As the entry point to the fairytale Black Forest, Freiburg im Breisgau is the ideal hub to explore southwest Germany. The setting for stories like that of the Brothers Grimm, this is the area to shop cuckoo clocks, drink wines from the Baden wine-growing region or get an adrenaline rush on the rides of Europa-Park.
Within the city, the Schwarzwald hovers within reach in the form of the Schlossberg and the Renaissance University, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg brings new blood to this fabled land. Less a place of attractions than experiences, these 9 things will help visitors get acquainted with friendly Freiburg.
The 11th-century Muenster is the star of the city, set against the Schlossberg. Also known as Münster Unserer Lieben Frau, this towering red-sandstone minister features sky-piercing spires and a whole host of characters in the form of gargoyles - in particular the guy on the south side mooning onlookers with his stony butt. At the main entrance portal, there are scenes and figures from the Old and New Testaments.
To get a view from the Minister rather than of it, ascend the 116 meter high spire. Look over the town and even to the Vosges Mountains in France.
The square of the Münster is the largest in Freiburg and the site of a regular market since medieval times. The market in Münsterplatz is held every day (except Sundays and public holidays) from Monday to Friday from 7:30 to 13:30, and until 14:00 on Saturdays.
This market has been serving the people of Freiburg since 1120 when the city was awarded market rights As the site of the Minister and largest square in Freiburg it is the natural setting for the many stalls supplying everything from fresh flowers to spices to freshly-baked bread. To get a feel for the market's medieval roots, go to the entrance of the Minister and look for the clearly marked circle and square etched into the stone. These markings once regulated loaf size for merchants.
It's not just the setting that has history, some of the merchants have been selling their goods here for over 130 years through the generations. These long-time purveyors have been honored by Freiburg Wirtschaft Touristik (FWTM) for their importance to the city. Be sure peruse the glorious flowers and buy a Red Rote (Freiburg sausage) from one of the many trucks.
The Black Forest practically extends into the city, with the Schlossberg rising up just behind the Münster. This forested hill is an excellent site for the beloved German pastime of hiking. For the less athletically inclined, the Schlossbergbahn (cable car) offers a speedy ascent.
Though the castle it was named for was destroyed in the 1740s, the views from Aussichtsturm Schlossberg (lookout tower) are worth the climb.
Distracting admirers from the Minister is the 16th-century Historisches Kaufhaus on its south side. Once a merchants' hall and customs house, its multi-colored tiled turrets against its rich red brick make it an eye-catcher amongst the other beautiful buildings of the Altstadt. Find the coat of arms and four figures above the balcony that symbolize Freiburg’s allegiance with the House of Habsburg.
The city is guarded by two intact medieval gates:
Watch your step while exploring the easily walkable Freiburg. Baechle, small gutter waterways built into the street, have provided a safety measure for the city for centuries. Once used to provide water in case of fires and feed livestock, these little streams are now a quirky feature of the city. In the summer children splash their feet through the cool, clean water and floating small boats on its bubbling tide.
Many a wanderer has been wowed by the city's architecture and stomped right into the Bächle while their eyes were cast upwards. While this might lead to some ill will towards this archaic system, known that those that accidentally fall into a Bächle are said to marry a Freiburger or Bobbele.
While these won't wet your step, they are another reason to keep your eyes on the ground. Pebble mosaics are inlaid with the immaculate stonework of the street and mark the wares of certain shops.
The Markthalle (market hall) has always been one of the best places in Germany to find unusual cuisine and that holds true for Freiburg. The bustling intersection of commerce and dining has everything from Afghani to French to traditional German cooking. Buy your food from your favorite stand than find a communal table to enjoy your meal and the raucous atmosphere.
The 1460 Haus zum Steinin Brücklin which awkwardly straddles the waters is in all the guidebooks, but the crocodile downstream is quite eye-catching. This quirky sculpture encapsulates the playful character of Freiburg.