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Freiburg: a city with a sunny disposition.

Freiburg: a city with a sunny disposition.

Are the people of Freiburg so cheerful because their city gets more sun than anywhere else in Germany, or have they been rewarded with so much sunshine precisely because they are so good-natured? It's hard to say. But what is certain is that life is good in Germany's southernmost city.

Freiburg has more to offer than friendly faces alone, including one of Germany's prettiest old quarters, with its characteristic bächle – the narrow channels of water that run alongside the pavements. Add to that a wealth of culture and history, lots of cafés and cosy bars, delicious regional food and scenic surroundings. What's more, the overall atmosphere is easygoing, laid-back and more carefree than most. It's almost – in a word – mediterranean. Experience it for yourself with a stroll through the old quarter overlooked by the 116-metre-tall spire of the stunning minster, one of Germany's most beautiful religious buildings. The square on which it stands is the largest in the city centre, and hosts a market every day except Sunday. The square's main sights are the Historical Merchants' Hall from 1532 with its deep-red facade and colourful corner towers, the Museum of Municipal History in the Haus Zum Schönen Eck from 1761, and the Alte Wache, now the House of Badensian Wines – certainly not the worst use for this beautiful old guardhouse! The other major square in the old quarter is Augustinerplatz. Overlooked by an Augustinian abbey and the remains of the city wall, this is a popular rendezvous for locals, which probably has something to do with the stone steps that flank one side. The lively atmosphere here is strongly reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. It's then onto Rathausplatz, location of the Old and New Town Hall, gothic St. Martin's Church and a fountain with a statue of monk and alchemist Berthold Schwarz, who supposedly invented gunpowder here in the city.

Oberlinden and Unterlinden are two rather more peaceful squares in the centre of Freiburg, and both have a beautiful old lime tree as their focal point. True Freiburg connoisseurs describe pretty little Adelhauser-Platz, which lies away from the beaten track, as the city's loveliest square. These marvellous locations provide an ideal backdrop for the dozens of celebrations, both large and small, which take place every year in Freiburg's old town. The programme kicks off in January with the international 'trade fair' of culture and the grenzenlos festival, and continues uninterrupted through to December, when the Christmas market and the Circus Festival round off the season. Among the highlights in between are the colourful antics of the Freiburg Carnival, the city's marathon, film seasons, open-air cinemas, a summer film festival, various fun fairs, the Summer of Culture, the Sea You music festival and the Tent-Music-Festival, as well as plays performed in the town hall courtyard, the 'Lake Night' Festival and a wine festival. It's hard to believe there could be so much going on, but just ask anyone who's been! And if all the celebrations get a bit too much, you can unwind in the many parks and green spaces, such as Schlossberg hill, Mundenhof wildlife park, 1,284m Mount Schauinsland on the doorstep of Freiburg and lots of lakes in and around the city. After all, Freiburg values Mother Nature, and never wavers in its commitment to its environmental policies of sustainability and renewable energy. This has been a great success. As a green city, Freiburg has become a global benchmark for eco-friendly living. But you don't have to be an energy expert to be impressed by Freiburg – even if you visit on one of those rare occasions when the sun has decided to take a day off.

City Highlights

Freiburg's Bächle are one of the distinctive features of the historical old quarter. The water splashes and gurgles its way through the narrow streets in these tiny channels running alongside the pavements. Originally, they were probably built to supply water for everyday use and for putting out fires, or as drainage canals. Today they are a quirky attraction popular with locals and visitors alike and a great way to cool off in the summer. Superstition has it that if a visitor steps in one by accident, this will not be their last visit to Freiburg.

Built between 1200 and 1500, Freiburg's mighty Minster of Our Lady is regarded by art historians around the world as an architectural masterpiece of the Gothic period and a cultural monument of great importance.

The 116-metre tower of this impressive red sandstone construction is clearly visible from afar and is often referred to as "the most beautiful spire in Christendom". Inside the church are a number of medieval works of art: altars, stained glass and sculptures, including many images and sculptures of the Virgin Mary to whom the minster is dedicated and the patron saints of the town, George, Lambert and Alexander.

Freiburg's old quarter is dominated by the medieval minster. Another characteristic feature are the much-loved Bächle, a system of narrow, flat channels that runs for several kilometres and is filled with water from the Dreisam river. Other attractions include a variety of beautiful ensembles and individual buildings that have been reconstructed in their original medieval style, many of them featuring decorative guild crests. Some of the town's pharmacies have a mosaic staff of Aesculapius or a mortar and pestle set into the cobbles on the pavement outside, and in front of some of the bakeries you'll see a pretzel.

First mentioned in 1278, the Augustinian friary in Freiburg is almost as old as the town itself.

The chancel roof dating from the 14th century is the oldest in Freiburg after the one on the minster. At the beginning of the 18th century, the church was extended and remodelled in the baroque style, but the friary was secularised in 1810. The Augustinium Museum opened in 1923 and houses the municipal collections including medieval sculptures and pictures, baroque art, 19th century paintings, a collection of prints and drawings, and collections of applied arts and everyday culture.

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