Though plenty of small towns and villages dot the Northern Black Forest, most are of little specific interest, though Bad Wildbad does offer an alternative spa town to Baden-Baden. Instead this region is best known for its scenic drives, including the Badische Weinstrasse, which travels through the strip of vineyards that line the Rhine Valley and is home to Europa-Park, Germany’s largest amusement-park. Just east, above the valley, another waymarked drive, the Schwarzwaldhochstrasse is considered the classic scenic drive in the Black Forest.
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The Badische Weinstrasse
The Badische Weinstrasse
The Badische Weinstrasse (Badische Wine Road), a 160km-long waymarked route that winds through the foothills of the Black Forest, cuts through vineyards and past ruined castles on its way from Baden-Baden to Freiburg. It’s an attractive alternative to the motorway corridor along the Rhine Valley for north- or south-bound travellers with time on their hands, and particularly those with an interest in sampling and buying fine wines.
The tiny town of Durbach, some 50km south of Baden-Baden along the Badische Weinstrasse, amid rolling vineyards and overlooked by the impressive Schloss Staufenberg, is a perfect stop and of particular interest to wine lovers for its excellent Durbacher Winzergenossenschaft (wine co-operative; Mon–Fri 8am–noon, Sat 9am–12.30pm), a shop with a great selection of distinguished and well-priced local wines that’s liberal with its samples. It’s signposted and just off the main road at the centre of Durbach.
Though not that well-known beyond Germany’s borders, the Europa-Park is one of Europe’s premier theme-parks and a sure-fire kid-pleaser, with about fifty rides in an area around the size of eighty football pitches and set amid a number of villages themed by European country. Located 35km north of Frieburg near the village of Rust, it’s particularly convenient for drivers heading between Strasbourg or Karlsruhe and the Swiss Alps.
There are various routes from Baden-Baden into the heart of the Black Forest, but the most attractive is probably the magnificent Schwarzwaldhochstrasse – the Black Forest Highway or B500 – which climbs from Baden-Baden through an idyllic combination of pines and meadows, valleys and peaks to Freudenstadt. The route may only be 60km long but it’s worth taking about half a day over the drive, allowing for time to break the journey at the various car parks, viewpoints and belvederes which dot the route to take in fine views of the Upper Rhine Valley and France’s Vosges. Allow time too for a couple of short worthwhile hikes, particularly the easy 1.5km loop around the touristy but pretty Mummelsee and a hike from the Allerheiligen monastery – signposted off the B500 6km to the south. From this impressive ruin of a Gothic Premonstratensian abbey, signs point along a path to an attractive waterfall a twenty-minute walk south.