Fribourg is a city in Switzerland that is also the canton's capital and economic center. The city was founded in 1157 by Herzog Berthold IV of Zaehringen. Fribourg is known for its cultural plurality, university, and bridges over the Sarine River that link the French-speaking part of Switzerland to the German-speaking part.
Fribourg offers a multitude of architectural sights. The Old Town, with Switzerland's best-preserved fortifications, is under a preservation order and there are still more than 200 Gothic-style houses to be admired. In addition there are aristocratic town houses, monuments, St. Niklaus cathedral and numerous churches.
Fribourg has been a part of the Swiss Confederation since 1481, with over 10,000 inhabitants at that time. Since the city was founded on a peninsula many bridges were built to span the Sarine River, the first one in 1250. In the 19th century Fribourg was famous for its suspension bridges which have now been replaced with concrete. The university was founded in 1889. The 2000 census showed a population of 35,000 city residents and 235,000 in the Fribourg canton.
Sprinkled throughout the city are Renaissance fountains and more recent fountains such as the Tinguely Fountain made in 1984.
Fribourg has an excellent mainline rail service, run by SBB. Trains run frequently day and night from Geneva airport, Geneva, Thun, Lausanne, St Gallen, Bern and Zürich, and many other places in Switzerland. The 1 SBB Railway Station is in the modern city centre, from here head east (downhill) for Old Town. There's a second railway station 1 km north at Fribourg Poya: you'd only use this for St Leonard Sports Stadium or Caserne military base.
Bern airport is close by but has few flights, so the best airport for Fribourg is Geneva (GVA IATA), with direct trains every 30 mins taking less than 2 hours. Alternatively use Zurich (ZRH IATA) or perhaps Basel (BSL IATA).
Flixbus direct services from Fribourg include Lyon, Frankfurt and Munich.
The bus station is 100 m east of the SBB at Place Georges Python.
Walk: most sights are within walking distance. You'll probably arrive at the SBB station in the modern city centre, which is bland, in parts brutalist. Go north about 300 m for the University. For the Old Town go east: the signposts take traffic down Route des Alpes but it's pleasanter to follow pedestrianised Rue de Lausanne. Both routes lead downhill to Place Tilleul, with the Cathedral of St Nicholas, the Basilica of Notre Dame, the Gutenberg Museum, and Espace Jean Tinguely Niki de St Phalle; nearby are the Convent and Museum of Art History. Continue downhill past the Cathedral to the foot of town in a loop of the River Sarine, crossed by the wooden Pont de Berne.
Bus routes 2 & 6 run from the SBB down to Place Tilleul and the Cathedral.
- 1 Bern Bridge (Pont de Berne) (Bus 4 to Palme). This covered wooden bridge is 40m long. The original bridge has been constantly renovated and it is now Fribourg's only remaining wooden bridge. Free.
- Berne Gate (Bus 4 to Palme). This gate is 24m high with a winding staircase around the exterior. The structure was built between 1270 and 1290 and has been heightened twice since then but still retains its original doors.
- 2 Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Rue des Chanoines 3 (From the SBB station, bus 2 or 6), ☏ . Su 14:00–17:00, M-F 09:00–18:00, Sa 09:00–16:00. Construction on this cathedral first began in 1283 and was completed around 1430. Work on the unfinished west tower was stopped in 1490. It has been the Cathedral of the diocese of Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg since 1945. There are a total of 13 bells in the western tower and bell tower of the choir. The western tower is open to the public and provides a view high above the city. Fr. 3.50 (tower).
- Fontaine Jo Siffert, Grand-Places (From SBB turn walk east down Ave. de la Gare, turn right at Place Jean Tinguely. Grand-Places is on the right just past Place Jean Tinguely). This fountain by Jean Tinguely was dedicated to the memory of his friend Jo Stiffert, Formula 1 driver. The performance of the mechanical fountain varies depending on sun, clouds, and ice. Free.
- 3 Zaehringen Bridge (Pont de Zaehringen) (From SBB, bus 2 or 6 to 'Pont Zaehringen'). The original suspension bridge was built in 1834 and replaced in 1924 with concrete. The bridge is 165m long and spans the Sarine River. There is a footpath beneath the roadway. To get a clear view of the bridge try the Bern Gate or Bern Bridge.
- 4 Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg, Fondation des Chemins de fer du Kaeserberg (From the main station, bus 575 (La Faye) to stop 'Coteau' then walk for 5 minutes.), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Su, Tu, Sa 09:30–15:30 (every 40min). This museum presents a network of miniature railways with 2045m of track through a make-believe Switzerland. The model is built on three levels on a scale of 1:87. The show lasts approximately 90 minutes and requires a reservation that can be made through their website. Fr. 18.
- Espace Jean Tinguely Niki dè Saint Phalle, Rue de Morat 2 (From SBB, bus 1 (St-Léonard) 2 (Schoenberg) or 6 (Musy) to stop Tilleul), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. W F-Su 11:00–18:00, Th 11:00–20:00. A really fun museum with major works from both artists. Tinguely created wacky mobiles - push the button to make them rattle and whirr. (There's more of his contraptions in Basel.) His wife de St Phalle created the "Nanas": lyrical steatopygic women in lurid summer frocks. The museum is housed in an old tram depot. Adult Fr 7, concs 5 Fr.
- 5 Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Rue de Morat 12 (From the SBB, bus 1 (St-Léonard) 2 (Schoenberg) or 6 (Musy) to stop Tilleul), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-W,F-Su 11:00–18:00, Th 11:00–20:00. This museum of art and history is housed in Fribourg's only Renaissance building, The Ratzé Palace. The collections housed here include paintings and statues from the 12th to 19th centuries as well as historical remains that depict political, religious, and business aspects of life in Fribourg during that period. There is also a former slaughterhouse that now contains paintings and stone statues from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the garden is the piece of art La Lune by Niki de Saint Phalle as well as four other works. Adult Fr. 8, student Fr. 5(With no temporary exhibits Adult Fr. 6 Student CFr. 4).
- Musée de la Bière Cardinal (Cardinal Beer Museum), Passage du Cardinal, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu, Th 14:00–18:00. Learn the history of the brewery and ancestral breweing methods, housed in former storage cellars. Fr. 10 (includes a drink).
- Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire, Rue Joseph-Piller 2, ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. M-F 08:00–22:00, Sa 08:00–16:00. This library contains medieval documents and transcripts of Fribourg as well as photographs, books, and audio-visual materials that are displayed in temporary exhibits that can be seen in guided tours and lectures.
- HC Fribourg-Gottéron, Allée du Cimetière 1 (From SBB, bus 1 (Portes-de-Fribourg) to Stade-Patinoire), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. See Fribourg's ice hockey team in action. Standing Fr. 10-20 Seats Fr. 30-40.
- Ride the Funnicular, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Workdays 07:00–08:15 Daily 09:30–19:00. This cable railway links the upper part of the city to the lower part. It has been running since 1899 and is powered solely by the town's waste water. The two cars counterbalance one another through their ascent and descent and as they make the journey along the steep slope they offer a clear view of Old Town. Runs every 6 minutes based on demand. Return Fr. 2.30 Single Fr. 1.30.
- Walk through Old Town. The Old Town of Fribourg is better known as Basse Ville and offers narrow winding streets to churches, fountains, ancient bridges and medieval buildings with over 200 Gothic facades dating from the 15th century. There are also many cosy cafes and warm restaurants throughout the area. Old Town is easy enough to find, just look for the 76m high tower of the St. Nicholas Cathedral. Other sights worth noting in Old Town are the Town Hall, the Church of Notre-Dame, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire.
- Climb the 368 steps of St. Nicolas' Cathedral. The staircase ascends 74 meters high, with a wonderful view of the city at the top. The price is Fr. 3.50 as of August 2011.
- St Nicholas Day. First week of December. St. Nicholas is the patron saint of the town of Fribourg and is celebrated every year during the first week of December throughout the region. The celebration includes a parade at dusk with the saint riding a donkey at the head of the procession, and an outdoor market.
- Villars Chocolate Boutique, Route de la Fonderie 2, ☏ . The Villars chocolate company, operating in Fribourg since 1901, operates a Villars-only store/cafe (it is unique in Switzerland). In addition to selling the packaged chocolate bars and napolitains available nationally, a counter sells ganache bonbons (some with fruit, spices, etc) and other fresh chocolates. You can sit down and have a coffee or hot chocolate; you can also buy Villars coffee beans, books on chocolates, and other interesting items. They are open approximately 9-5 Monday-Friday and 9-12 Saturday (see their website for exact hours).
- Café des Arcades, Place des Ormeaux 1 (near cathedral), ☏ . M-F 07:00-23:30, Sa 08:00-00:00, Su 10:00-22:00. Venerable café-comptoir-restaurant with pleasant terrace. The food is excellent and not too expensive.
- Cafe Populaire SA, rue St-Michel 9 (near University), ☏ . M-Sa 07:15-23:30. Popular with students as it's close to the University and cheap by Swiss standards. The "Chicken Melt" is a chicken curry baguette served with salad and potatoes. Fr 12-15.
- RDV Café, Place de N. Friburgo. +41 26 322 32 55. A cozy little bar on a hill overlooking the main plaza between the old town and the slightly newer old town. There seems to be free wireless, though there are no signs advertising the fact, so it might just be a neighbor's access point. Fr. 4 coffee, Fr. 5 draft beer.