Wherever you are in Freiburg, you can feel the pull of the mountains and forest. The southern German town, a beacon of progressiveness and sustainability, exudes an energetic vibe that courses through the cobblestone streets and historic ‘Bächle’ gutters. The surrounding Schwarzwald (Black Forest) lures 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 found outdoors. From a leisurely sonntagsspaziergang (Sunday hike) to an intrepid snowshoeing adventure, this Black Forest town has something for everyone and every fitness level. And don’t worry about the weather – as the Germans firmly believe, there’s 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 the Black Forest Westweg trail
If the Brothers Grimm captivated your imagination with stories like Hansel and Gretel inspired by the Black Forest, take the time to delve deep into its magic on a multiday hike along the famous Black Forest Westweg trail. It’s hard to get lost with red triangles marking the 285 km (177mi) trail, and you can choose between sections with low undulating hills that aren’t too intense on the knees, or tougher peaks that scale Feldberg mountain. As well as the dense pine forest, you’ll cross open country, sunny meadows, orchards and dairy farms, while ruins, tiny medieval towns, and complete the fairytale.
Take a dip in Dietenbachsee
As Freiburg is a good seven hours from the nearest beach, the locals instead head to nearby lakes to cool off. From May to September, the water at Dietenbachsee is warm enough to swim in. There are also playgrounds to occupy the little ones, beach volleyball courts, table tennis tables and a skate park. The lake also makes for a relaxing stroll in winter, at just 20 minutes on the #3 tram from Freiburg’s old town.
Cool off in Opfinger See
Another popular place to relax on a hot summer day is Opfinger See, around 10km (6mi) west of Freiburg. This natural body of water is kept cool from the surrounding Mooswald forest. Get there early to find a spot on the sunbathing lawn, and bring supplies if you want to take advantage of the BBQ grills scattered around the shore.
Hike the Markgräfler Wine Trail
A popular long distance trail for travelers who like to hike with a side of wine is the 84km (52mi) Markgräfler Wiiwegli (wine trail). You can choose to complete the whole trail over 3-4 days, staying at inns 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 wine growing regions of the southern Black Forest and the French border, the trail is relatively flat and well-paved.
In fall, the landscape is brushed with golden and amber hues, turning it into an impressionist's dream. You’ll also find many of the Straußwirtschaften (seasonal wine taverns) throw their doors open in fall and spring offering a welcome break for hungry hikers to enjoy the latest harvest and a warm snack. Just look for a broom hanging out the front that indicates they’re open for business.
Snowshoe in peace on Schauinsland
While nearby ski resort Feldberg operates pretty decent skiing and snowboarding runs, it’s also a busy spot. So get away from the busy ski lifts and spend time experiencing nature as you glide across Schauinsland mountain on snowshoes. The sport is gaining popularity for the freedom and peacefulness it offers, as well as its claim as the world’s healthiest sport. The gliding motion delivers a complete body workout that strengthens the heart and muscles, without the impact or risk associated with other cardio workouts, all while breathing in fresh mountain air. All the gear you need can be hired on-mountain for around €50 ($56) for a week between November and March. The Schauinsland 15km (9mi) red trail is a great place to learn the ropes.
Cruise downhill on a mountain bike
A city full of bike-crazy people means a forest full of awesome mountain bike trails. Pros and absolute beginners will find trails that are well-maintained and rock-free. The terrain is flowy as opposed to steep, making for pretty rapid riding. Head towards the Dreisam soccer stadium to try out the jumps at the thrilling “Baden to the bone” trail. You may encounter some 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) a day from Radstation next to the train station in town.
Go sledding at Schauinsland
While you’re testing out the snowshoes, the kids and big kids at heart will love the thrill of sledding. One of the best-known sled runs can be found at the top of Schauinsland. Jump in the cable car from Horben and rent your sled at the top. Then, brace yourself for the speedy 300m (920ft) ride down. Rinse and repeat until your hands, feet or lungs can’t take it anymore.
Watch the sunset over Freiburg’s rooftops
According to the locals, Eichhalde is the best place to watch the sunset over Freiburg’s rooftops. This hill on Eichhalde Street has a few benches scattered on the open field, so pack a picnic or a bottle of wine and get comfy. It’s a short half hour walk from town, or an easy bike ride, but far from the crowds.
Otherwise stay in town and join the cool kids sipping beers on the blue steel Wiwilíbrücke bridge next to the main station. The view might not be as beautiful, but the people watching is top-notch.
Ride the Höllentalbahn to Titisee
If you’re looking for the perfect day out in the Black Forest, this one’s for you. Departing from Freiburg's main station every half hour, the Höllentalbahn train travels into the depths of the Black Forest on one of Germany’s steepest railways. If you’re there in July, August or December, you might even get to ride on the historic steam train that makes a special appearance on the route. Take in the views over the tiny towns and forest as you travel towards Titisee. This popular lake has lakeside cafés and restaurants, pedal boats for hire, and a pleasant hour-long hiking trail around its perimeter.
Explore Ravenna Gorge
If you’ve got wheels, don’t miss a day trip out to Ravennaschlucht (Ravenna Gorge), a short 30 minute drive out of town. The tranquil 4km (2.5mi) hike follows the gorge's windy path through a valley of waterfalls, mossy paths, wooden footbridges and historic aqueducts.
In December, the towering arched Ravennabrücke (bridge) lights up as it hosts one of the most magical Christmas markets in the region. Warm up with a steaming glühwein as you browse delicate Christmas ornaments, woolly scarves and mittens, and Cuckoo clocks, synonymous with the region.
Ride the Hasenhorn Toboggan
Another outdoor activity that is easy to get to with a car is the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn (Toboggan). The longest toboggan run in Germany, you’ll fly down the loopy track in around three minutes, and want to do it all over again. For the ultimate thrill, follow the operator's instructions and stay off the brakes! One run costs 10€ ($11) for adults and includes the chairlift ride up.
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