Fribourg, German Freiburg, capital of Fribourg canton, Switzerland. It is located on a loop in the Sarine (Saane) River southwest of Bern. Founded in 1157 by Berthold IV, duke of Zähringen, to control a ford across the river, it passed to the sons of Rudolf of Habsburg in 1277. The Habsburgs abandoned it in 1452; it then accepted the suzerainty of the dukes of Savoy. Fribourg assisted the Swiss in defeating Charles the Bold of Burgundy at Grandson and Morat (now Murten) in 1476 and was admitted to full membership in the Swiss Confederation in 1481. Occupied by the French in 1798, Fribourg became part of the Helvetic Republic and then one of the cantons of the Swiss Confederation as reconstituted by Napoleon’s Act of Mediation in 1803.
The oldest part of the city (the Bourg) is high above the river bank; the Neuveville, Auge, and Planche (Matte) quarters form the lower part (Basseville). West of the Bourg and still higher are the modern Places and Pérolles quarters. The old quarters retain much of their medieval appearance, characterized by Gothic-fronted houses and the remains of towers and gateways with 13th- to 17th-century ramparts, which originally surrounded the city. Medieval buildings include St. Nicholas Cathedral (13th–15th century) with a famous organ built by Aloys Mooser; the Franciscan church (Église des Cordeliers [1281; altered 1748]) with a 15th-century reredos; the former Augustinian Church of St. Maurice (1255) with a baroque reredos; and numerous chapels and former convents and monasteries. The town hall dates from 1506–22 with a tower of 1642. Modern architecture includes the university buildings (1941) and the Church of Christ the King (1954). The Sarine River is spanned by several bridges, notably the seven-arched Pont de Zähringen. The seat of the bishopric of Lausanne–Geneva–Fribourg and of a Roman Catholic state university (founded 1889), Fribourg is the centre of Swiss Catholicism. It possesses numerous works of art, mainly preserved in its churches and in the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire.
Situated on the main railway from Lausanne to Bern and a junction of lines to Murten and Payerne, the city is also a centre for bus and postal road services. There are breweries, a foundry, and factories for chocolate, cardboard boxes, machinery, electrical equipment, wood products, clothing, and chemicals. The population is primarily French speaking.
The Old Town of Fribourg (German: Freiburg im Üechtland) is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Europe. It has preserved its medieval charms into modern times, with over 200 Gothic facades dating from the 15th century. There has always been a lively crossover of cultures in this bilingual town.
Fribourg, founded in 1157 by the Dukes of Zähringen, is the capital of the canton of the same name, and is at the interface between German and French cultural influences. The medieval town centre, classified as a historical monument, with its narrow alleyways, picturesque squares and fountains with statues, is situated on a rocky outcrop high above the River Saane (Sarine). The fortifications, with 14 towers and a city wall, are intact and unique.
The most striking feature on the town’s skyline is the 76 metre high, unfinished tower of the St. Nicolas Cathedral. The cathedral can look back over 600 years of history, and houses famous masterpieces such as the incomparable stained glass windows by Jozef Mehoffer and Alfred Manessier and an organ by Aloys Mooser. From the tower, there is a wonderful view over the roofs of the town towards the Fribourg Pre-Alps.
Another good viewpoint is the Italian-style early Baroque Loreto Chapel. From the Neuveville district (in the Lower Town), a funicular railway takes you up to the pedestrianised area of the Upper Town. Fribourg is a lively university town, with many students from all over the world, making this a cosmopolitan, multi-faceted mini-metropolis. In the narrow alleyways are tightly packed rows of little boutiques, antique shops, student cafés and restaurants, offering local and foreign specialities.
One of the favourite destinations for art-lovers is the “Espace Jean Tinguely et Niki de Saint Phalle”, housed in a former tram depot. More works by the two artists can be found on the Sculpture Trail through the town centre. Modern art is on display in the Fri-Art Gallery. Children will love the Puppet Museum or the highly educational Natural History Museum.
It is worth making an excursion to Hauterive Abbey, a Cistercian abbey founded in 1137, and once a stopping place on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela.
- Fribourg Old Town – Gothic facades, pretty fountains, cosy cafés and inns, full of the charm of bygone days.
- Espace Jean Tinguely et Niki de Saint Phalle – this museum is dedicated to the sculptor Jean Tinguely and his wife, the artist Niki de Saint Phalle.
- St. Nicolas Cathedral – started according to German construction plans and finished to meet French wishes, with magnificent stained glass windows.
- Gruyères/Greyerz – not far from Fribourg is the village of Gruyères /Greyerz, where you can see the famous cheese of the same name being produced in a show cheesery.
- Murten – this little medieval town on the south-east bank of Lake Murten has a complete town wall and a pleasant promenade beside the lake, where there is a wide range of water sports available.
- Belluard Bollwerk International – this cultural event for contemporary arts takes place in a medieval fortress (June/July).
- International Folklore Festival – music from around the world on the squares and stages of Fribourg (August).
- St. Niklaus Festival – at dusk, Saint Nikolaus, the town’s patron saint, goes on a donkey at the head of a procession through the Old Town (December).
- Christmas Market – at Christmas, you can buy mulled wine and various regional products at the market (December).
How to get there
Public Transport: Direct train connections to major Swiss cities (Geneva, Lausanne, Bern, Basel, Zürich).
By car: Direct link to the national Autobahn network. Situated on the Autobahn axis Geneva-Zürich and Basel-Bern-Lausanne (A1/E5 and A2/E27)
Other/Air: Fribourg, situated between Geneva and Zürich, offers easy connections between the airports of Zürich-Kloten (160 km), Geneva-Cointrin (140 km), Basel-Mulhouse (140 km) and Bern-Belp (40 km).