Freiburg – The green city at the foot of the Black Forest – Germany

The trip to Baden-Württemberg was made together with the German Tourist Board, but all opinions and thoughts are, as usual, my own.

On the edge of the fairy-tale forest of the Black Forest, the beautiful and green city of Freiburg spreads out. The city is a green city for several reasons. Freiburg is Germany's sunniest and warmest city and also a city with a lot of environmental focus and commitment to sustainability. Here, the quality of life is high and you are always close to both adventure and recreation through nearby skiing, nature and lakes.

Cobblestone street between two houses with people walking on the street

Freiburg has no large industries, instead you are invited to 160 km of cycle paths and green areas. Our city guide is clear that in Freiburg you only need to watch out for three things – The trams, which stops for nothing; The cyclists, which hardly stops for anything; and to fall into Bächle, the small water channels that wind through the charming streets of the old town.

Schwabentor - the white tower with a bell. Surrounded by colorful houses

Trade and devastation

Freiburg was founded in the 12th century in a fertile region with major influences from the outside world. Here, two major trade routes that brought in goods from the Mediterranean and the Baltic met, while large finds of silver contributed to the city quickly becoming one of the richest in the region.

Street with tram tracks and bächle

The city has survived centuries of wars and challenges and also the great devastation of World War II bombings. 80% of the city was destroyed in one night in 1944, but one building remained untouched after the bombs. The city's magnificent cathedral from the 13th century. A symbol of survival that rises high above the city's rooftops with its unique spire.

Yellow house with white windows with green shutters

Freiburg Minster

Freiburg Cathedral – Freiburg Minster - began construction as early as the 13th century, but was not completed until 300 years later. Over the centuries, the building style changed and the windows in the different sections of the cathedral therefore have slightly different styles. However, the overhanging style is Gothic, and from the cathedral's roof 99 fearsome gargoyles look down over the square.

Looking up at the cathedral's roof reveals a special detail – the hollow and pierced spire. An artistic architecture where wind and sun can play for the open sky.

In southwestern Germany, earthquakes are relatively common, and small tremors often occur a couple of times a month. However, the cathedral's spire has stood despite earthquakes, storms and pressure waves from the bombings of the war. One of the reasons for its resilience is believed to be the spire's unique construction.

A large gothic style cathedral seen from the side

Freiburger Münster is far from a lavish and ostentatious cathedral. Inside, you won't be greeted by any extravagant golden wall decorations or paintings. What catches my attention instead are the beautiful windows. The 700-year-old bottle windows still stand, despite bombings and earthquakes.

Ceiling and pillars of a cathedral

Minster Square

The square Minster Square around the cathedral has always been a place of trade and the walls of the church in the Middle Ages played an important role in ensuring that the goods were not cheated. On a wall is written how big a loaf of bread would be. On another wall, the measurement "one arm" is shown for the purchase of fabric and building materials.

The traders who tried to cheat were judged in a market council. Bakers who cheated on the size of the bread were punished by being put in a cage and submerged in water.

Wall of the cathedral in Freiburg showing measurements of bread
Cathedral Square Münsterplatz one side with beautiful colorful houses with outdoor seating

Even today, there is a market here in the square every day except Sundays. The focus is on vegetables, meat and cheese - all locally grown, of course. During December when I visited the city, there was a Christmas theme on sale, with wreaths, wooden decorations and candles.

Market selling wreaths and Christmas items

Today, the square is lined with buildings with facades in all the colors of the rainbow, charming shutters and attractive old-style signs. In the summer, the square is full of outdoor seating and umbrellas for those who want to rest their legs in the heat.

The most famous building on Münsterplatz is the dark red old merchant house Kaufhaus from the 14th century. The two imposing towers with roofs of colored tiles and the detailed statues of the facade make the building really stand out. In the olden days, this was one of the city's most important trading places, where all traders and merchants gathered to clear their goods before being allowed to sell them in the city.

A beautiful red building on Münsterplatz with a colored tiled roof and tower
Kaufhaus – The trading house

Don't fall in Bächle!

In Freiburg, it's not a good idea to stare down at your phone unless you fancy an unplanned bath bächle, the small stone canals that wind along the streets of the old town. The canals were built at the same time as the city was founded in the 12th century and functioned as the lifeblood both for fresh water and for firefighting.

If, by the way, you happen to fall in bächle folklore says that you will marry a person from Freiburg – regardless of whether you already have a ring on your finger or not.

Street with cobblestones and bächle

The two city gates

The towers stand at each end of the former city's outskirts Schwabentor and Martinstor, two of the original five city gates. At the end of the 19th century, the towers were close to being demolished, as they were considered to limit the opportunities to develop the infrastructure in the city. However, thanks to a determined mayor, the towers were spared, and through reconstruction, the trams can now pass through the towers without problems.

The Schwabentor tower surrounded by houses
Street with tram tracks going through a tower

Little Venice

The area between Martinstor and Schwabentor is popularly known as "Klein Venedig" or "Little Venice". Here, the Gewerbekanalen flows slowly through the city, surrounded by bridges, statues, breweries and cozy little shops.

We walk along rows of parked bicycles, locked in the canal fence. In a car-free city centre, the parking problems are small, but the bicycles are all the more numerous.

Canals with water in a city with old houses

In the past, Little Venice was inhabited by the town's artisans – the miller grinded with his watermill, the tanners washed the leather in the canal and the fishermen fished. Today there are more restaurants than artisans, but here you can instead find one of the city's weirdest inhabitants – a crocodile...

Two people walk under a large tree in a restaurant block

Markthalle and cake

A popular place for a coffee or a bite to eat is the international food palace Markthalle. Around 20 restaurants and cafes are crowded here and there are dishes from all over the world.

The facade of the Markthalle with a man walking towards the entrance

Do you want to order a piece Black Forest Cake - the famous cake with chocolate bases, cream and cherries - you should, however, go to Café Schmidt. For Austrian pastries such as Linzertårta and Sachertårta are Confectionery Gmeiner a good choice.

A waitress holds cakes and tartlets
A cafe seen from the outside with Christmas decorations

Christmas in Freiburg

During the dark days of December, Freiburg is lit up by its popular Christmas market. The Christmas market in Freiburg creates a beautiful contrast to the historic surroundings and the 130 vendors offer beautiful Christmas decorations and crafts. The crowds are often great, but the atmosphere is very convivial.

Read more about the Freiburg Christmas market and other Christmas markets in Baden-Württemberg at 3 fabulous Christmas markets in Baden-Württemberg – Germany.

Christmas market with a lot of people in Germany

How do I get to Freiburg?

Freiburg (or Freiburg as the city is actually called) is located in Baden-Württemberg in southwestern Germany. The scenic Black Forest region begins just outside the city limits and the border with France and Switzerland is a short distance away.

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Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 60 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel site Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.

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