Having traveled the world, it’s pretty hard to pick a favorite place, but Germany is definitely one of my favorite countries to visit. (And U.S. News and World Report did just name it the best country in the world.) Although I highly recommend everyone celebrate all that is soccer & beer in Munich and shop & eat your hearts out in sexy, cosmopolitan Berlin, I’m going to tell you all about a lesser known travel destination- Freiburg. A city in the south west of Germany.
Freiburg is wonderfully scenic and romantic, much like the south of France, but yet is also an incredibly progressive academic city, home of some of Germany’s most renowned universities, like the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg.
🗝 Tip for making the most of your travels is planning a trip where there is easy access to another city or country that you can visit on the same trip (gotta be smart with those vacation days!) and this is where Freiburg shines. France and Switzerland is a short 45 min drive, as is the fabled Black Forest. Freiburg has a fantastic public transportation system, so you can easily take a train to all these destinations as well. Note that Uber (or any ride sharing company) is not allowed in Germany so plan your transportation options ahead of time.
Freiburg has a fantastic city center filled with medieval architecture juxtaposed with modern buildings. There is an extensive portion of the city center that is pedestrian only, perfect for wandering travelers. Located in the heart of wine country, the mild and often sunny weather (statistically Germany’s sunniest city) creates the perfect environment to grow not only wine but an abundance of local produce. So, it’s no surprise that Freiburg hosts five, Michelin-starred restaurants, and there are nearly a hundred within a 1 hour drive! I will review the best food and shopping in following posts, but I’ll start out with a couple of off-the-beaten-path, must-see sights.
Mundenhof Animal Park
Mundenhof is not a zoo, which is why I absolutely love it. There’s no admissions fee, barely any cages- some of the animals are behind simple wooden fences for safety purposes, but many roam freely and no obnoxious commercial signage. It’s just a lovely park, with lots of animals and a beer garden. It’s a vast 38 acres that is beautifully well kept and includes some farm land. The food options are fantastic as many are made from their farm’s ingredients like their fresh baked bread and cakes, vegetables & dressing and orchard apple juice. If you’re there on a warm day, look for the homemade ice cream by the front gate. I recently went this winter, and my favorite sightings were the peacock that walked by me as I ate a delicious currywurst and the cute goats that walked up to you practically asking to be pet.
*Please help keep the natural park peaceful by using some common sense- don’t feed the animals and don’t pet ones that don’t want to be pet (ones behind fences and ones that run away from you when you try to pet it).
One of my favorite travel activities is a great hike. I can burn calories from doing my other favorite activity- eating and get rewarded with a fantastic view. Schlossberg is a tree covered hill which makes for a short, but steep 45 min climb to the top. There was originally a castle on Schlossberg, but now you can just see remains of it at various points. There is also a train for those who prefer not to hike up. At the very top is a spiral staircased tower with amazing views. On one side is the city’s Old Town (encircling the famous Freiburg Münster Cathedral) and on the other side is the Black Forest. Both great options for exploring after.
🗝 Tip: Climb up the Schlossberg stairs to the summit on the south side and then onto the Schlossberg Tower. This way you can stop halfway up at my favorite beer garden, the Kastaniengarten Biergarten. It’s one of the oldest biergartens in the state, and the views are stunning. The menu focuses more on snacking than a meal, but be sure to get a tarte flambé with bacon (a paper-thin pizza topped with crème fraîche, bacon and onions).
Opfinger Aussichtsturm (Observation Tower)
Just west of the city is a district of Freiburg called, Opfingen. Opfingen is known for growing asparagus and grapes. Here you’ll find the heart of the Baden wine region. Baden grows 44% red grape varieties and 56% white grape. So, there’s a wide range of wines to enjoy. Baden has not created the tourism opportunities that Napa Valley has, but there’s plenty to see and do. I recommend heading to the Opfinger observation tower for some great views. Driving is the best way to get to Opfingen, but the options above are public transportation friendly if you don’t have a vehicle while in Germany.
🗝 Tip for booking your airfare to Freiburg, is fly into Zurich or Frankfurt and then take the train. They are the closest major international airports. There is a closer airport (Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg), but it mostly services flights within Europe. So, depending on where you’re coming from, that might not be an option. You can take a train into Freiburg easily from major German cities as well as Austria, France and Switzerland. I like to use Google Flights to help me plan the most convenient & economical trip.