Freiburg is one of those old Medieval German cities (it was established in the year 1120) that you can try to explore in one day. It’s far from being medieval in terms of sustainability though, as it’s one of the most sustainable cities on our planet and for this reason it was even called the Green City. Located on the edge of the Black Forest, it has all the things that you can expect from German city in winter – Christmas Markets, the charming Old Town, awe-inspiring gothic cathedrals, breweries, markets, narrows streets and many more.
I made a one-day trip to Freiburg from Baden Baden and absolutely loved it! The train ticket was 25 euros and it took me less than an hour to get there. As for the transportation inside the city, you can use a 3-day welcome card and I can totally recommend it to fellow travelers.
And now let’s take a closer look at what to see in Freiburg in winter and why you should add this city to your list of places to visit.
Top 10 Things to do in Freiburg in Winter
1. Martinstor (Martin Gate)
As a rule, if there’s an Old Town in the city, you should explore one. There’s one in Freiburg with many spectacular attractions like Freiburg Rathaus, Schwabentor, Freiburg Bachle, and the old charismatic buildings. But what fascinated me the most was the Martinstor or the old city gates.
The first record of this gate dates back to the 13th century. Back then it was the anchor of the Medieval fortifications, but now it was made into one Freiburg’s attractions. The roof is made in the Late Gothic style, the upper floors of the gate are modern, but the lower third of the construction is all original and it witnessed the ceaseless flow of centuries. Try to feel that old spirit by exploring the Martin Gate early in the morning.
2. Walk the Narrow Streets
Speaking about the early morning, if you manage to wake up for an early walk, it’s the best time to absorb the spirit of the Old City, because there’s not too many people and city’s ambience and you can try to hear the old walls speaking to you.
Walk the picturesque narrow streets – Konviktstraße, Klein Venedig (Little Venice) and the narrow shopping streets while the shops are still closed. Of course you can walk these places during the daytime but it will be a completely different experience.
3. Freiburg Cathedral
The Freiburg Munster, or the Cathedral of Our Lady is one of the outstanding masterpieces of German Gothic art. Its construction began in 1200 and at the beginning, it had Romanesque style, but by the time it was completed (in 1620), it turned out to be a marvelous construction that mixed different gothic styles.
In addition to the beautiful outlook it has a 5-ton bell that dates back to 1258 and many ancient sculptures and statues that you can find inside the cathedral.
Miraculously, the church suffered little damage after the heavy bombings of World War II and we can enjoy this monument of spirit and architecture today.
4. Visit the Markets
What you should try to accomplish during your Freiburg visit is attending one of the many markets. There are many small markets that are organized during the week, but I would recommend you to visit the Cathedral Market.
You can do it right after seeing the Freiburg Cathedral, as it’s located very close to the latter. Freiburg‘s legendary bratwurst, homemade pesto, Freiburg tea cakes, and various Black Forest specialties are just some of the things that you can try there. Find out more about it here.
5. Freiburg Christmas Market
If you’ll be lucky enough to see the Freiburg during Christmas time, then attending Freiburg Christmas Market should be one of your priorities.
You can find The Freiburg Christmas Market in a number of places, namely, at the Town Hall (Rathaus), at the Kartoffelmark, the Unterlindenplatz and on Franziskanerstrasse and Turmstrasse. The Christmas market has more than 120 stands where you can enrich yourself with the spirit of Christmas.
At Freiburg Christmas Market you will get an opportunity to participate in some of traditional customs such as decorating the Christmas tree, crafting candles, backing Christmas cookies, hanging the Advent wreath, kissing under the mistletoe and of course drinking the mulled wine and having a traditional Christmas dinner. That’s a recipe for a perfect evening!
6. Try the Black Forest Cake
Since we’ve started talking about gastronomy, it’s impossible not to mention the Black Forest cake, because it’s one of the things that you need to try in Freiburg. Named after the Black Forest liquor that the region is famous for, it’s one of Germany’s most famous desserts.
You may have tried in other parts of the world, but I can assure that tasting it from the places where it originated is a completely different experience. You can try the Black Forest Cake in Confiserie Rafael Mutter, Café Satz, Café Marcel im Stadtgarten, Busses Waldcafé or Bergäcker Café.
7. Taste Regional Wine
If you’re not into sweets than you may be more interested in trying the regional wine. Since this region in Germany has excellent conditions for making wine, there’s an abundance of this product here. There are restaurants and wineries that offer several hundreds of different wines. With a selection like this, one can feel pretty helpless without outside help. Gladly the waiters and sommeliers are experienced and always glad to help. If you’re a wine person you may even consider taking the Baden Wine Route which includes wine festivals and private vineyards.
8. Admire the Pavement Patterns
Sometimes the coolest things are right under our feet and that’s the case with Freiburg’s pavement patterns. The squares and the streets of the city were paved with the usage of red porphyry, black basalt, granite, reddish quartzite and pebbles from the river Rhein. Now the ‘floor of the city’ looks more like a carpet because it’s an expression of craftsmanship rather than just an element of convenience. You will see numerous cultural symbols, floral patterns and historic emblems that were created to emphasize the sense of history and unique character of every street. So, when walking in Freiburg, don’t only look around but also watch under your feet.
9. Take one of Freiburg Tours
Because of the great number of sightseeing options, a lot of people prefer taking Freiburg tours. You can take an open city tour, a bilingual open tour, a themed tour, a guided theater tour, a cathedral tour a culinary tour and even on solar and environmental technology. If you prefer to explore the city on tour rather than on your own, take a look at different available Freiburg tour options here.
10. Experience the Green City
I already mentioned in the beginning that Freiburg is also known as the Green City, but an extent to which it is ‘Green’ is flabbergasting. Scientific excellence combined with viability for the future has turned Freiburg in one of Germany’s most impressive examples of sustainability. Just take a look at several cases:
- Freiburg‘s stadium is the first solar stadium in Germany with its roof covered by solar panels
- There are a number of hotels in Freiburg that take their energy exclusively from renewable energy sources
- There are whole districts united by the principles of sustainable living (for instance Vauban district)
- The city’s largest solar energy installation provides electricity for 1000 households.
They even have bus stops equipped with solar panels! You can either explore Freiburg’s impressive examples of sustainability on your own or by taking a solar and environmental technology tour.
Places to Stay in Freiburg
- Stadthotel Freiburg Kolping Hotels & Resorts: a cozy and central accommodation located in walking distance from the historic Old Town. Rooms are modern and stylish and you can also enjoy delicious dishes at the restaurant and the breakfast buffet.
- Central Hotel: a simple, yet very comfortable hotel with a great location. One remarkable thing about this accommodation is that it offers bikes for rent and you can use this service to discover the city and the Black Forest.
- Designhotel am Stadtgarten: a hotel for those who want their accommodation to be especially stylish. It has spacious rooms and unique decor. You can rent bicycles and every room offers some mineral water for the tired adventurers. Their restaurant and breakfast buffet is also nice.
- Colombi Hotel: one of the best luxury hotels in Freiburg, Colombi Hotel has an indoor pool an incredibly well-designed Michelin-star restaurant, a well-equipped gym, and chic rooms. The award-winning restaurant serves Black Forest specialties, so even if you’re not staying there, make sure to pay a visit and enjoy the local cuisine.
Places to Eat in Freiburg
- Kreuzblume: a small, but a very cozy restaurant with excellent service and tasty dishes. Their dishes don’t have that many ingredients, but they’re combined in such a masterful way that you will most likely get back for more after you try it once.
- Restaurant Kartoffelhaus: one of the best restaurants and a must-visit for those who love potatoes, because almost every single dish has potatoes in it. It has a lot of options for vegetarians.
- Hausbrauerei Feierling: a place with a history where you can drink delicious first-class beer. It was founded in 1877 in a building that dates back to 1460. There’s a lot of place to sit outside when it’s warm, but during winter, you can also occupy one of the wooden tables inside. A very authentic place.
- Drexlers: Drexlers décor is very simple, but the dining experience that you can get here is outstanding. The menu changes every week and offers a mix of Badish specialties mixed with French and Italian gastronomic influences. You can also get a bottle of nice wine to accompany your meal. As there are more than 350 wine options to choose from (almost from every wine region of Germany), I advise asking a waiter for advice.
It’s about time to plan your Christmas and if you’ve always dreamed about signature Christmas magic (should I say sustainable magic?) and winter fun, you can consider visiting Freiburg towards the end of the year.