The Essential Guide to the Black Forest

Baden-Württemberg’s Black Forest measures 124 miles from top to bottom, stretching magnificently from the spa town of Baden-Baden to the border of Switzerland. One of Germany’s most stunning natural landscapes, it’s been a popular leisure destination since the 19th century, especially among German and European nobility—and has served as the source of many a German fairy tale. In addition to 18,000 miles of hiking trails, which can also be used in winter for cross-country skiing, the area offers cycling routes and pristine lakes, plus top-notch spas, museums, and other cultural delights.

Schloßbezirk 10, 76131 Karlsruhe, Germany
Built between 1715 and 1718, the Baroque Karlsruhe Castle served as the residence of the electoral princes and grand dukes of Baden for more than two centuries. Designed by Jakob Friedrich von Batzendorf, the palace exterior is especially pleasing—not least because it was planned as the focal point of the city, with streets radiating out from all sides like wheel spokes (which in turn inspired Pierre L’Enfant, planner of Washington, D.C.). The castle also features picturesque pavilions and ornate wings, but for many the real highlight is the Baden State Museum inside. Opened in 1919 and generally regarded as the best in the region, the museum spans pre- and early history, with exhibits on the Ancient Greek and Roman eras as well as sculptures from the Middle Ages, a particularly celebrated art nouveau collection, and an impressive range of 17th-century Ottoman handicrafts.
Münsterplatz, 79098 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
While construction started on Freiburg’s iconic Gothic church in 1200, it wasn’t finished until almost 300 years later. Today, the cathedral is known mainly for its 380-foot west tower (famously described by art historian Jacob Burckhardt in 1869 as “the most beautiful spire on earth”), but also boasts magnificent pillars, intricate sculptures (including 91 gargoyles), and an equally stunning interior. Incredibly, the church survived several World War II bombings and still contains stained glass windows from medieval times, plus a high altar with an intact triptych by Hans Baldung Grien. The famous tower takes on an octagon shape as you climb to the viewing platform, where, on clear days, you can see across to the Vosges Mountains in France. Be sure to also check out the bell tower, home to the three-ton, 750-year-old Hosanna bell—one of Germany’s oldest.
Robert-Gerwig-Platz 1, 78120 Furtwangen im Schwarzwald, Germany
The Black Forest is famed for its cuckoo clocks, and the German Clock Museum (Deutsches Uhrenmuseum) in Furtwangen is the best place to get up close and personal with several examples. Here, visitors will find a collection of more than 1,000 iconic clocks, some 160 years old and others extremely rare, as well as troves of information on the history and technology of clock-making, including the concept of timekeeping. Visit the main exhibition to see items like an atomic clock, iron clocks from the 16th century, and the first-ever radio-controlled wristwatch, then check out the library and archive, which features books on horology from the local university. If you have kids in tow, be sure to also take advantage of organized treasure hunts for children, guided tours, and workshops on how to make and decorate a clock.
Badbergstraße 23, 79235 Vogtsburg im Kaiserstuhl, Germany
Located in the wine-growing region of Oberbergen, this long-running restaurant earned a Michelin star way back in 1969—and has held firmly to it ever since. Owner Fritz Keller’s family has been producing and importing wines since the 19th century, and Schwarzer Adler is very much an oenophile’s spot, with a list that spans around 2,500 labels (including bottles from the Keller estate as well as other European wines, with a focus on Burgundy and Bordeaux). The Francophile menu—designed by long-standing chef Anibal Strubinger (who continues to support the team alongside new head chef Christian Baur)—perfectly complements the wines, with dishes like liver pâté, lobster, and poulet Bresse with black truffles. Adding to the food’s classic feel, the dining rooms are old-fashioned and intimate, with wood-paneled walls and vintage tiled stoves. Service is friendly and efficient, and there’s a small terrace for dining outdoors in nice weather.
Schillerstraße 4/6, 76530 Baden-Baden, Germany
Opened in 1872, Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa enjoys a distinguished reputation throughout Germany and beyond. The Shah of Persia, the King of Siam, and a young King Edward VII all stayed here at one point, drawn by the hotel’s remarkable Villa Stéphanie—one of the most advanced, not to mention scenic, medical spas in Europe (it’s set within a picturesque park, bisected by the Oos River). Overall, the hotel balances five-star accommodations with an intimate ambience, thanks to the fact that it’s family-run and has just 104 guest rooms. Interiors are classic but welcoming, and include several stylish public areas and dining options, from the Wintergarten (for Mediterranean cuisine) to the newer Fritz & Felix (a more cosmopolitan restaurant-bar hybrid).
Titisee, 79822, Germany
One of several lakes in the Black Forest, Lake Titisee—a mile or so long and around 130 feet deep—is particularly picturesque thanks to its surrounding hills, mountains, and woods. At the lake’s main shore, about 20 miles east of Freiburg, visitors will find the small, laid-back town of Titisee-Neustadt, with charming boutiques, traditional cafés, and a few restaurants and ice-cream shops. Rent a rowboat to explore the lake, or come in winter to ski the mountains. The Action Forest Kletterwald offers six different climbing courses and two zip lines for kids, and most hotels in the area are family-friendly. If it’s too crowded in summer, head to the smaller but quieter Schluschsee Lake.
Hauptstraße 69, 79295 Sulzburg, Germany
This elegant family-run restaurant in the charming village of Sulzburg was founded by Hans-Paul Steiner and his French wife, Claude. Today, it’s helmed by their daughter, Douce Steiner, who, after learning the ropes from her father and then training in France, is now the only female chef in Germany with two Michelin stars.

Simply decorated with antique furniture, cozy carpets, and wooden walls hung with photos, the restaurant keeps the focus firmly on the food. The traditional menu ranges from fresh sea bass, turbot, and red mullet to duck, quail, and desserts like a divine chocolate cake with locally grown cherries, while the wine list showcases some 500 labels (Claude still works as the sommelier). Should you want to make a weekend out of your visit, head upstairs to the associated hotel, which offers comfortable rooms and breakfast in the restaurant every morning.
Karlstraße 42, 88045 Friedrichshafen, Germany
Felders Restaurant has a fantastic location right on the harbor, looking out over shimmering Lake Constance. Housed in the all-glass Medienhaus building, it features a contemporary, urban-feeling aesthetic, with a red-and-black color scheme, casual cafeteria seating, and large windows that allow for sweeping lake views. Visit in the morning for pancakes, muesli, and scrambled eggs, or come for lunch or dinner and look forward to everything from pasta, fish, and steak to vegetarian dishes, Thai soups, and tapas (Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. only). If you want to make an evening out of it, the equally hip bar area serves a fine selection of wine, beer, and cocktails, which you should enjoy on the terrace if the weather is good.
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