Green city guide: Freiburg

Freiburg is among Europe’s most sustainable cities, having invested heavily in public transport, solar power and green spaces.


Much attention is given to large cities striving to reach green goals, such as Sydney and London. Less, however, is said about smaller, cosier places. One example that deserves attention is Freiburg: a charming, idyllic city in south-western Germany, and one of the country’s famous old university towns. Since the 1970s it has followed a green agenda whose cornerstones have included public transport investment, sustainable energy, waste management and green economics.

Individually, the green initiatives are almost too many to count. The environmental management sector employs roughly three per cent of Freiburg’s work force; a disproportionally large number compared to other cities. Around half of its energy is generated by heat- and power plants. It is also among the warmest and sunniest places in Germany, and solar panels are found everywhere: schools, houses, churches, the town hall – even prisons. As for alternative transport, there is among other things a bicycle network totalling 420 kilometres (260 miles), supplemented by 9,000 parking racks.


Take a walk

It should surprise no one that a city aiming to become carbon-neutral by 2050 has invested heavily in footpaths. A large area in the city centre is dedicated to pedestrians. On the outskirts, there are 450 kilometres (280 miles) of woodlands trails, which go past eating facilities, play areas and lakes, drawing four million visitors each year.


Watch some football

Attending a football match has never been associated with saving the environment, but Freiburg’s main stadium is probably as close as you’ll come, considering it has solar panels installed on the roof. The football is also good, with the local team, SC Freiburg, playing in the German premier division. Even some of the club’s staff adhere to green principles, with the head coach, Christian Streich, cycling to home matches.


Ride the cable car

Some 15 kilometres (9.5 miles) south-east of Freiburg, a cable car transfers you to the top of the Schauinsland Mountain, located in the nearby Black Forest. If the weather is nice, the views go as far as the Swiss Alps. Get there by taking the city tram, then a bus.


Visit the cathedral

The landmark and main attraction of the city is the Freiburg Minster. Its construction started around 1200. It was originally based on a Romanesque style but, decades later, the design started to follow a Gothic style, giving it a magnificent appearance. The clock tower, 116 metres tall, was completed around 1330. Climb it for a great view of the city.


Explore the Bächle

Engraved in the cosy streets of Freiburg’s old town are Bächle – narrow water canals. They were created to channel water for industrial use, as well as to aid fire lines. Today they exist more to the amusement of tourists, and to enforce Freiburg’s strong identity. One saying is that if you accidentally step into a stream, you are destined to marry a Freiburger.


Location: south-western Germany

Area: 153km2

Population: 230,000

Currency: Euro (€)

Time zone: GMT+2