We visited Freiburg last fall, on a Sunday day trip from Zurich. Considered the warmest and sunniest place in Germany, the city lived up to its title, with its many squares and cafes buzzing with locals and tourists enjoying the October sun.
Located in the south-west of the country, Freiburg is best known for its old university, its high standards of living and advanced environmental practices and for being the entry point to the scenic beauty of the Black Forest.
But this picturesque city on the banks of the river Dreisam has its own charm and personality, as well as a handful of attractions worth visiting.
We start on the Münsterplatz (or Cathedral Square), Freiburg’s largest square and the center of the old town.
Well in the middle of the square is the monumental Freiburg Cathedral, built from 1200 to 1513 in Romanesque and Gothic style.
Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt once said that the church’s impressive 116-meter tower “will forever remain the most beautiful spire on earth”.
Well, he could be right.
Completed in 1330, the Gothic tower offers a nice view of the city and the neighboring hills of the Black Forest (although not the most spectacular one, I must say).
After this, we take a moment to appreciate another interesting building located in the main square: the Historical Kaufhaus (or store), constructed between 1520 and 1532 for the municipal market.
We continue then our route through Freiburg’s top sights: the old and the new town halls; Martinstor (or Martin Gate) – the oldest gate tower from Freiburg’s first fortification built at the beginning of the 13th century; Augustinerplatz – the meeting point of the city; and Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg – one of the oldest universities in Germany.
All along the way, the Bächle follow us side by side. These small canals running through the old town offer the city a unique and special character.
The Bächle were originally used for the provision of water for industrial use and as sewers. Today they are a popular play area for adults and children alike, especially on warm days.
Be careful though: according to the local superstition, if you accidentally step into one of the canals, you will marry a Freiburger!
Another thing that wins me over immediately in Freiburg is all the green, the flowers and the trees everywhere, the city blending harmoniously with nature.
That and the many terraces spread around the city give Freiburg a bit of a French flair.
This comes as no surprise, since Freiburg is actually closer to France and Switzerland than to any other larger German city. It even shares its airport with Basel, in Switzerland, and Mulhouse, in France.
So whether you are planning to explore the Black Forest or wish to visit central Europe, this beautiful city is certainly the place to start.