A Jointventure of
City Profiles
A | A | A

Freiburg - Germany's sunniest Town


Freiburg attracts myriads of tourists every year, being not only a town brim-full of medieval charm but also in the prime location to enjoy the output of the German winemaking industry. It also officially has the best weather of any town in the entire country making it a popular summertime destination. However, don't let the number of tourists fool you; Freiburg is also an important centre for academia and has a number of top notch research institutes to its name, as well as an ancient and internationally respected university which excels both in the sciences and humanities.

© Deutsche WelleFreiburg is a prime location for research

Freiburg as a research location

Freiburg is a prime location for research in a number of different fields and has a long history of academia. The hub of the academic scene is Freiburg University which was set up by the Habsburgs in the 15th century, making it one Germany's oldest. Despite no longer being one of the eleven universities awarded the largest amount of funding by the German Universities Excellence Initiative, it got through the first two rounds and has also been successful in securing funding for the three separate categories of the competition. This means there is no shortage of funding to be had.

The university also provides a large number of opportunities for graduates and has set up the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies, funded by the Excellence Initiative. This institute aims to promote high quality research, encourage interdisciplinary research and support young researchers. The university also coordinates five graduate schools including the Spermann Graduate School for Biology and Medicine, and the Hermann Paul School of Language Sciences and the Environment, as well as twelve graduate research centres.

The major research organisations also make a showing here. Freiburg is home to the Fraunhofer Institutes for Applied Solid State Physics, High-Speed Dynamics, Mechanics of Material, Physical Measurement Techniques and Solar Energy Systems. You can also find the Max Planck Institutes for Immunobiology and Epigenetics, and for Foreign and International Criminal Law.


The city of Freiburg was founded in 1120 by the Duke of Zähringen who had the intention of setting up a free market town in the area. Hence the town's name which translates to something like ' free fortified town'. This gave the town a certain degree of autonomy. Owing to its fortunate location at the intersection of two trade routes it grew in influence and wealth. This new wealth made the building of the Freiburg Münster possible. It was at first planned as a Romanesque building but the design was gradually changed, meaning the finished outward appearance was distinctly Gothic.

Following the death of the final Duke of Zähringen, Freiburg began to go through some rocky times. The people of the town did not take to the new count who had raised taxes and restricted the freedoms that they previously enjoyed. This situation came to a head when the residents destroyed the count's castle resulting in a bloody battle. Following this, the citizens bought their freedom and became part of the Habsburg Empire. In this period of the town's history it became exceptionally wealthy and even coined its own currency. When the Reformation came about in the 16th century, Freiburg made the decision to remain Catholic in an otherwise Protestant area. This meant it saw more than its fair share of bloodshed during the Thirty Years' War as it repeatedly fell in and out of the control of numerous armies.

In more recent times, Freiburg felt the brunt of the Allied Bombing Raids and much of the city, but amazingly not the Münster, was destroyed. After the war the town found itself in the French controlled zone and was rebuilt according to its medieval plans.

Living in Freiburg

There are plenty of perks for those who decide to live in Freiburg. Firstly, it's great weather which leads directly to the second advantage: some of Germany's best wine. If this isn't enough to convince you it also boasts some stunning architecture and amazingly efficient infrastructure. The centre of town is mostly pedestrianised but also has an extensive tram network, making it easy to get where you need to go. The centre is also characterised by a system of gutters called 'Bächle' that have water fed to them from the River Dreisam. They were not designed to carry away the town's waste but rather to supply it with water for livestock or in case of fire.

As well as being particularly attractive to tourists, Freiburg is often described as a university town due to the sheer number of students and how they dominate the cultural landscape. A number of particularly famous and influential names have also lived in the town and attended the university. Among them are the sociologist Max Weber, the modernist novelist Alfred Döblin and the philosopher Walter Benjamin.

Residents of Freiburg also have plenty to keep them busy. There are, of course, a number of wine festivals beginning with the St. George Wine Festival in May. The Münster plays host to number of concerts and events throughout the year. The town's location also means that there's plenty of potential for trips into the Black Forest and there are transport links to most major German towns and a number of cities across Europe.

What Freiburg is known for

Freiburg is the centre of German eco-politics and the Green Party has a stronghold in the town. Not only is this seen in the politics but there are also a number of research opportunities for those interested in alternative energy sources. The town lies in the wine region of Baden which produces similar wines to neighbouring Alsace. Sadly a very small proportion of the wine is exported meaning it's a particular treat for residents of the area.

Back to city profiles»

academics :: June 2013