When you think of Germany, does your mind fill with thoughts of Cuckoo clocks, dense forests a la Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and a certain decadent cake made of chocolate and cherries with loads of whip cream on top?
If so, the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is definitely where you should head! And you’re in luck — this area will certainly give you plenty of room to explore without depleting your bank account.
Located in Germany’s southwest area, the Black Forest stretches from Baden-Baden, Germany’s own Monte Carlo spa town, to the border to Switzerland, up along the Rhine River and almost all the way to Lake Constance.
Exploring the Black Forest region on a budget
Although this region is a great place to visit for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, it also has lots to offer culture lovers, with plenty of castles, museums, and old churches to choose from. Follow our tips to help you save on your Black Forest adventure.
How to Get There
If you’re flying to the Black Forest region from outside of Europe, you have several options. Germany’s biggest airport, Frankfurt International (check out our Frankfurt budget guide), is about 90 minutes by train to the northern portion of the Black Forest. Zurich and Stuttgart also have international airports around two hours away or closer, depending on which part the region you would like to. Two other options to consider, especially if you are traveling from within Europe, are the airports Karlsruhe-Baden Baden and Basel-Mulhouse, which are close to Freiburg. Both of these smaller airports service discount airlines, such as Ryan Air and Easy Jet.
All cities in the Black Forest region can also be easily reached by either train or bus. If you plan on doing quite a bit of exploring, you may also want to look into renting a car.
Ways to save
Be sure to book all airplane, train, and bus tickets as far in advance as possible. Prices can go up considerably the closer you book to the actual travel time. Compare prices between train travel and discount bus lines, such as Flixbus to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Unless you have a specific destination in mind, you may also want to check and see which city is the cheapest to reach, and then go from there.
Things to do
Although Baden has many quaint cities to enjoy, no trip to the area is complete without a jaunt out to the Black Forest itself. We’ve gathered the following guide with ideas for city trips that include lots of nature nearby.
Heidelberg is home to Germany’s oldest university, which was founded in 1386. But this charming city is more than just a university town. Heidelberg is popular the world over for its baroque-style old town and its romantic setting on the Neckar River. For more, check out our budget guide to Heidelberg.
When in Freiberg, be sure to follow in the footsteps of the great philosophers and poet of the past by taking a hike up the Philosphen Weg (Philosopher’s Path). To get there, take one of the bridges across the river and hike up the switchbacks. It takes a bit of time, but the views are worth it. If you haven’t yet had your fill of hiking, the area also has lots of different hiking trails to explore.
Accommodations: Search more than 150 hotels in Heidelberg
Another of Baden’s famous university towns, Freiburg boasts a beautiful old town with Bächle, cobblestone gutters filled with running water. But watch out! If you fall into one of these gutters, legend has it you’ll marry a local. Just try explaining that to your significant other. For more, check out our Budget Guide to Freiburg.
Freiburg’s beloved Hausberg (local mountain), Schauinsland offers many hiking trails that will put you in hot pursuit of Hansel and Gretel — just don’t nibble on any gingerbread houses. On a clear day, you can even see the tips of the Swiss Alps from here.
How to get there
Schauinsland is in region 3 of the Freiburg transport network, so it can be easily reached by public transportation. Take a tram in the direction of Gunterstal to the very end, and then switch to the bus by the cable car (Schauinslandbahn). The cable car will take you on a fun trip further up the mountain, but the tickets are a bit pricey (return tickets €12.50 for adults, €9 for children), so you might want to skip it. For more information about hiking trails and transportation, check out the Schauinsland website.
Also located in region 3 of the Freiburg transport network, Lake Titisee is a beautiful alpine lake nestled high up and hills of the Black Forest. You’ll find plenty of trails around this lake, which stretches over a mile. Titisee village is a bit of a tourist trap, so no need to check it out unless you’d like to stock up on a bit of Black Forest kitsch and maybe a Cuckoo clock or two.
How to get there
To get there, take the train to Titisee-Neustadt from Freiburg. The trip takes a little under one hour.
Accommodations: Hotels and vacation apartments in Freiburg
Baden-Baden is a famous spa town whose thermal waters have offered a relaxing soak since the Roman age. In the 19th century, this town was famous for its luxury hotels, casinos, and horse races, making it a swank playground for Victorian-era celebrities.
Baden-Baden is also close to the Schwarzwald Nationalpark (Black Forest National Park), which includes around 40 square miles of forests, glacial lakes, and spacious meadows straights out of a storybook.
How to get there
To reach this national forest by car, take the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse (Black Forest High Road). You can also get there by taking the Line 245 bus to Mummelsee and then either hike the seven miles in or sharing a taxi for €16 to €20. The trip takes a little over one hour.
Freudenstadt is located on the other side of Black Forest National Park. This quaint city has an old market square where you can see parts of the foundation of a castle that was never built. The town also boasts a Gothic-Renaissance church and plenty of sunshine year-round. Like Baden-Baden, Freudenstadt is also a wellness town, so feel free to “take to the waters” like an old-school European aristocrat when you visit.
The Baden Wine Route
Forget cuckoo clocks — the best of what the Baden region has to offer is its wine and cuisine. If you’re a wine lover, it’s worth checking out a stretch of the Baden Wine Route. This route takes you through the vineyards near many of Baden’s cities, including Heidelberg, Freiburg, and Baden-Baden.
Tips for saving on a trip to the Black Forest
Stay outside of Baden-Baden
Although Baden-Baden is worth a visit, this upscale town is a little on the pricey side for the budget traveler. When opting for a place to stay, you’d probably be better off choosing Freiburg or Heidelberg as your base and traveling from there. If you do want to stay right in town, there are a few affordable options depending on the time of year you book. Search more than 220 hotels for your trip to Baden-Baden.
Eat at bakeries and beer gardens
Besides wine, the Baden region has great bread and regional dishes. To save on meals, why not pick up a little something at a bakery for lunch and have an inexpensive meal at a beer or wine garden for dinner? Some local specialties you should definitely check out include maultaschen (large ravioli usually served with butter and onions or in a soup), spätzle (soft egg noodles, cheese and onions — basically Southern Germany’s tastier and lighter version of mac and cheese), and, of course, the world-famous classic, Schwarzwald Torte (Black Forest cake).
Pick up a tourist card
If you spend several days in either Freiburg or Heidelberg, you may want to look into purchasing a local discount card. Freiburg offers the 3-day WelcomeKarte, which gives you free transportation on all buses, trams, and trains, and includes a free trip on the otherwise pricey Schauinsland cable car. The WelcomeKarte costs €26 for adults and €16 for children 14 and under. Heidelberg also offers the HeidelbergCARD for up to four days as well as the 2-day Family card.
If you’re planning on doing a lot of traveling on one day, the Baden-Württemberg-Ticket might save you some dough. With this ticket, you can travel in the 2nd class wagons of all train in the region for 24 hours. The more people in your party, the greater the savings. For example, tickets for one person cost €24, while a ticket covering five people costs €48. Children 14 and under ride free.
The post Germany: How to explore the Black Forest on a budget appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
Source: Euro Cheapo