WHAT TO DO IN FREIBURG, GERMANY, IN A DAY
Are you looking for a beautiful, lively, and yet traditional German city to add to your Germany itinerary? Well, you found it: with its Gothic cathedral, picturesque canals, and medieval old town, Freiburg is a true postcard of Germany. Freiburg im Breisgau, a vibrant university city in southwest Germany’s Black Forest, is known for its temperate climate and reconstructed medieval old town, crisscrossed by picturesque brooks (bächle).
So, is Freiburg worth visiting? Yes, Freiburg is well worth visiting for a day or longer, because of its pretty old town and the mountains nearby.
Keep reading to find out about the best things to do in Freiburg in one day, where to go & what to see, plus some useful travel tips.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR FREIBURG
First, let’s clarify the name: we are talking about Freiburg im Breisgau, located in southwest Germany. Not about Freiberg in Saxony (different spelling but still Germany) and not about Fribourg in Switzerland (different spelling and different country). Yes, the city of Freiburg is in the district of Freiburg, part of the German state of Baden–Württemberg. Keep that in mind when booking your hotel in the right city.
- Freiburg is located in the southwest corner of Germany, close to the border with France and Switzerland, at 278 meters above sea level.
- With around 230000 inhabitants, it doesn’t feel like a very big city. The Old Town “Altstadt” is very compact and pretty, with a typical German medieval feeling.
- The city is crisscrossed by calm narrow canals which create a very special atmosphere.
- How to get to Freiburg: The main station Hauptbahnhof is located at the edge of the Old Town. Buses also stop there. From there, you can either walk to the old town of Freiburg (where you will spend most of your day).
- How to get around Freiburg: you can definitely explore the Old Town on foot. Make sure you wear comfortable shoes, so you’ll enjoy the cobblestone street.
- Even though the weather is always quite unpredictable, we can say that in general, the climate is temperate. According to statistics, it’s actually the warmest and sunniest city in Germany!
- Freiburg is famous for its university. Be ready to share the city with hundreds of students, especially at night!
BEST THINGS TO DO IN FREIBURG IN 1 DAY
Even though there are many things to see and do in Freiburg, you can get a good feeling of the city and see the most beautiful sights in one day. Most attractions are in the Old Town, so there is no car/public transportation needed but you will walk a lot. And while there are a lot of historic buildings, you’ll find also some fascinating modern buildings. Find a bit more information on some of the main attractions in the old town.
Visit Freiburg Cathedral “Freiburger Münster”
The most famous attraction in Freiburg is definitely Freiburg Cathedral. This towering Gothic building occupies the central square of Münsterplatz.
Its 116-meter-high spire is visible from all over the city, and its red sandstone building blocks are equally iconic. It was built between 1200 and 1530 and it is the only building that survived the bombings during WW II (1944) of nearby area. If you visit the interior, you’ll discover gorgeous stained–glass windows, four pipe organs, and a mesmerizing view of the spire from the bottom.
Feeling strong? Then climb the 333 steps until the top of the tower (Münsterturm) to enjoy wonderful views of the city and to see the bells up
- The Freiburger Cathedral can be visited for free
- The Münsterturm remains closed until further notice.
The cathedral is located on the Münsterplatz (Minster Square) but there are more attractions like the Historical Merchant´s House. You also find a market that takes place every day except Sundays – the place to buy regional fruits and veggies.
You will also find restaurants and cafes – a perfect place to spend a couple of hours.
Admire the Town Halls in Freiburg
Did you know that Freiburg has a couple of town halls? Yes, one town hall is not enough for some towns. So, in Freiburg, you can visit several of them. For this, visit Rathausplatz (town hall square). Don’t get confused: even though it is called “Neues Rathaus”, which means “the new Town Hall”, the white building at Rathausplatz actually dates back to the 16th century.
This beautiful, traditional City Hall is composed of two impressive Renaissance buildings. The interior features complex wood carvings and painted ceilings. Flowers decorate the balcony and bring life to the clean, white facade. Right next to the New Town Hall, the red building is the Old Town Hall “Altes Rathaus” – it was built in the 16th century too, but it was the town hall before the new town hall was appointed.
TIP: The tourist information office is located there.
Turn the corner and, surprise! Another town hall! The “Gerichtslaube”, the Old Court House, was the first town hall back in the 14th century. When it became too small, the administration was moved to the Old Town Hall. So, explore the Rathausplatz and its surroundings to discover all these traditional public buildings, as well as St. Martin’s Church. Even though they were badly damaged by the 1944 bombings, the restorations were done in an impeccable way.
- Price and hours: entrance is free in some areas of the town halls, from 8 am to 8 pm
- Check out their website here.
Fun fact: The modern town hall is called “Rathaus im Stühlinger”, which is located outside of the Old Town, but it’s not picturesque at all. However, it is the world’s first public building that generates more energy than it consumes. Architecture enthusiasts should check it out.
Bächle – Stream
All around the Old Town, you’ll notice the “Bächle”, gutters that divert water from the Dreisam River – some very small and narrow, others larger.
They used to provide water to fight fires and feed livestock, but nowadays they just cool the air during the summer and create a relaxing atmosphere with their gurgling sound. They are just very cute and special.
However, I do not want to know how many people actually got wet feet because of the Bächle.
The Towers of Freiburg
Like all proper medieval towns, Freiburg shows off three impressive Gate Towers: the Schwabentor (Swabian Gate), the Martinstor (Martin’s Gate), and the Breisacher Tor (Breisach Gate). Two of them are great things to see in Freiburg in one day 🙂
The imposing Schwabentor, painted white within a frame of dark stones, was one of the city gates built in the 1200s as part of the defense system of Freiburg. All the houses next to it also form part of a perfect medieval German postcard, of painted facades and timber frames. A painting of St. George the dragon slayer, patron saint of Freiburg, adorns the exterior wall, while the Swabian salt merchant that the gate is named after is painted on the interior wall.
- You can visit the interior of the Swabian Gate by visiting the Zinnfigurenklause, a very unusual museum of miniature tin figures. You will learn about the most important historical events in Freiburg and the surrounding region through 10,000 handmade tin figures.
Martinstor is even more impressive, with its pointy green roofs resembling a castle from fairy tales.
This medieval defense tower was almost torn down in the late 1800s when the electric trolley car line was being built; luckily, instead, the opening was made wider to let the trolley cars pass, and the turrets were added, bringing it from 22 to 63 meters of height.
- Martin’s Gate can only be admired from outside
Breisacher Tor, on the other hand, almost doesn’t look like a gate! It was a Baroque gate from the late 1600s, but after the damage of WWII, it was restored in a late–19th–century style. Nowadays, it houses a restaurant and some lecture rooms of the university. If you did not know it was a city gate, it would just look like an average building.
The “house mountain” in Freiburg is the Schlossberg (German for Castle Hill), a tree–covered hill to the east of the Old Town. It is already part of the famous Black Forest (Schwarzwald in German), a large mountain range covered in forest. The views from the lookout points are just lovely.
The Schlossberg is the founding story of the city walks under a canopy of green forest or sunsets over the city rooftops. For a fantastic panorama, climb up to the top of the castle tower and enjoy a 360–degree panorama! While I visited in the early morning, one of the best times to visit is for sunset – bring some drinks and snacks with you and end your day here.
It was on this site that the dukes of Swabian nobility (the Zähringens) built their first fortified castle nearly 1,000 years ago – giving the Schlossberg its name (in German, ‘Schloss‘ means castle and ‘Berg‘ means mountain or hilltop). And while the castle is basically gone, the views are still great.
- Getting here: it can also be a nice exercise if you skip the lift and walk up all the way up. It is about 15 minutes uphill walk.
Alternatively, you can reach the Schlossberg via the Schlossberg Railway (wheelchair– and stroller–accessible) in 3 minutes. But you have to do another uphill walk for about 5–10 minutes. An accessible path leads from the mountain station to the Burghaldering. From there, the Kanonenplatz can be reached without inclines or gradients.
This 1284-meter high mountain, Schauinsland, is located just 10 km south of Freiburg, in the Black Forest. Because it is so close to the city, it is a popular destination for day trips.
The nature and the wonderful views make it a great spot for hiking and biking in the summer, sledding & skiing in the winter and enjoying traditional German food at the many restaurants all year round.
The views are particularly gorgeous from the Eugen Keidel Tower (also simply Schauinsland–Turm), a triangular–shaped wooden structure with a panoramic terrace on top. On a clear day, you can even see the Alps.
If the weather is not the best, there are also cultural attractions: the Berg and Bahn audio tour about the mountain and the cableway, a mining museum, the Schniederlihof Museum which tells the history of the people of the Black Forest, and a herbal discovery trail.
- How to get there: you can reach the top by cable car. The lower station of the Schauinslandbahn is in the town of Horben, less than 30 minutes away from Freiburg.
- Opening hours: every day except for December 24th and some periods of maintenance.
FINAL THOUGHTS OB BEST FREIBURG ACTIVITIES IN ONE DAY
As you – hopefully – can see, Freiburg is a beautiful city well worth a visit. Whether you stay for a day or a bit longer – you can enjoy a wonderful trip with a mix of culture and beautiful architecture as well as nature.