What to do in The Black Forest

Getting around

Whilst it is possible to travel by public transport, so many of the beautiful scenic routes aren’t going  to be easy to navigate without your own transport, so it’s recommended you hire a car. We chose to hire from Basel Airport and did a full loop for the week, arriving back to the Swiss side of the airport. Parking is fairly easy around most of these sites, and generally free parking could be found.

Baden Wine Route

At around 500km long, the Baden wine route is considered to be the oldest wine trail in Germany. As well as a delightful drive for nature lovers through the pretty hills, it’s a place where people know how to live and enjoy food and of course drink to it’s fullest.

We started our drive with a visit to the Weber Winery located between the Rhine Plain and the Black Forest. It’s a cool looking building, quite “Grand Designs’, with a glass  front and modern interpretations of Black Forest traditional wear on photographs around the main room. Started almost 70 years ago, the winery also produces some special brandies and other specialities including a walnut liquor, and stores the bottles in racks that sink down to 50 meters deep into the hill. The staff here are fresh and fun and they host regular parties at the winery; ranging from simple tastings to huge parties of over 1000 people with top DJ’s.

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Amusingly before we arrived we’d seen that you can do a ‘wine tasting with traditional vesper’. I had images in my head of zooming around the vineyards on a scooter, but it turns out that a ‘vesper’ is in fact a snack plate. We were given a lovely selection of Black Forest treats including meats and cheeses, homemade bread and candied walnuts that taste like caramel.

As much as we didn’t get to ride scooters, Weber do offer tours of the vineyards by Segway, which is possibly even more fun! After a brief introduction and lesson on how to power it and more importantly, stop, we had a lovely hour zipping up and down the hills past the vines. It’s fairly easy to get the hang of, and certainly quite an unusual offering. The Weber Winery also offers a range of gifts including decorations and their popular t-shirts as well as of course their fantastic selection of beverages.

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Our second stop was Alde Gott,  the name comes from a legend during the Thirty Years’ War. Apparently a lonely young man was travelling through the area which is now known as Sasbachwalden. He was on his own but then came across a young woman and in his relief shouted out  ‘Der alde Gott lebt noch!’ which translates as ‘The old God still exists!” There are murals and mosaics to this legend around the winery as well as a marker in the hills as to where it supposedly happened.

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It’s located on the edge of the Black Forest and the Badische Weinstraße, and the surrounding hills are stunningly beautiful. We took a drive up to the vineyards and stood for a while taking in the views (as far as Strasbourg on a clear day), while watching the mist roll over the hills. There are some lovely buildings in the town that feel like something from a Disney movie, with their half timber frames with white & black colourings.

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We had a fantastic wine tasting here, including a wonderful Riesling, but Alde Gott doesn’t just offer wine. They are one of the only places in the region that make their own whiskey, and it’s a limited run each year making it extremely popular. In addition to this they also make a rich Black Forest Cherry cream liquor, a bit like a cherry eggnog, which is sure to go down a treat around Christmas time.

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Hiking trails in Baiersbronn

Ask at the tourist information centre next to the station in Baiersbronn and you can find out about the many hiking trails in the region. It’s a popular area for walking and the routes vary in difficulty, from the fairly easy which we did (bare in mind I walked this with a fractured ankle) to the more advanced for those used to much longer distances. Walks are tailored to the groups’ interests, and as well as the nature and scenic walks there are even foodie walks, including foraging and learning about the vegetation inside the forest.

We took the hiking tour along gourmand trail “Satteleisteig” to the cozy cabin
“Sattelei”. It’s a pleasant walk of around 4km that runs along the outside of the Black Forest with views over the valley. The region is famous for it’s incredibly clean area, and tourists often come from big cities all over the world to spend time in the country and detox/revitalise.

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The Cosy Cabin Sattelei  is clearly a popular lunch spot amongst hikers as well as locals. It is indeed a cosy spot, with fires, attentive staff, and at the time of writing, some lovely Christmas decorations.

The menu, whilst not having much for vegetarians as a big range of traditional food from the area including meat platters and a famous cottage cheese. All the portions were very generous and despite it being quite busy, we were served drinks within minutes of ordering.

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Solemar Bad Dürrheim

Bad Dürrheim is situated on the east of the Black Forest, it’s known as a spa and health area with a therapeutic climate. It’s a top destination for wellness due to it’s pleasant mountain climate, fresh air and the jewel in it’s crown, the Solemar spa and wellness centre.

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It’s a 13,500 m² area, including Black Forest saunas, warm salt water pools both inside and out, and a Dead Sea Salt Grotto. People travel from all over Germany for the treatment rooms here and for the physiotherapy rooms and fitness centre for rehabilitation after injuries. For those just interested in a relaxing day it’s a lovely environment with 13 indoor pools, many with hourly activities as well as a waterfall, loungers and in-pool massage nozzles.

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Menzenschwander Wasserfalle / Waterfall and The Black Forest itself

On the final day of our trip the snow we had been hoping for finally arrived. The beautiful forest transformed from the dark and dense wood we had been used to into a snow dusted fairytale. Starting in Hinterzarten, we drove towards Menzenschwander waterfall; a quiet, almost hidden spot with one of Germany’s top waterfalls.

The drive was one of the most scenic routes we took all week, the trees on either side of the road and looking like something from a movie, it’s easy to see how many fairytales originated in this area.
Luckily there were a lot of spots to stop and take in the views along the way and we took full advantage. There are a large number of well marked hiking trails to choose from as well, but it does get dark fairly easily in the forest so make sure to start out early and stick to marked paths.

 

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https://www.blackforest-tourism.com

Top Christmas Markets in The Black Forest | Black Forest Christmas Markets

Germany is famous for it’s Christmas Markets, even in the UK most of the major cities from London to Manchester claim to be hosting ‘German Christmas Markets’; so I’ve always been keen to see the real thing and find out what’s so good about them.

The Black Forest is a beautiful region at any time of the year, but in Winter it really does become particularly special as every town comes alive with lights and decorations and the markets pop up in the main squares drawing in tourists from all over the world. Considering how popular these markets are, I was pleased to find that they weren’t overly busy, walking round was a leisurely activity and you weren’t having to beat your way through crowds to reach the stalls.

Whilst the theme of romantically lit wooden stalls and festive lighting is common throughout the various markets in The Black Forest, they all manage to maintain individual charms with unique offerings. I’ve put together my top Black Forest Christmas Markets, with a recommendation as to who they suit the most…or do as we did and visit them all!

Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best for activities – Freiburg

Freiburg is in it’s 46th year of Christmas markets, and it is a really marvellous day out for all the family. Approaching the market the smell of the sausages sizzling and the Glühwein is a delight for all senses. The market extends along a number of streets and offers many gifts including knitwear, sweets & baked goods and jewellery, but one of the main attractions here is the option to see the creation of some of these gifts at a number of stalls.

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I loved the candle workshop on Franziskanerstraße. With the option to either decorate a candle or make your own from scratch, I opted for the latter and let me tell you it’s not as easy as it looks. The wick requires dipping around 500 times, by which time my candle was looking decidedly wonky, luckily the staff on hand helpfully suggested I could just decorate a ready made one. The dipping of the candles in coloured dyes was equally fun and we were able to come away with a more festive looking creation. There is a bakery on Kartoffelmarkt which allows children to make their own biscuits as well as a glassblower who, after demonstrations, is more than happy to let you have a chance to join in yourself.

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Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best for that something a little bit different – Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market

Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market takes the trophy for the most picturesque location for a Christmas Market. Located directly underneath a viaduct in a gorge in the south of the Black Forest, it’s a dreamy spot that’s hard to beat. It’s home to around 40 stalls with a fairylight lit entrance leading to the viaduct itself which shines from a distance in deep purple. There’s some great food on offer including pulled pork sandwiches served with sauerkraut of course, and selections of chocolate dipped fruit, as well as some great gifts including hand carved wooden kitchenware.

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Stunning location aside, what really sets this market apart from the others is the completely unique way to reach the viaduct. Starting at Kurhaus Hinterzarten from around 445pm, for a small fee you can join the delightful fire torch lit walk through the valley. Taking around an hour, and suitable for most walking abilities, it’s an atmospheric amble towards the market. As soon as the group were outside the built up area, we were given flame torches to guide the way, and there were a number of stops on the way for stories and even carol sing-a-longs. The path lit up by the torches really did look magical and made the already beautiful route to the viaduct even more enjoyable. The culmination of the walk is a bonfire made of all the torches before you’re able to go in and enjoy the stalls. It’s an incredibly unique experience and Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market is definitely one of the top Christmas Markets in the Black Forest.

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https://www.hochschwarzwald.de/weihnachtsmarkt

Black Forest Christmas Markets – Best For Young People – Karlsruhe

Karlsruhe Christmas Market is spread around the centre of town into a few main areas. The spread out nature gives it a relaxed atmosphere without feeling too crowded. Near the town hall is the pretty ferris wheel alongside pleasingly photogenic stalls, it’s a popular area for young people to enjoy a mulled wine and stays open fairly late into the evening.

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The second, and largest area of the market takes place on the market square and is a delightful illuminated area with a range of food and gift stalls. There’s a wonderful shop near the centre of the market selling every Christmas decoration imaginable; it’s like a proper Santa’s workshop complete with traditional wooden decorations and even a large sleigh display outside perfect for photo ops. It’s here that the crowds gather every evening to watch the main event and something that makes the Karlsruhe market unique, a full size Santa flying across the sky in his sleigh. Whilst he makes a few journeys throughout the evening, at around 530pm he makes his main journey complete with sounds and a story in the air to delight the young ones.

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Der Kirchplatz St. Stephan is the dedicated children’s area, with a floor made of wood chippings and life size models of characters dotted around the square. The highlights here however are the almost eerily lifelike models in glass boxes depicting fairy tales and stories inspired by the Black Forest; there’s Hansel & Gretel, Snow White & even a Sleeping Beauty, complete with a realistic chest going up and down as she breathes.

Finally in front of the beautiful palace is the ice rink. It’s an open air rink, with lovely views of the palace and it’s grounds, and it’s a great size meaning you won’t be getting in people’s ways if you’re not the best skater! It’s one of Germany’s largest open air rinks at over 1000m squared, and surely has one of the best backdrops, as the palace is lit up at night time meaning you’re able to skate in front of a piece of history.

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https://www.karlsruhe-tourismus.de/en/Media/Veranstaltungen/Karlsruhe-Christmas-Market

Hope you enjoyed my guide to the Black Forest Christmas Markets.

The Black Forest – There’s so much more than Gateau…

One of my TV shows features me excitedly walking towards a cake museum whilst announcing that ‘anyone who knows me, knows that my ideal day involves some kind of cake’, and it’s true!

Cake is used to celebrate lots of occasions, birthdays of course, Christmas, I once got some work experience at a PR firm by delivering them a cake with a picture of my holding my CV on it. You can imagine my delight then when I was invited to an event that not only involved cake but also my other love…travel!

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The tourist board for the Black Forest were celebrating the launch of their exciting new Facebook hub @visitblackforest by inviting a group of fellow travel and cake lovers to the Underground Cookery School in Hoxton to learn about the region and also to learn how to make the famous cake named after it. The Black Forest Gateau.  I’m always excited to visit new places and the Black Forest isn’t somewhere I have visited yet but for many reasons is up there on my list.
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It’s just over an hour’s flight from London making it quicker to get to than Edinburgh. It’s therefore convenient enough to be perfect for a short break, but still having more than enough to do to fill a much longer trip.
I was fascinated to try some of the snacks and wines from the area as we all arrived at the school. A plate of meat, cheeses and breads in Germany is called a ‘Vesper’ and it turns out that a Vesper is the ideal sharing plate. We had a whole selection of sausages, cheeses and pickles to share alongside a number of Black Forest wines to choose from. A German wine actually is one my top favourite whites and the Black Forest is a fantastic stop for any wine lover.
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I’ll admit my knowledge of the Black Forest before the event was limited, I know where it is, perfectly located for exploring inside Germany yet on the border of France and Switzerland, but I wasn’t aware of quite how much it had to offer. The landscape is incredible, rolling hills and so much to do for the outdoor lover; hundreds of hiking trails and incredible hotels/guesthouses such as wooden tree houses for that unusual overnight stay. On top of that it’s home to a strong culinary heritage and you’ll be treated to a range of top restaurants as it’s city ‘Baiersbronn’ is home to two restaurants with three Michelin stars and was described by the New York Times as one of the ‘world’s most unexpected restaurant capitals’. Plus in Winter it takes on yet another face, with Christmas markets taking place in both the cities and the forests, and snow activities like tobogganing and snow shoe trails.
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The activity at the event itself was incredibly fun, it was a lighthearted but hands on event, with lots of fun loving people invited and we all enjoyed it thoroughly. The Black Forest is obviously keen for us all to realise that there’s a lot more to the area than Gateau, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t enjoy the cake too.
The sponge cake is cut into three pieces, before adding sugar water and schnapps to each layer, for flavour but also to keep moisture in the cake. Chocolate, cherry and whipped cream are added in concentric circles followed by decorative chocolate curls and cream whips on the top.
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For me the Black Forest sounds like an excellent trip that I will have to embark on soon, as someone who loves outdoor activities, top end food and wine, and incredible scenery…it’s definitely my kind of place….SO WATCH THIS SPACE!
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If you want to learn more about the area visit the new Facebook hub
Facebook: @VisitBlackForest https://www.facebook.com/visitblackforest/
or say hi on Instagram: @visitblackforest #visitblackforest