Photo Guide of the Black Forest

A Region of Majestic Natural Beauty, Folklore, and Fairy Tales

Black Forest valley

 Britus/Getty Images

Rolling hills dotted with old farmhouses and traditional wineries, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls - the Black Forest in the Southwest of Germany has it all.

Known as the Schwarzwald in German, this is one of the oldest and most popular holiday regions in Germany. The vast expanse of wooded mountains and green valleys stretch from the famed spa town of Baden-Baden to Switzerland in the south to France in the west, covering an area of 4,600 square miles.

Besides its majestic natural beauty, this is a land of folklore and fairy tales and the setting for many legendary stories from the Brothers Grimm. The chiming of cuckoo clocks and legends of mermaids distinguish this region as a magical land. Click through our picture guide to Germany's Black Forest.

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Listen to the Charming "Cuckoo" of Black Forest Clocks

Cuckoo clocks on a wall

For many people, the Black Forest is synonymous with its ornate cuckoo clocks.

The first cuckoo clocks were made in the 18th century in the region of Triberg. They were soon popular around the world and remain a desirable souvenir from Germany today.

Clock fanatics can take the scenic route of the German Clock Road (Deutsche Uhrenstraße). This route traces the history of the Black Forest cuckoo clock, leading you to traditional clock manufacturers and the historical clock museum in Furtwangen.

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Look for Traditional Farm Houses

A traditional Black Forest house
Markus Lange/Getty Images

Visitors to the area will find traditional farmhouses throughout the Black Forest. From the foundational beams to the shingled roof, floors and walls, everything is made from Black Forest timbers. Many farms are a pension (bed and breakfast) and offer the opportunity to stay in a traditional Black Forest home and enjoy their hospitality.

Little towns like Gegenbach and Zell am Harmersbach have lots of traditional half-timbered houses topped with colorful shingles and tiles typical for the region. For a bigger city version, Freiburg offers all the charm of the Black Forest with the convenience of a city.

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Explore the Ruins of Hohenstaufen Castle

Castle Staufen in Black Forest
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The ruins of Burg Hohenstaufen sit on top of a mountain and is picturesquely surrounded by vineyards. Originally built in the 12th century, it was burned down 500 years later by Swedish troops. That is all that remains today, but the ruins still represent what this grand castle looked like in its prime.

A nearby attraction is the medieval town of Staufen im Breisgau. This is the site of the story for Dr. Faustus who made a deal with the devil.

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Sail on the Biggest Lake in the Black Forest

Black Forest's Schluchsee in Baden-Wurttemberg
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Schluchsee is the biggest lake in the Black Forest. In summer this is a great spot for bathing and sailing. In winter, the area around the Schluchsee is well-known for cross country skiing and ice skating.

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Explore Vineyards

Vineyards at Kaiserstuhl Black Forest
Dennis Fischer Photography/Getty Images

A former volcanic mountain in the western Black Forest has been turned into a giant vineyard. This region, called Kaiserstuhl, literally translates to "Emperor’s Chair". It enjoys the warmest climate in Germany and it is the third biggest wine growing area in the country.

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Stop in the Wine Village of Oberrotweil

Vineyards of Oberrotweil in the Black Forest
Heinz Wohner/Getty Images

The wine village of Oberrotweil is nestled in the hills and vineyards of the Kaiserstuhl and is a perfect example of the region's allure. Along with great wine, it is a destination for hikers.

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Spot Traditional Costumes

Freiburg traditional costumes
Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

The trademark of the traditional Black Forest outfit is the Bollenhut, a hat which is only worn for special occasions. The hat's quintessential pom-poms can be red or black and the colors hold a meaning; red is for single, black is for married.

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Visit the Open Air Museum

Vogtsbauernhof in the Black Forest
Doug Pearson/Getty Images

The Vogtsbauernhof museum features traditional Black Forest houses, clothing, and crafts. The museum is located in the town of Gutach and offers a fascinating introduction to the culture, history, and traditions of the Black Forest. Here you can watch skilled seamstresses create the traditional Bollenhut and kids can enjoy the farm environment.

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Look for the Mermaid in Mummelsee

Black Forest Mummelsee
Markus Lange/Getty Images

Located in the north of the Black Forest, Mummelsee is a crystal clear, almost perfectly round mountain lake that dates back to the Ice Age. According to a legend, the 55-foot deep lake is inhabited by a Nixe, a mermaid. Look for her as you swim its beautiful waters.

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Take Part in Traditional Wellness

Traditional Black Forest bath

The Black Forest is famous for its many spas and wellness facilities. Baden-Baden is the country's most famous wellness spa, but there are many others.

The wellness park Bader Reinhard Bosch in the town of Freudenstadt offers a uniquely Schwarzwald treat with baths in traditional wooden tubs in the great outdoors. 

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Eat Black Forest Specialties

Black Forest Ham
Jeremy Keith

A typical Black Forest meal often consists of Schwarzwälder Schinken (Black Forest Ham). Well-known outside of the country, it is best enjoyed at its source where it is still dried and smoked over Black Forest timbers.

Pair that with good German cheese and dark bread with a local white wine for a snack. Or if you are on the go, pick up a traditional wurst (sausage) like the Lange Rote in its birthplace of Freiburg.

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Go to the Largest Theme Park in Germany

EuropaPark Ride
Michele Tantussi/Getty Images

Germany’s largest theme park (and Europe’s second most visited after Euro Disney) is located in the Black Forest. Brimming with mini-foreign lands, food and drink and about a dozen hair-raising roller coasters, this park has entertainment for the whole family.

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