Home » Discover the Best Sights for a One-Day Visit to Freiburg im Breisgau

Discover the Best Sights for a One-Day Visit to Freiburg im Breisgau

by Paola Bertoni
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Freiburg im Breisgau is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Germany. Located in the Baden-Württemberg region of southern Germany, it is known for being the sunniest city in the country. This captivating city is nestled in the heart of Germany and offers a blend of history, culture, and scenic beauty. Freiburg is a perfect destination for a day of discovery, from medieval wonders to modern marvels.

What to see in Freiburg im Breisgau in one-day trip

Freiburg im Breisgau is a charming town with a rich history. You can explore its medieval streets, marvel at the unique cathedral, witness the flow of Bächle water channels, and discover remnants of city walls, gates, and palaces that take you back in time.

In addition to its architectural wonders, Freiburg is also a hub of art and culture. Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote his renowned work, In Praise of Folly, here, and the University of Freiburg, founded in 1457, is one of Europe’s oldest universities. It features a uniquely futuristic-designed library building.

If you have only a day to spare, you can still glimpse Freiburg’s wonders. But if you have more time, you can explore the city’s authentic charm and discover more about its delightful and tourist-friendly sightseeing spots.

1) Freiburg Cathedral

Freiburg Cathedral is in the city’s main square. What sets it apart from other cathedrals is its unique history of being built by the inhabitants with their own money instead of being financed by the church. For this reason, the Cathedral ornaments are quite distinctive.

The exterior facade features some amusing secular gargoyles, including one that drains water directly from its bum. Inside, the decorations of the stained glass windows present the different city guilds. The windows, in fact, depict medieval artisans, such as shoemakers and bakers, instead of typical scenes of saints and the nativity.

The construction of Freiburg im Breisgau Cathedral lasted about 350 years, from 1200 to 1513. The architectural style is Gothic, as is the 116-metre-high bell tower that dominates the city skyline. The Freiburg Cathedral is one of the few German churches that survived World War II bombings without damage.

The Cathedral of Freiburg im Breisgau
The Cathedral of Freiburg im Breisgau

2) Münsterplatz (Market Square)

Münsterplatz is the lively square surrounding Freiburg Cathedral. At its heart is the bustling Münstermarkt, a renowned market featuring local gastronomic delights, fresh produce, and vibrant flowers. For a better experience, I recommend a morning visit so you can enjoy the market and indulge in the finest local street food. Only a handful of stalls offer sausage sandwiches in the afternoon after lunch. Adjacent to the market stands a wall showcasing units of measurement used to calculate prices and taxes.

3) The Bächle water channels in Freiburg

Throughout Freiburg’s historic centre, there are water canals called Bächle. Unlike other medieval towns, these canals did not have a drainage function. They served to have running water available in case of fire since most houses were in wood.

The constant and continuous water flow in the Bächle comes from the diverted course of the Dreisam River. In the 1970s, the water canals were partly covered with gratings but later restored during the pedestrianisation of the old city.

In summer, the Bächle are used a lot by children who compete in boat races. If you want to try your hand at it, you can buy a typical boat from any stall overlooking the canals of Freiburg. These canals can also be very useful if you are single because if you accidentally end up in one, a local legend says you’ll marry a local.

Water canal in the historic centre of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany
Water canal in the historic centre of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany

3) City Gates and Walls

Freiburg, like all medieval German cities, has gates. The Schwabentor and Martinstor gates, built in 1250, are symbols of Freiburg since they are the only two out of five that have survived all wars.

The Schwabentor Gate is named after a Swabian salt merchant who fell in love with Freiburg. He wanted to buy the city, but his wife was not interested, so she replaced money and precious stones with sand and pebbles, and he couldn’t complete the purchase. You can still see his portrait on the side of the gate facing the city. On the outer side of the Schwabentor Gate is a portrait of St George slaying the dragon, the city’s patron saint.

The Martinstor Gate, on the other hand, is famous because the municipality of Freiburg raised it more than 40 meters to prevent demolition during the tram line construction. Also, underneath the Gate is one of the few McDonald’s restaurants with a different coloured sign. The population had objected to the sign spoiling the cityscape, so McDonald’s had to adapt with a sign that matched the appearance of Freiburg.

The McDonald's sign in Freiburg im Breisgau
The McDonald’s sign in Freiburg im Breisgau, one of the few in the world that differs from the standard logo

5) Universitätsbibliothek (University Library)

The University Library in Freiburg boasts a simple yet sleek design. Inside, it offers more than 1,200 workstations, sofas, lounges, and media rooms inspired by the best coworking solutions.

Its mirror-like exterior sets it apart from the historic buildings of the university and the theatre overlooking the square. The Library is also eco-friendly, using its 2,000 square meter photovoltaic system to generate electricity.

Mirror facade of the Library of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau
Mirror facade of the Library of the University of Freiburg im Breisgau

Practical information for visiting Freiburg im Breisgau

Freiburg im Breisgau is the fourth largest city in Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart, Mannheim and Karlsruhe. It is a bustling city with a population of around 30,000 students who attend the Albert-Ludwig-Universität and other educational institutions. As a result, the city boasts many clubs, cinemas, restaurants and hotels.

You’ll find delicious food options everywhere, with some influences by French gastronomy from the neighbouring region of Alsace. You can reach Freiburg comfortably by train, choosing the central station Freiburg (Breisgau) Hauptbahnhof, as you can check below.

Guided tours

I recommend booking a guided tour to discover the city’s highlights better. To embark on a time-travelling trek, you can choose a guided tour with professional actors who portray historical characters through Freiburg and its epochs. Instead, to discover the best bars, nightclubs, and other attractions, you can rely on the very popular drag queen Betty BBQ, an award-winning guide known for the originality of her tours. 

Where to stay in Freiburg im Breisgau

Freiburg offers many accommodation options to suit all budgets. From luxurious hotels to affordable student hostels, the city has something for everyone. If you’re looking for a high-end experience, with an indoor pool and spa, I highly recommend the Colombi Hotel, located in the heart of Freiburg’s historic Old Town.

Another stylish option beside Colombi Park is the Park Hotel Post, a 4-star hotel housed within a beautiful 19th-Century Art Nouveau-style building. Each room has a unique literary theme, inspired by the hotel’s popularity with historic artists and writers.

For those looking for a convenient location near the central station, the Courtyard by Marriott Freiburg is an excellent choice. The hotel offers a buffet breakfast to start your day off right.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a vibrant and charming city to visit in Germany, Freiburg im Breisgau should definitely be on your list. One day is enough to get a feel for the city and its lively atmosphere, so you might want to return for more. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments if you have already visited Freiburg.

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