
- Shoes (flats – expect cobbled streets)
- Swimming costume
I wore jeans with a long-sleeved t-shirt, cardigan, jacket, scarf, crossover bag and black boots. All clothes were in colours that mix and match together.
We had pre-booked a hire car to collect at Baden-Baden airport (Sixt offering us the best deal this time) and then drove to the city for our overnight stay.
Baden-Baden airport is small and well appointed, and a complete pleasure being quiet.
Day 1 – Baden-Baden
Driving from the airport into Baden-Baden we couldn't believe how quiet it was. Honestly if you want to visit then May seems to be perfect; no crowds at all, almost ghost-like.
Baden-Baden is a beautiful miniature spa town in the setting of the Black Forest with a very gentile feel to it. In May you could certainly wear jeans everywhere, although we dressed up a little and didn't feel out of place.
We stayed at the Hotel Quellenhoff Sophia, which is very well placed for walking the short way to the famous park and restaurants and is right in front of the famous spa baths and Roman bath ruins. We had dinner in town, it was very quiet so no need to book (it certainly seemed there is no local Thursday evening scene for eating out like we experience in England) but later in the season I think it would be very different.
Day 2 – Northern Black Forest
After breakfast we set off to tour the northern Black Forest. Route 500 took us on the twisty turning picturesque route down to Freudenstadt, where we stopped in the pretty square for coffee… and cake.
We had to make a few detours as some roads were closed for repair, but most of the time our iPhone map worked great. We had booked a SatNav for the car, but as it was only in German it was far easier to use the iPhone. But, top tip: I would suggest you print out a map of the Black Forest before you leave home, because when the phone signal dies you will be glad of it.
So far the overriding impression is how stunningly beautiful everywhere is, and how clean – there is no rubbish at all, anywhere; quite different from home.
And we passed sooo many cuckoo clock shops, I had no idea! Some with over 1,000.
After coffee we drove on to Alpirsbach, Schiltach, Gutach (where the famous Bollen hats originate) and Hornberg, and then Triberg (famous for having Germany's tallest waterfall, Triberger Wasserfalle) where we stopped for a very late lunch.
One thing I would say is that the portions are huge, so beware and maybe share.
The walk up to the waterfall is long but well signed. It's not for the faint-hearted but well worth it.
Our day today finished at Schwarzwald Park Hotel, Koenigsfeld in the central Black Forest. This hotel looks like an Alpine lodge. The breakfast was excellent (as it was at the first hotel), the room rates were excellent value and the staff very friendly – perfect. This day had entailed a good deal of driving, stopping to take in the views and stunning scenery.
Day 2 – Southern Black Forest
Saturday was reserved for exploring the southern Black Forest, with a detour down to Laufenburg which is the southernmost town before you get to Switzerland. There is a Swiss town of the same name over the border with the river Rhine in between, and in fact it used to be all one place until around 1800 when Napoleon divided it in two.
Unless you plan to visit Switzerland be careful not to get swept to the border and customs, but stay on the German side. We enjoyed a very pleasant stroll across the bridge into Switzerland and back, before a warm apple strudel and ice cream by the Rhine were voted delicious. Totally recommend making the effort to see this little town.
However before all of this we visited Lake Titisee and enjoyed morning coffee. This is a very busy tourist destination and I would imagine in the summer it would be crazy busy with lots of boat trips and swimming in the lake. There is a road train that takes people around the town, as there seems to be in most of the larger towns we visited. Not far from here is a much bigger lake, Schluchsee, which might be preferable if you like less touristic stops.
After Laufenburg we made the one hour drive back to the Black Forest city of Freiburg. To be honest this was probably our least favourite place as it was very busy – a typical busy city on a Saturday afternoon. By now we had started to really enjoy the tranquility of the smaller villages, and so for us Freiburg didn't really work.
That evening we decided to try a bistro in Koenigsfeld, not far from our hotel. It was somewhere popular with the locals and we had our best meal to date here, and at a very reasonable price.
Top tip: Aim to get away from typical tourist areas to sample the local hospitality, but don't expect menus in English (although almost everyone is able to help you out).
Day 3 – Castles and Cake
We wanted to see a “typical” German castle atop a mountain, and as there are none in the Black Forest we decided to take a detour to Hohenzollern Castle, a Disney-style castle owned by the Prussian royal family.
There is a shuttle bus from the car park, which I would suggest is a must as the walk is a good 30 minute climb, getting steeper as you go up. Even with the bus there is a lot of walking to get to the castle and to look around. If you still feel energetic, I can vouch that the walk down is far more pleasant than the walk up.
We found all of the sites, the car parks and buses to be very reasonably priced in the Black Forest. The toilets were free and clean everywhere we went, and there's not a spot of rubbish.
From Hohenzollern we drove back into the Black Forest and back to Baden-Baden with plenty of excellent photo stops along the way.
Top tip: My advice would be to hire a really comfortable car with automatic transmission to cope with the constant changing up and down on the mountain passes.
Our last afternoon and evening were spent seeing more of Baden-Baden. We enjoyed afternoon tea with fabulous cakes at the famous Cafe Koenig under the trees in the balmy 23C temperature that we had enjoyed all weekend. A walk in Lichtentaler Park along the river Oos finished the afternoon. For our very last meal we ate at a small Italian restaurant where the food was cooked fresh. For Baden-Baden it was reasonably priced, and it seemed to be popular with locals.
We often found German portions to be huge by our standards and local cuisine was often very plain. However in most places we found plenty of alternatives and lots of fresh salads. Maybe check portion sizes before ordering unless you have a big appetite. This was also the asparagus season which was a real treat, and the coffee was delicious too.
Day 4 – Homeward Bound
With Baden-Baden being such a small airport, the Departures area is very basic so don't expect to buy much in the way of Duty-Free here.
The Black Forest is a great area for a walking holiday, or a driving one as we did. If you can go when it's quieter such as in May then you are in for a real treat. Equally it would be stunning in winter when the ski season is in full swing – what better excuse than that to return to this stunningly beautiful area.
Written by Helen