The Black Forest, with its vast forests, bright hilltops, romantic valleys, and sunny vineyards, is among the most beloved of Germany's vacation destinations.
This is where you can find idyllic nature that looks like it came straight out of a postcard: traditional Black Forest farms with their large roofs nestled along the meadowy slopes, dreamy lakes and wild ravines.
The destination offers a tremendous diversity of natural landscapes: some 320 cities, towns and villages – each with its own cultural and architectural highlights – are scattered between the mountains and valleys of Germany's largest low mountain range.
Here are just a few of the highlights...
Culinary Haven: Baiersbronn
Located in the northern regions of the Black Forest, Baiersbronn holds the record for the highest density of Michelin Star restaurants in Germany.
The 2014 edition of the famed Guide Michelin honours Baiersbronn once more with a second star for Jörg Sackmann's Schlossberg restaurant. This means there are now eight Michelin stars twinkling in the culinary skies of Baiersbronn.
Harald Wohlfahrt (Schwarzwaldstube, Traube Tonbach) and Claus-Peter Lumpp (Restaurant Bareiss) successfully preserved their own three star ratings. These world class restaurants set the bar high for the other restaurateurs in the area, and their lead is being followed.
Winter Wonderland: The Black Forest Highlands The largest ski resort north of the Alps can be found in the middle of the Black Forest. There's no shortage of snow in this region with over 70 summits, crowned by the Feldberg at 1,493 metres high. There are also 300 kilometres of groomed winter hiking paths, 330 kilometres of cross-country trails, and 31 ski lifts in the Feldberg ski lift network.
Real snow hounds should look for the red Hochschwarzwald Card, which guarantees free admission to more than 70 local attractions, including a free ski pass. Moreover, sledders can ride the 'Rodelbus' (sledding bus) to the 1.2-kilometre-long Saig sled run for free, and Nordic skiers can rent a complete set of cross-country equipment for free. You can receive the card free of charge at one of over 280 holiday accommodations in the Black Forest Highlands if you stay two nights or longer.
The 'Secret' Capital Of The Black Forest: Freiburg
Freiburg is said to be the sunniest city in Germany, so it is not surprising that some of the best wines of Germany grow there. No other major German city contains as many vineyards within the city limits.
Summer brings numerous wine festivals and 'Winzerhocks' (wine grower celebrations) to the region. Each year the Freiburg wine festival turns the plaza surrounding the cathedral into a winegrower's village – and winemakers will be happily dispensing their local wines from July 4 to 9 this year.
Art And Culture: Karlsruhe
The city Karlsruhe is located in the northern reaches of the Black Forest. It was founded in the early 18th century as one of the last cities of the Baroque period.
Karlsruhe will mark its 300th anniversary in 2015 with a major summer celebration. From June 17 to September 24, 2015, a wide program of projects and events will turn this city into an exhilarating cultural hub.
Retreat To Nature: Freudenstadt
Broad forest hillsides and gorgeous views on its western side, sunny ridges and fertile fields on its east – the diverse landscape of Freudenstadt makes it a favourite insiders' tip among hikers in the north of the Black Forest.
Roughly 300 kilometres of marked hiking paths can be found there, from narrow nature trails to broad forest lanes. There are also seven adventure trails for outdoor enthusiasts, and several holiday packages are available for hiking without the luggage. One follows the ‘Red Deer's Path’ (126 kilometres), while another takes the ‘Holzmichel Trail’ (46 kilometres). 'Giant Firs' is a newly-opened 'Black Forest Connoisseur Route' for more leisurely ramblers. It runs 13.5 kilometres along the largest fir trees to be found in the region, including 'Old Grandfather Fir', which stands proud at 46 metres tall.