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jgwagner4 Sep 30th, 2009 01:38 PM

Strasbourg and the Black Forest
My family and I are planning on staying in the area of Strasbourg for four nights in the spring. We have actually been planning on staying across the border in Germany (possibly in the area around Kehl or Rheinau) and then making a trip or two into France. Does this sound like a good plan or should we consider actually staying in France? Our family’s German language skills are much better than our French skills.

We would like to spend a day in Strasbourg just seeing the highlights such as the Cathedral and Petite France. We would also like to spend a day driving around the countryside. We like castles, markets and monuments. Any suggestions within 2 or so hours of Strasbourg?

We will also plan to spend a day in the northern part of the Black Forest or possibly Baden Baden. Any ideas on suggestions for this area would also be appreciated.

These are new areas for us (Alsace and the Black Forest) and I am thinking of this as a scouting mission for a future, longer trip.


quokka Sep 30th, 2009 02:23 PM

Kehl or Rheinau are situated in the flat Rhine plain and actually not very interesting. If I understand correctly you will have a car? So you can pick a place closer to the Black Forest hills. I'd like to suggest making your base camp in one of the wine villages in the Ortenau at the foot of the hills instead - Sasbachwalden, Kappelrodeck, Oberkirch, for example, or even higher uphill to Ottenhöfen or in the Rench valley. Or in the Kinzig valley, like Gengenbach (the cutest old town in the area which I recommend visiting anyway), Zell am Harmersbach.

From there to Baden-Baden, take the B500/Schwarzwaldhochstraße which runs along the edge of the hills high above the Rhine plain with splendid views. Stop to see the ruins of Allerheiligen monastery and the seven waterfalls, Mummelsee lake.

If you want a large castle ruin to explore, do the little hike from Baden-Baden to Hohenbaden castle (45 minutes from the old town).

The baroque palace in Rastatt and the summer palace Favorite in Förch are also recommended.

laverendrye Sep 30th, 2009 02:34 PM

I lived in this area for a number of years, and in fact will be returning for a visit in a couple of weeks.

First, there is absolutely no point in staying in Kehl or Rheinau. I would plan to stay in France, perhaps in Strasbourg for one or two nights, and then in a town on the Route du Vin such as Kaysersberg, Obernai, Colmar, or Eguisheim.

If you really do want to stay in Germany for day trips to Alsace, I would stay in Gengenbach, a walled town not far from Offenburg. From there you can get to Strasbourg in about half an hour. It would also make an excellent base for touring the Black Forest.

After seeing Strasbourg, follow the Route du Vin south, at least as far as Colmar. it has lots of pretty villages such as Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé (as well as the towns I mentioned above) and many ruined castles along the way. One castle, which was restored as a hunting lodge by Kaiser Wilhelm II, is haut Koenigsbourg. Don't miss visiting it. Colmar is also worth some time.

Four days is not enough to see the highlights of Alsace, let alone the Black Forest, but assuming you stay in Gengenbach for a night, here are two possible tours which will give you a taste of the Black Forest.

From Gengenbach, head south to Hausach, then to Gutach to visit the open air museum. Continue on to Triberg, Furtwangen and then to the B31 which you will take to Freiburg. If you have time, you could leave the B500 south of Furtwangen and make your way to Freiburg via St Maergen, St. Peter and Glottertal. Freiburg is worth at least a couple of hours' visit. Return to Gengenbach, either by the B3 or if you are pressed for time (which you will likely be), the A5 Autobahn.

If you want to visit Baden-Baden instead, follow the Badische Weinstraße north out of Gengenbach (it will be marked) until you reach Baden-Baden. Then follow the Black Forest High Road (Schwarzwaldhochstraße)which begins on the B500 to Freudenstadt then to Schiltach and Hausach. If you have time, detour south a few km to Gutach and the Open Air Museum. The return to Gengenbach via the Kinzig valley (the same way the first trip starts).

You will find lots of other suggestions for Alsace and the Black Forest on this board--check out some of the posts from Ira and Stu Dudley.

And really, there are far far better places to stay than Kehl or Rheinau.

bettyk Sep 30th, 2009 04:43 PM

We stayed in Gengenbach for several nights a couple of years ago. It's a charming town and one I can definitely recommend as a base as suggested above.

We just returned from a 3 week trip to Germany and Austria and spent a couple of nights in Staufen. We did a day trip to Freiburg and found the old town area around the Cathedral to be lovely.

jgwagner4 Sep 30th, 2009 05:35 PM

Thank you for the advice so far quokka, laverendrye and bettyk. I especially like the sample itineraries.

Kehl and Rheinau are definitely out.

We do have a car and to give a better understanding of the whole picture I will give a bit more background. Prior to heading to the Black Forest we will have spent two weeks on the middle Rhine with my in-laws. After our 4 nights in the Black Forest we will be heading back to Frankfurt to fly out. These 4 nights is our time to recover from spending 2 weeks with extended family. I cannot really add any days to it but I know we are trying to see a lot in a short period of time. I want to get a taste for the area and determine where we need to spend more time the next time we are in the area.

I think we are more inclined to stay in Germany, because of the language and the distance back to Frankfurt. The suggestions in France all seem to be some distance south of Strasbourg. Is there anything north of Strasbourg of interest? I will be looking into the suggestions in Germany that you have made, especially Gengenbach.

quokka Sep 30th, 2009 05:47 PM

>our time to recover from spending 2 weeks with extended family
Awwww I understand what you mean;-)

North of Strasbourg? There is a cute little town with a rich history right on the border to Germany, on the northern end of Alsace: Wissembourg. Crossing the border you'll enter the German Wine Road in Palatinate.
A little travel page about the place by yours truly can be found here: - link so I don't have to type everything again.

jgwagner4 Oct 1st, 2009 12:02 AM

Great travel page with lots of great pictures. It is also close to another place I need to get to at some point, Burg Berwartstein....

So I think it is starting to come together. I actually can do things on the days we drive, so it kind of adds some time.

Day 1: Drive from Middle Rhine to Baden Baden, spend a couple of hours checking out the city. Continue to Ferienwohnung in Gengenbach (or other small town listed above) using the B500/Schwarzwaldhochstraße.

Day 2: Drive to Strasbourg and tour the city

Day 3: Tour the Black Forest (using suggestions from laverendrye) ensuring we check out the Freileichtmuseum (sp?).

Day 4: Still Open (maybe a day of rest)

Day 5: Return to Frankfurt via Wissembourg and Burg Berwartstein

Day 6: Fly home

I am thinking that the area south of Strasbourg (Colmar, Kayserberg, etc) may need to wait for another trip. As I read other posts it sound like it would just demand more time then we can give it this trip.

Ingo Oct 1st, 2009 01:02 AM

Another vote for Gengenbach. Stayed there and found it to be lovely. Did a day trip from there to Strasbourg by train/bus which was very convenient. I wouldn't bother driving to S. from G.

I like your itinerary. And excellent advice from quokka and the others here.

I would definitely recommend you use Day 4 for exploring Gengenbach, maybe walking up to the vineyards and some rest.

NanBug Oct 1st, 2009 08:07 AM

I wouldn't let your concern about the language deter you from staying in France. While we were in Alsace last year, I spoke German the entire time and no problem communicating.

But, I agree with your last Alsace for another time, when you can soak it up. It's a beautiful region.

And, like Ingo suggests, I'd train from Strasbourg to Gengenbach.

laverendrye Oct 1st, 2009 09:05 AM

"I am thinking that the area south of Strasbourg (Colmar, Kayserberg, etc) may need to wait for another trip. As I read other posts it sound like it would just demand more time then we can give it this trip."

I wouldn't be deterred. If you don't want a day of rest on Day 4, a day trip from Gengenbach to Colmar and return is an easy run. Certainly you could spend more time, but it will give you a good look at one of the most picturesque parts of Alsace. From Gengenbach continue through Offenburg on the B33 and cross south of Strasbourg. Make your way from there to Obernai and follow the Route du Vin south.

From Colmar cross back into Germany at Breisach, From there you can either continue south to the A5, or drive through the picturesque Kaiserstuhl and join the A5 at Riegel for your return to Gengenbach.

If that's a bit much for your "rest day", here's a lovely drive that won't take more than half a day.

From Gengenbach head south to Biberach and turn west towards Lahr. You will encounter a wonderful castle ruin, Hohengeroldseck, and across from the Löwen which claims itself to be Germany's oldest Gasthof dating from the 13th Century.

After a refreshment there, continue to Seelbach and head south through Schuttertal until you come to the road for Ettenheim. Follow it as far as Ettenheim and then join the Badische Weinstrasse to return to Gengenbach.

Your plan to return to Frankfurt via Wissembourg and the Deutsche Weinstrasse is a good one. You might want to stop in Soufflenheim and Betschdorf on your way to Wissembourg. Both are "pottery villages" specializing in traditional Alsatian pottery. Soufflenheim's pottery is mostly multi-coloured, while Betschdorf's is grey-blue.

Gute reise!

StCirq Oct 1st, 2009 11:44 AM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Freiburg. I've made trips to Freiburg from Strasbourg a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's a cheerful university town with lots going on and a lovely town center. I'm no expert on the area, though I've been to Alsace a few times, but if you're going to be in that neighborhood, I'd check out Freiburg.

bettyk Oct 1st, 2009 02:16 PM

StCirq, I mentioned it!! We were quite surprised by how lovely it was and thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

laverendrye Oct 1st, 2009 02:58 PM

I hate to pile on, StCirq, but I did include it as well in one of the tours I suggested.

Freiburg is a lovely city and well worth a visit especially for its jewel of a cathedral and the surrounding Münsterplatz.

StCirq Oct 1st, 2009 03:16 PM

Ooops. Reading too fast. Sorry.

jgwagner4 Oct 2nd, 2009 10:10 AM

We will see if we can fit Freiburg into day 3 or day 4.

I really like laverendrye’s itinerary right around Gengenbach. I found pictures of Hohengeroldseck and it looks right up our alley. I also tried to search for the Löwen Gasthof, but that seems to be a common Gastof name in general. I could find nothing that seemed to obviously be the one that is near Seelbach or Gengenbach. We will just have to find it and check it out on our own.

Here is a link with some good pictures of Hohengeroldseck:

Actually, there are several good pictures of castles in Alsace as well.

We also have been considering checking out the “pottery villages” which is another reason to save Colmar and the region south of Strasbourg for another visit. With our limited time there is only so much we can do.

I did some searches for Ferienwohnung in Gengenbach and got disappointing results. My wife will do some additional searches in German and then we will expand the search if necessary. We like the convenience of having a kitchen to prepare some of our own meals, so having an apartment trumps staying in a particular town if it means we will have to stay in more traditional lodging. I am not concerned, there seems to be all sorts of cute little towns, we will find a good place.

laverendrye Oct 2nd, 2009 10:43 AM

The Löwen is properly the Herberge zum Löwen and it is officially in Seelbach, although not in the village itself. It is at the top of the pass on the road from Biberach to Seelbach and right across from the castle ruins. Here are some photos:

As you like castles, here's another in the area, not far north of Gengenbach near Bühl. It's Burg Windeck, a castle ruin, with a hotel and restaurant, overlooking the Rhine Valley. You can find it if you take the Wine Route towards Baden-Baden.

quokka Oct 2nd, 2009 10:51 AM

Long list of apartments from the website of Gengenbach tourist office:

clement67 Oct 9th, 2009 07:32 AM

Hi there!
I am from strasbourg and my brother organizes trips in alsace sometimes... If you want you could contact him as we have a big house just 10 minutes from strasbourg and 20 minutes from khel in a little village call geispolsheim. We have beautiful rooms to rent there aswell.
If you want to practice your german there it s not a problem as a lot of people speaks it and the others speaks "alsacien" which is a very similar dialect to german. You can email my brother (Matt) at this adress :
[email protected]
Good luck!

minnehappylis Nov 28th, 2009 04:29 PM

See Freiburg! It is lovely! The Munster and Augustinermuseum are must-sees. There is a microbrewery called Feierling near the Augustinermuseum that is fun.

ira Nov 29th, 2009 04:32 AM

Hi jg,

>Our family’s German language skills are much better than our French skills.<
In Alsace, the speak Alsatian, French and German very well. English, not quite so good.

You could easily stay in Strasbourg and do daytrips.

This might help you:
Ira Returns From 22 Loverly Days in Europe - Sep, 2009

Enjoy your visit:


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