Germany is full of quaint villages, cosmopolitan cityscapes, and millions of people, but that does not mean it is devoid of green space. There are almost 100 official Naturparks (nature parks) around the country that make up approximately 25 percent of the total land area of Germany.
Always a welcome respite from city life, a visit to the many parks are especially welcome during the glorious Herbst autumn months of September, October, and November. The changing of the leaves is a spectacular sight—just be prepared for the frequent weather changes, including rain showers. Whether you are looking for a place to explore in your own Stadt (city) by foot, bicycle, or kayak, or planning a scenic drive through one of the beautifully wooded regions, there are many great places to see autumn leaves in Germany.
Schwarzwald, the world-famous Black Forest, is the birthplace of German fairy tales (although the authors, the Grimm Brothers, found their final resting place in Berlin). It's also the largest nature reserve in Germany, with an area of 2,320 square miles (6,009 square kilometers). Densely covered in evergreens, the Black Forest has enough changing foliage along its rolling landscape to provide a cornucopia of fall colors.
Popular towns and destinations within the region include: Baden-Baden, Freiburg, Gengenbach, the Wutach Gorge, Haslach, Staufen, Schiltach, Schwäbische Alb, Titisee and Schluchsee lakes, and Triberg Waterfalls. The Festspiel Baden-Baden takes place in early October each year, featuring opera and classical concerts.
If you are planning a drive, the Bundesautobahn A5 federal motorway (European route E35) offers a major artery through the forest. Look for signs marking Schwarzwaldhochstraße, the Black Forest Highway B500, which spans just 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Baden-Baden to Freudenstadt. The 199-mile (320-kilometer) Deutsche Uhrenstraße (German Clock Route) also offers a picturesque loop for leaf-seekers traveling by car. This route along the A5 reaches about 30 communities like Offenburg, Freiburg, and Villingen-Schwenningen.
The largest and oldest public park in Berlin, the German capital, was once only open to the Royals. Known as the Tiergarten, the park was the hunting grounds of the electors of Brandenburg before Friedrich I, the first Prussian king, provided access to the park by building roads throughout. Note that the trees in the park only date from World War II; following the war, Berliners were forced to cut down the city forest to survive the icy winter months.
Located west of the city center, the park takes up about 520 acres and offers over 14 miles (23 kilometers) of pathways to walk, bike, or run among the flora. It's also a good spot to have a picnic while viewing the fall colors. Check out the Straße des 17. Juni street, which splits the Tiergarten into two parts and features red and yellow trees. There is an admission fee of about $19 per adult or $44 for two adults with children.
German Wine Road
The German Wine Road in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate) is the oldest of the country's tourist wine routes and an idyllic drive throughout the frequently sunny days of the year. But no time may be more lovely than in the fall. Coinciding with many of the region's wine festivals, such as Stuttgarter Weindorf, which takes place in August and September, the changing of the leaves offers an additional pop of color.
The route begins in Bockenheim in southwest Germany. Look for the yellow signposts that say Deutsche Weinstrasse. You will travel through 50 miles (31 kilometers) of beautiful wine country until reaching the French border.
A popular destination for city-dwellers located just an hour southeast of Berlin, the Spreewald forest area has been called the “green lung” of the federal state Brandenburg. This UNESCO protected biosphere features towering trees looming over thousands of waterways and about 18,000 species of plants and animals call the area home. Take a guided boat tour or rent a kayak or canoe to explore the canals. Visitors can also go for a nature walk or bike, such as on the 8-mile (13-kilometer) route between the towns of Lubben and Lubbenau. This escape should not be forgotten in the fall. The impressive greenery featured throughout the summer takes on glowing yellow, oranges, and red hues as you glide along the canals.
Travel by car on A113, A13, and A15 motorways or by regional train from Berlin.
The section of Bavaria generally identified as Franconia is another special place to see autumn colors. Visit one of its charming cities, and walk the streets among the falling leaves.
One of the largest cities in Bavarian Franconia is Nuremberg off Bundesautobahn 2; in the Old Town you can check out Burgviertel (Castle Quarter) and its timber-framed houses built in the Middle Ages. Also, you may want to explore the Kaiserburg Imperial Castle, where Germany's Kaiser and kings lived between 1050 and 1571. Each fall in mid-September the Nürnberger Altstadtfest/Old Town Festival Nuremberg has more than 60 free events from music and theater to a fishermen's joust. At the same time, the Autumn Market offers food, drinks, and goods for sale.
Lüneburg Heath Nature Park
The Naturpark Lüneburger Heide is one of the oldest nature parks in Germany. Established in 1921 as a nature reserve, it has been expanded to more than four times its original area at 440 square miles (1,130 square kilometers). With a high proportion of woods, the park is one of the largest areas of protected woodland in the country and an ideal place to connect with nature in the fall. You will see everything from forests and wetlands to streams and rivers. August and September bring beautiful purple heather flowers to many parts of the park. Enjoy autumn markets where you can buy regional products and seasonal handicrafts like homemade jams, potatoes, honey, and more.
The park is located south of the Buchholz and north of Soltau and can be accessed by Bundesstraße highway 3 or Bundesautobahn 7. Within the park, the Lüneburg Heath Nature Reserve is a car-free area that offers carriages as well as bike and walking paths.