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The Hills are Alive: Hidden Gems of the Black Forest

The hills of the Black Forest region, alive with stunning scenery, family fun, ski resorts and spas, not to mention Michelin-starred restaurants, is an area of mystery and darkness idealized as Waldeinsamreit (the beauty of solitude in the woods) during the German Romanticism movement. The magical fairy-tale ambiance of the region was immortalized in Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s book of handed-down stories, The Brothers Grimmwith castles, cuckoo clocks and an enchanting forest. Use this guide to track down hidden gems of the Black Forest and check out Diners Club Privileges after you arrive.

Luxx Lounge

Upon your arrival at the Frankfurt Airport, freshen up with a hot shower or relax with a beverage at the Diners Club Luxx Lounge. After your chill out, head over to the ICE (InterCityExpress) train, which you can board directly from the airport. Your destination is the spa town of Baden Baden, which takes approximately 80 minutes. With this resort town as your base, you can easily venture out to tour smaller towns and villages of The Black Forest. Encompassing only 100 miles, it’s easy to see the entire region by car.

Winter sees a quieter time in Baden-Baden, but a Christmas market and fewer crowds makes this season a great time to visit. Walk the Cultural Mile, which includes stops at the Festspielhaus (opera house), Lichthental Abbey, and Brahms’ House, the original living room of composer Johannes Brahms. When in Baden-Baden, be like the ancient Romans and bathe in thermal water for the health benefits and relaxation. At Caracalla Bad, enjoy marble pools, aroma steam rooms, a Roman saunascape and solariums. Even when there’s snow on the ground, you can enjoy warm curative waters in the outdoor pool. Don’t miss the spellbinding Roman and Irish bathing experience of Friedrichsbad, where a 17-step ritual with changing temperatures and varying baths, plus a soap and brush massage transports you to a peaceful oasis of tranquility. Cap off your Baden-Baden experience with a visit to the Fabergé Museum, which showcases 700+ items, including two Imperial Easter Fabergé eggs.

Brenners Park Hotel

Set in a private park in Baden-Baden, and a favorite hotel of dignitaries, Brenners Park Hotel  features a two-Michelin-star restaurant, The Brenners Park Restaurant, helmed by Chef Paul Stradner, and a medical spa overseen by doctors. Diners Clubmembers enjoy a complimentary one-year Leaders Club Membership (numerous perks) with the Leading Hotels (valued at $150).

Your next stop is the village of Gutach, about an hour’s drive from Baden-Baden. Here you’ll find the Black Forest Open Air Museum, which displays fully furnished Black Forest farm houses built from the 16th to 19th centuries. Special collections of furniture, traditional costumes, and exhibitions on crafts such as weaving and clock-making make for an immersive experience on local traditions. Next, visit the German Clock Museum, located in is the town of Furtwangen, a historic center of clock making that is about 35 minutes south by car from Gutach. View the 160-year-old collection with over 8,000 items (including the cuckoo clock, of course) from all over the world.

Your final destination is the university city of Freiburg, about 50 minutes east by car, which is known for its mild weather and reconstructed medieval center. Soak up local culture by taking a stroll through city’s central market square and check out the 11th-century Freiburger Münster, with its kaleidoscope stained-glass windows and 116-meter spire. Grab a bite at the Freiburg Market, open every day except Sunday in the cathedral square. The Freiburg Christmas Market, open from November 23, showcases crafts from the Black Forest region such as straw shoes and colorful wooden toys.

Colombi Hotel

Situated on the edge of Freiburg’s Old Quarter, the Colombi Hotel is elegant, yet offers a quiet and cozy stay. A spa and the one-Michelin-star restaurant Zirbelstube run by one of Germany’s top chefs Alfred Klink makes the Colombi the perfect retreat for the holidays. Diners Clubmembers receive a complimentary one-year Leaders Club Membership (valued at $150).

With thermal baths, Christmas markets, opera, Michelin-starred restaurants and eccentric museums, the magical fairy-tale landscape of the Black Forest makes for an enchanting winter trip. For all Germany, visit our Diners Club Privileges site and select “Germany” for offers.