I must confess: reaching Freiburg in Breisgau is not as simple as reaching other German cities. I landed in Stuttgart and then traveled 2 and a half hours by train, through the Black Forest, with a change in Karlsruhe.
But it was worth it because Freiburg is an easy-going city that can be even visited in one day since the main attractions are all within walking distance.
During World War II, the air raid Operation Tigerfish destroyed most of the city, leaving only dust behind. But today Freiburg looks beautiful. Everything is reborn here: historic buildings, sculptures, paintings, splendid portals, floral decorations, etc.
Moreover, because of its geographical position, near the French and Swiss borders, you can experience in Freiburg a sort of cultural and architectural mix.
Freiburg in a nutshell
The following is an interactive map with the main city attractions marked with blue pins. The two restaurants where I have been and that I recommend are marked with brown pins.
Whether moving from the railway station, from the Cathedral square, or from your hotel, you can randomly stroll around Freiburg historic center. You will pass from one attraction to another without the need to follow a precise itinerary.
Freiburg Minster (Münster)
It is a Gothic church built with red sandstones and which took over 300 years to complete: from 1200 until about 1550. The church bell tower is over 110 meters high and among the highest in Europe. The interiors are richly decorated, and the windows are splendid colored glass mosaics.
From the bell tower, you can enjoy an excellent view of the city. Well, you need to climb more than 200 steps, and you need to pay an entrance fee, but in my opinion, the view is worth every step.
Every weekday an open-air market takes place in front of the Cathedral, with gastronomic specialties, fruit, and flowers. While on one side of the church square, there is one of the most picturesque and famous buildings in Freiburg: the Historisches Kaufhaus (Historic Market). This is the building that once housed the market and customs offices.
City Hall Square (Rathausplatz)
Freiburg City Hall is made up of 3 buildings, each one with different administrative functions. Two of these buildings are located in Rathausplatz: the Old City Hall, recognizable by its red color, and the New City Hall, which is white instead.
St. Martin’s Church is located in front of the City Hall, and another well-known building in Freiburg, the House of the Whale (Haus zum Walfisch), is not far away from it. This building dates back to 1500 and here lived Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, and the philosopher Erasmus.
Old City Gates
Today, nothing remains of the old city walls apart from 2 fortified and tower-shaped gates dating back to 1200-1250: the Martinstor (Martin’s Gate) and the Schwabentor (Swabian gate). A third gate, the Breisacher Tor (Breisach gate), dates from the late 1600s instead.
Bächle (the runnels)
This is maybe the most original attraction of the city. Almost 16 km of runnels, of which about ten km open-air, flow along the streets of the historic center.
It is a tree-covered hill about 500 meters high and located right behind the historic center. You can reach to the top of the hill in many ways (on foot, with the elevator near the Schwabentor, or with the cable railway from the City Park).
Needless to say: the panoramic view of the city from the Schlossberg is amazing.
Gerberau, Fischerau, and Konviktstraße
These are some of the most picturesque streets in the city, full of historic buildings, house decorations, and impressive portals. In the middle of the Gewerbekanal, there is a stone crocodile that rises from the flowing water. Go find it!
Other major sights
- Colombischlössle Archeological Museum. It is a Mansion built in Tudor style with a small garden.
- Stadttheater (City Theater). Built in the Neo-Baroque style, it is the biggest Freiburg city theater. There is a fountain in front of it, whose perimeter retraces the foundations of the Old Synagogue that once stood here.
- University Library Freiburg. A modern building next to the Stadttheater.
- Markthalle (Market Hall).
- Sacred Heart Church. Its towers and impressive architecture stand out right outside the historic center and near the central station.
If you have extra time
- Augustinermuseum. Located in the former Augustinian Monastery building directly in the city center.
- If you are looking for a little relaxation, the tram takes you in few minutes from the city center to the Betzenhauser Torplatz stop. The small but beautiful Japanese Garden and the Flückigersee, a lake with recreation area, are just a few minutes’ walk from here.
- For those who travel with children and have at least an extra day available, a visit to the Europa-Park could be a good idea. This is an amusement park, one of the biggest in Europe, located in Rust, about 30 minutes’ drive from Freiburg.
- The Black Forest Open Air Museum in Gutach is another typical excursion around Freiburg and a popular tourist attraction.
Things to eat
Let yourself be surprised by the local cuisine, and you won’t regret it. I have been to both breakfast and dinner at the Hermann Café right near the station. Do not let the first impression be the last. The building that hosts the Café is a big bicycles depot, but the Café is a very nice place.
They serve many different breakfast types, cakes, and local specialties. The Maultaschen (similar to the Italian ravioli but larger in size) and the Käsespätzle (cheese dumplings) are a must for those who want to taste the Swabian cuisine.
A very young atmosphere, many local beers and another Swabian specialty, the Flammkuchen, awaits you at the Schachtel.
The Flammkuchen is a kind of thin pizza with cheese, speck, and other ingredients you can choose from the menu.