The people of Freudenstadt are very proud of their main square. And with good reason: it is the size of six football fields! But Freudenstadt (it means Happy Town) is much more than this. An hour southwest of Stuttgart, this is one of the gateways to the Black Forest, famous for fresh air and great food, natural spas and traditional crafts, such as the making of cuckoo clocks.
The elegance of yesteryear
The trappings of a spa resort remain: elegant gardens, pretty Art Nouveau villas and grand hotels from the Belle Époque era. And the main street, where the aristocrats used to promenade, is still known to locals as Champagnerallee, Champagne Avenue.
The Marktplatz, the main square, is Germany's largest, measuring all of 219 m by 216 m/240 yds by 236 yds. Facing the enormous rectangle are Italianate buildings, whose arcades not only provide shelter from the sun or rain, but also are home to dozens of delightful boutiques and sidewalk cafés. And in summer, the 50 fountains attract children of all ages to cool off in what is also the sunniest part of Germany.
Time for shopping
The cuckoo clock was invented in the Black Forest and Michael Hör’s shop, Krieg Uhren Schmuck Trauringe (2 Strassburger Strasse) is like walking through clockmaking history. As well as his small museum, he repairs anything from grandfather clocks to cuckoo clocks. Around the corner is Artbox (13 Lossburger Strasse). Opened by Anja Fink, this concept store is full of temptations: trendy fashions, bags, jewellery and the latest accessories.
Freudenstadt at a glance
- Where: An hour southwest of Stuttgart; in the Black Forest
- Population: 22,500
- Climate: Sunny summers; delightful autumns; snowy winters
- Landmarks: Main square, town church, spa facilities, Experimenta museum; hiking, cycling and skiing
- Weekly Market: Tuesdays and Fridays, 7 am to 1 pm (May 1 to October 31); rest of year Fridays only
At one corner of the vast square is the 17th-century Stadtkirche, the Protestant town church. But is it one church or two? Standing at right angles to each other are two naves, each with a tower. In the old days, men sat in one, women in the other. Both groups could see the priest and the altar, but they could not see each other! Don’t miss two treasures from the 12th century: a baptismal font and a painted wooden lectern supported by the Four Apostles.
Hike and bike the Great Outdoors
Freudenstadt sits on a high plateau. On the edge of town, a 20-minute walk gets you up the Kienberg. Go for the lookout tower, the sculpture trail, the rose path planted with 1,000 roses – and the Friedrichs am Kienberg restaurant, with good food, beer and wine tastings. Fancy a longer hike up a higher mountain? With terrific views of the Black Forest? Head for nearby Kniebis, at 960 m/3,150 ft, this mountain offers, hiking and biking, skiing and tobogganing. From the top of Kniebis, follow the Kniebiser Heimatpfad, a 10-km/6-mile-long hiking trail to the new Ellbachseeblick. This wooden viewing platform measures 33 m/100 ft long; walk out for breath-taking views of the unspoilt beauty of the Black Forest.
Great for families!
Freudenstadt itself is great for families, with Experimenta, the hands-on inter-active museum that combines fun, scientific experiments and exercise. By contrast, the Panoramabad is a waterpark with slides, saunas and a wellness area.
Hug a tree
Standing 45 m/150 ft tall and measuring 1.60 m/5 ft around the middle, the Grossvatertanne, the Grandfather Fir, is the Black Forest’s mightiest tree. A suitable reward for the hour’s walk from town!