A dreamy landscape full of nature and greenery, a fairytale old town, buildings with remarkable architecture and history, incredible climate (for Central European data) and of course an ideal spot to explore three countries! Need I mention more to add Freiburg to your travel list?
A few words about the city
Freiburg or Freiburg im Brisgau, as its full name is, is a city in southwest Germany in the state of Baden-Württemberg. It is located near the border with France in a valley surrounded by vineyards and is only a few kilometers from Switzerland. It is a medium-sized city, since its population amounts to 220,286 inhabitants, but it is particularly known for its university, which is one of the oldest in Europe and its university clinic. Apart from the university, it is also known as one of the most ecological cities in Europe, as many energy saving models have been adopted, which raises the standard of living of its inhabitants. According to the Germans, it is the sunniest city in the country, while it is characterized by many as a gateway to the Black Forest, one of the most beautiful forests in Europe. The great Greek writer, Nikos Kazantzakis, left his last breath there! So I have chosen for you what I consider worthy of attention for someone visiting the city for the first time.
On the beautiful square of the temple (Münsterplatz), is perhaps the most important attraction of the city of Freiburg, which is none other than the Cathedral of the city (Freiburg Minster). The construction of the temple began by The Duke of Zähringen in 1200 in Roman style, continued in 1230 in Gothic style and was completed in 1330, remaining intact ever since. It is built on the foundations of an older church that existed there from the beginning of the city in 1120, while the unique bell tower of the church, 116 meters high, is considered the most beautiful in the Christian world. This houses 18 bells, with the oldest dating back to 1258! It is still famous for its projecting gutters, its elaborate "gargoyles" in the shape of bare posterior, showing, as the legend says, the House of the bishop, who delayed the payment of the craftsmen. The interior, however, does not lack beauty since it is decorated with figures and scenes from the Bible, while the windows with colorful stained glass. The entrance to the church is free, while if you can stand it, is worth climbing to the top of the bell tower, where when the weather is good, you can gaze up to the Black Forest.
In the same square there is one more impressive building, the Historisches Kaufhaus. It is a renaissance building, created as a food warehouse and stands out for its bright red facade. Its creation began in 1378 and was completed (in the form we see it today) in 1520, with the architect not known, but presumed to be Lienhardt Müller. Apart from its purple facade, it has beautiful stained glass windows, while on top of it "flaunt" four statues of three emperors, Maximilian I, Charles II and Ferdinand I, as well as Philip of Castile, son of Maximilian I, who died before his father and thus never became emperor.
In Freiburg there are two beautiful and impressive medieval gates, dating back to the 13th century! I am referring, of course, to Schwabentor and Martinstor.
The first is the newest of the two and is located in the heart of the city, while public transport passes underneath it. You will hear many call it Obertor, a nickname that has remained since the Middle Ages. The tower is three-storey and built of red sandstone, while the wooden extensions date back a little later, to the 16th century. On one side of the gate, the one that looks into the city centre, you will see a beautiful image of Matthias Schwäri, representing a well-known Legend of the region. The picture shows a merchant with a basket. This is because according to the legend, a merchant went to Freiburg with two barrels full of gold to buy the city, but his wife replaced the gold with sand, resulting in ridicule.
Martinstor is older and is located on the southwest side of the Old Town, having remained imperious since 1202. The first record of the gate is recorded in 1238, but analysis of the Timbers showed that it is even older. The gate was an anchor for medieval fortifications, but when the French military engineer Vauban redesigned the city walls in 1600, he considered it obsolete. What stands out in Martinstor is a billboard, depicting three women burned as witches in the city in 1599!
Schlossberg is the most beautiful spot of Freiburg for me, without a second thought. It is a hill at the western end of the Black Forest, just a few steps from the old town. This point has been protecting the city from enemies since 1000 AD, but unfortunately today most of the fortifications are ruins. The place is also ideal for hiking, as it has beautiful trails in nature and offers great views. Following the path from the old town, you will find yourself on a picturesque terrace, Kanonenplatz, where you can see the Cathedral on the one hand and a huge vineyard on the other. To climb higher, you will need a cable car that will take you to the top of the hill in just 3 minutes. There you will find Schlossbergturm, a tower that was erected only in 2002 and provides panoramic views across the city.
The New and Old Town Halls of Freiburg are located in the same area, in the picturesque Rathausplatz.
The Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) is located on the north side of the square, built in Renaissance style and dates back to the late 1550s. In the curve above the clock, you can admire a two-headed eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, while the various government families of the city, honored by placing their habitats in the building's courtyard. Today the Old Town Hall houses the Freiburg Tour desk, so you can step inside.
Right next door is the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus), which many would think would be a brand new building, but actually consists of two Houses of the Renaissance era, connected by a portico. Until 1774 this building functioned as a university, but from the beginning of the 18th century and in the context of the reconstruction of the city, it took the place of the Old Town Hall. It is worth passing through there at 12: 00 when "glockenspiel" rings in the connection section.
Haus zum Walfisch
The House of whales (Haus zum Walfisch) is an impressive Gothic building in the Old Town, built in 1510 and has a long history. In this ruddy house lived high-ranking officials of the region, as well as prominent figures of the time, such as the Dutch humanist Erasmus, when he escaped from Basel. But it was made world famous by Dario Argento's horror film Suspiria (1977), where it appears as the Dance Academy. If you are wondering why it is called whale house, since there is no whales in its decoration or enclosure, the answer is simple. According to historian Peter Calchaller, the name comes from the Bible and the story of Jonah and the whale.
As long as you are in Freiburg's Old Town, it is impossible to escape from the picturesque grooves (Bächle), which are a hallmark of the city. These small canals are fed by the Dreisam River and were first recorded in the 1200s. During medieval times they had multiple uses, such as helping fight fires, providing local occupations such as tanners with water, but also as open sewers. The system of canals amounts to 15.5 kilometers, of which 6.4 is underground! The legend says that if you accidentally step inside one, you'll end up marrying someone from Freiburg.
The Augustine Museum (Augustinermuseum) is perhaps the most interesting in the city. It is located on the square with the same name, the Augustinerplatz, inside a former monastery converted into an elegant art gallery, with exhibits from the Middle Ages to the Baroque era. On the upper floor of the museum, there are works by German Renaissance masters, such as Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach the Elder and Hans Baldung Grien, as well as paintings by the famous German engraver “Master of the Housebook”. On the same level you will also find a presentation of stained glass from the Cathedral, as well as some wooden masterpieces from the medieval era. Finally, many objects of the monastery have been preserved on the ground floor, such as Baroque sculptures, statuettes, paintings and altars. Admission costs 7e.
If you went 35 years ago to this wonderful 35-hectare park in the west of the city, you would be in the middle of a quarry! The Seepark was gradually developed from the early 1980s and was at the heart of Freiburg's 1986 Landesgartenschau plans (Federal Garden Fair). One third of the park area is occupied by a lake, which has a pier, and in summer you can rent boats with pedals to go boating. In 1990, the 3,600-square-metre Japanese garden was created to symbolise Freiburg's partnership with the city of Matsuyama. Finally, this park is also equipped with a viewing tower, a mini golf course and an eco-station.
How to go
The airport serving the city is located on French territory. Thessaloniki is connected by air to Freiburg and EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg via Easyjet. With proper planning one can find tickets starting from 59€ round trip! From there you can reach the city by bus or train, from several nearby cities in Germany, France and Switzerland, since the distances are small.
Where to stay
Freiburg is definitely not one of the most touristic cities in Germany, and the truth is that one would expect accommodation prices to be low, which is not the case. Due to its close proximity to Switzerland, many chose Freiburg as their place of residence, where prices were affordable, but in recent years locals have changed tactics and increased prices. A relatively economical solution within the city is The Alex Hotel, a beautiful hotel with spacious rooms and helpful staff, just five minutes from the old town.
How to move
Freiburg is often called the "ecological capital of Europe", since most residents do not use their cars, but bicycles and local transport. As it is easily understood, the city has an excellent public transport system with trams, buses and suburban trains, which will take you wherever you wish, quickly and efficiently. Moreover, taxis are relatively economical, and you can stop them on the road. Finally, as I mentioned above, Freiburg is ideal for cycling, since there are bicycle lanes everywhere and bicycles and skates for rent at almost every corner. So if the weather is good, it's another way of moving around the city.
What to eat
If you are a food lover then Freiburg is the ideal city for you, since it is considered one of the top of the genre in Germany. Due to its location, it has mild temperatures and excellent soil, which makes it one of the best wine-growing regions in Europe! Since you are in Germany, you should try sausages, schnitzel, soups and doner, of course all accompanied by beer or wine.
But if you want to escape from the local cuisine and try something more "international", then you should undoubtedly go to the Central Market Markthalle. It is a place, with various types of cuisine such as Chinese, Filipino, Argentine and many others, at good prices and with excellent quality.
Finally, in Freiburg you will not find many classic cafes, since there is the" fashion" of Eiscafe, i.e. cafes that sell ice cream, all year round. Two of the best are the Eiscafe Lazzarin am Munsterplatz in the Temple Square and the Mona Lisa. The best coffee, however, is Kolben Kaffee, which is always full of locals who drink their drink standing up.
In Germany we travel with a passport or a new type of Police ID, where the details are indicated in Latin characters.
In Germany the language used is, of course, German. The majority, however (especially young people), speak English, so ask for clarification in English.
The currency of the country is the euro.
Freiburg is an hour behind Greece (GMT +2).
In Freiburg there is no Greek embassy or any Greek consulate so if you need anything you should contact the nearest one, which is located in Stuttgart on hauptstatter Str. 54 and his phone is +49711 22298713.
The transfer to and from Basel Airport, which also serves Freiburg, is only possible by Flixbus.
The climate of Freiburg is considered Oceanic, however, marine characteristics are limited, as a result of the huge distance from the oceans and seas. Which means it has warm summers (the warmest in the country along with Karlsruhe) and moderate winters, but usually with frequent frosts.