The full name for Freiburg is actually Freiburg im Breisgau – Breisgau being an area in the south-west corner of the state of Baden-Württemberg in the south-western part of Germany. The town has a population of some 200,000 people, and has a thriving university with some 30,000 students in total.
The city’s origins date back to the 12th century when it was founded as a fortified town under the control of the Zähringer family. Its location is not far from the French border, and French influences have always played a significant part of its development, although this can also be seen in a negative light in that war was often a fact of life here – during the Napoleonic period notably, the city was completely administered by the French.
There has been a Roman Catholic bishopric here since 1827, the current Archbishop of the diocese, Robert Zollitsch, is a well-known spokesman on Catholic affairs, not just in Germany, but also on the international stage as well.
These days Freiburg likes to see itself as an environmentally friendly city. The German Federal Agency for Radiation Protection is based here, and a number of important companies in the solar power industry have their headquarters in the city. It is currently also the only major city in the country where the mayor is a member of the German Green Party (“Bundnis’90/Die Grünen”).
Given its position in a relatively remote corner of the country, journey times by rail from the rest of the country can seem quite lengthy (by German standards at least) – the journey to and from Munich, for instance, takes over four hours. The InterCity Express trains (ICE) from Frankfurt International Airport take only two hours, however, as does the journey from Stuttgart.
Travellers coming specifically coming to Freiburg would though be advised to use the international airport at Basel in Switzerland (actually called the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg), which is served by a large number of international airlines, and is only 60 kilometres from the city. Travellers can choose to arrive from there using the airport bus direct to the city, or alternatively going into Basel and catching a direct train from there.
Motorists will meanwhile find that the city is well connected by the Autobahn A5, which will connect them with major German cities such as Karlsruhe and Frankfurt, as well as Strasbourg in France and Basel in Switzerland.
As befits a city of its size, Freiburg offers all types of accommodation possibilities, so if you prefer a hotel, a holiday home or a small guest house for example, all are available. For those who like the outdoor life, camping and caravanning possibilities can be found at the site in the Möslepark between the end of March and the end of October.
Advanced booking for rooms is advised as competition for rooms can be quite significant at certain times of the year. A booking enquiry form can be found on the front page of the city’s tourist website (www.freiburg.de) – the site can be consulted in any of six languages, for English select the UK Union Jack flag.
The city is well provided for by way of public transport. Visitors are advised to call at the city’s Tourist Information Office on the Town Hall Square (“Rathausplatz”), where more information on this, the guided tours to be undertaken, and other city highlights can be discussed. The staff provide a multilingual service to help avoid any misunderstandings.
If you prefer to strike out on your own, the city offers many attractions.
Among the many buildings which are recommended to be seen are the following:
The 16th century Minster (“Münster Unserer Lieben Frau”), which managed to survive wartime bombing relatively undamaged.
The Historisches Kaufhaus (translated “Historic Store”), founded for municipal market management – again in the 16th century.
The old and new Town Halls – try to catch the glockenspiel chimes at the latter at midday.
The three city gates (Schwabentor, Martinstor – a historic 13th century construction – and the Breisachertor).
Also to be seen is the unique guttering in the city, the Bächle, which were used originally for industrial water supply and also as sewers, but have now become more a source of entertainment than anything else.
On the outskirts of the city, you will find the historic Schlossberg (literally “Castle Hill”) from where you can get an excellent view of the entire neighbourhood. Since 2008, it has been possible to reach the top of this by a cable railway from the city centre, which requires a mere three minutes.
Another cable-car ride will take you up to see close-up the local Schauinsland mountains, which is a fascinating journey.
Animal lovers will meanwhile happily spend time at the Mundenhof nature park, a 38 hectare area providing a living space for various apes, yaks, emus and ostriches among others. There is also an aquarium there which is well worth the visit. Families with children would also be advised to take the opportunity to visit the Europa Park with its wide range of rides.
For those who enjoy swimming, there is the excellent open air pool – the Eugen Keidel Thermal Baths, which also offers a fitness centre and sauna facilities.
As Freiburg is close to the Black Forest, open air activities are widely encouraged. Those wishing to venture out and see what the Black Forest has to offer, will find a lot of possibilities available to them. There is also in the city the Nordic Fitness Park, which offers a series of walks graded according to difficulty.
For dining out, there are a whole range of possibilities, covering both local and international cuisine. The local specialities include beef with horseradish sauce and beetroot, “Schäufele” (roast pig’s shoulder), and “Schupfnudeln mit Specksauerkraut” (noodles cooked with sauerkraut mixed with pieces of bacon). Wine from neighbouring areas is recommended to be drunk with these food choices.
The climate of this part of Germany is among the mildest that you will encounter anywhere in the country. Autumn, with all its glorious colours, tends to dwell longer in the surrounding countryside, while spring tends to arrive quite early. Summers are usually warm, and can offer some glorious days to enjoy. Given the proximity of the local mountains, some days in winter can be quite cold, and snow is not unknown here either, so check first what to expect and come prepared accordingly.
Freiburg is an attractive and lively city. It also has a very international feel, and visitors are always made welcome. It is definitely a place that you would be advised to include on your itinerary.