Freiburg im Breisgau, or more commonly, “Freiburg”, is known as the “Jewel of the Black Forest.” By German standards it is a major city in southwest Germany, situated on the edge of the Black Forest.
Lying in a secluded wine-rich corner of the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Freiburg is a laid-back, beautiful university city. Known throughout Germany for Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, good weather, and vineyards, Freiburg is considered by Germans to be a desirable place to live.
Due to its secluded location at the border triangle of Germany, France, and Switzerland, and being fairly removed from any other larger German cities, locals will frequently go shopping in France and Switzerland for their respective native products and go to museums and theaters in Basel or Zürich. One can find a strong local patriotism, which shows itself in the anthem of Baden (a former independent state), which can be heard more often than the national anthem.
Although Freiburg itself is not a major tourist destination or a large city, it can serve as a relatively inexpensive base from which to explore much of central Europe. Thanks to its excellent connections via rail and road to the outside world, Freiburg can easily allow to travel to all of Switzerland, Germany, Austria, the Benelux countries, and France with little trouble and at good prices. If you plan on an extended stay or travel to these destinations, it can be a welcoming base to return to after each segment of your journey, with more than enough to entertain you for a few days while you stay in Freiburg.
Because of its scenic beauty, relatively warm and sunny climate, and easy access to the Black Forest, Freiburg is a hub for regional tourism. The longest cable car run in Germany, which is 3.6 kilometres (2.2 mi) long, runs from Günterstal up to a nearby mountain called Schauinsland. The city has an unusual system of gutters (called Freiburg Bächle) that run throughout its centre. These Bächle, once used to provide water to fight fires and feed livestock, are constantly flowing with water diverted from the Dreisam. They were never intended to be used for sewage, and even in the Middle Ages such use could lead to harsh penalties. During the summer, the running water provides natural cooling of the air, and offers a pleasant gurgling sound. It is said that if one accidentally falls or steps into a Bächle, they will marry a Freiburger, or ‘Bobbele’.
The Augustinerplatz is one of the central squares in the old city. Formerly the location of an Augustinian monastery that became the Augustiner Museum in 1921, it is now a popular social space for Freiburg’s younger residents. It has a number of restaurants and bars, including the local brewery ‘Feierling’, which has a Biergarten. On warm summer nights, hundreds of students gather here.
At the center of the old city is the Münsterplatz or Cathedral Square, Freiburg’s largest square. A farmers market is held here every day except Sundays. This is the site of Freiburg’s Münster, a gothic minster cathedral constructed of red sandstone, built between 1200 and 1530 and noted for its towering spire.
The Historical Merchants’ Hall (Historisches Kaufhaus), is a Late Gothic building on the south side of Freiburg’s Münsterplatz. Built between 1520 and 1530, it was once the center of the financial life of the region. Its façade is decorated with statues and the coat of arms of four Habsburg emperors.
The Altes Rathaus, or old city hall, was completed in 1559 and has a painted façade. The Platz der alten Synagoge “Old Synagogue Square” is one of the more important squares on the outskirts of the historic old city. The square was the location of a synagogue until it was destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938. Zum Roten Bären, the oldest hotel in Germany, is located along Oberlinden near the Swabian Gate.
The Siegesdenkmal, or victory monument, is a monument to the German victory in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. It is situated at the northern edge of the historic city center of Freiburg, and was built by Karl Friedrich Moest. In everyday language of people living in Freiburg, it serves as an orientation marker or as a meeting place.
To the east of the city center, the Schlossberg hill provides extensive views over the city and surrounding region. The castle (Schloss) from which the hill takes its name was demolished in the 1740s, and only ruins remain. Schlossberg retained its importance to the city, however, and 150 years ago the city leaders opened up walks and views to make the mountain available to the public. Today, the Schlossbergbahn funicular railway connects the city center to the hill.
Other museums in the city include the Archaeology Colombischlössle Museum.
Badische Zeitung is the main local daily paper, covering the Black Forest region.
In 2010, Freiburg was voted as the Academy of Urbanism’s European City of the Year in recognition of the exemplary sustainable urbanism it has implemented over the past several decades.