Freiburg – pop. 241,000
The city of Freiburg, called “Friburg im Brisgau” in the German dialect of Alemannic, is situated along the western edge of the Black Forest not far from the Swiss border and the province of Alsace. Founded at the end of the 11th century as a free market town, Freiburg is Germany’s southernmost city. It is regarded as Germany’s “environmental capital,” partly because of the large numbers of bicycles on its streets and the many environmental firms headquartered in the city.
Because of its southern location, Freiburg can claim the largest number of annual daylight hours in all of Germany. The sunshine certainly contributes to the city’s southern flair and also may help explain the large proportion of bicycles compared to automobiles. At 1248 meters in elevation, Freiburg’s local mountain, Schauinsland, is a mere 30 minutes away by car, and it takes only two hours to drive to Switzerland’s alpine peaks. The Swiss city of Basel is also in easy reach.
Freiburg is a city of students, and its five universities cover a broad academic spectrum. Approximately 23,000 students assure the city a vibrant nightlife at its numerous bars and bistros, but all of the activity comes to an early halt on account of the 1 a.m. curfew. The city’s oldest and largest university, the University of Freiburg, has been in existence for over 500 years. It also has the largest student body, numbering around 20,500. The University of Freiburg is world-renowned for its faculties of political science and forest management.
Freiburg has much to offer sightseers besides its universities. Every visitor should visit the Altstadt (Old Town) and the Münsterplatz (Cathedral Square), which has served as a marketplace since 1800 and is ringed by beautiful old houses. Freiburg’s Roman Catholic cathedral, constructed between 1200 and 1513, partly Romanesque and mostly Gothic in style, is well worth viewing. The 116-meter tower provides a panoramic view of Freiburg’s rooftops and of the 13th century Schwabentor (Schwabian gate), which represents the more recent of the two city gates that were part of Freiburg’s medieval fortifications. Another lookout point, easily combined with a visit to what may well be the city’s most beautiful beer garden, is the 452-meter-high Schloßberg hill.
For shopping in Freiburg, you should visit the city’s main shopping street, Kaiser-Josephs Straße, known as the “Kajo” for short. Rathausgasse and Bertoldstraße provide additional opportunities for strolling and window-shopping.
Numerous small water channels, called “Bächle” (brooklets), crisscross Freiburg’s city landscape. While these channels were once used for carrying sewage and fighting fires during the Middle Ages, today they are places for children to play, and in the summer everyone dips their feet in to cool off.
There is a popular saying that anyone who accidentally stumbles into one of the Bächle will never be able to get away from Freiburg. In truth, even without a “misstep” of this kind, you will find it hard to turn your back on Freiburg, a truly livable city.