For centuries Germany’s forests have inspired writers, restored travellers and delighted nature lovers. Spending a few days at one of the Black Forest spa towns or nestled among the forested-Harz Mountains is a truly idyllic experience, which is why we’ve collected five enchanting forest retreats, according to international travellers.*
Fairy tales in Schierke, Saxony-Anhalt
Explore the Harz National Park in Saxony-Anhalt
Travellers who’ve read the Brother Grimm fairy tales will find the forest around the mountain-village of Schierke eerily familiar. The Harz National Park is covered with rushing streams and densely huddled spruce trees, creating an atmosphere that will have you half-convinced that Little Red Riding Hood is about to go skipping past – though reassured, it’s unlikely you’ll meet her Big Bad counterpart.
Not only was this area atmospheric and other-worldly enough to inspire the Brothers, it became famous in the early 20th century for its skeleton run. Today, dozens of hiking paths run through the forest and many of them lead to the top of the tallest peak in Harz: the Brocken. After a long day exploring, retreat to the Ferienwohnung in Schierke – overlooking the park – and make the most of the private sauna.
Foraging in Baiersbronn, Baden-Württemberg
Take a foraging tour of the Black Forest, near Baiersbronn
A tiny Black Forest town with almost as many Michelin stars as it has residents, Baiersbronn is a popular destinations for forest holidays and the town restaurants have collected eight Michelin stars. One of the reasons for Bairerbronn’s Michelin galaxy is excellent local produce, sourced directly from the forest.
As a result, foraging tours are growing in popularity. Booking a culinary hiking tour is an easy way to explore the Black Forest, where be able to collect some of the ingredients for local specialities such as wild chanterelles, pine needle-infused parfait and chocolate-dipped ivy leaves. You’ll also pass the Sankenbach Waterfalls –a 40 metre cascade southeast of Baiersbronn. Hotel Restaurant Falken is a good choice for hungry travellers, with their freshwater trout and distinctive Black Forest Ham.
History in Freudenstadt, Baden-Württemberg
Make sure to wander around the Freudenstadt market square
A small town with a not-so-small claim to fame, Freudenstadt was originally intended to be the site of a castle, built deep in the Black Forest. Plans for the castle were eventually abandoned however, leaving Freudenstadt with the largest market square in all of Germany. Visitors can make the most of this historic spot by checking into Hotel Krone, one of the arcaded houses that overlook the square which contribute to the town’s quaint yet timeless atmosphere.
Freudenstadt is known for the quality of its air and this health resort has played host to everyone from English kings to Mark Twain. The area surrounding Freudenstadt is covered with hiking paths and in the winter months the opportunities for cross-country skiing are unparalleled, while downhill skiers will find much to love at Stokinger ski resort. Whatever time of year you visit, make sure to climb the 25-metre-tall Frederick's Lookout Tower, for panoramic views of the Black Forest.
Waterfalls in Triberg, Baden-Württemberg
Visit the atmospheric Triberg Waterfalls in Baden-Württemberg
The colourful half-timbered houses in Triberg often see the town likened to the Bavarian-inspired architecture in Disney’s Snow White. Cobbled streets, woodcarvings and gigantic plates of hearty Black Forest fare compound the impression of stepping back in time, to a fairy tale-esque alternative reality. Although thankfully the town’s hotels have kept pace with the times and offer modern day comfort, such as that at Holzbildhauerei Kammerer.
Waking up to a mountain-backed views of the Black Forest is a spectacular way to start the day, a feeling that will only increased when you visit the town’s main attraction: the Triberg Waterfalls. At over 160-metres-high, these plunging waterfalls pass through seven different outcrops before a tributary trickles through Triberg itself. As the highest waterfall in Germany it’s a must-see for photographers and nature-enthusiasts alike.
Witches in Braunlage, Lower-Saxony
Hike through though the Dicke Tannen reserve, near Braunlage
One of Germany’s natural wonders, Dicke Tannen is a protected reserve composed of over 10-acres of statuesque spruce trees. Thanks to the mild climate provided by the Wolfsbach valley, these trees have survived for 350 years and can reach heights of up to 50 metres. The atmosphere of this magnificent park is suitably revenant and rumour has it that trees have holistic, healing powers.
The city of Braunlage itself gives hikers access to another ancient part of the area’s natural history; the 97 kilometre Harz Mountain footpath known as Harzer Hexenstieg or ‘The Harz Witches’ Trail’. This steep footpath takes you through many of the areas traditional associated with witchcraft, such as the Hexentanzplatz; a mountain plateau, the name of which translates to ‘Witches Dance Floor’. Experience forest life at Pension Haus am Wald, a traditional German country house on the edge of the Oberharz Nature Reserve.
**These destinations were the most highly rated by Booking.com customers for 'forests' in Germany.