Three Countries in Three days - Southwest Germany, a bit of France, and some Switzerland

One of the exciting things of traveling through Europe is that you can visit three countries easily in a few days. You'll see big similarities and subtle differences. Oh and in this case, you'll need two currencies. And, to be safe, bring a passport to at least one of them.

Travel like Just Been There

Five days in Southwest Germany, with a bit of France and some Switzerland can look like this:

  • Day 1 - Arrive in the Freiburg / Black Forest area
  • Day 2 - France, Colmar day trip 
  • Day 3 - Titi See and Freiburg
  • Day 4 - Switzerland, Schaffhausen - Basel loop
  • Day 5 - Pack up or extend (more later)

Just Been There Art

Look at or buy art inspired by this trip. If you like this trip, but can't go, or you too have just been there, this unique art may rekindle fond memories of your own trip. Click the image for a link to the online store. Note: you will be leaving this site and connect to the artists site.

Locks on the Canal
Locks on the Canal (Colmar)

All art copyright by: Christine Ong-Dijcks 

Where to Stay?

Since you are in an area with three countries, there are lots of options. First, cost. That rules out Switzerland, kind of... Let's just say that everything is more expensive in Switzerland... Second, language. If you speak French or German well or feel more comfortable with either, stay on that side of the borders. Third, if you are going for a longer trip, which other places do you want to visit.

If you are interested in Insel Mainau and the larger Bodensee area, Germany makes a lot more sense. It will be quite a trek from France. If you are more interested in Strasbourg or even the Vosges area in France, stay on that side of the river. And of course, if you plan to spend a lot of time in Switzerland, maybe that is better. But even then, depending on what the plans are, find a place just across the border...

Of course, there is also food. No doubt the French have the better reputation there, but we have found lots of wholesome great meals in Germany.

For our trip, we stayed in Sölden, just south of Freiburg im Breisgau (just to be precise as there are more than one Freiburg). The fun of staying in these small towns, is the local bakery, the local restaurant and the wonderfully quite, small town atmosphere. Personally, I would avoid the larger cities. Just enjoy the rustic nature and small towns.

Sölden and Surroundings

We did our usual VRBO and found comfortable rental in Sölden. You'll love Beckesepp, it is the one stop shop with fresh bread daily, inside the supermarket, in a modern, quite wonderful store setting! Even if you don't stay in Sölden, when passing through, stop and get your coffee and cake, or some bread.

For dinner, you definitely have to stop and eat at Bolando Dorfgasthaus. Classic outside, modern inside, modern food that was delicious. See their menu here. Note the veal cheeks and the large vegetarian section on the menu. This is definitely not typical for a German restaurant. On and liver, every Tuesday!

Daytrip 1 - Colmar, France

If you are looking for some quintessential images of a small town on a river, this is it. Colmar is exceedingly pretty with the typical style buildings in the area, the river running through and the cobblestone streets, colorful seating areas and more. Lots of small shops, lots of food options.

Colmar

As you can see, very pretty. Personally I think Petite Venise (small Venice) is a bit over the top, but it is really pretty.

Colmar

Since you are in the EU, you will hardly notice that you've changed countries. Colmar is easy to get to from either side of the border by car. Once there, the adventure begins with the same challenge you will see all over... parking. As we enjoyed a breakfast with fresh bread in Sölden, we got to Colmar around 11 or so in the morning. It took us a solid 20 minutes of circling through the narrow streets to find a spot. So if you are happy to walk a little further, park outside of the old town!

Once parked, just relax, stroll around, find a nice place to sit and enjoy a lunch with a nice glass of wine. And take in your fellow travelers. Always a big fan of markets, the Colmar indoor market is a bit of a let down. So, go for outdoor seating.

Daytrip 2 - Titisee and Freiburg

Ok, first things first, driving through and or parking in Freiburg has an issue. Freiburg is a green zone, and requires a sticker to drive through. You can google driving in green zones in Germany for a lot more details. This website (have not tried it myself) is one of the many selling the stickers. In essence this is a validation that the car one is driving is environmentally friendly. No Diesel engines allowed...

Environmental Sticker - Germany

If you rent a car in Germany, likely that you are good to go and have said sticker. If you rent a car in the Netherlands, France and likely in Switzerland, you may be out of luck. So just check before you drive.

You can also - for a visit into Freiburg go to the P+R locations. Here you park outside the green zone and then ride public transit into town. This is a good idea for many cities (including Düsseldorf, Aachen, etc.). In many cases the parking ticket will give you access to the bus or trams.

Why does this matter? Well many roads go through Freiburg, for example for us driving from Sölden to Titisee is one such drive through the city.

Before covering Titisee, the other thing that we enjoyed was a nice forest hike. There are a number of canyons (or Schlucht in German) in close proximity. If you park here (see below) you can then choose a few nice hikes or have a drink at the inn down the road.

We walked the easy Lotenbachklamm to the two waterfalls. It really is a nice walk in the shade, all along the river. The other, slightly to the east, more famous canyon is the Wutachschlucht with its scenic wooden bridge. Both these are really nice walks, and worth your time. As always, wear decent shoes and bring a snack, water, etc. sit down along the river and enjoy some quiet time.

Lower or Second Falls

Next we drove back and parked at Titisee. Note that there is a town called Neustadt-Titisee, right before the actual Titisee. It can be quite busy - we also saw that when we ended in a miles long traffic jam on a public holiday - so plan to come early or later in the day. Since the evenings last forever, we arrived around 15:00. Park here, then walk down to the See.

Now, next, what do you do. Rent a boat, go paddling, go swim, play on the beach, eat ice cream or something more substantial. But most of all, just chill, relax and enjoy the wonderful lake.

Freiburg im Breisgau

Last but not least, we closed out driving back to Freiburg. Find some parking and walk the wonderful old city. Note the gutters that you'll see all over the old city. The Freiburger Münster (Cathedral) is quite wonderful, and you'll see tons of people milling around, or sitting at the Fischbrunnen (fish fountain). 

Surprisingly, the restaurants on the north side of the cathedral were really nice. We enjoyed a long evening outside sitting on the square and enjoying a beer and a very good meal. Kind of rare to find this in a prime visitor location. After a good meal, we did wander about some more, enjoying the late evening light on a warm summer's day.

Note, if you do some of the longer hikes, or if you hang around Titisee longer, you may want to do Freiburg on a different day (like the first day, after Colmar).

Daytrip 3 - Switzerland

Lets start off with the fact that this is not Switzerland in a day! This is just one way of seeing a few cool, different places while you are so close to Switzerland... Next, you can do this in many different variants, going Basel to Schaffhausen or vice versa. And you can skip Basel altogether if you do a number of stops along the Rhine river.

But first... you need a sticker! Yup... yet another sticker. Oh and you may want to bring your passport, although we were never asked while crossing into Switzerland (or back into Germany). We did fork over 40 or Swiss Franks to get that sticker, in the most efficient manner ever. It is after all Switzerland.

In general, if short on time, do the Schaffhausen bit! And, get there as early as you can, because this place is very pretty and very busy. Park - if available - somewhere here. You'll see that this is actually in Neuhausen, and this is another short cut. You can do the Rhinefalls - the main attraction - and skip Schaffhausen itself. Do this is you plan to do boat tours, either to the falls, or across the Rhine. When pressed for time, I would recommend to spend the time on the river and with the falls. And when doing that, this is the coolest boat ride. And yes, plan ahead, and reserve tickets in advance.

Next up, drive west, and follow the Rhine. One the coolest points is the wooden bridge at Bad Säckingen.


From here is is again a choice. Drive up and back into Germany or keep going to Basel. If you go to Basel, you'll best be prepared. It is a big city. Much bigger than Freiburg. And parking is another story here. When we visited the whole inner city felt like a giant building project. I managed to get completely lost and drove into streets that were bus and tram only... wow. That was fun.

Either way. Find you way to river - aim for the Basler Münster and walk above the Rhine river. The bit between the Middle bridge and Wettsteinbrücke is the prettiest. When we were there, we actually saw people float down the river on the other side. So if you are interested in that, google around and see how that works. 

Basel - the center - has lots of shopping and make sure to check to the market square. Lots of stalls were there when we were in the city. We did have lunch at the Rollerhof Museum Bistro. Either here, or somewhere else in the region you must try Flammkuchen (flame cake). The Alsatian (French - German) answer to flatbread or some may say pizza... It is very enjoyable, and the version they served here was really nice.

And then you make your way back to where you are staying.

That's it for this trip.

Extending the Trip

Like I said before, there is a lot more to do around here. One day trip could be to the Bodensee. Or Lake Constanz as it is called in Switzerland. A really neat place to visit is Insel Mainau, a subtropical island with orange trees and amazing flower gardens. Or you can city trip up to Mulhouse or Strasbourg both in France. Of course, you can trek into Switzerland, where Zurich is a beautiful city to visit. That comes with an amazing lake and some wonderful mountains around it. Each of these will easily add 2 days to a visit.



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