The 11 Best Outdoor Activities in Freiburg
Wherever you are in Freiburg, you can feel the pull of the mountains and the forest. The southern German city, a beacon of progress and sustainability, exudes an energetic vibe that roams the cobbled streets and historic landmarks ‘Bachle’ gutters. Surroundings Schwarzwald (Black Forest) draws you into its enchanting trails, and the Schauinsland mountain creates a dramatic backdrop against the medieval old town.
So it’s no surprise that Freiburg’s best activities are outdoors. Of a hobby sonntagsspaziergang (Sunday hike) to an intrepid snowshoe adventure, this Black Forest town has something for everyone and for all fitness levels. And don’t worry about the weather, as the Germans firmly believe, there is no such thing as bad weather, just unsuitable clothing.
So strap on your boots and grab those hiking poles, because here are the best outdoor activities for kids, adventurers, and adrenaline junkies in Freiburg.
Hike on the Westweg Black Forest Trail
If the Brothers Grimm have captured your imagination with stories like Hansel and Gretel inspired by the Black Forest, take the time to delve deep into its magic on a multi-day hike along the famous Black Forest Westweg trail. It’s hard to get lost with red triangles marking the 285 km (177 mi) trail, and you can choose between sections with low, rolling hills that aren’t too intense on the knees, or more challenging peaks that climb the Feldberg mountain. As well as dense pine forest, you’ll pass through open landscapes, sunny meadows, orchards and dairy farms, while ruins, tiny medieval towns, and complete fairy tales.
Swimming in Dietenbachsee
As Freiburg is a good seven hours from the nearest beach, locals head to the nearby lakes instead to cool off. From May to September, the water in Dietenbachsee is warm enough for swimming. There are also playgrounds to keep the little ones busy, beach volleyball courts, table tennis tables and a skate park. The lake is also suitable for a relaxing walk in winter, only 20 minutes by tram n°3 from the old town of Freiburg.
Cool off at Opfinger See
Opfinger See, about 10 km west of Freiburg, is another popular place to relax on a hot summer day. This natural body of water is refreshed by the surrounding Mooswald forest. Arrive early to find a spot on the lawn for sunbathing, and bring supplies if you want to take advantage of the barbecue pits dotted around the shore.
Hike on the Markgräfler wine route
A popular long-distance trail for travelers who like to hike with a side of wine is the 84 km (52 mi) Markgräfler Wiiwegli (wine route). You can choose to hike the entire route over 3-4 days, staying in hostels along the way, or if you’re short on time, tackle the first section from Sankt Georgen to Staufen for a decent day hike . Winding through the southern Black Forest and French border wine regions, the trail is relatively flat and well paved.
In the fall, the landscape is brushed with golden and amber hues, transforming it into an impressionistic dream. You will also find many Straußwirtschaften (seasonal wine taverns) open in the fall and spring, providing a welcome break for hungry hikers to enjoy the latest harvest and a hot snack. Just look for a broom hanging from the front that indicates they are open for business.
Peaceful snowshoeing on the Schauinsland
Although the nearby ski resort of Feldberg offers fairly decent skiing and snowboarding, it is also a busy place. So get away from the busy ski lifts and spend some time experiencing nature as you glide down the Schauinsland mountain on snowshoes. The sport is gaining popularity for the freedom and tranquility it offers, as well as its claim to be the healthiest sport in the world. The gliding motion provides a full body workout that strengthens the core and muscles, without the impact or risk associated with other cardio workouts, while breathing in the fresh mountain air. All the gear you need can be hired on the mountain for around €50 ($56) for a week between November and March. The 15 km (9 mi) red Schauinsland trail is a great place to learn the ropes.
Mountain bike downhill cruise
A city full of bike freaks means a forest full of awesome mountain bike trails. Pros and absolute beginners will find well-maintained, rock-free trails. The terrain is smooth rather than steep, which makes for a fairly fast ride. Head to the Dreisam football stadium to try the jumps on the thrilling ‘Baden to the bone’ course. You may encounter snow in the depths of winter, but otherwise mountain biking is definitely considered a year-round sport in this part of the world. Mountain bike rental starts at €25 ($27) per day from Radstation next to the city train station.
Tobogganing in the Schauinsland
While you test the snowshoes, young and old will love the thrill of sledding. One of the most famous toboggan runs is at the top of the Schauinsland. Jump on the cable car from Horben and rent your toboggan at the top. Then, get ready for the rapid 300m (920ft) descent. Rinse and repeat until your hands, feet or lungs can’t take it anymore.
Admire the sunset over the rooftops of Friborg
According to locals, Eichhalde is the best place to watch the sun set over the rooftops of Freiburg. This hill on Rue Eichhalde has a few benches scattered around the grounds, so pack a picnic or a bottle of wine and make yourself comfortable. It’s a short half hour walk into town, or an easy bike ride, but away from the crowds.
Alternatively, stay in town and join the cool kids sipping beers on the blue steel Wiwilíbrücke bridge next to the main train station. The view might not be as great, but the people watching are top notch.
Take the Höllentalbahn to Titisee
If you are looking for the perfect day in the Black Forest, this is the one for you. Departing from Freiburg’s main station every half hour, the Höllentalbahn train travels deep into the Black Forest on one of the steepest railway tracks in Germany. If you are there in July, August or December, you can even ride the historic steam train which makes a special appearance on the route. Take in views of small towns and forest as you drive towards Titisee. This popular lake has lakeside cafes and restaurants, paddle boats for hire, and a pleasant hour-long hiking trail around its perimeter.
Explore the Ravenna Gorge
If you have wheels, don’t miss a day trip to Ravennaschlucht (Ravenna Gorge), 30 minutes drive from town. The leisurely 4 km (2.5 mi) hike follows the windy gorge path through a valley of waterfalls, mossy trails, wooden walkways and historic aqueducts.
In December, the imposing vault Ravennabrucke (bridge) lights up hosting one of the most magical Christmas markets in the region. Warm up with a steaming glühwein as you peruse delicate Christmas decorations, woolen scarves and mittens, and cuckoo clocks, synonymous with the region.
Ride the Hasenhorn slide
Another outdoor activity easily accessible by car is the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn (toboggan run). Germany’s longest toboggan run, you’ll be flying around the loop track in about three minutes and you’ll want to start all over again. For the ultimate thrill, follow the operator’s instructions and don’t brake! A ride costs €10 ($11) for adults and includes the chairlift ride.
Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change quickly. Lonely Planet recommends travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date advice before traveling during Covid-19.