The Popular European Spot Rick Steves Warns Is A Tourist Trap (And What He Recommends Instead)

When you think about overtourism and tacky tourist traps, Germany probably isn't the first country that comes to mind. These issues are often associated with places like Venice, Athens, and Bali. Alongside the beauty of those places are stalls selling mass-produced souvenirs, restaurants serving sub-par cuisine, and vast crowds of people wielding cameras. For travelers, the experience of visiting bucket-list destinations can leave a sour taste in the mouth.

No one knows this better than Rick Steves, America's leading authority on European travel and top tier travel tips. Steves has focused on finding the "back door" in travel for years. To him, this means finding ways to avoid the crowds and travel more thoughtfully in Europe. His flagship tour is even called Europe Through the Back Door

One area that Steves found to be an obvious tourist trap was a part of Germany's Black Forest (Schwarzwald) region. Steves published a video on his blog about two very different experiences in this fairytale region. One is in Titisee, an overtouristed and overhyped stop on many European itineraries, and the other is in a place of pure paradise.

The dark side of the Black Forest

The Black Forest, in Germany's southwest, is a land of enchantment. A canopy of thick trees darkens the forest floor, streams and waterfalls bubble along, and rolling low peaks afford spectacular views. The Black Forest isn't just a rural idyll, though. It's also home to towns like Baden-Baden, an amusement park, and smaller communities like Titisee.

In a clip shared on his blog, Steves drives through Titisee showing the charming streets filled with meandering tourists. As Steves rolls past pavement cafés filled with visitors and shops selling generic souvenirs, he comments that "the entire place is built on tourism." He also scathingly comments that places like Titisee are famous purely for being famous, citing an overactive marketing department.

But there is an alternative (in fact, there are many alternatives!). In the same clip, Steves shows an area gloriously free of tourists. A lush meadow rolls away toward black hills in the distance. Though Steves doesn't disclose exactly where he got his shot, we've found one of his recommendations that fits the bill for a quieter vacation spot in the Black Forest.

The quieter side

In another article on his site, Steves writes about his favorite hike in the Black Forest. He says the 5-mile trek from St. Märgen and St. Peter is his "favorite way to commune with nature." If you start in St. Märgen, follow the signs for St. Peter Höhenweg, one AllTrails user advises. However, they also suggest making this hike into a loop, doubling the time from two hours to four. You'll pass through classic Black Forest countryside on this hike, though one AllTrails user complained that the forest was too thick and didn't have any views. You can't please them all! St. Märgen is just a 15-minute drive north of Titisee but beats at a much gentler pace.

If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that Steves doesn't rate the Black Forest region all that highly for American tourists. In an article on his site, he writes that the Black Forest can be disappointing for Americans who are fairly used to seeing vast swathes of woodland. Instead, he recommends travelers from the U.S. head to Bavaria to enjoy the mountain peaks or the picturesque countryside around the Rhine and Mosul Rivers.