Home Featured A Merry German Christmas: Staying in The Black Forest

A Merry German Christmas: Staying in The Black Forest

by Mandy
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Christmas in the Black Forest offers a perfect blend of cultural traditions, stunning natural beauty, a cosy atmosphere and festive cheer. Germany is very special to me and Oli for a number of reasons, and now it has been made all the more special having spent our Christmas holidays in the beautiful Black Forest.

We first fell in love with the Black Forest back in 2015, when we stayed in Todtnau during our Southern Germany road trip. Not only were we drawn to the towering forest treelines and the luscious green valleys and rolling hills, but it is also where we got engaged one sunny morning in Todtnauberg. We loved our time in the Black Forest and vowed to come back one winter when we could experience a different side to the area. Fast forward 7(!) years, and we had finally not only booked our long awaited return trip, but we were staying over Christmas! 

Our Christmas in The Black Forest Begins

From our home on the UK’s South Coast we had a long 10 hour drive ahead of us, not including our waiting and departure times at the Channel Tunnel.

We knew we’d have minimal hours of daylight, with the sun setting around 4pm, and not wanting to arrive in Todtnau in the dark, we left home before midnight, ready for our 3am crossing, getting us to Germany for early-mid afternoon, all going well.

As has become tradition in recent years, we don’t travel anywhere without bringing Lady with us. We made sure she had all her jabs and travel documentation sorted well in advance, and once we got to the Channel Tunnel, they had a quick once over of her documents and we were good to go!

The drive was plain sailing and we made good time. There had been a reasonable amount of snowfall in the days before we arrived, and as we approached the French / German border we were greeted with picture postcard scenes of snowy topped trees and fluffy roadside blankets of snow. It was not your stereotypical crisp, clean sunny sky, but more greyscale, with low clouds clinging to the mountain tops and hillsides around us. If anything, it made the scenery all the more stunning and dramatic, and we were eager to see more and more with every passing turn and corner.

A wintery greeting in Germany

We checked into our Airbnb, a cute German chalet with views over the rolling Todtnau hills, right on schedule. We knew there was a supermarket local to us in the main Todtnau town, so we made sure Lady was settled and happy in the new pad, and then went out to stock up on some much needed supplies. After all the driving, the last thing we wanted to do was cook dinner, but we knew from our last visit to Todtnau that there’s a perfect little Italian place in the main square, Bella Italia. Not only do they do lush pizza’s, but they also do takeaway! Not wanting to leave Lady too long on her own on our first evening, we ordered our pizza’s to go, and enjoyed a much needed chill evening at the Airbnb, bingeing on Netflix. 

Exploring Todtnau

We woke up to a beautiful sunny morning, so after some breakfast at the Airbnb (and a quick final sense check that Lady was settled and we were comfortable leaving her) we were eager to get out and explore the place that we had fallen in love with all those years ago.
Lady loving a little sunny spot on the sofa

From our bedroom window we could hear the sound of rushing water from a nearby river, and on our way to the Airbnb, we’d had a beautiful view of the Todtnau Waterfall (“Todtnauer Wasserfalle”) as we drove up the winding hill. We found a walking route from our Airbnb and headed straight out for the Waterfall. We didn’t have the chance to see it previously when we visited in the summertime, so we were looking forward to exploring somewhere new.

At 97m, it may not be the highest waterfall in the Black Forest but it is one of the best you can visit. The waterfall cascades over several levels, into the river and valley below, with stunning views all around.

Whilst most of the snow had started to melt in places, the pathways were still quite icy, so we were only able to walk up as high as the first viewing platform. We were there nice and early and had the whole place to ourselves, which was the perfect start to our trip. From the viewing platform there’s a lounger sitting below the waterfall and you can sit there and stare up at the waterfall towering above you. It’s a beautiful little spot and a major sun trap on a sunny day! We’ve written a little bit more about the Waterfall in our post of things to do in Todtnau.

We whiled away a bit of time here, taking in the views, before we crossed the bridge and explored the forest on the other side. From here there’s a pathway leading into main Todtnau square, where we popped into a cafe and ordered a hot chocolate and something to eat – a good excuse to polish up on our German also!

Bottom of Todtnau Waterfall

Enjoying the festivities with a Christmas Market

Our first full evening back in The Black Forest and we were starting things on a high as we had booked tickets for Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market (“Ravennaschlucht Weihnachtsmarkt”) – we were in luck also because it was the final weekend of the market before Christmas.

We drove down to Hinterzarten, about 30 minutes from Todtnau, and parked up there for the evening so we could explore and grab some dinner. We loved Hinterzarten, a chocolate box perfect town, it was our first time visiting and the town was buzzing with lots of other people waiting to head to the Christmas Market.

We had booked the latest slot we could for the Christmas Market (about 7pm), and from Hinterzarten, we grabbed the shuttle bus to the market. We have written a full post on visiting the Ravenna Gorge Christmas Market and how to get tickets if you’re interested.

Our favourite Black Forest Christmas Market - Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market

It was a super cold and crisp night. We were bundled up in all our thermals and layers and feeling well and truly festive as we pulled up to the market and saw the stunning Höllental Viaduct, where the market is situated, lit up in all its Christmas-magic glory.

We enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around the different stalls, soaking up the atmosphere and treating ourselves to a few rounds of mulled wine.

Sipping mulled wine at the best Black Forest Christmas Market - Ravennaschlucht Christmas Market

Snow Day at Feldberg

We woke up the next day to another beautiful sunny start, so we made our way to Feldberg to be big kids and play in the snow. We loved the views from the top of Feldberg in the summer when we visited last, and we knew the views would be even more spectacular in the snow, but I don’t think we could have possibly imagined just how stunning the views would be. We were lucky with the weather, as the sun brought with it clear, crisp blue skies far and wide. The walk to the top of Feldberg took us twice as we continued to stop and gawp at the panoramic views around us. As we climbed higher and higher we could look out for miles across lush forests, with snow capped peaks around us, and the faint distinctive silhouette of the Alps in the distance.

We loved our time re-exploring Feldberg and playing in the snow;  a real treat for us, especially living along the UK’s South Coast. We hiked back Feldberg the way we came up and feeling hungry took our chances that there was something veggie-friendly at Rothaus, a cafe / restaurant at the bottom of Feldberg by the ski lifts. The queue was long, but moved pretty quickly and once inside we saw we were in luck as they had Vegan Bratwurst on the menu!

A classic German plate of beige, I can tell you it tasted absolutely incredible, and we set about finding some Vegan Bratwurst in the supermarkets during the rest of our time in Germany (sadly to no avail).

Freiburg Day Trip

After a chill-day at the Airbnb, re-charging our batteries and binge watching Netflix shows, we got up early to cover new territory and head into Freiburg.

Located about 1 hours drive from Todtnau, Freiburg is a vibrant and picturesque city, nestled just on the edge of The Black Forest, close to the German / French border. It boasts a beautiful, preserved-in-time medieval old town, complete with cobblestone streets, half-timbered buildings and scenic town squares, the latter of which is filled to the brim with Christmas Market stalls from late-November to mid-December. It is also renowned for being one of the best and largest Christmas Markets in The Black Forest, so we couldn’t wait to explore!

We parked up easily enough at one of the many city centre car parks and made our way towards the historic old town. The city itself was bustling with people enjoying the festivities, both locals and tourists alike and it was such a nice atmosphere to be apart of. The main town square was transformed into a complete winter wonderland, filled with small wooden market stalls, selling everything from homemade gifts, clothing and ceramics, to food and drink – including many stalls selling the all important mulled wine (“Glühwein”).

At the Christmas Markets, you pay a small deposit when you order your mulled wine, which you get back at the end if you return your mug. Or, like us, you can choose to forfeit your deposit and keep the mug. Having kept ours from Ravenna Gorge, we were on a mission to collect more as souvenirs so as we continued to wander up side streets and explore the city, we also scouted out all the different stalls to see which one had the nicest mugs.

Coming up to lunchtime and feeling suitably hungry after exploring the city centre, we made our way to Kushmeister, a cosy, “no frills”, student-vibe restaurant serving burgers that we had heard epic things about, particularly as they also served veggie and vegan options too – but the star of the show was having the option to order my burger drowned in a dousing of melted cheese. Again, another classic plate of German beige, but I regretted nothing! It was incredible!

The next day, we awoke to see that overnight rain has washed away the remaining snow, and left behind a drama-filled sky, which clung to the top of Todtnau’s hillsides. We stuck on our walking boots and headed out for another walk and explore of the area, taking in the moody views as went.

In the evening, we drove into Todtnauberg, which is the small village at the top of Todtnau’s hills. We had stayed in Todtnauberg when we visited previously and ate at a lush restaurant there called The Waldblick, so of course we couldn’t resist a chance to eat there again. We were well and truly coming into the run-up to Christmas, so it was also one of the last days before they closed for the Christmas period.

Basel Christmas Market

It was the last Friday before Christmas and we fancied our chances at squeezing in one more Christmas Market. At just over 1 hours drive away, is the Swiss city of Basel, which we had read good things about when researching  Christmas Markets to visit.

As quick side note: if you’re ever driving to Switzerland from Germany you normally need a vignette sticker in your windscreen, which allows you to drive on the Swiss motorways. However, the route from Todtnau to Basel meant we didn’t touch any Swiss motorways and so didn’t need one.

Unfortunately the weather was not in a particularly festive mood, and tipped it down all day. Typical, last time we were in Switzerland when we drove to Zurich from Germany it also tipped it down with rain all day! But that didn’t seem to dampen the city’s festivities. The Christmas Market was still bustling with Christmas shoppers, and with locals and tourists all soaking up the Christmas atmosphere.

Basel Christmas Market takes place in the heart of the city’s old town, surrounded by medieval buildings, including the impressive Basel Minster Cathedral, which provides a stunning backdrop to the market.

Due to its close proximity to the German border, the Basel Christmas Market offers a unique blend of Swiss-German traditions and culinary delights (the best of both worlds!) from Swiss chocolates, and gingerbread cookies, to warm cups of Glühwein (of course). The entire market is beautifully decorated, with festive lights, ornaments and Christmas trees, and was the perfect way to start our Christmas countdown!

Todtnauberg: Where it All Began

I mentioned at the start that Todtnauberg was where we got engaged, way back in 2015. We woke up on Christmas Eve and thought what better way to spend the day, than walking up to Todtnauberg, to the very spot where Oli had proposed.

The walk lead us past the Todtnau Waterfall again, and actually thankfully due to the rain, the ice had now melted and it meant we could walk up the steps to the very top of the waterfall this time. Once at the top we were greeted with a stunning view through the valley and out to the hills far off in the distance. 

A Christmas Eve walk meant we had the whole place to ourselves, as shops closed up for the holidays and family & friends spent the day together. We loved taking in the views from the waterfall and then made our way up higher into Todtnauberg itself.

The village was exactly as we’d remembered it. Rolling hills, surrounded by tall fluffy pine and fir trees, picturesque views and narrow winding roads through the heart of the village. The only thing that seemed to have changed was the presence of the new High Line Bridge they were building over the waterfall. We trekked up the hillside, through farmers fields, to the top of the ski lifts. From there, we remembered being very close to a wooden lookout tower, and found “the spot”.

Frohe Weihnachten (Merry Christmas)

We finally woke up to Christmas Day, and being tucked away in the hills of The Black Forest made it feel even more special and magical. During the week we had sorted a food shop at the local supermarket and also picked ourselves up a tabletop sized Christmas tree, so we could still unwrap our presents under the tree.

We’d planned absolutely nothing for this day, which was exactly how we wanted it. We adore everything about Christmas, but we find the day itself has too much pressure and becomes too exhausting. We had also organised lots of “mini Christmas Days” with friends and family, due to us being away, which we preferred so much more, as it meant there was more build-up and excitement, but without the stress of cramming it all into one day. The purpose of this trip was to be away from the stresses and busyness, and hide away in our own peace and quiet.

We spent the whole day in our PJ’s, watching Christmas films and Netflix shows, drinking mulled wine and playing games, with Lady commanding one of our laps at any point throughout the day of course.

We had to be a little more creative with Christmas Day dinner, which is traditionally roast duck or goose in Germany. We hoped to have found a nut roast in one of the many local supermarkets, but no such luck. We even thought we could recreate our Vegan Bratwurst for dinner, but that still seemed impossible to find. In the end, we decided to keep things easy, and made a DIY-buffet to last us the day.

This continued into Boxing Day, being a pair of Christmas hermits, eating our way through our kitchen cupboards. Absolutely perfect.

A trip to beautiful Feldsee

Keen to spend our last day exploring somewhere new, we found a nice walk around the stunning Feldsee, a peaceful lake at the foot of Feldberg.

It was another peaceful day in the forest, and we followed a trail along the bottom of Feldberg and along a path which wound its way down a steep hillside. The walk was beautiful from start to finish, cutting through a deep forest with only the sound of birdsong and running water from a nearby waterfall in our ears. The views became even more stunning as we got to the bottom of the hill and stood along the shoreline looking out across the lake. 

Every angle offered something different, from the craggy rockface rising through the treeline, to small waterfalls dotted about, cascading down the edges of the basin which forms Feldsee.

We learnt that the lake and surrounding forest is a nature preservation paradise and is the oldest nature reserve in the region, home to all types of birds, bats and rare plant life. We followed the shoreline path all the way around the lake, taking in the surrounding views as we went.

It was the perfect way to spend our last day in the Black Forest and round-up our Christmas holiday. We decided to end our trip just as it had started, with dinner at Bella Italia in Todtnau’s main square. But this time we sat in the restaurant, instead of grabbing a takeaway.

On the way out, we took one last look at the church in the main square, and headed back to our Airbnb for a final chilled evening, before packing up the car the next day and heading back home.

Ordinarily we never travel to the same place twice. There is so much more of the world to see and explore. But coming back to Todtnau was refreshing, especially seeing a completely different side to it, visiting in the winter. I was reminded all over again exactly why we fell in love with this place, and I think for Todtnau (or The Black Forest generally) I will gladly make an exception to the rule of never visiting somewhere more than once. I hope throughout our lifetime we get to come back to this place time and time again.

If you’ve ever been to Todtnau, or visited somewhere else in the Black Forest that you love and recommend, we would love to hear about it! Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below ♥️

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