After weeks of wandering through historic towns and fairy tale villages in Germany, Freiburg was my last stop before leaving the country. This city – home to 230,000 people if you include the students of the University of Freiburg – was a refreshing change of pace and scenery.
Freiburg is a popular spot for travelers in southwestern Germany, and I put together this guide to show you how to discover and devour it in your own way.
A Sneak Peek of Freiburg
Curious what Freiburg is actually like? Check out the video I made during my stay:
The History of Freiburg
Freiburg’s history can actually be tied to its name – frei and burg meaning “free” and “town.” Around 1120, Freiburg was settled due to its strategic location along trade routes between the Mediterranean and North Seas, plus close access to both the Rhine and Danube Rivers.
As was common for other cities in Europe during the middle ages, the history of Freiburg is full of bishops and kings ascending and falling, plenty of stabbings and other assassinations, and of course an appearance of the Black Plague which wiped out 25% of the city’s population. The 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries weren’t much better, with many changes of political and governmental hands. Throughout history, Freiburg was occupied or co-occupied by the French, even as late as 1991.
Despite this turmoil, Freiburg is also home to one of the oldest universities in Germany, and has a fascinating history through the 20th centuries – both good (the university home to several of the British Secret Service agents who may have inspired James Bond) and bad (one of the first cities in Germany to enforce the deportation of Jews from the city in late 1940). Like so many places in Germany, history is a double-edged sword for Freiburg.
The best way to learn Freiburg and German history is through a walking tour. I highly recommend Historix-Tours who offer daily walking tours year round on a variety of topics. Most tours start from €7.50 for adults and €6.50 for children.
What to See & Do in Freiburg
Freiburg was one of the bigger cities I visited while traveling through Germany, so my first thought is my gosh, where do I begin? In addition to a walking tour – which I highly recommend – here are some highlights you should definitely be sure to enjoy while in Freiburg:
Take the Tram Up Schlossberg for Easy Hiking and a View
I’m not a huge hiker, but this tram ride helps get you most of the way to the top of Schlossberg Hill right near Freiburg. From there, you can explore old forests, castle ruins, and maybe even climb up the observation tower. (This tower was closed when we visited, and I’m unsure when it will open again.) You can also see peeks of the Black Forest from the other side of the hill.
Spend time Exploring the Munsterplatz and Daily Market
For daily happenings in Freiburg, the Munsterplatz Daily Market in the shadow of the grand cathedral is the place to be. Sausage carts line the inside border near the church, and vendors surround them selling fresh flowers, food, and wine. It’s a must-stop for both lunch and picking up souvenirs.
Climb the Schwabentor or Cathedral Tower
Of the original towers in Freiburg, only a few remain. On a clear day, the view from either Schwabentor or the Cathedral Tower shows Freiburg spread out below you. Sadly, this was an activity I missed due to unforeseen closures, but as I love and always recommend climbing for a view, they still make my list.
Explore the Augustiner Museum or University Library
If museums are your jam, be sure to add the Augustiner Museum to your list. The building houses works from German artists throughout the centuries, primarily focused on religious history as the building is a former monastery. If you prefer a more modern architectural experience, stop by the funky University of Freiburg Library to admire the unusual structure and shape.
Where to Eat & Drink in Freiburg
Again, where do I begin? Freiburg is a big city, with everything from hole-in-the-wall spots to national chains. These are the places I enjoyed or added to my list for my next visit:
- The Munsterplatz. Seriously, all the sausage you could ever want. There are other foods too, but enjoying a delicious sausage with onions and mustard in the shadow of the catherdal is a must-do. Münsterplatz.
- Restaurant Dattler. Restaurant Dattler has the best views in the city, located up on Schlossberg hill. After climbing up (or walking the short distance from the tram), recover your strength with a slice of Black Forest cake. Am Schlossberg 1.
- MarktHalle. At the recommendation of several in-the-know Freiburgers/travelers, Mr. Valise and I made MarktHalle one of our lunch spots. As you can see in the video above, this is a must-do – ethnic cuisine from around the world, plus beer and wine. Grünwälderstraße 4.
- Hausbrauerei Feierling. A cozy restaurant with an awesome beer garden in summer, they brew their own beers in house and serve German and regional dishes. Gerberau 46.
- Schlappen. A common student hangout, they serve flamenkuche (a regional dish), a famous dish of fries, and all the whiskey you could imagine. Löwenstraße 2.
- Kastaniengarten Biergarten. Located on another part of Schlossberg hill, this beer garden is a favorite spot for locals in the summer, with great views of the surrounding countryside. Schlossbergring 3.
There are, of course, many other restaurants worth trying in Freiburg. These are just some of the ones I was most interested in – and which feature cozy atmospheres, good beer, and German food.
Where to Stay in Freiburg
As a large, university city, there are far more hotel options in Freiburg than many cities I’ve visited in Germany. If you’re traveling during the university terms, you can probably get a good deal on a hotel – be aware of times like new student enrollment or graduation when planning, as accommodation can book up. There are both chains and independent hotels in Freiburg; TripAdvisor has a good list of the top recommended choices.
I stayed at the StayInn Freiburg, located on the Fischerau. Only two minutes walk from the Martinstor, this centrally located loft apartment was a perfect vacation rental for a few night’s stay. It was fully equipped with a small kitchen; it’s a cozy place, but a great base if you’re spending all day out exploring anyway. We had a little snafu with getting the keys and getting access to the building, but after that it was a wonderful stay.
The StayInn Freiburg offers both apartments for rent and a hostel/guest house. Apartments start from €50 per night.
How to Get to Freiburg
- By plane & car: The nearest airport to Freiburg is Basel Airport in Switzerland. The drive from Basel around 60 minutes along the German border. You could also compare flights to Stuttgart, but then your drive is a little over 2 hours to Freiburg.
- By train: Freiburg has a major train station, and is serviced by routes throughout Europe through Deutsche Bahn. You can search routes and timetables on Bahn.de.
- By bus: Mr. Valise and I arrived by bus on the Flixbus. We had taken the route from Munich through Überlingen (where we stayed for 5 nights) before coming to Freiburg. Bus tickets are as low as €18 one way.
Have questions about visiting Freiburg? Let me know in the comments – I’m here to help!
Many thanks to Freiburg Tourism (Marketing Management FWTM Freiburg) for arranging my itinerary and providing support during my stay. Thanks also to StayInn Freiburg for providing accommodation, and Historix-Tours for giving Mr. Valise and I an amazing, immersive walking tour. This post was provided in exchange for these services.