Germany’s Black Forest and surrounding areas offer beautiful landscapes, summertime highs of 25 degrees, fairy-tale towns and one of Europe’s best theme parks. But what’s it really like as a summer holiday destination?
I’ll admit, I’ve never started planning a summer holiday and thought “let’s go to Germany”. Yet, when I was invited to explore the south-west of the country a few weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised!
Along with family blogger Natalie from Plutonium Sox and the winners of the Fly Baden holiday competition, I explored several very different parts of the Baden region. Starting in spa town Baden-Baden, we then visited the Black Forest, the university city of Karlsruhe and rounded off our trip at theme park Europa-Park. The best way to see this part of Germany? On a road trip of course! After all, this is a seriously beautiful part of the world – somewhere you’ll definitely want the freedom to stop for a few photos along the way!
Baden-Baden was put firmly on the map after the Romans discovered thermal waters there. By the 1800s, the spa town was frequented by royalty, celebrities and the world’s elite. They enjoyed extravagant holidays in upmarket surroundings, while enjoying the healing properties of the water.
With this in mind, there was only one thing for it – I had to visit the spa! Caracalla Spa is no ordinary spa. The stunning architecture features a large glass dome, several pools, steam rooms and a Roman saunascape (be warned – clothing is NOT permitted in the sauna!) It’s pretty spectacular and 19 EUR buys you a 3 hour pass – more than enough time to unwind and relax. One of my favourite things is that it’s open until 10pm so you can have a nighttime swim if you fancy!
I also enjoyed spending time on Lichtentaler Allee – the lush park area that runs along the River Oos. It was a beautiful place for a wander, plus as night falls, it’s the top place in town for an al-fresco dinner. I spent the evening at Rizzi WineBistro & Restaurant where the menu featured sushi, seafood platters, truffle burgers and wiener schnitzel. I was starving so went for a huge, tasty burger. Not only did I love the setting on the terrace, I also really liked the chilled out soundtrack provided by the DJ!
The Black Forest
At over 6000km squared, The Black Forest isn’t somewhere you can cover in a few days! However, with limited time you can enjoy some scenic drives, walks and adventure activities in amongst the pines and firs. As we drove along the Black Forest mountain road we saw epic tree-filled landscapes, lakes, fairy-tale castles, and chocolate box towns. It was stunning… and easy to see why the views had inspired the Brothers Grimm to write their fairy tales.
We travelled past a huge reservoir surrounded by trees, and when I spotted a dam casting mirror reflections, I just had to stop for a photo!
We spent the morning at ski school Mehliskopf which doubles as an outdoor adventurer’s dream in the summer! For 4 EUR you can hop on a toboggan and enjoy the alpine coaster. The most fun thing about it? You control the speed so there’s a chance to pick up some serious speed if you’re brave enough!
For 23 EUR we took on the mental and physical challenge of the tree top adventure park. I’ve been zip-lining several times but I’ve never done anything like this! After a very thorough safety briefing we were let loose in the trees and started to hop over moving platforms, zip-line 14m above the ground and manoeuvre fun elements such as the flying chair! With the Fly Baden competition winners in tow, we had a giggle as we wobbled around.
It really was turning into a trip of extreme contrasts. After our outdoor adventures in the Black Forest we arrived in the university city of Karlsruhe. It’s one of the largest cities in the region, and famous for technology and art. I picked up a Karlsruhe Card (adults 18.50 EUR / Children 9.50 EUR) which gives you entry to top attractions including the Zoo, Karlsruhe Palace and the Botanical Garden, meanwhile the competition winners headed to the waterpark (which they said was a lot of fun!)
While researching Karlsruhe I discovered it inspired the layout of Washington DC. Yes, from the central area, the streets fan out in a semi-circle. It’s something you can only really take in from aerial photos like this one.
I spent a slightly wet afternoon checking out Karlsruhe Palace. Built in the 1700s, it’s a stunning building with spectacular grounds and manicured gardens. I climbed the tower in the centre and while visibility was low due to the rain, it resulted in a slightly mysterious, magical view! Even better though – the views of the palace at night! Over the summer the Palace hosts Schlosslichtspiele – a free illumination festival with nightly projections by different artists. It was amazing to see how many people turned out for it and some of the projections were stunning.
After a delicious cocktail in uber-sophisticated cocktail bar Carlos (where I accidentally ordered a drink with 53% rum!) we tucked into a tasty dinner at stylish burger joint Hans im Glück. It was heaving with a really mixed clientele – students, families, couples. While they specialise in burgers I felt I couldn’t have ANOTHER burger after the previous night! I went for an enormous chicken salad which came topped with parmesan, seeds and small sprouts. Natalie and I shared a huge portion of crisp sweet potato fries and worked our way through the dedicated mojito menu!
The final stop on this trip was at Europe’s second biggest theme park resort after Disneyland Paris – Europa-Park. Despite huge visitor numbers, plenty of awards (including being named Trip Advisor’s Best Theme Park In Europe) it’s barely known in the UK.
I visited last year (read more about that here) and haven’t stopped singing its praises. Split into 14 country-themed areas, you can wander along the canals in Venice, pass black taxis and a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Globe in England, before checking out Russia’s Mir space station. I particularly liked the Scandinavian and Greek sections which genuinely made me feel like I’d left Germany!
I loved whizzing around on the park’s biggest rollercoasters Silver Star, Blue Fire Megacoaster and Wodan, before exploring a brand new section themed around Ireland. I also had the opportunity to try out their latest venture into Virtual Reality rollercoaster technology. You may remember I trialled VR tech last year when they were still developing it. Now, customers can purchase a “Coastality” ticket to enjoy enhanced rides on Alpenexpress and Pegasus. For me, this really is the future! Rides that would be considered tame in comparison to bigger rollercoasters in the park are transformed into thrilling, adrenaline-filled, interactive experiences. I loved it.
When it comes to food Europa-Park really is leading the way. Within the park there are restaurants serving several different cuisines to an extremely high standard. Not to mention 2 Michelin Star restaurant Ammolite! How many theme parks boast a restaurant on that level?!
As I didn’t make it to FoodLoop last year, I stopped there for lunch on this trip. It’s a restaurant which delivers your meal by rollercoaster! Pure novelty… but genius none the less.
I was SO impressed by how diverse this region of Germany was. With stunning landscapes, tonnes of fun adventure activities, an awesome theme park and great food – it ticks almost all the boxes for a great summer holiday… if only it had a beach!
Where I Stayed
Baden-Baden: Hotel Merkur is located on a cute side street, with flowers everywhere, and close to the key sights.
Karlsruhe: Ten minutes walk from Karlsruhe Palace is Achat Plaza, a smart business hotel with a great breakfast!
Europa-Park: The luxurious Hotel Bell Rock offers flavours of New England with fully-themed décor, a great pool, restaurant and cocktail bar. I stayed here last year too and loved the fact the family rooms have bunk beds disguised as boats!
How To Get There
Ryanair flies direct from London Stansted to Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden. Prices start from £14.99 each way, and the journey takes 1 hour 35 minutes. Once in Germany, the best way to get around is by car.
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