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Located on the edge of Germany’s Black Forest is the bustling University city of Freiburg, also known as Freiburg im Breisgau.
Known for its reconstructed medieval old town and surrounding natural beauty, it’s the perfect destination to visit if you want to relax in a quiet town with plenty of history and nature to explore.
Despite being small, there are plenty of things to do in Freiburg, as our ex-pat resident Andrew Couch reveals in this guide on what to do in Freiburg. Andrew has lived in Freiburg since 2007 and has given us his tips on the best places to see, eat, stay, drink, and explore.
Take it away Andrew.
Is Freiburg Worth Visiting?
Freiburg is a German university city out of the main English-speaking tourist flow that runs from Munich to Berlin and yet is central in Europe.
It is a beautiful, walkable city on the edge of the Black Forest known for being in the sunniest corner of the country.
The university and its students keep it vibrant and cultural. It is a good base to explore this region with day trips to the nearby spa towns and the numerous hiking opportunities of the forest nearby.
If you enjoy quiet, peaceful towns in Europe with historic architecture and are surrounded by natural beauty, then Freiburg is definitely worth visiting.
What to do in Freiburg
Looking for things to do in Freiburg? The city itself is pretty relaxing, so to “do stuff” you need to leave town for a bit. These are all the top tourist attractions in the town you cannot miss!
1. Walk around The Old Town
Start with walking around Freiburg’s old town with its historic buildings and relaxing squares built during the Middle Ages. Be sure to head to the Cathedral square, Münsterplatz, in the morning to see the daily farmer’s market and eat a sausage from the stands there.
The Freiburger Münster, or the Gothic Cathedral, is the biggest attraction in Freiburg and is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The Freiburg Minster was built by the last duke of Zähringen in the early 13th century in a Romanesque style, before being renovated in a gothic architectural style.
After checking out the cathedral, explore the side streets and step over the Freiburger Bächle, the tiny water rills along many streets which are unique to Freiburg.
See the iconic Martin’s Tor (one of the former city gates) which now has a Mcdonald’s in it. It’s possibly the most beautiful fast-food restaurant in Germany!
Some other city gates worth checking out are Puerta Suaba and Martinstor Gate (Martin’s Gate). The old town is small so it’s easy to walk from one to another.
My quirky favorite thing to do in Freiburg is to check out the marking on the ground just north of the old town, where the 48 latitude line goes through. It is an inlay on the sidewalk, so make sure you keep your eyes on the pavement.
2. Hike to Schlossberg (Castle Hill)
Then head up the Schlossberg (Castle hill). There are stairs and a cable-car at Schwabentor (another former city gate) that head up, but since it sits at 473 meters it’s quite easy to hike if you want to.
Those who don’t want to hike should take the Schlossbergbahn, a funicular railway that links the city centre with the Schlossberg hill.
The mountain is an extension of the black forest and is clad with trees, perfect for a summer’s day when the sun is hot as it offers ample shade.
At one level there is a beer garden with views of the whole city. The next level up is Cannonenplatz with seats and views as well. Further up is a lookout tower which is worth a visit.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find a public park with panoramic views of the city.
3. Go for a Walk along the Dreisam River
If you like a good walk, head down to the river and start walking. My favorite direction is east toward the forest.
You can walk for miles along the river. In the summer the banks are a popular hangout for locals, and especially, university students.
4. Wander Around the Neighborhoods in Freiburg
Certainly, the Altstadt (old town) is the best place to walk around. The Cathedral and Town Hall have their own squares and the pedestrian shopping streets are there too.
On a Saturday this is where the action is. If you want to get out of the center there are a few neighboring districts to look at.
Weihre is south of the center and over the river. It is one of the older neighborhoods with older buildings. While mainly residential, there are some nice places to shop and eat.
Stühlinger is on the other side of the train tracks and is mainly a student area. More little neighborhood cafes here.
Gunterstal is the end stop on the green line going south. It is almost a self-enclosed village of its own with expected charm.
5. Try The Local Cuisine: Flammkuchen and Spaghetti Eis
Flammkuchen is a thin crispy dough with cream sauce and toppings. So a bit like a pizza, but not. The classic toppings of onion and bacon are from just over the river in Alsace France.
A lot of places in town serve it and most will put just about anything you want on it.
Another unique food item you should try on your visit is Spaghetti Eis, a unique German ice cream that was designed for kids (though adults will love it too).
It’s made up of whipped cream, ice cream that has been spun to look like spaghetti, and then strawberry sauce and white chocolate on top.
Of course, you have to try a Bratwurst, a German sausage and Sauerkraut, a cabbage dish that is often cooked in beer.
6. Drink Craft Beer at Hausbrauerei Feierling
Hausbrauerei Feierling is a tiny brewery in Freiburg with both a pub and a beer garden. The beer is unfiltered and a little sweet, but very fresh. It also has the first light beer in the whole of Feierling.
7. Check Out One of the Festivals in Freiburg
For those looking for festivals in Freiburg, you’ll want to visit in the winter. The Christmas Market runs for the four weeks of Advent in November and December, and the Freiburg christmas markets go all out.
Think wooden Bavarian stalls selling handicrafts, carollers, and street food!
Although Christmas has the biggest event of the year, summer brings wine fests to both Freiburg and surrounding towns. Each summer, there are music and local festivas in specific sections of town and on the castle hill.
Fasching is the German version of Mardi Gras celebrated 6 weeks ahead of Easter on a Monday. Not an official festival, but October brings New Wine Season. Check out the sweet new wine in the market.
8. Take a Day Trip from Freiburg
Freiburg is a great town, but it can feel small. However, it is at the center of a good regional transport network so day-tripping is a really excellent idea.
Titisee or Feldberg in the forest, the spa resort town of Baden Baden, the Kaiserstuhl wine growing area, or even Switzerland are all within a few hours on the train and make easy day trips.
Afterward, come back to town and enjoy a beer.
9. Admire the Haus zum Walfisch (Whale House)
The Haus zum Walfisch is located in the Old Town and is one of the most photogenic buildings because of its red facade lined with stone gargoyles and gold-lined bay windows.
It has been home to many famous residents over the years such as Erasmus of Rotterdam and Emperor Ferdinand I.
It was also used in the horror movie Suspiria where it was used as a dance hall.
10. Get Cultural at the Augustiner Museum
The Augustiner Museum is nestled inside a former Augustinian monastery which now contains an art gallery showcasing the best works from the Middle Ages.
You will find works from German Renaissance icons such as Matthias Grünewald and Hans Baldung Grien.
The artwork is impressive, but so is the building. It still contains its original stained glass windows from Freiburg Minster as well as several Medieval sculptures.
Be sure to check out the chapel which contains sculptures, statuettes, and paintings from the Baroque period.
11. Check Out The Alter Friedhof (Old Cemetery)
You might be thinking that a walk around the cemetery isn’t your idea of a fun thing to do in Freiburg, but this is no ordinary cemetery.
This huge 2.65 hectares cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in Germany and has tombs for around 1200 people.
The tombs have been well kept and some are very artistic and beautiful, as they were largely made for the middle class residents.
Wander around the cemetery and take in the neo-classical architecture and unique designs.
12. Check out the Old Town Hall and New Town Hall
The New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall are located at Rathausplatz, the town hall square in the old town.
The Old Town Hall was built in the 1550s and is styled in a classic Renaissance style. Here is where the Freiburg tourist information office is located.
Right next door is the new Town Hall which is two Renaissance burgher houses joined together by an arcade.
Its clock is the most striking feature, which every day at midday the glockenspiel chimes.
Best time to Visit Freiburg
The best time to visit Freiburg is the late spring to early fall. The town lives up to its reputation as the sunniest part of Germany. This is also the time for many festivals both in Freiburg itself and surrounding towns.
Sit in the sun and enjoy a cold beer or wine in a square.
Getting To and Around Freiburg
Frankfurt International airport has a train station in it that has links to Freiburg. The ICE train connections take 2 hours and either run straight or have a very easy connection (same platform) in Mannheim.
Basel Euroairport has an Easyjet hub and it is connected by bus to Freiburg.
The train is probably your best bet if you are already in Europe with Milan and Paris about 5 hours away.
The center of the city is very walkable. Even from the center to one edge of the city is about an hour walk. There is also a tram system that keeps all parts of the city well connected.
Where to Stay in Freiburg
Freiburg has two great hostels with the Black Forest Hostel being closer to town. I have put my parents up in the Schwartzwälder hof a few times and they like it. It is a small hotel right in the old town.
I have always come to Freiburg to live so always had apartments to move into.
Although when I moved here from the US permanently, I did stay for several weeks in the City Hotel. It isn’t pretty from the outside, but it is right in the old town and the staff was friendly.
For places to stay in Freiburg choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancelation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.
Final Thoughts on What To Do in Freiburg
I love Freiburg because it feels like home. Not just that I have lived here, but it has a lot of elements that make it feel like where I grew up.
There are so many things to do in Freiburg, and the atmosphere is laid-back and relaxing. Whether you’re looking for somewhere to do some sightseeing, or just want to kick back and chill out somewhere, you’ll find yourself falling in love with Freiburg.
We hope this guide gave you some ideas for what to do in Freiburg and helped you plan your trip!
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