Far off the beaten Swiss track brings you to one of the country’s hidden gems – the city of Fribourg. The gateway to diversity, as its location is widely known for being the link between the French speaking Switzerland to the German speaking Switzerland, the city has a wealth of fascinating tourist sites, incredible history, breathtaking charm and romantic appeal wrapped up in a quaint medieval setting. The densely rich forests of Jura provide a dramatic panoramic backdrop that offers some of the most evocative landscapes in the country.
Peering over the Land of the Three Lakes, the Jura Forest region offers an abundance of incredible outdoor adventures right throughout the year, whether it’s cycling through alpine paths or cross country skiing during the frosty chilly months, there are plenty of opportunities to work off all of that delicious Swiss cuisine; the fondues, chocolate, pastries and cheeses. The lake region offers great places for water sports during the warmer months of summer and no matter what time of the year that you visit Fribourg, there will be something to delight again and again.
As it is one of Switzerland’s most underrated tourist attractions, it is possibly more well-known for its fantastic university and the iconic sweeping bridges that bend over the Sarine River, providing a physical link between French and German cultural areas. This one region of the country that is possibly the most beautifully looked after, with a highly active preservation order. There are over 200 medieval residences and buildings in the city alone, making this a true cultural and historic gem to experience.
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The Best Time to Go
Every season of the year is something very special in the city of Fribourg. The weather is pleasant and there is something to do all year round. Fribourg is something to be savored and visitors should take the time to meander through, rather than rush around all at once. The weather definitely warms up a bit during summer, and during the months of June, July and August, locals and visitors alike can be seen out and about enjoying themselves in the sunshine.
Cycling is a favorite local pastime, for commuting and leisure, all throughout the year, so it is no surprise to see lots of cyclists out whizzing about the town in the warm weather. Winter is a truly magical time of year, as the city and the surroundings is sprinkled with a generous dusting of snow, and there are ice palaces and ice sculptures and ideal conditions for you to traipse around wearing snow shoes and seeing the sights.
The city turns into a real life magical winter wonderland fairy tale and it is also no surprise to see the city filling up with visitors despite the chilly weather. Expect middle of summer temperatures to reach 24°C (75°F) and middle of winter temperatures to drop down to low single digits like 2 or 3 degrees Celsius (37°F).
Getting Around in Fribourg
Hands down the best way to see the city is on foot or by bicycle. Fribourg is easy to navigate many of the interesting major sights and attractions are easily accessible just walking or cycling the streets. You can hire bicycles from all over the place and at just about every single bus and tram station and it is the nicest way to travel around the pretty city, although perhaps not so comfortable in the middle of below freezing winter. You can hire a car and if you plan on travelling in and out of Fribourg and surrounds, this may be the best away to see everything.
Otherwise, being Switzerland, you are in luck, there is fantastic bus and rail public transport system that runs on perfect Swiss time, is never late and gets you where you want to be. The buses and light rail trams are clean, easy to use and are good value for money, and there are lines that will take you further afield and to surrounding cantons like Neuchatel.
Major Sights and Attractions
The Funicular of Fribourg – Opened in the late 1800s, the funicular is an iconic curiosity that is widely renowned throughout the country as it is the only historical monument that is powered by a waste water supply. Take a trip from Basse-Ville (lower town) right into the very heart of the city.
Basse-Ville – An ancient and historic region of the city, it is full of churches, bridges, wooden homes and buildings, fountains and other exciting historic sights. Discover the birthplace of Bolze – a hybrid Germanic-Franco dialect – in this stunningly beautiful, leafy area.
The Bern Bridge – One of the most interesting architectural features of Fribourg is this covered bridge that was built in 1653.
Cardinal Beer Museum – Go on a journey of the history and traditions of beer, beer culture and beer society. Plus it’s a chance to do a bit of beer tasting in an authentic bistro.
Velo Club Fribourg Museum – Discover the fascinating collection telling the history of cycling and bicycles. Even if you were not a fan of bikes to start off with you will be when you leave.
The Gotteron Gate – Part of the town’s original fortifications that were built in the 13th century, the gate itself indicates structural completion in the 15th century. Standing 14 meters high, it blocked access to the Gotteron Gorge where the first forges and mills were located in the old town.
Fribourg Cathedral – The Gothic Cathedral de St. Nicholas dominates the medieval Old Town. It was completed in 1430 and its imposing tower which contains 11 bells was added by 1490. Intrepid visitors who don’t mind a climb of 386 will be rewarded with stunning views across the city.
Fribourg Fountains – Water fountains are quite a feature in most Swiss cities and towns and are usually numerous and varied in style and construction. There are 11 of note in Fribourg and some can be enjoyed on the self-guided walking tour.
Mini Train ride – The perfect outing for the whole family especially for those visiting the canton with their children, just out of the middle of the city. The quiet region of the Gotteron Valley is the perfect place to enjoy lunch, go for the scenic train ride and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
Mini treasure hunt – This is a great way for the entire family to discover parts of the city by exploring the nooks and crannies on a mini treasure hunt. Download the question sheet and map of the city and get out and about. Treasure hunt question sheets are available at the tourism office.
Urban Golf– A bit like mini golf, and suitable for all age groups, the urban golf ‘’greens’’ are 18 holes situated throughout the city. So an exciting twist on the old mini golf set up and you can play right throughout the year.
Ice Skating – There are two ice skating rinks in the city, and you can enjoy a day of sliding around on the ice all year round.
Winter Skiing – In and around Fribourg there is an abundance of ski resorts and slopes just waiting to be enjoyed during the snowy season. With schools and a variety of graded slopes, this area is great for all experience levels.
Eating Out in Fribourg
There is a strong national heritage of food in Switzerland and the local cuisine around Fribourg is world class, outstanding and mouth-watering. The seasonal menus in restaurants are part and parcel of what makes the dishes so delicious. Being so close the colleges and university there are plenty of opportunities to find cafes and little restaurants on sidewalks which have excellent good value for money menus.
Some of the restaurants are closed during the winter months, but have excellent summer patios to enjoy in leafy surroundings, so you may want to check ahead if you are looking for somewhere to eat in the wintertime. Fondues, ciabattas stuffed with cheeses and local meats, mouth-watering pastries and pancakes can be found all over the place.
Café des Arcades is close to the cathedral and been around for over 140 years and has a gorgeous terrace to enjoy during the summer. The fare is excellent and is not too badly priced. With a fantastic bustling atmosphere in a café- lounge atmosphere, it’s a great place to take the family.
Café le Populaire is a popular student café, which means the prices are very reasonable even by Swiss standards. You must try their chicken melt menu item – a very filling and delicious meal of a chicken curry baguette with a generous helping of potatoes and salad.
Nightlife in Fribourg
With a large student population you can be sure that there are plenty of places to party, lots of bars and pubs, clubs and venues to let your hair down and boogie. Up-market wine bars, trendy lounge cafes, live music venues, resident and international DJs, high-end wine bars, casinos, cabarets, dancing, live shows, techno clubs and chill bars are just a small selection of the entertainment and bustling nightlife options throughout Fribourg. So if you fancy a cocktail before dinner or an early show, or if you are looking for a big night out, ready to party until dawn, then Fribourg has something different for every night, except many places are closed on a Sunday night.
If you feel like something a bit less raucous there are a number of cinemas with shows on every night of the week as well as an abundance of local theatres, offering a spectacular line up of everything you could possibly imagine – rock concerts, exhibitions, theatre and Broadway shows right throughout the year.
Café de la Rose is a great place for an all-round evening out. They have a charismatic bar, live music, dancing and a great funky venue for you to chill out and have a good time with your friends.
Le Baccara, Hôtel Au Parc is an awesome dance venue where they have a great selection of golden oldies music from the 60s, 70s, 80s and more. Located in the Hotel Au Parc, Le Baccara is an up-market yet laid back venue.
La Habana Bar is a trendy, fun Latino bar that is a great place to have a pre-dinner cocktail or a few drinks with friends. It offers festive surroundings and a friendly atmosphere with a good mix of locals and tourists.
Of Local Interest
Part of the city’s charm is that there is something going on all the time, all throughout the year. And no matter what time of year you are going, there is bound to be a major event or festival on the schedule. The Swiss celebrate everything from music, culture, dance, film, the arts and have exhibitions dedicated to watch and clock making and shows created by chocolatiers who have been making some of the world’s best chocolate for centuries.
Fribourg has a big carnival every year as well as an international Folk Festival which celebrates music, dance, food and folk culture from all over the world. The folk festival has been going strong since 1975 and welcomes artists and culture groups from all over the world to participate showcasing their local costumes, dance and music. Countries from all over the world participate in shows and exhibitions, and it is a truly unique display of heritage and culture that is the only one of its kind in all of Switzerland.
The Fribourg International Film Festival is held in the city every year and focuses on a number on international genres of film from all over the world like Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Rock Oz’Arènes is an international Rock festival held in the canton every year in the summer month of July.
Bénichon is a harvest feast held during the month of September and is all about delicious food: communal feasting, seasonal specialities like freshly baked bread, local mustards, steaming lamb stews, sweet pear compote, pickled hams, pastries, fondues, melted cheese, meringues and icing sugar crepes and delights. Spicy cakes and local fare can be bought, sampled and enjoyed right throughout the festival, so best to leave your diet at home while you are visiting Switzerland altogether.