Germany off the beaten track

Begun in 1200 in Romanesque style (transept) and completed in 1513, the Münster (Cathedral) exhibits primarily Gothic stylistic elements. © Bjoern Rudek

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On the track of history

Thanks in great part to the rich silver deposits in the Black Forest, Freiburg was a leading business center during the Middle Ages. Starting in 1368, Freiburg's historical development was especially influenced by its four-century association with the Habsburg Dynasty, which brought Freiburg a cultural boom - and frequent invasions.

/assetimage_882_240w159.jpgFounded at the end of the 11th century by the Dukes of Zähringen, the settlement was granted the right to hold  markets in 1120. Thanks to its favorable position, the right to hold markets and, above all, the rich silver deposits in the Black Forest, the town soon became the leading business center in the Breisgau region. Freiburg quickly grew out of the original ring of walls which had been built around 1200. New suburbs were created and also walled. More than 20 monasteries moved into the city.

Freiburg's historical development was especially influenced by its association with the Habsburg Dynasty. From 1368 on the Habsburgs reigned over the city. This marriage was to last over 400 years - a time that brought Freiburg many honors and a cultural boom, but also times of need and destruction. The Austrians founded the Albert-Ludwig-University in 1457.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, however, Freiburg was repeatedly conquered by foreign troops. Made into a big fortress by the French architect Vauban, Freiburg was not to recover in the 18th century. It remained a small, unimportant town of almost village character until the middle of the 19th century. Occasions such as when Marie-Antoinette traveled through Freiburg on her bridal trip to Paris in 1770 were highly unusual and were therefore fittingly celebrated. In 1805 the city was separated from the House of the Habsburgs.

/assetimage_2480_241w181.jpgIn the late 19th and in the 20th centuries the population increased rapidly, new quarters were built, and the city's area expanded far into the surroundings. By the end of the Second World War the city lay in ruins. Nearly all that was left of the city center were the Münster (Cathedral) and the Historisches Kaufhaus (Historic Merchant's Hall). 

Fortunately, the rebuilding of Freiburg was not typical of the post-war period. Freiburg decided to use the ground plan of the old city as the model for its rebuilding program. The aim, however, was not to build an idealized "museum" city, but rather the renovation of the buildings which were worthy of it, and the filling in of gaps with modern architecture whose character matched the image of the city.

The city's building tradition and continuity were thus ensured. Today the whole city center is a pedestrian zone. In recent years the city has made a name for itself as Green City above all in the area of environmental protection.

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Discover Freiburg

See the best of Freiburg

Inspiration, discoveries, relaxation, family fun: whatever your mood and whoever you´re with, an escape to the beautiful and historic places makes a perfect day out.

Freiburg: Guided City Tours

Take a stroll around the city's main streets and squares in Freiburg, streams and lanes with the colorful mosaic made of Rhine pebbles, "Münsterplatz" (Cathedral Square) and "Münster" (Cathedral). A tour of the Gothic cathedral with its wealth of medieval treasures is the highlight of the guided city walking tour.

Further information on guided tours in Freiburg 

European History

Freiburg’s historical development was especially influenced by the Habsburg Dynasty. From 1368 on they reigned over the city. This marriage was to last over 400 years.