Surrounded by vineyards in Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg is a medieval university town on the edge of the Black Forest. The cathedral has to be the first thing you see in Freiburg, and you’ll want to admire this gothic marvel and its fantastic towers from every angle.
The city is one of the most liveable cities in Germany, where the green movement was born in the 1970s. Freiburg is now both a stronghold of the Green Party and one of the most sustainable cities on the planet. Freiburg is also the starting point of the Black Forest, and you can take the cable car from the south of the city to the top of Schauinsland at 1,284 meters above sea level.
Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Fribourg:
1. Freiburg Cathedral
A 13th-century Romanesque church, Freiburg’s awe-inspiring cathedral took 300 years to complete.
Despite the damage around Münsterplatz in 1944, the cathedral suffered only minor damage.
In 1869, Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt described the 116-meter tower as the most beautiful tower in the world, and it’s hard to disagree.
For three years after its completion in 1330, the tower was also the tallest in the world, a hollow, richly decorated tracery and minaret.
The artistry of the façade alone is astounding: the tympanum and archives on the portal have 418 stone statues carved in the late 1200s.
Inside, see a Renaissance altarpiece by Hans Baldung Grien, then climb the tower to the 70-meter observation deck.
The cathedral is surrounded by a cobblestone pedestrian plaza, surrounded by historical monuments and market scenes, where deals are held every day of the week except Sunday.
The square was almost razed to the ground by bombs in 1944, but intact along with the cathedral is the Wentzingerhaus south of the square.
Built in 1761 by painter, sculptor and architect Johann Christian Wenzinger, this late Baroque mansion now houses a small museum about the city.
As for that market, there are 96 regional produce stalls on the north side and 65 on the south side, selling everything from exotic spices to handicrafts.
At the foot of the cathedral is a snack bar selling freshly prepared food such as long Freiburg-style sausages on toast.
3. Historic Merchant Hall
Also on the south side of Münsterplatz, there is a magnificent Renaissance building used as a market warehouse.
The lobby is not to be missed for its crimson façade and glazed patterned tiles on the bay windows.
In its current form, the ground floor features the gables and arcades of the Raven’s Steps, and the building dates back to the early 1530s.
The four statues above the front entrance balcony depict the three Holy Roman Emperors Maximilian I, Charles V and Ferdinand I, and Philip I of Castile, son of Maximilian I, He died before his father and thus never became emperor.
Under the bay window, the coat of arms of the five dominions under the control of the Habsburg family can be seen. These, as well as the statues, were sculpted by the Renaissance artist Hans Sixt von Staufen.
4. Freiburg Bachler
No time spent in Freiburg is possible without a small waterway in the groove of the old town.
These are fed by the Dreisam River and are called Bächle.
They were first recorded in the 1200s, and in the Middle Ages they had some uses, such as helping to put out fires, providing water for local trade, but also open sewers.
The system of passages adds up to 15.5 kilometers, of which 6.4 kilometers are underground.
Now they’re a quaint fixture in the city, helping to cool off in the summer.
Legends also say that if you accidentally step into it, you’ll end up marrying someone from Freiburg.
5. Augustine Museum
On Augustine Square, a former Augustinian monastery has been transformed into a stylish gallery showcasing art from the Middle Ages to the Baroque.
The upstairs galleries contain works by German Renaissance masters such as Matthias Grunewald, Lucas Cranach and Hans Balton Grien, as well as works by Masters of the Genealogy. Speyer Altarpiece.
The original medieval stained glass of Freiburg Cathedral is displayed on two levels, and the upper level also displays a collection of medieval wooden sculptures.
Downstairs, the altar of the abbey church preserves Baroque sculptures, figurines, paintings and altars, with solemnly carved figures lining the columns.
The younger of Freiburg’s two medieval gates rose in the mid-13th century, near the oldest crossing on the Dresam River.
The tower is three stories high and constructed of red sandstone.
Stair towers and half-timbered extensions are a little later, from the 16th century.
On the side of the town you can see a 1672 Baroque painting of a merchant.
This soon became the subject of a legend about the city about a merchant who tried to buy Freiburg with what he thought was a sack of gold, but his wife had replaced it with sand and pebbles.
Above the cornerstone on the city side of the arch is a Romanesque carving of a prickly boy, a pattern that dates back to ancient Greece.
Protecting Freiburg from the east is a 456-meter-high hill in the Black Forest.
As a convenient strategic location, Schlossberg was fortified back in the 1000s, and although the structures are now in ruins, efforts have been made to bring them back to life.
One of the main attractions now is the Schlossbergbahn, a funicular railway that opened in 2008 and takes you from the base of the mountain to the top in three minutes.
At the top of the hill is the Schlossbergturm, which was built in 2002 and offers panoramic views of the city.
If you follow the line to the southwest, there is a scenic terrace at Kanonenplatz where you can gaze at the cathedral opposite the vineyards.
Freiburg’s New Town Hall and Old Town Hall are located in the same compound on the picturesque Town Hall Square.
The Old Town Hall is located on the north side and is in the Renaissance style, dating from the late 1550s.
On the curved cables above the clock you can see the double eagles of the Holy Roman Empire, while the various ruling families of Freiburg over the years have prided themselves on their coat of arms along the outlines of the gables.
The old town hall is now home to the Freiburg Tourist Office, so you can go inside.
The New Town Hall is next door, it’s not a brand new building, it’s actually two Renaissance civic residences connected by an arcade.
At 12:00, please stop when the carillon sounds in the connecting section.
9. Martin Stowe
The older of the two gates is located on the southwest side of the old town and has stood here in some form since 1202. Martinsto’s first records are from 1238, but analysis of the wood suggests they are a bit old.
The gate was an anchor for medieval fortifications, but it became obsolete when French military engineer Vauban redesigned the city’s ramparts in the 1600s.
The lower third of the gate tower is original, while the upper level dates from the turn of the 20th century and is capped with a late Gothic-style roof.
On the city side of the passage, there is a grim reminder of past justice, as a plaque commemorates the three women who were burned as witches in the city in 1599.
10. Haus zum Walfisch (Whale House)
This elegant Early Renaissance house was ordered by the Grand Treasurer of the Holy Roman Emperor Jacob Willinger von Schönenberg.
The house dates back to the 1510s and housed some important figures for the next hundred years.
The Dutch humanist Erasmus visited the house between 1529 and 1531, and Emperor Ferdinand I used it around 1562-63. If you happen to be a fan of art-horror director Dario Argento, you’ll know that the Whale House was the backdrop for the dance school in Suspiria from 1977.
The largest zoo in Baden-Württemberg covers 38 hectares in a manor house dating back to the 9th century.
Mundenhof used to be farmland, but over the past 100 years it has been bought up by the city and turned into a recreational area, and the park still retains its peaceful rural atmosphere.
Opened in 1968, the zoo, unlike most zoos, is a freely accessible non-profit business that relies on donations.
Most animals are native, domestic and working species kept in open paddocks.
But there are also gibbons, macaques, brown bears, alpacas, llamas, yaks, emus and ostriches.
Former stables are turned into aquariums and terrariums, while in summer the park is a nesting ground for storks.
12. Mark Thaler
Just around the corner from Martinstor is a foodie destination best described as an international food court.
There are more than 20 stalls preparing specialties from around the world, so you can try Italian, Chinese, Argentine, Japanese, Indian, Brazilian or Middle Eastern cuisine.
Or, since you’re in Germany, you can opt for something a little more local, like Frikadellen (fried meatballs) or a Freiburg-style sausage.
The champagne bar adds to the festive atmosphere on weekend afternoons, with live music and DJ performances in the lobby in the evenings.
13. Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery)
When Johann Christian Wenzinger died in 1797, he left his estate to the city on the condition that his grave would be given forever at the Alter Friedhof in Freiburg take care.
For this reason, the cemetery used from 1683 to 1872 was more or less unaffected.
Coming here is both a cultural activity and a walk in the peaceful nature on the northern edge of the old town.
All the wealthy and noble citizens of Freiburg at the time were buried here, and their tombs and tombstones are works of Baroque and Neoclassical art.
Besides Wenzinger, you’ll meet historical figures such as Mirabeau’s brother, father of 19th-century painter Anselm Feuerbach and daughter-in-law of Felix Mendelssohn.
14. Look at the park
In this 35-hectare park west of Freiburg, you wouldn’t have imagined yourself standing in the middle of a quarry until 35 years ago.
The Seepark has gradually developed since the early 1980s and was at the heart of the 1986 Landesgartenschau (Federal Garden Show) programme in Freiburg. A third of the park area is occupied by the lake, which has a pier where you can rent pedal boats in summer.
In 1990, a 3,600 m² Japanese garden was built, symbolizing the partnership between Freiburg im Breisgau and the city of Matsuyama.
Seepark is also equipped with an observation tower, mini golf and an eco station.
On Freiburg’s southern horizon is a 1,284-meter-high Black Forest mountain.
Schauinsland is only 10 km from the old town and is the best place to go by cable car.
The Schauinslandbahn is the longest cable car in Germany, with a total length of 3.6 kilometers and a vertical rise of more than 700 meters.
Usually you don’t have to wait more than a minute to get to the lodge, and the journey to the top takes 15 minutes.
The Schauinslandbahn operates in winter and summer, but is closed in bad weather conditions.
At the summit, you can see the circular Vosges Mountains to the west and the jagged northern peaks of the Alps to the south.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Freiburg, Germany
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