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Exploring Germany's magnificent Black Forest: What to see and do


Typified by the Rhine Valley and home to breath-taking natural regions, quaint villages and gorgeous lakes, there's much more to the Black Forest than the dessert that carries its name.

The Black Forest is one of the most enchanting, enigmatic and talked-about destinations in Germany, and for good reason. Combining untouched natural beauty with the irresistible charm of Baden-Württemberg’s traditional townships, this scenic region is unequivocally, unapologetically German – and that’s before you get to its mouth-watering local cuisine and long-held association with the Brothers Grimm.

Those seeking a true Germanic experience will find it in the Black Forest. Here, fairy tales and folklore make every step and new discovery truly magical, while the region’s inspiring natural highlights promise moments of total serenity, and a welcome escape from the everyday.

To inspire your visit to the Black Forest, here we explore some of the woodland’s foremost highlights, as well as the experiences you can look forward to as part of an Emerald Waterways river cruise.

A Germanic Icon: Discover the highlights of the Black Forest

Dramatic scenic peaks, towns lined with timber-framed houses, and dense woodlands steeped in myth and folklore; the Black Forest is everything you’ve ever imagined and more. Here, we explore the highlights and wonders of this enigmatic woodland, from its biodiversity to its renowned associations with the Brothers Grimm.

Natural Beauty

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While the Black Forest is home to a handful of traditional townships and villages, much of this densely forested region is a designated national park. In 2014, some 10,000 hectares of woodland between Baden-Baden and Freudenstadt became the Black Forest National Park, with local authorities giving land over to rewilding.

Today, the Black Forest teems with life, both ancient native flora and rare species of birds, deer, foxes, badgers and elk. This, coupled with the Black Forest’s mountainous landscape, make it one of Germany’s foremost beauty spots – with natural highlights including the landmark mountain of Feldberg, the glacial lake of Titisee, and the powerful Triberg Waterfalls.

Black Forest Gateau

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Think of the Black Forest, and the first thing that springs to mind may not be mountains and woodland, but the region’s iconic dessert: Black Forest gateau. Originating in the 16th century, this beloved sponge has since become an enduring symbol of Baden-Württemberg’s famous forest – its rich blend of chocolate, cream and Kirsch showcasing perfectly Germany’s deep love for all things sweet.

While the origins of Black Forest gateau tail into the annals of history, the classic dessert we know today was created in 1915, by acclaimed pastry chef Josef Keller. Keller’s gateau was the first to incorporate Kirsch, elevating the flavour of cherry and cementing the name ‘Schwarzwälder Kirsch’ or ‘Black Forest Cherry’. Today, you’ll find Black Forest cake throughout Baden-Württemberg, and naturally, it’s an absolute must.

Clockmakers of the Black Forest

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Owing to its surplus of wood and natural resources, the Black Forest has long been associated with crafting and woodwork, and one of the most iconic creations to originate in the region is, of course, the cuckoo clock. Historians believe cuckoo clocks have been made by the skilled craftsmen of the Black Forest since at least the 17th century, with the earliest iterations of this beloved German centrepiece being made entirely from wood – including the mechanism.

Black Forest clockmaking is much more than just a novel. By the 19th century, the region’s expert clockmakers had started using Germany’s lucrative trade routes to export their wares across the globe. Indeed, it’s believed that by 1905, around 50% of all clocks exported around the world came from the Black Forest – such was the proliferation of the craft.

The legacy of the Brothers Grimm

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The Black Forest is one of the most storied regions in southern Germany, with a myriad of myths, legends and folk stories inspired by its tranquil woodlands and chocolate-box villages. It was here that two of Germany’s most revered storytellers, the Brothers Grimm, sought inspiration, and now, the forest will forever be associated with Gothic fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel and Hansel and Gretel.

Though the Brothers Grimm weren’t originally from the Black Forest region, they’re known to have visited the woodland often in search of inspiration for their now-iconic fairy tales. Owing to the huge influence the two writers had on shaping the folklore associations of the Black Forest, the region is now home to a designated nature trail known as the Fairy

Experience the Black Forest with Emerald Waterways

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Journeying through Baden-Württemberg on the Rhine River, you’ll have the opportunity to discover the wonders of the Black Forest, with a handful of immersive experiences that showcase the natural splendour and enduring folklore of this enchanting woodland. Here, we take a look at the Black Forest excursions you can enjoy as part of an Emerald Waterways river cruise on the Rhine.

Black Forest Gateau Presentation

If, like the locals of Baden-Württemberg, you have a sweet tooth, you’ll love our Black Forest gateau presentation. This memorable EmeraldPLUS experience sees you learning more about the history and origins of the forest’s signature dessert from a local guide, before seeing how it’s made and, perhaps most importantly, sampling the results. Whether you enjoy food, history or local folklore traditions, this wonderful event promises a little of all three.

Guided hike through the Black Forest region

Those who prefer a more active itinerary can join an expert guide for a bracing walk through the Black Forest. Ascending peaks and hiking through dense woodlands, you’ll experience the beauty of these ancient woodlands while hearing stories and learning more about the forest’s native species. Our experienced local guide will show you the highlights of the Black Forest on a carefully-constructed hike that sees you passing some of its most revered beauty spots, as well as some of its best-loved villages and historic towns.

A visit to a traditional Black Forest destination

Experience the charm, traditions and heritage of rural Germanic life with a visit to one of the Black Forest’s most traditional and historic destinations. Here, you’ll encounter the timber-framed buildings, cobblestone streets and gabled taverns that come to mind when you think of the fairy-tale Black Forest, and have an opportunity to visit local stores and workshops where skilled craftsmen continue to carve items which have been locally-produced in the region for generations – including the iconic cuckoo clock.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to the beautiful Black Forest. For your chance to visit this enchanting region as part of an Emerald Waterways river cruise, take a look at our collection of Rhine river cruise itineraries or call our team today on 0808 250 1963.