Karlsruhe - A fantastic base for the Black Forest

credit: HunterBliss

Not many people in the UK have heard of Karlsruhe, which is a shame because the fan shaped city is the perfect base for exploring Germany’s Black Forest region, and beyond. Here are Paul Wojnicki’s top reasons to add Karlsruhe to your list of places to visit in 2018.

Name

credit: Paul Wojnicki

At the heart of Europe

It’s hard to think of a city that’s better placed for a multi city break than Karlsruhe. Strasbourg and Frankfurt are only an hour away, Cologne and Basel a mere two, Paris and Munich a shade over three. Karlsruhe makes the perfect pit stop for a night or two if you fly into one of these cities and fly out of the other. TOP TIP: DBahn’s excellent value Sparpreis tickets allow two free stopovers (up to 48 hours per stop). The ticket we used in August cost 49 Euros and took us all the way from Munich to Amsterdam with 48 hour stopovers in Karlsruhe and Cologne.

Name

credit: Andreas_Zerndl

Gateway to the Black Forest

Besides some of Europe’s most iconic cities being within a couple of hours there are a host of world famous Black Forest towns and cities right on Karlsruhe’s doorstep. The world famous Baden Baden is a mere 15 minutes away and Heidelberg less than an hour. Indeed Karlsruhe’s pioneering tram system is able to take you right from the heart of the city centre to both these towns and deep into the Black Forest, without even changing onto a train, thanks to the fact that the trams are able to run on both tram tracks and rail tracks. This innovative Karlsruhe system has been adopted by numerous German cities since its conception in the early 1990’s.

Name

credit: Paul Wojnicki

Best value City Card

 I’m not normally a fan of city cards, indeed I find many of them to be a complete waste of money. Not so the Karlsruhe card, which for around £20 will get you 48 hours of free transport, entrance to the zoo, tons of museums, a ride on one of Germany’s oldest funiculars, a steam train ride in the palace gardens and all the usual discounts these cards give for partner shops and restaurants.

One of the warmest cities in Germany

The micro-climate makes this region the warmest and sunniest in Germany, so it’s just as well that there are no shortage of green spaces to enjoy the sun in. The city’s municipal gardens/zoo stretch all the way from the train station to the southern edge of the city centre and is one of the largest downtown gardens in Germany. There are also vast swathes of parkland in the palace gardens to explore, including excellent botanical gardens and a steam train which runs in the summer months.

Name

credit: Paul Wojnicki

Great for “fans” of urban design

 It’s hard to appreciate at ground level exactly how intricately the streets of Karlsruhe have been planned, but you’ll more than likely spot a drone or two in the palace gardens (we did), taking aerial photographs of the spoke like streets that radiate out from the picturesque palace, giving the impression of a giant fan. So impressive is the design that none other than Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have suggested a similar design for Washington DC when commissioning Pierre L’Enfant to design the fledgling city.

So Karlsruhe is perfect for a day trip then?

Not at all, we visited for two nights and struggled to fit in all of the city and one or two suburbs, let alone Baden Baden or Heidelberg. You’ll need at least a couple of days to appreciate the city itself and it makes a great base for exploring the surrounding region. Regional rail cards give up to five people unlimited travel for a day and hotels are far cheaper here than in Baden Baden. We stayed at the Novotel, situated at the northern entrance of the zoo and close to the Palace and its gardens. It’s also right next to a host of museums and a concert house, so the perfect base for Karlsruhe card holders. Good quality rooms cost as little as £69 a night at the time of writing.