Best Things to Do in Germany’s Black Forest

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

If you enjoy delving deep into nature and discovering ancient fairy tales and myths, Germany’s Black Forest may be the destination for you. Diverse landscapes with rolling hills, fir tree forests and historic towns draw you into this mystical wonderland. Whether you wish to sample mouthwatering black forest gateau, see how traditional cuckoo clocks are made or want to spend lazy days relaxing in luxurious spas of Baden Baden, we bring you the best things to do in Germany’s Black Forest.

Hike Through the Black Forest

Hiking became a pastime of the Black Forest at the end of the 19th century when Philipp Bussemer from Baden-Baden opened the area’s first tourist information centre. He helped walkers navigate their way through dense forest landscapes with hiking maps and guides, and soon the region established popular walking trails for locals to explore. Today, with over 23,000 kilometres of trails encompassing forest-covered mountains, flower-strewn meadows, rivers and valleys, there’s a perfect track for every hiker. Leave behind picturesque towns and villages and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the mysterious dark forest, gain spectacular vistas from mountain summits and stop for a rustic ‘vesper’ snack in a traditional Vesperstuben. One of the oldest hikes is Westerweg - a long distance trail spanning approximately 279 kilometres. It runs from the Black Forest’s gateway city of Pforzheim in the north to Basel, taking in the highest summit in the forest, Feldberg Mountain and Lake Titisee. 

Visit a Cuckoo Clock Workshop

For residents of Black Forest villages, time really is money. In the 1730s, local clock maker Franz Anton Ketterer invented the now famous Cuckoo Clock. Inspired by the sounds of a church organ, he decided to create a unique clock embedded with a similar sound mechanism. Even today, each part of the clock is made here, carved from Black Forest dark wood and intricately etched with woodland wildlife scenes. You can explore the history of clockmaking in museums and shops around Triberg, Furtwangen and Schönwald and although many see the cuckoo clock as a rather kitsch decoration, today, the most elegant masterpieces fetch thousands of pounds and have become collector’s items.

Experience the Old-World Spa Town of Baden-Baden

Nineteenth Century Baden-Baden was a playground for European aristocracy who came to sample its curative mineral waters and try their luck at the famous casino. Today, whilst visiting Baden-Baden, you too, can enjoy the same experiences. Set inside a stunning Neo-Renaissance building, Friedrichsbad Bath House is the perfect place to unwind after a day of Black Forest hiking. The bath house offers a 3-hour set bathing ritual, beginning with a hot therapeutic mineral shower, vigorous soap brush massage and relaxing float beneath a beautiful domed cupola. Afterwards, cocoon yourself in reams of cosy blankets and feel the stresses of the day simply drift away. At Friedrichsbad, swimming attire is strictly verboten, and all spa rituals are undertaken in the nude, so if you prefer a more modest approach to bathing, the upscale thermal waterpark of Caracalla is a great alternative! 

Evenings in the elegant spa town are spent strolling by riverside floral displays, listening to Baden-Baden Philharmonic Orchestra or trying your luck at the local casino. Dive into a world of blackjack, poker and roulette in a place which Marlene Dietrich dubbed ‘the most beautiful casino in the world’. Built in the 1850s, Baden-Baden casino was modelled on the Palace of Versailles and Russian author Dostoevsky based his novel ‘The Gambler’ on his personal experiences here. Decorated in gold leaf, with dazzling chandeliers draping opulently from the ceiling and cheeky cherubs lining the walls, it’s easy to step back in time and imagine yourself in the casino during the 1800s. Even if you don’t win big, you can rest assured that funds spent are going to a good cause. Ninety percent of the casino’s concession for gambling goes towards the upkeep of beautiful Baden-Baden and other towns in the region!

Enjoy Skiing during Winter Months

The most popular ski resort in the Black Forest is Feldberg. Blanketed in pure white snow, punctuated with frosted tipped pines and quaint wooden chalets, it’s a picture-postcard location in which to traverse the slopes. There are 26 kilometres of runs available for skiing and snowboarding with elevations of between 888 and 1,448 metres. As you glide effortlessly downhill, cutting through soft powdery snow you catch glimpses of breath-taking forest landscapes. Stop for a break and sit outside lively Himalaya Lodge on the Grafenmatt or on a sun terrace on the Seebuck, enjoying fun music and a warming glass of schnapps before you hit the piste again.

Sample Delicious Black Forest Gateau

Originating from the Schwarzwald region itself, the Black Forest Gateau began its popularity in the late 16th century. However, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t named after the region, but after the classic liqueur Schwarzwalder Kirsch. The traditional cake, served throughout the Black Forest in Germany consists of several layers of chocolate sponge, sandwiched with whipped cream and decorated with maraschino cherries and sprinkled with chocolate shavings. The clear, sour cherry Schwarzwalder kirsch is soaked into the mixture for that extra warming kick. Delicious.

Immerse Yourself in Black Forest Carnival Traditions

Carnival traditions in the Black Forest are different to those throughout the rest of Germany, but ultimately, they all end with a fun parade accompanied by lots of live music and decorative floats. Swabian-Alemannic Carnivals in this region reflect on local folklore, their pagan roots, myths and mystical traditions. From December to March, locals don hand-carved wooden masks and dress as scary animals, witches, spirits and demons which are hunted down and expelled from the towns so that spring can be ushered in. Rather than frighten, it’s usual for onlookers to be enticed onto the floats and into the parade from the crowd so you can join in the revelry first-hand.

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