Black Forest, Germany
Updated: Jan 29
Hikes in dense evergreen forest, Grimm’s fairy tales, spa towns, picturesque villages, cuckoo clocks & black forest gateaux, all the things we were hoping to find in Germany’s Black Forest, and it did not disappoint.
Spanning 160km, from the spa town of Baden-Baden near the French boarder in the north of the forest, down to the largest town of Freiburg im Breisgau and Titsee lake in the south of the forest, spanning across towards Lake Constance on the Swiss boarder.
You could spend weeks and weeks exploring the forest, but if like us you only have one or two, you will still have time to see some of the highlights.
In this article
Transport & Accommodation
Costs & budget
Where we visited
Freiberg im Breisgau (Freiberg)
Transport & Accommodation
We travelled around in our VW camper van and found driving in Germany easy enough. We always familiarise ourselves with the driving rules in a particular country before setting off and find the RAC website gives you a good overview.
We used the app ‘Park4Night’ to scope out all of our campsites and park ups. You can download the free version to search for stops and services and even save them in favourites to be able to access them again later. Along with adding reviews and new stops. We pay €9.99 a year (or you can pay €1.99 a month) which removes adverts and allows you to use the application offline, which can be useful when your off grid and struggling for signal.
Costs & budget of Germany in a campervan
On average a large beer (not a stein!) sets you back around €4, €1.50 for a scoop of ice-cream, €2 for a coffee and main meals vary from €8 for a Flammkuchen* at a casual café/restaurant, up to €20 for grilled meat or fish at a fancier restaurant or in a particularly touristy area.
*Flammkuchen or ‘Tarte Flambee’ is a speciality from the Alsace region. Similar to a very thin crispy pizza base but covered with fromage blanc or crème fraiche, topped with sliced onion and bacon lardons. They are delicious!
We had a budget of £100 a day and were able to stay within this, averaging at about £93 a day. We ate out either lunch or dinner most days and didn’t hold back sampling the local beers. We didn’t however, spend much on entrance fees or tourist attractions. Whilst we stayed in motorhome park ups rather than campsites, most of these carried a cost between €10-€15 for a 24 hour stay.
The cost of diesel in Germany was roughly €1.95-€2 a litre.
Where to visited in the Black Forest
Where to stay in the Triberg, Germany
We stayed at daHeim, a camping hostel. As we were in our van we parked up in one of their motorhome spots in the carpark. We paid €26 a night, including the €3 pp city tax, for electricity and use of the hostel’s toilets and showers. We were also given a free Triberg guest card* when we checked in. If you don’t have a van, you can stay in one of their indoor camping options. They basically have a mix of caravans, tents, camping pods & huts inside what looks a bit like an aircraft hangar…certainly different and actually looked quite fun!
*The guest card gave us access to the waterfalls, Triberg land, the Black forest museum, the Instagram Museum ‘Triberg Fantasy Land' and the local swimming baths.
Things to do in Triberg
If Cuckoo clocks are your thing, Triberg is not to be missed, the town is full of them! The house of 1000 clocks attracts reams of tourists and whilst it is a spectacle, we found the shop next door to be a much nicer experience. All the clocks here are actually wound up and working, although set to different times so that the cuckoos appear across the hour and not all at the same time! The lady who worked there was more than happy to talk to us about the history of the family of clock makers, set the clocks off for us to see and let us stand a watch for quite a while when we clearly had no intention of actually buying one!
Another popular attraction is the Triberg waterfalls. It may be because it was the height of summer and so there had been little rain but the waterfalls were not very impressive! It’s a nice area and there are a few walking trails you can do from there, but I can’t say we were particularly blown away. They may be more impressive in the winter when there has been more rain or are even frozen. We also read reviews that said they are lit up at night which no doubt would have been pretty but it closes at 6pm and obviously in the summer it is still very much light then! There are red squirrels living in the forest near the falls but we didn’t see any. I suspect this was more to do with a very noisy family who happened to be visiting at the same time as us! If you are in Triberg then there’s no harm in dropping by but don’t plan your whole Black Forest trip around the Triberg falls!
The Triberg guest pass also gains you entry to Triberg Land which was very cute and worth a visit. There are about 15 miniature village scenes, some of which have buttons that you can press to make certain elements move.
We missed the Black Forest museum and didn’t fancy the Triberg Fantasy Land, so cannot comment on these.
One night is enough time to explore Triberg as it isn’t that big, and the main attraction here are the cuckoo clocks.
Freiberg im Breisgau
(or more commonly known as just Freiberg)
Where to stay in a campervan to visit Freiberg
We made a motorhome park up just outside the town our base for two nights. Although it didn’t have any toilet or shower facilities, it did have free bins, water, grey and black waste and electricity available at 0.75 cent a KWH, and it was in a good location for cycling into the city. It took about 15 mins on cycle paths/lanes the whole way and was reasonably flat. At €13 a night it wasn’t anything special but did the job for us. One thing to point out is that it is like a carpark, you don’t get a lot of outdoor space and boy do they pack the vans in!! It didn’t bother us too much as we just wanted somewhere to get our head down, but it is certainly not a camping experience!
Things to do in Freiberg
Freiberg is much bigger than Triberg and has a lot more to offer. If you don’t have time to do both, I would drop Triberg and make sure you have time to spend at least a day in Freiburg.
Visit the beer halls
You are in Germany so it would be rude not to sample a pretzel and a local beer or two in a beer hall or pub. We sampled these four when we were there…
Schlappen (a pub)
We’ll be honest and say we were attracted to this place as we thought the name sounded funny, immature I know! A very busy pub with tables inside and out, serving a range of local beers and German fare. We tried spaetzle, a pasta dish (a bit like gnocchi) with bacon lardons and onion, washed down with a couple of beers.
Men beware, you are in for a fright when you go to the toilets....I'll let you discover what lies beneath!
Biergarten Brauerei Feierling
Probably our favourite. A large beer garden that seemed to be busy from open to close but with a constant turnover, so you don’t need to worry about not getting a table. We were there in the summer and the weather was great, but there are some tables under cover if it rains and they do have a pub on the opposite side of the street, so I would imagine they open that in bad weather & the winter months. Great lively atmosphere, lovely staff and a few options of their own beer. They also served local food here but we only sampled the pretzel (bretzels in German) and so cannot comment, but it looked nice.
Didn’t have the same buzz as Biergarten Brauerei Feierling when we visited but there was a live accordion player and you can actually have a stein here to really get into the German spirit, whereas at the other places 500ml is the biggest beer served. Again, some food on offer, but it was less traditional pub style and more burger van.
A brewery with large indoor pub and outdoor seating. We sat outside but there were people inside and the pub looked really cool. I think it would be very fun in the winter. Their brewers create a beer of the month to match the season; August was a citrus number. Really nice food menu, a bit more on the pricey side but large portions. We actually shared a main course and the staff didn’t bat an eyelid, in fact they offered us a second plate so we could split it easily.
Take a walk up to the castle hill tower - Schlossbergturm
The tower which has three platforms and 153 steps can be reached by a pretty steep climb up the hill that takes about half an hour. There is a cable car that takes you part way up if you couldn't manage the full walk. You can reward yourself on the way back down with a stop at Kastaniengarten beer garden.
You can't go far in Freiburg without stumbling across Freiburger Münster. The beautiful gothic cathedral's construction started back in 1200. You can climb the 333 steps to the viewing platform in the cathedral spire. The cathedral still to this day dominates the sky line so if you are ever lost in Freiburg its a good way to get your bearings!
Freiburg Munster sits in Munsterplatz. This large square walled with half timber buildings often hosts festivals; whilst we were there the 49th Freiburg Wine festival was on. For research purposes only of course, we had to sample a few. Some were very good, some were not so much to our taste but our favourite was frozen wine! An adult shlushy! We thought the white was better than the red, but I'd recommend giving both a go! When the wine festival is not on you can find the frozen wine at Alte Wache, a wine shop in the square.
When wandering the streets of Frieberg's old town you will soon notice what looks like huge gutters running down the sides of the streets. Dating back to the 13th century the Bächle once served as a water supply to the town. Whilst the original purpose is now obsolete, water still runs from the Dreisam river (we were there following a drought so unfortunately they were dry!) providing cool water on a hot summers day to dip your toes in, or for children to sail little boats down! Superstition has it that if you accidentally step into the Bächle you will marry a Frieberger!
The city gates
Originally there were five city gates but now only two remain, dating back to the 13th century despite calls for demolition of the gates to make way for motorised transport, Lord Mayor Otto Winterer, shortly after taking office in 1888 declared them of historical importance and ruled the two gates were to remain in situ.
Cheap eats in Freiburg
A great place for a budget meal, offering a whole host of different cuisines Brazilian, Italian and Middle Eastern to name a few. Of course there is a wurst stand if you haven't had enough yet and Martin's Brau serves up the beers.
The small town of Schiltach with its traditional timber framed houses is a true delight. We only stayed one night here, taking a few hours to enjoy the pretty town and surrounding forest.
We parked in a free motorhome park-up carpark which allowed 24 hour stays. No facilities, but there were free toilets in the tourist information centre in the centre of town, only a 5 minute walk away.
Another short stop in the town of Calw. Again, traditional in its architecture & with a mostly pedestrianised centre, Calw is a lovely spot. The town is famous as the birthplace of German author and Nobel Prize Winner, Hermann Hesse.
'We stayed in another free motorhome park-up, a 15 minute cycle ride, down clearly marked cycle paths, into town. It had free grey & black waste emptying facilities & water and electricity for a small fee.
Firstly, what a brilliant name for a town! The name alone warrants a visit in my eyes!
Where to stay in a campervan to visit Bad Wildbad
Another park-up but this one had a charge of €15 for a 24 hour stay. Free grey and black waste disposal facilities but paid water and electricity. When our ticket printed it also included a token that gave us a free guest card, that could be collected from the tourist information centre, that then gave a discount to some attractions and public transport.
The walk into town is through a lovely park that hosts tennis courts, a children’s playground, public toilets and a couple of restaurants. The town itself is quite small with most of the shops, cafes and restaurants along one street. The tram also runs down this main street.
Things to do in Bad Wildbad
You can take the Sommerberg Funicular, which runs twice an hour, up the hillside to the Sommerberg Plateau. The funicular cost us €5.50 return, with the €1.50 discount we got with our guest card.
Up at Sommerberg there are a number of activities you can do:
- Enjoy a walk around the forest.
- Baumwipfelpfad Schwarzwald – a boardwalk through the trees leading up to a 40m viewing tower that boasts spectacular views over the forest.
- Wildline Hangebrucke – a 380m suspension bridge 58.67m above the ground, again giving lovely views across the forest and making you feel as though you are among the trees. We did this one, and whilst not an absolute must if your budget will not stretch, it was fun.
- Bike park – you can hire bikes and enjoy the forest tracks.
- Large outdoor play area – there was a cool looking playground for the younger members of the party to enjoy.
In the town itself you can visit a spa but we decided to wait until Baden-Baden for this experience so I can’t comment on the spas here.
The spa town of Baden-Baden is famed for its thermal baths. The word bad in German literally translates to bath so the town name gives it away a little! Baden-Baden is now quite modern, but the architectural history has been preserved. Boutique shops line its pedestrianised centre and there are many places to dine out. We found Baden-Baden to be pricier than its neighbours so although we did stop by the Lowenbrau for a drink we opted not to eat out here so can't comment on the quality of any of the restaurants but there was a number of nice looking places.
Where to stay in a campervan to visit Baden Baden
Another German town, another motorhome park-up! Again, this one was roughly a 15 minute cycle, along cycle paths into the town. The park up cost €12 for 24 hours with a maximum stay of 4 days, & once again there was free black and grey waste disposal and paid for electricity and water.
Spas Baded Baden
The two main spas are Friedrichsbad and Caracalla. Friedrichschbad is a traditional spa and is ‘textile free’ i.e. no swimwear is allowed and so the bathers are naked.
We opted for Caracalla, a modern take on the traditional spas. The downstairs area where there are different temperature pools, both indoors and outdoors, Jacuzzis, steam rooms and plenty of sun loungers to relax on, is a clothed area so everyone wears swimwear. The upstairs area that houses the saunas also has a steam room, a bathing pool & Jacuzzi and is a non-textile area. You can choose a 2 hour, 3 hour or all day entry ticket from between €17.50 - €27 if you just want to enjoy the downstairs area. To make use of the sauna area upstairs it costs an extra €5.
We chose the all day ticket which I would definitely recommend. If you are really short of time you could perhaps opt for the 3 hour ticket but I think you would be very hard pushed to relax and fully enjoy all the pools on offer in 2 hours.
We spent an enjoyable morning downstairs trying out the different pools that varied in temperature from 18°c to 38°c and featured different pressured water jets and waterfalls. There is also two steam rooms, a traditional standard steam room and a brine steam room. There is a nice restaurant downstairs that serves both alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks and a really good range of food. On the pricey side, as you would expect, but large portions and really good quality food. The only downside that I found is that they do not serve tap water or have water fountains in the spa so you are forced to pay what is an extortionate price for bottled water. I think this is very disappointing considering what you have paid for the entry fee and the fact it is so important to keep hydrated when spending time in hot pools and steam rooms. There were signs saying no drinks were to be taken into the bathing area, but I saw a few people with water bottles and would definitely take one if I were to go again.
The changing rooms are unisex but there are small changing booths for privacy. Large lockers are provided free of charge in the changing rooms for your bag and there are also small lockers pool side for personal belonging that you might want on the loungers such as your phone, glasses or book/kindle. The restaurant is cashless, you pay using your entry wrist band and then settle the bill on the way out.
The showers and toilets are actually through the changing rooms and are in the pool area. These are split into male and female.
After lunch we ventured upstairs to the textile free, sauna area. I will admit that I was a little anxious about taking my swimwear off in front of others, but we decided to go up and see what it was like with the view that we could always leave again. You take a small spiral staircase up to some frosted glass doors. As you enter there are two walls of small square storage cubes and a sign asks you to remove your swimwear and leave it in a cube. You are allowed to bring a towel and keep this wrapped around you, which I did.
If you don’t want to see other people naked then this area is not for you. However, if you are comfortable with others nudity and your only hesitancy is taking your own clothes off, I would highly recommend you go up and give it a go. Honestly, no-one batted an eye lid about the situation and there were people of all ages, shapes and sizes.
There is a mix of saunas that range from 57°c to 95°c. Some are in the main building and others are in wooden chalets outside. You are expected to keep your bare skin off the sauna steps so if you are happy to sit naked, you use your towel to sit both your bottom and feet on. If you wish to keep your towel wrapped round your body, which is fine to do, you must sit on the bottom step of the sauna so that your feet are on the ground.
There is also a pool, Jacuzzi, some delightful freezing cold plunge pools and a steam room in this area. Whilst I remained a little conscious of my nakedness and didn’t get to the point where I was happy to walk about naked, I was able to nip under the showers, dip in the plunge pool and go in the steam room (it was very steamy so don’t think anyone would have seen me anyway!) without my towel without feeling too exposed.
There was a café upstairs serving non alcoholic drinks and was, oddly, slightly cheaper than downstairs!
We had a wonderful relaxing day at the spa and would highly recommend the day ticket.
Our last stop in the Black Forest was Heidelberg, the oldest university town in Germany.
Where to stay in a campervan to visit Heidelberg
We actually parked up on a small residential street right next to the river, about half an hour walk into the old town. Again, we found this on the park4night app. There were obviously no facilities but there were some public toilets that were open until about 10pm just a couple of minutes walk along the riverside.
The walk along the river into town was lovely and there were many people enjoying picnics, playing games and sun bathing on the river bank. There were also hundreds of geese! We’d never seen so many in one place before.
The town boasts plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants, along with ice cream parlours and fast food joints (mainly delicious middle eastern kebab houses).
We walked up to the palace/castle to get some stunning views over the town and river. It was a pretty steep walk up so if you don’t fancy that there is a funicular that runs up the hill. If you want to explore inside, entrance to the palace was €9 including the funicular.
We spent a day wandering around this beautiful town, relaxing by the river and enjoying the summer events. Whilst we were there we stumbled across a small festival with live music ran by the local beer company and a Latin American pop-up bar, DJ & dance floor. We don’t know what it was in aid of, but we certainly enjoyed the vibes!
This rounds up what was a very enjoyable 10 days in Germany's Black Forest.