Further afield in Freiburg

One of the least-discussed truths about travel is that your lodging sets the tone for everything — which is why I sometimes pay a bit more to stay in the heart of a city. But, as I learned last December in Freiburg, straying off the beaten path can sometimes yield its own delightfully unexpected rewards.

I’d been to Freiburg before:

Freiburg city friends

Once, I’d stayed in a tiny hotel near the Münster (Freiburg’s Catholic cathedral) and a couple of other times I’d rented a renovated coach house just outside the Altstadt (the “old city”).

Freiburg living room 1250668 BLOG

Both places were lovely, and I loved being within a few minutes’ walk of the old town. But alas, both  were a bit too small for me and my six-foot-something husband — so instead I booked us a modern apartment in the foothills of the Black Forest.

I was giddy with anticipation on the way to Freiburg, when we switched trains in Karlsruhe. “Look, Esteban! A billboard for the Christmas markets!”

Freiburg ad 1030416 BLOG

Esteban was less enthusiastic: We were tired and cold, and it was sputtering rain. “Let’s take it easy and take a taxi to the apartment,” I offered.

But my enthusiasm soon waned, too, as the taxi climbed farther and farther up the hill. I imagined the two-hour hike it would take to get back down into town. “Oh, well …” I resigned myself. “We’re here only in passing.” Some 1o minutes later we finally reached the apartment and settled in.

Then, the most amazing thing happened: The sun set! From our perch on the hill we could see the outline of the Münster’s spire, and below it the city’s lights were twinkling to life. Esteban and I gave each other a high-five.

Freiburg sunset 1040708 BLOG

But once again, our glee was fleeting. We had nothing to eat. We’d have to brave that two-hour hike, after all — in the dark. We put our boots back on and started trudging down the road.

“I wonder where that path goes?” Esteban asked a minute later. I was apprehensive as he started down the hillside, but I followed him. “As long as we can see the Münster, we can’t get too lost,” I reasoned. We used our phones to illuminate the rocky path, and to navigate the narrow switchbacks.

The further down we got, the wider the path got. Soon the path was paved, then lit, and then — in about 15 or 20 minutes — we were in the Altstadt.

The famous Weihnachtsmärkte were in full swing …

Freiburg ferris 1030708 BLOG

Freiburg stars 1030602 BLOG

Freiburg Weihnachstmarkt 1030713 BLOG

… but having just seen the markets in Heidelberg and Cologne, we opted for a sit-down dinner in my favorite pub instead. And — somehow! — we found our way back to the apartment.

I got up early the next morning and discovered the real benefit of staying up on the hillside. (More on that soon, as it merits its own post.)

Freiburg 1040853 BLOG

Later that morning, Esteban and I explored a different route into town and spent the rest of the day roaming the cobbled streets of the Altstadt. I was as enamored as ever with the charming little bächle (canals) that crisscross the old city.

Bachle bot 1030675 BLOG

Freiburg bachle 1040422 BLOG

Freiburg bachle 1040431 BLOG

Freiburg Bachle 1030588 BLOG

We also revisited the Weihnachtsmarkt. Yup, it was still in full swing — and still just as crowded.

Freiburg muff 1030623 BLOG

Freiburg partiers 1030629 BLOG

Grillwurste try 1 1050031 BLOG

Weihnachtsmarkt 1030627 BLOG

I played around with capturing reflections of the city for a while.

VAG 1040961 BLOG

Freiburg trombone 1030534 BLOG

But even that soon wore thin, so we abandoned the crowds for the less-traveled side streets.

Wirtschaft 1310424 CRISP BLOG

For me, it’s in these tiny pedestrian-only streets that Freiburg’s beauty really shines.

Freiburg altstadt 1040944 BLOG

Freiburg Konvktstrasse CX 1040442 BLOG

Weihnachstmarkt 1030595 BLOG

As evening fell we took one last stroll down the Kaiser-Joseph-Straße.

Freiburg market street 1040575 BLOG

Most of the shops were closed, and all that remained of the daily farmer’s market was a few seeds and petals among the cobblestones.

Freiburg market cobble 1040595 BLOG

We briefly considered a concert inside the Münster.

Freiburg Munster 1030911 BLOG

But because the tickets were €20 each — and because neither of us particularly fancies Wagner — we decided to take the long way home instead. And for that, we were rewarded with a most magnificent sunset.

Freiburg guten abend 1040621 BLOG

In hindsight, I’m truly grateful that we stayed a bit further afield in Freiburg: We got a lot of exercise — and we explored parts of the city we never would have seen otherwise.

More to come from my favorite German city.


  1. How wonderful!

    Can I just say that I’m not a traveler? If I can’t reach it by car, I generally don’t want to go. But your photos make me really long to go back to Germany. I simply must make that a life goal.

    • From reading your blog, I do indeed know how much you love road trips, Jim! That my photos would make you consider actually getting on a plane and going back to Germany is really quite a compliment. Thank you! I hope you succeed in fulfilling your newest life goal.

    • Thank you, Tom! It’s a shame I’ll never manage to tell *all* of the stories from this trip (like having to share a single bath towel with Esteban in this otherwise luxurious Freiburg apartment), but it’s good to at least jot down the highlights for posterity. Wonderful to hear from you! Hope you’re keeping warm — we’ll be in the 40s next week, I hear? Can’t wait. Cheers!

  2. I had a brief visit to Freiburg last year when we were staying in Strasbourg. Our hosts took us there on a day trip. The little bit I saw (mainly around the Cathedral and surrounding cobbled streets) gave me a brilliant teaser taste. These photos show me there’s more to see, so one day I will fly back to the northern hemisphere and actually give it justice.

    • I do very much hope that you’re able to spend more than a day in Freiburg at some point, Susan! It’s one of those beguiling cities that seems simple and superficially charming at first blush, but that conceals many layers of history — a sort of cultural onion, if you will. It also has such a different “vibe” depending on the time of year you visit, that I recommend seeing it both in summer and winter. As always, thanks for reading — and especially for commenting. Happy travels!

    • Lucky you, Cheryl! Freiburg ist so schön!! Are you a student there? And thanks for your kind words … there’s actually a bit more to come from Freiburg, including some photos from the 1930s I dug up. Vielen Dank, und bis später!

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s