Jan. 11, 2023

Travel Germany: The Black Forest

In the Travel Germany series, different places across Germany are featured in interviews with expats who relocated there. With their insider tips and suggestions about why they love their new home, you'll have plenty of ideas for when you visit Germany.

Today we are exploring my backyard, the Black Forest.

Although I live in the city of Freiburg, I'm surrounded by the luscious, mysterious, and year-round charmer that is the Black Forest. The Black Forest in its entirety spans 6000 square kilometers, so we'll focus on the area accessible to the north and east of Freiburg, the Hochschwarzwald, or high Black Forest.

Lucky for me - and in this case for you - one of my closest friends in Freiburg is Jenny. Jenny spends all of her free time exploring the Hochschwarzwald by foot, by bike, by train, and by bus. In fact, she loves the area so much, two years ago, she left Freiburg city life behind for an idyllic countryside life in the Feldberg area. Her area boasts being the highest elevation inhabited area in all of Germany!

Jenny came on the podcast to share her best insider secrets for the Black Forest.

Explore the Lakes

Schluchsee

Take the tourist train from Schluchsee to Rothaus Brewery - great for kids! OK I admit it, I would totally do this too. You can also hike or bike to the brewery. When you’re there, enjoy some of the Black Forest’s best beer.

Stroll through the town of Schluchsee and then make your way to the viewing point tower, where you can see the whole lake and beyond - even to the Swiss Alps on a clear day!

For the joggers among us, sign up for the Schluchseelauf in May. You can run either about 10 km or 18 km, but be warned, the elevation makes it pretty difficult!

And the best activity of all - when it's a hot summer's day, just hang out and have a little beach party.

Titisee

  • Walk the 5.8 km loop around the lake, then end your hike at Gaststätte Bootshaus for some delicious Black Forest treats, like a slice of Black Forest Cake.
  • Shop for cuckoo clocks and sheep goods along the main street

Get Elevated

Herzogenhorn

This is the second-highest mountain in the Black Forest, though some people, such as Jenny, prefer the view from here. It’s less crowded and has more uninterrupted views of the Swiss Alps. You can find plenty of hikes and information on Komoot or the Schwarzwald Tourism website. The Deutsche Bahn app will show you which bus takes you here. Just give “Herzogenhorn” in as your destination.

Feldberg

This is the highest mountain in the Black Forest, known for amazing views of the Swiss Alps, Freiburg and surrounding region, and the Black Forest as well as some nice downhill skiing options. There’s plenty to do in Feldberg year-round, such as hike down to Feldsee.

Afterwards, make your way to Raimartihof Feldberg for a delicious snack or meal, or a well-earned drink.

Insider Tips

Bike to Swiss Border

Take your bike on the train ‘til the Schluchsee Seebrugg stop. Then make your way to Waldhaus Brewery via Häusern and Höchenschwand. Waldhaus Brewery is a great stopping point for lunch, and their beer is my personal favorite of all the Black Forest breweries. From there, it’s an easy downhill to Waldshut-Tiengen, where you can relax at a cafe in the historic city center. 

If you’ve got energy left, bike along the Rhein River to Laufenburg. This cute village is special because it straddles the border! Half of it is in Germany, half of it is in Switzerland.

From there, you and your bike can ride the regional train back to Basel and then transfer to a train back up to Freiburg or beyond.

Saig

Saig is just such an idyllic, peaceful Black Forest village! Jenny’s best find yet has been the Jufa Hotel in Saig. I’m sure it’s also nice to stay there overnight, but we’ve enjoyed just going to their restaurant. The patio has a breathtaking view, and your eyes won’t know where to go as you can see Feldberg lighthouse, the Black Forest, Saig itself, and all the way to the Swiss Alps.

Traveling via Train: Höllentalbahn

The Höllentalbahn, which translates to Hell’s Valley Train, is the best way to get from Freiburg to Titisee or Schluchsee. Bus connections take you from various stops along the train line to destinations like Feldberg or Herzogenhorn. Trains run to Titisee every 30 minutes and to Schluchsee every 60 minutes. Check the Deutsche Bahn website for up-to-date schedule information and for information on bus connections.

This train ride is regularly ranked among the prettiest in Germany and even all of Europe. I think you can see why! Part of the ride takes you over Ravennaschlucht, pictured here, host to my personal favorite Christmas Market, the Ravennaschlucht Weihnachtsmarkt.

Achtung: if you’re going to Schluchsee, make sure you’re on the right half of the train! The train splits at Titisee and half goes to Neustadt, half goes to Schluchsee. If you’re unsure, check for the signs or ask someone.

 

Are you inspired yet? In over years in Freiburg, I've never gotten bored of hopping on the train and exploring the Hochschwarzwald. Any time of year, it's a delight - and in just about all weather conditions, too. I can't hype it enough.

For all these tips and more, listen to the episode.