Fribourg is one of the largest medieval towns in Switzerland and it sits on the border of the canton of Fribourg in northwestern Switzerland and close to the popular Gruyere Region.
At an altitude of just 581 meters (1,906 ft) above sea level, it is a buzzy university town full of students from all over the world while also having some of the most impressive Gothic-style architecture in the country.
The city was founded in the 10th century by Herzog Berthold IV of Zaehringen and didn’t join the Swiss Confederation until the late 1400s. It has an incredibly rich history that is abundantly clear as you explore the town.
The entire city is also surrounded by the Sarine River on three sides which adds a lot to its beauty, along with the stunning architecture, of course.
It is safe to say that a visit to Fribourg, Switzerland will not disappoint, especially if you are a big fan of history and architecture. So, what are the best things to do in Fribourg during your visit? That is what we are here to find out.
Join me as I run through all the great things to do in Fribourg, Switzerland from the best museums to visit, the sights in the Old Town you simply can not miss, and lots more.
Table of Contents
Explore Fribourg’s Old City Center
One thing you simply can’t miss and one of the best things to do in Fribourg is to take your time strolling around its medieval Old Town. The Old Town of Fribourg is pedestrianized so you won’t have to worry about traffic and can enjoy the peace of its beautiful cobblestoned streets.
There are over 200 Gothic-style houses to see in the Old Town and pretty much all of them have stunning facades, all of which are deserving of a picture or town.
The Old City dates back to the 12th century and is also home to beautiful squares, medieval churches, lovely antique shops, and lots more. Take your time exploring and be sure to split up your visit with a stroll by the river Sarine and stopping at one of the many delightful coffee shops along the way.
The Old Town is also home to a lot of great museums and art galleries (some of which we will discuss in more detail later in the article) which are well worth spending your time in. There are also lots of great restaurants that are well worth having lunch in.
You also have the choice to go on a guided tour around the Old City and it is the best way to learn all about the history of one of the oldest towns in the country. Tours are run in multiple languages and can be booked here.
The tours last about two hours and take you through the 12th to the 20th-century history of Fribourg and teach you all about the Swiss legends of this town!
Discover The Medieval Fountains
A great way of seeing all that the Old Town of Fribourg has to offer is to try and see all 11 of its medieval fountains, as the route will showcase the best of the Old City along the way. The fountains are also rather beautiful.
Some of the historical fountains date back to the 15th century and were all built to give the people of the town clean and safe drinking water.
Named things like “Courage” and “Strength”, each of the fountains has its own particular style and if you get to see all the fountains, you’ll notice different architectural styles across the range.
There are Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque fountains all with incredible sculptures, carvings, arches, and ornate decor depending on the time they were built.
Visit St. Nicholas Cathedral
One of the top attractions in Fribourg’s Old City is the St Nicholas Cathedral, also known as the Fribourg Cathedral.
Admission to the cathedral is free for all but before you go in, be sure to admire it from the outside as it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Fribourg, Switzerland.
The cathedral is Gothic dating back to the 13th century. Building began in the late 1200s and it took over 100 years to be fully completed, which happened in 1430.
There is so much to take in when visiting this work of art, so be sure to take your time. Start with the amazing sculptures and the building’s architecture from the outside and then move inside to see the incredible stained glass windows, intricate carvings, and a stunning organ.
If you want to really immerse yourself in the cathedral, why not attend one of the services held there? It is a great way to slow down, reflect, and more.
Guided tours are also available in several different languages and there is no better way of understanding the Cathedral’s history than learning about it from a knowledgeable guide.
Climb the Tower at the Cathedral
While visiting St Nicholas Cathedral and seeing all the wonders like the stained glass windows, you have to climb St. Nicholas Cathedral’s tower, if you are able.
It is certainly not an easy climb as you will have to go up 365 steps to reach the top, so be sure to stop for a breather whenever you need to. It is well worth the climb though as the views from the tower are the best in Fribourg.
Sitting around 365 feet above the city, you will see stunning views of the city along with the river and endless Swiss landscapes which include the pre-alps. It is the best way to get a sense of Fribourg and its surroundings in my eyes, plus it is a great place to get some excellent photos too.
Be aware that access to the tower closes earlier than the Cathedral so do not arrive too late if you want to climb the tower. Check the website for opening and closing times.
Try Funicular Fribourg
Going for a ride on the Funicular Fribourg, also known as the Neuveville – Saint-Pierre funicular, is not just a great way to get around the city but you will also be riding in a historical monument.
The Fribourg Funicular was first opened in 1899 and it connects the lower part of the city with the upper altitude city, saving you a rather challenging hike uphill.
Something that amazes me and I love about this funicular is that it runs on the city’s wastewater. Considering the time it was built, this is some incredible engineering and it is one of the last funiculars in Europe to run on wastewater.
The funicular connects the Saint-Pierre and Neuveville neighborhoods of Fribourg and it runs every six minutes. It is the funnest, easiest, and most convenient way to get around the city and should not be missed while you are visiting Fribourg, Switzerland.
Cross The Bern Bridge
The Bern Bridge, also known as the Pont de Berne, is a stunning bridge in the heart of Fribourg’s Old City that crosses the River Sarnine. Taking a stroll across the bridge is a bit of a must as you get lovely views of the city across the river and it is quite a historical monument.
There are so many bridges in Fribourg as it is surrounded by the river on most sides but the Bern Bridge is the oldest bridge in the city. It was built in the 16th century out of wood and served as a replacement for a boat ferry that the town’s residents used to cross the river before it was made.
Sadly, the bridge had to be rebuilt out of stone and as it stands today, dates back to 1653 with its stone pillar and deck being replaced in 1853-54, and its roof in 1885.
That’s right, the Bern Bridge is a covered bridge and this adds a lot to its charm, so make sure you cross it when you are visiting Fribourg.
Visit Some Museums
Being a historical city, Fribourg is home to a lot of museums, and while you might not have time to see them all, I have put together a shortlist of the best ones to spend some time in while you are there.
Visit Espace Jean Tinguely
One of the coolest museums to see in Fribourg in my opinion is the Espace Jean Tinguely Museum which is located just down the street from the St Nicholas Cathedral in the Old City.
The Espace Jean Tinguely Museum is housed in an old tram depot and is home to stunning paintings & sculptures that were created by a husband and wife who are both artists – Jean Tinguely and his wife Niki de Saint Phalle.
Inside, you will be able to see some of Jean Tinguely’s incredible sculptural machines along with some great works of art by his wife.
The metal sculptures are quite incredible as they spin and tap their way around and feature incredibly intricate details. The colorful pieces of art add a lot to the exhibition and are just as incredible.
The museum is also home to temporary exhibitions so be sure to check the website to see what is on while you are there.
There are also guided tours of the museum which you can join if you want to learn more about the artists and the art showcased in the museum.
It is free for kids under 16 to enter the museum, it’s 12 CHF for adults, and 8 CHF for students.
Museum of Art and History
Sitting in the heart of the Old City of Fribourg, the Museum of Art and History is an incredible place to visit if you want to learn all about the region’s history and art over the ages.
The museum was founded in 1774 and has been going ever since, but is now housed in a different building from where it was originally.
The museum is actually in two buildings, the Hôtel Ratzé which dates back to the 16th century, and a former abattoir which is across the street. As you explore the museum, you’ll pass through the underground tunnel that connects the two builds which lie across the street from one another.
The museum’s collection of art dates back to medieval times and runs all the way through to the present day all of which were made in Fribourg. There are sculptures, paintings, and decorative art, as well as 17th and 18th-century historical artifacts for you to see.
One of the highlights is, without a doubt, the glass-working gallery and the gallery devoted to the incredible sculptor Adèle d’Affry.
There is no better way to learn about the history and culture of the region than spending some time in this museum. You can also join a guided tour if you would like to really dig into the details.
It is 12 CHF to enter the museum as an adult, students and seniors can get in for 8 CHF, and children under 16 go in for free.
Another of the top museums in Fribourg worth visiting is the Gutenberg Museum, especially if you want to learn about the history of printing and how books used to be made.
Sitting in the heart of the Old City in a lovely 16th-century building, the museum is named after the inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg.
It dates back to 1895 and exhibits a large collection of old typefaces, printing presses, and lots more. You will learn all about how books used to be printed and how printing has evolved over the ages.
The cost of admission to this museum is the exact same as the other museums we have looked at so far, 12 CHF for adults, 8 CHF for seniors & students, and free for kids under 16.
Swiss Puppet Museum
A super fun museum to visit, especially if you are traveling with kids, is the Swiss Puppet Museum. Again, you’ll find this museum in the middle of the Old City and it is not just a museum as it also puts on excellent puppet shows too.
Founded in 1985 by Jean Bindschedler who was a painter, sculptor, and creator of puppets, it houses a collection of over 3,000 pieces which includes marionettes from around the world.
You will learn all about how puppets are made along with the art and history of puppetry, and do not miss out on the puppet performances in the marionette-themed café as they are excellent.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in Fribourg’s Old City is also excellent and is a great place for kids to learn all about earth sciences and biology through its various exhibitions.
The museum is home to countless specimens of animals, plants, and minerals that take you on a journey through the planet’s evolution.
You’ll stroll past a life-sized stuffed whale, a full dinosaur skeleton, and lots more as you explore your way through the ten thematic rooms of sciences as well as regional and global fauna.
The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions as well as events and other fun things to get involved in, so be sure to check their website to see what is on while you are visiting.
Take a Day Trip to Gruyeres
While you are visiting Fribourg, Switzerland is it well worth going on a day trip to the famous Swiss town of Gruyeres. Famous for its cheese, this medieval town is also architecturally beautiful and it is just 36 km away from Fribourg.
Getting to Gruyeres from Fribourg is quick and easy via car or public transport. The drive takes just 30 minutes and you’ll cruise through some lovely scenery too.
To get there via public transport, hop on the train from Fribourg to Broc Village, the train takes about 45 minutes. At Broc, walk to the bus stop outside the train station and take the 260 bus to Gruyeres. The total journey time is around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Things To Do In Gruyeres
Visit The Gruyeres Castle
While in Gruyeres, you shouldn’t miss out on seeing the Gruyeres Castle, especially if you enjoy history and architecture.
The castle dates back to the 13th century and as you stroll around this medieval fortress, you will pass through rooms filled with old artwork on the walls, historical artifacts, antique furniture, and lots more.
The best bit might just be the multimedia history show and some of the temporary exhibitions at the castle are also world-class. Take your camera too as the views from the castle are some of the best in Gruyeres.
It costs just 10 CHF for adults to enter, and 8 CHF for seniors and students. Children under 16 get to visit for free.
HR Giger Museum
A visit to the HR Giger Museum is a rather unique experience. The museum is housed in Château St. Germain, a medieval castle that dates back to the 13th century and showcases
Surrealist art by the one and only Hans Ruedi Giger.
It has the largest collection of works by this Swiss Artist, famous for his contribution to the film “Alien”. As you walk around the museum, you will see over 200 sculptures, paintings, and more that are all a bit “out-of-this-world.
It costs 12 CHF for adults and 8 CHF for students, while kids under 16 go in for free.
Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory
While Gruyeres is famous for its cheese (we will discuss that next), it is also known for its chocolate, and going to the Maison Cailler Chocolate Factory is a great thing to do while you are there.
The factory is actually located in the village of Broc, not far from Gruyeres, where you change from the train to the bus if you are using public transport to get to Gruyeres.
At the factory, you will learn all about how Swiss chocolate is made in a multimedia tour. It takes you through the history of chocolate, how to grow cocoa beans, and how Cailler does it in its own way.
You’ll also get to see chocolate being made live on the factory floor and at the end get to taste some of the amazing Swiss chocolate too.
Visit A Cheese Factory
It would be a crime to go to Gruyeres and not sample some of the delicious Gruyere cheese at one of the factories. The best factory to visit is La Maison du Gruyere in the center of the village.
You will get a tour of the factory and learn all about how they make Gruyere cheese starting with the collection of the milk, aging the cheese, and everything in between. In the end, there is, of course, a tasting session where you can sample a range of cheeses.
A lovely place to stop at while exploring Gruyeres is the Tibet Museum. It is a rather small museum that is all about showcasing incredible Tibetan art.
You will find a stunning exhibition of sacred Buddhist art inside and the resounding peacefulness of the museum is sure to help you slow down and do some reflection, in true Buddhist form.
Best Times To Visit Fribourg
When choosing the best times to visit Fribourg, we are looking for two main things – fewer crowds and great weather.
Generally speaking, the best months to visit Fribourg weather-wise are between May and October. These are general dry months for the city and you will usually be able to explore the city with blue skies and lots of sunshine.
However, both May and October can see some rain, and July and August are very busy with tourists. If you want a guarantee of great weather and fewer crowds, the months of June and September and the ideal times to visit the city.
If you want to visit Fribourg in the winter, I highly suggest going in mid-December as the city is alive with Christmas festivities. The Old Town is full of beautiful Christmas lights, decorations, and markets – it is truly beautiful and a great way to get you into the Christmas spirit.