Blessed with one of Germany’s warmest and sunniest climates and wooded hills that virtually rise out of a picture-postcard Altstadt, FREIBURG – officially Freiburg im Breisgau – is an immediately likeable place. Its accessible size makes it easy to explore and the sizeable university helps make it an upbeat, lively place. Though the town centre is quickly covered, the city’s role as a regional transport hub makes Freiburg a good base for a few days’ exploration of the hills around the town and the Southern Black Forest, putting the town’s good cafés, restaurants and nightlife at your disposal after a day in the mountains.
Freiburg’s Altstadt was founded in 1091 and – despite suffering twenty minutes of bombardment in the war in which over eighty percent of the town was levelled – still preserves a quaint and historic feel. The Altstadt fans out around a magnificent Münster and focuses on a series of squares, which don’t take much more than a morning to explore. This allows plenty of time for relaxing in Freiburg’s cafés or exploring the great outdoors on its doorstep – at the very least try to take a trip up to the Schlossberg or Rosskopf via the funicular railway, or better still, take the cable car up Schauinsland peak and walk or bike back to town.
Freiburg plays host to several lively festivals: Fastnet is celebrated with various fire rituals and particular gusto on the eve of Shrove Tuesday, and preceded by a jester parade the day before. Other celebrations fill the summer, with the late June and early July Internationales Zeltmusikfest, hosting many musical genres, but particularly jazz; while the late July Weintagen and mid-August Weincost both celebrate local wines. The city also has a big ten-day Volksfest as part of the May Frühlingsfest, and the October Herbstfest.
One curious feature is the town’s Bächle: little streams sunken into the pavement which originally provided water for animals and firemen. Today they’re largely decorative, though plenty of people use them to cool their heels on a summer’s day. Fall into one and, according to local wisdom, you’ll marry a Freiburger.