Known for its association with Brothers Grimm fairy tales, evergreen enchanted forests, charming villages, and of course, the delicious dessert which is the namesake of this area in southwest Germany, Black Forest lies right next to Frankfurt and is a haven for nature lovers, wine enthusiasts and fairy tale lovers! Although one might spend as much as a week with a relaxing itinerary, with the limited amount of time that we had on hand, we could spare only 3 days in Black Forest, with a rushed itinerary and not enough time to explore everything that we would have liked to. Yet, I have learned the art of fitting the best of everything in a short span of time, which is why I’ve crafted this itinerary for the perfect 3 days in Black Forest, Germany.
The best way to explore the vast plethora of natural wonders & vibrant towns in Black Forest is by road, and it’s a known fact that driving in Germany is an absolute pleasure for anyone. Not only can you experience the exhilaration of driving at 200 kmph+ speeds, but also the joy of meandering through rolling green wilderness & the flexibility of stopping to explore some of the prettiest forest towns or vineyards the country has to offer.
My itinerary for 3 days in Black Forest starts from Frankfurt, which is where we landed and spend the evening before we set out to explore.
Day 0: Frankfurt
Black Forest is best visited from Frankfurt and while using public transportation is an option, there’s nothing that can match with renting a car and driving for the next 3 days in Black Forest.
Here’s how you can spend Day 0 at Frankfurt:
- Römerberg: Best place to start your day, in the heart of the Old Town, between the colorful half-timbered houses
- Cross the famous Eiserner Steg bridge and enjoy unparallel views of the city’s skyline
- Frankfurt Cathedral & Paulskirche: stunning medieval architecture
- Walk around the financial district: take a picture with the giant Euro sign
- Enjoy a glass of Apfelwein (apple wine) in Sachsenhausen
Suggested hotel to stay in Frankfurt: Flemings Express Hotel Frankfurt
Day 1: Heidelberg & B500
On our 3 days in Black Forest itinerary, our first stop was Heidelberg (1 hour drive from Frankfurt). I’m a sucker for forts and palaces and Germany has some of the most fairy tale ones. A town that was magically protected against the Second World War bombings, if you are a fan of Baroque architecture and Renaissance castles, you cannot miss Heidelberg!
You can easily spend 2 hours absorbing the fascinating history of this stunning town, starting from grabbing a coffee and enjoying the atmosphere at the old town or Altstadt that rests in the shadows of the castle on the hill. Here’s where you will find cobbled stone pedestrian streets lined with several historical landmarks, patio cafes and a laidback vibe.
Of course, one cannot miss the looming Schloss Heidelberg perched 80m above the town. There are 2 ways to go up to the castle, either walk or take the funicular rail. While the palace gardens are free to visit, there is a minimal fee of 9,00 € to tour the interiors. The views from the terrace of the castle are spectacular!
After visiting the castle, walk down towards the 200 years old Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) and cross over to the other side, where you could relax by the riverside or head to the east side, where you can walk along a two-kilometre path on high ground, presenting views over the city and Schloss Heidelberg across the river.
Another 1-hour drive from Heidelberg is the spa town of Baden-Baden. While you can stop at Baden-Baden on day 1 of your 3 days in Black Forest, I would recommend to keep it for the last day instead, when you are returning to Frankfurt. On this day, driving the B500 and stopping along the way to cover the amazing forests, waterfalls and romantic towns will take up your time. You will, however, pass through Baden-Baden before taking the famous Black Forest High Road (B500).
B500 is known to be one of the most scenic highways in Germany. Your first stop on this road is only 20 min from Baden-Baden, a charming hiking trail to the Geroldsauer Waterfall. This is where you can enjoy the Black Forest to the most; amidst dense green foliage, you will find an easy walking path down to the waterfall and back up to the car park. The circular trail takes about 1 hour maximum and is 3 kms only.
From here, head to Lake Mummelsee, another 30 min ahead on B500. A lot more touristy than the waterfall, you will find a restaurant here overlooking the lake where you can enjoy some famous Black Forest dessert or other delicacies of the area. You can also embark on a trail along the lake or simple enjoy boating in the calm waters. While it is not one of the prettiest lakes I’ve seen, it is a nice, quiet place to enjoy a stopover while driving B500.
If time allows, visit All Saints’ Abbey and Allerheiligen Waterfalls, another 20 min ahead of Lake Mummelsee on B500. Even if you’re not into history, the abbey is a pretty cool place to explore. Ruins of an early-gothic monastery that withstood the test of ages, All Saint’s Abbey is well-preserved and awe-inspiring, even though much of it is gone. From here, you could just walk along the river following a well-marked trail towards the bottom of the gorge, where you will find what is called the All-Saint’s Waterfall or the Allerheilig Wasserfälle. Allow for about 1 hour to experience this picturesque place in its entirety.
While this may well be the time that the sun starts to set, if you still have the opportunity, drive another 25 min ahead to the Lake Ellbachsee viewing platform. This is where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the coniferous forests of this region from a wooden platform located above the forest floor. On your first night in the 3days in Black Forest, you can stay in Gutach Valley, in a stunning mountain village.
Recommend place to stay in Gutach Valley: Gästehaus Ursula
Day 2: Gutach Valley, Triberg Falls, Lake Titisee
Spend some time at the lovely guesthouse, which is located on the banks of a lovely stream. Enjoy a peaceful breakfast in the heart of Black Forest before you leave for the first stop of the day - House of 1000 clocks near Triberg, hardly a 20 min drive.
While this shop is quite touristy, it’s one worth visiting because of its stunning location and beautiful décor, as well as their collection of cuckoo clocks. From traditional to modern, every imaginable design is on display here. It’s the perfect place to buy a souvenir or a gift for your family/ friends back home.
From here, head to Triberg town, where you can park your car and grab a quick coffee and black forest cake before heading to Triberg Waterfalls. The waterfalls are located just above the main village near the tourist office and form Germany's highest waterfall, in a series of cascades. A protected area offering several hiking trails, one can easily spend 2-3 hours here. There is a fee to enter the area and one can choose their hiking trail based on the difficulty level.
From Triberg Waterfalls, head to Lake Titisee, about 45 min drive ahead on B500. Much larger than the lakes you’ve seen so far in Black Forest, Lake Titisee is quite popular with families. You’ll see families swimming, boating, or just sunbathing here. There are several restaurants, cafes and shops located right next to the lake so you can easily spend 1-2 hours in this area, enjoying some water activities and a meal.
Once you’re done and ready to move, drive another 30 min to one of the most charming and magical places in Black Forest - Zauberwald-Pfad. Personally, this was my highlight in the 3 days in Black Forest. A magical forest path that leads you for 2.5 kms amidst lush moss, ferns, tall trees, wild berries, gushing streams and fairy-tale characters, this place is bound to transport you into another world. Walking on the wooden path is pure joy and doesn’t require any fitness levels. The location is slightly difficult to find as there are no road signs leading to it but if you put the name exactly as is in your GPS, you will be led to the entrance of this enchanted forest. Prepare to be captivated here for no less than an hour, clicking breath-taking photos in a place that truly explains why this region is called ‘Black’ forest.
If you still have some time left in the day, and are an adventure seeker, head to Hasenhorn Rodelbahn in Todtnau, about 25 min from Zauberwald-Pfad. A mountain coaster/ summer toboggan that you can ride 2,9 km down into the valley on rail-guided sledges, the ride allows you to set the pace yourself. Funny waves, steep curves and three great roundabouts ensure a ride full of surprises. A chairlift brings you to the top from the parking area for the ride. Make note that the place closes early (4.30 pm in summer/ fall) so visit here only if you’re able to make it in time after the long itinerary.
Spend the night at Freiburg, a 40 min drive ahead. One of my favourite towns in Black Forest, I highly recommend you spend a night here walking the romantic, medieval cobbled stone streets of Freiburg im Breisgau’s Altstadt or old town. The town is absolutely fascinating in terms of its architecture and the vibe here is quite spirited too. Dominated by the Freiburg Münster, the cathedral with the massive but elegant spire at the heart of the medieval city centre, one can climb to its 116-meter-high spire for a splendid view of the city. Alternatively, if it’s already dark by the time you arrive, just spend some time walking around the pedestrian streets, dodging the trams, and admiring the ecclesiastical Gothic style of the buildings.
Suggested place to stay in Freiburg: Cosy grey apartments
Day 3: Freiberg, Gengenbach, Baden-Baden, Frankfurt
Start your day by enjoying a nice meal at Freiburg im Breisgau’s Altstadt. If you are a wine enthusiast, visit Staatsweingut Freiburg, a winery located just outside Freiburg (10 min drive). Here you can taste and buy some excellent wines produced in the local wineries of Black Forest.
From here, I highly recommend you visit my second favourite town in Black Forest, Gengenbach. The colorful architecture of this romantic town is bound to blow you away. Located between the woods and vineyards, the cobbled stone streets with the timbered houses and the church spire make for a place that is straight out from a folk lore. Wander around the Old Town (Altstadt) to enjoy the historical atmosphere. Pass sights such as the Röhrbrunnen, an iconic fountain depicting a knight, and the steep orange spire of the Kinzig Gate Tower. Search for the remains of the old fortifications, which circle the town. Gengenbach is about an hour from Freiburg.
Finally, it’s time to visit Baden-Baden, only 45 min away from Gengenbach. Known as the chic spa town located on the foot of the Black Forest, the town is a haven for those who fancy a dip in its famous salt- and radon-rich thermal hot springs. One of the best outdoor thermal pools in Baden-Baden is Caracalla Spa Thermal bath. You can buy the ticket at the entrance itself, no need to book in advance. Needless to say, the best time to visit this thermal pool is when the weather is slightly chilly, and a ticket for 3 hours will set you back by 20,50 €.
At the end of the day, return to Frankfurt or proceed onwards to another city.
Other inclusions you may consider in 3 days in Black Forest (you’re likely to need more than 3 days):
- Burg Hohenzollern: An impressive and imposing hilltop castle, it’s quite a detour from the B500 route we follow in our 3 days in Black Forest but might be worth it, considering how stunning the architecture is.
- Lake Konstanz (or Lake Constance): Is slightly ahead of Triberg (1.5 hours) is the largest lake in Germany and is also bordered by Austria and Switzerland, offering staggering views of the Alps, fringed by numerous old lakeside towns and attractive villages.
- Strasbourg: An hour towards the opposite side of Triberg from Lake Constance is this beautiful French town which is as magical as any German fairytale village. Blending the architecture and culture of Germans and French, crossing the border over for this one might not be a bad idea at all.