City panorama of Fribourg
City panorama of Fribourg© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption

The Black Forest beckons

Nestled between the Rhine river and the French and Swiss borders, Germany's Black Forest region is one of the most beautiful places in Europe, offering breath-taking landscapes, hiking, wellness retreats, wine-tasting and more. The perfect get-away destination for you and your friends!

The Black Forest as a place of longing

The Black Forest region occupies a special place in the hearts of people the world over. Located in the far southwest corner of Germany, at the point where three countries converge, it is a place of magic and wonder prized throughout Europe for its geographic and cultural diversity, great weather (yes, you read that right!) and accessibility.

Panorama of Baden-Baden
Panorama of Baden-Baden© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption
Market on the "Münsterplatz" in Fribourg
Market on the "Münsterplatz" in Fribourg© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption

The university town of Freiburg

The undisputed capital of the Black Forest region is the vibrant university town of Freiburg. And with 30,000 students joining the local population of just 230,300, it really is a university town, with everything that entails – not least bicycle-busy streets and a thriving nightlife. There are plenty of student haunts to choose from among the bars and restaurants clustered around the historic Martinstor gate in the centre of town.

The absolute must-do activities include a trip to the famous farmers market on the Cathedral Square (Münsterplatz), a tour of the venerable cathedral (Freiburger Münster), and a stroll through the streets and cobbled lanes of the old town using the Freiburger Bächle – an amazing network of narrow, paved streams – as your guide.

And there’s no better place to end your walk than atop the delightful Schlossberg hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views from the comfort of the beer garden.

Panorama of the "Kaiserstuhl"
Panorama of the "Kaiserstuhl"© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption

The Kaiserstuhl hills: Germany’s little slice of the Mediterranean

Just a hop, skip and a jump from Freiburg, affording views of the Rhine and the border with France, is the Kaiserstuhl – a 557-meter-high range of volcanic hills formed somewhere between 18 and 15 million years ago. The name, which literally means ‘Emperor’s Seat’, is believed to refer to King – and later Emperor – Otto III, who held court in the region back in 994. But the Kaiserstuhl’s main claim to fame is its decidedly un-German climate. The Rhône Valley funnels warm air up from the Mediterranean, resulting in balmy weather that promotes plant life generally more typical of Southern Europe – most notably grapes. With its ideal climate and fertile volcanic soils, the Kaiserstuhl region produces truly fine white, red and rosé wines. But don’t just take our word for it – you can do your own research on a tour of the region’s numerous wineries.

If you’re more of a sporty type, a great way to discover the region is to take a weekend hiking trip or cycling tour. And with postcard-perfect medieval towns like Endingen in and around the region, there are plenty of superb options for food and accommodation along the way.

"Kurschloss" in Baden-Baden
"Kurschloss" in Baden-Baden© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption
  • Further down the Rhine you’ll find Baden-Baden, Germany’s answer to Bath. The spa town, with a population of around 55,000, had its heyday in the 19th century. Nobles and landed gentry would come from far and wide to ‘take the waters’ in the town’s grand thermal baths and spend an evening living it up in cosmopolitan style in the Baden-Baden Casino. This imperial splendour is still very much in evidence, and the beautifully preserved thermal pool architecture has won Baden-Baden protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. An extended walking tour of the town is an absolute must.

Popping across the border to Strasbourg, France

Just across the Rhine is Strasbourg, the vibrant capital of Alsace, a region that has shuttled back and forth between Germany and France for centuries. The city is bursting with cultural and historical attractions, all within easy walking distance. Highlights include the majestic Strasbourg Cathedral with its towering main façade, the Grande Île island precinct in the city’s historic centre, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. A stroll through the well-preserved old town with its medieval half-timber architecture is pure magic at any time of day, and the food brings together the best of German and French cuisine.

Just 64 km to the south and somewhat overshadowed by Strasbourg’s fame is the city of Colmar, with its equally well-preserved medieval architecture. Perhaps the main attraction here is the Unterlinden Museum, featuring the newly restored, world-famous Isenheim Altarpiece. Other highlights include the Église Saint-Martin (St Martin Church), the picturesque Little Venice neighbourhood with its charming bridges and half-timber houses, and the Maison Pfister (Pfister House), with its octagonal turret and external timber balconies.

One Trip - Three Countries
View of the Capital of Culture Basel
View of the Capital of Culture Basel© DAAD/Daniel Reuber Open fig caption

Onwards to Switzerland: Basel, city of culture

From Colmar it’s just a short trip south across the Swiss border to Basel. With a population of around 175,000, Basel is Switzerland’s third largest city, and widely regarded as the country’s cultural capital on account of its many museums and rich cultural offerings. Perhaps chief among these is the Fondation Beyeler museum of modern and contemporary art, with its ever-changing line-up of world-class special exhibitions. It’s worth a visit for the building alone, which was designed by the noted Italian architect Renzo Piano. And if that’s not enough culture for you, there’s also the Museum of Cultures Basel and Antikenmuseum Basel (museum of antiquities) – or you could go on a tour of the city and take in the many public art installations.

In terms of sightseeing, there’s Basel Cathedral and its “Pfalz” viewing terrace, the town hall, and the Mittlere Brücke (Middle Bridge), which offers spectacular views of the city and the Rhine. And if modern architecture is your thing, you absolutely must see the Roche Towers. The 50-storey Roche Tower 2 is one of the most energy-efficient office buildings in the world.

Basel also offers plenty of nightlife, with no end of bistros, restaurants, bars and clubs to choose from in the historic old part of the city.

So, there you have it. You’d be mad not to give this enchanting part of the planet a visit. The Black Forest region has so much to offer – you’re sure to find what you’re looking for, whether it’s nature, culture, or nightlife. What’s more, a trip to the surrounding tri-border region will reward you with something you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere else in Germany: the chance to discover a whole lot of Europe in the space of a long weekend, and without paying an absolute fortune.

Happy travels!

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