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With its narrow pathways lit by dim light and adorned with wisteria plants, streets free of cars crisscrossed by small canals, and the Black Forest serving as a backdrop steeped in history, Freiburg is the perfect destination for an exciting city getaway.
It’s one thing to visit a stock-in-trade German city with a stunning cathedral, mosaicked squares and hazily nostalgic beer gardens. It’s quite another to visit one that has a thriving wine culture, a carousel of trams and funicular to ride, and eco-consciousness hardwired into its brain. This is Freiburg, and if there was ever a time to visit it is now: it’s having a moment.
During the winter season, this college town becomes a popular destination with its snow-covered rooftops, festive glühwein stands, and abundance of Christmas treats. In the summer, visitors can enjoy swimming in the lake and breathtaking sunsets. Spring brings farmers’ markets and autumn brings the wine harvest – it’s rare to find a city with a vineyard located within its pedestrian center.
Furthermore, what seals the deal is that it is not only Germany’s most environmentally friendly city, but also the one with the most sunshine. Best of all, it is easily accessible by train.
Explore more about traveling in Germany.
What to do
Sail a toy boat
Ratty tells Mole in The Wind in the Willows, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half as worthwhile as simply messing about in boats.” In Freiburg, this sentiment also holds true for playing around with boats.
The Old Town, which is car-free, resembles a small version of Venice with its network of narrow water-filled gutters that are only suitable for wading and children’s play. These channels, called Bächle in German, were originally built in the 13th century for drinking water and fire prevention, but are now used for sailboat races. Conveniently, there are many shops that sell small Bächle boats for a low price, allowing anyone to participate in the miniature regatta.
Explore the Münster Cathedral by going on a guided tour.
Even if you don’t typically enjoy visiting churches, Freiburg’s main attraction should not be dismissed. The Münster offers countless interesting details (such as the spire being taller than Big Ben and taking 300 years to construct), but the true delight lies in admiring the breathtaking beauty of one of the most stunning cathedrals in the world.
Every weekday and Saturday morning, the Münstermarkt comes to life in the nearby square, where farmers, butchers, and florists carry on the traditions of their ancestors from centuries past. Like many other German cities, Freiburg has its own unique sausage, the lange rote, which consists of a perfectly sliced 35cm piece of pork served on a bun.
If the Mosel and Middle Rhine regions, which are known for their riesling wines, are large and bold, then Baden in Freiburg is more charming. As the warmest area in the country, the vineyards benefit from ample sunlight and also draw inspiration from neighboring Alsace in France. No matter where you look, the city streets are filled with vineyards and wine bars.
Begin your journey at Alte Wache, a wine shop that has served as both a former public restroom and a military barracks for Austrian soldiers. At this establishment, you can enjoy a glass of Burgundy-style wine, such as pinot blanc and pinot noir, for only €2.5 (a rarity in Munich). The local specialty is the rich and fruity gutedel.
Explore the eco-friendly city of Freiburg.
In the 1970s, students at the city’s university were the pioneers of Germany’s resistance against the government’s proposal to implement nuclear power. From then on, a strong sense of environmental awareness and revolutionary environmentalism have been intertwined. The Old Town prohibits cars, while packaging-free markets, energy-efficient structures, vegan restaurants, and extensive bike lanes (totaling 400km) are prevalent. For the last 16 years, the city has been governed by a mayor from the Green political party.
Take a bike ride to Paula-Modersohn-Platz to see some of the highlights of the area. Along the way, you’ll come across the Green City Hotel, covered in ivy, and Solarsiedlung, a solar-powered community where each house generates more energy than it consumes. Another impressive structure is the Heliotrope, a rotating house that runs on solar power. In other parts of the city, you can find other noteworthy buildings such as SC Freiburg’s solar-powered soccer stadium and the Town Hall, the first public building in the world to produce excess energy. For an insider’s perspective, consider booking a tour with Freiburgerleben.
Experience an exhilarating adventure at Europa-Park.
This enormous theme park complex, situated in Rust just 30 minutes north, is the second largest after Disneyland Paris. However, it offers better value for money with its various themed sections that feature approximately 100 thrilling rides, shows, and roller coasters inspired by locations such as Greece, Spain, and Norway.
Rewritten: In contrast to other countries, Europa-Park, known for its fast rides, offers high-quality food and German beer, upscale hotels, and a retreat from the outside world during difficult times.
Where to stay
You’ll mainly want to linger in the Old Town, so check in to Park Hotel Post, which overlooks the city’s urban vineyard. The hotel itself is one part mazy guesthouse, one part library, with stuffed bookshelves, literary-themed corridors and wallpaper and cosy rooms. Perfect for curling up late at night with a page-turner.
Hotel Oberkirch is a highly regarded establishment situated in a prime location, offering elegant accommodations and a stunning restaurant terrace that overlooks the square. However, if you are sensitive to noise, be aware that the bells of Freiburg Münster may disturb your sleep. Brauerei Feierling is a popular choice for locals and visitors alike. Whether recommended by a resident or introduced by a friend, the attraction is hard to resist. The reasons for its popularity are numerous: reasonably priced beer brewed on-site, traditional menu items such as bratwurst, spätzle, and pretzels, and a lively atmosphere filled with enthusiastic patrons. The only thing lacking is enough time to fully enjoy it all.
Eating in Freiburg is just as satisfying as drinking, as the city’s distinctive tastes are heavily influenced by the nearby forest and farmland. Be sure to include Grossen Meyerhof (serving traditional Baden dishes), Markthalle (offering street food in a historic newspaper building), Wolfshöhle (featuring Michelin-star tasting menus), and Gasthaus Roter Bären (the oldest inn in Germany) on your itinerary.
Nuts and bolts
What type of currency is used?
What is the language spoken?
Should I tip?
A tip of 10% is acceptable in Germany, but not required.
How much time separates them?
What is the typical duration of flights and train rides from the UK?
It takes one hour and 35 minutes to travel from London or two hours from Edinburgh to EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. Trains provided by Eurostar, TGV Lyria, and Deutsche Bahn can transport passengers from London to Freiburg in less than seven hours.
What is the best way to travel?
By walking or cycling.
What is the optimal perspective?
To find the Freiburg textbook photograph, visit Kastaniengarten, a beautiful beer garden that offers a panoramic view of the city’s spires and sunsets from above the rooftops.
Take a ride on the Schlossberg funicular to explore the nearby forest, a popular weekend getaway for nature enthusiasts in Freiburg. With a height of 456m, the Schlossberg serves as the entrance to the Black Forest and offers endless opportunities for outdoor adventures beyond the trees.
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