Eco-friendly Freiburg im Breisgau, in Germany’s sunny south-west corner close to the French and Swiss borders, is not an obvious candidate for a lively football city. But a fifth-place Bundesliga finish by flagship club SC Freiburg in 2013 meant European football again for this attractive little club who dipped their toes in international waters in 1995 and 2001.
Sadly, an inconsistent campaign in 2014-15, compounded by the late-season failure to win two six-pointers against fellow relegation candidates, has led to second-flight status in 2015-16.
The Schwarzwald-Stadion, until 2014 known as the Mage Solar, remains working example of sustainable energy, standing by the clear, rushing waters of the Dreisam at the very foot of the Black Forest. This was where current German national team manager Joachim Löw scored a record number of goals for SC Freiburg in three spells there, and where an attacking brand of football has surprised many a big club since SCF broke through to the Bundesliga in 1993.
Nearly a century earlier, the club were formed from a confusing array of lesser local clubs and associations, adopting their current name and griffin-head logo in 1912. Dominating the city’s football scene back then were Freiburger FC, a founding member of the German Football Association in 1900. German champions (and South German champions) in 1907, the Reds today occupy the Verbandsliga Südbaden, once the fifth and now the sixth tier in the German game.
Still ahead of their upstart rivals SCF when the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, FFC were placed in the second-flight Regionalliga Süd, along with Bayern Munich. Gerd Müller scored his first goal against them during that inaugural season.
FFC fell on hard times in the 1970s and early 1980s, and haven’t moved from the league’s lower reaches since 1994. While SCF shone in the top flight, FFC were forced to sell their Möslestadion, a short walk from the Schwarzwald in the verdant eastern end of town – to SCF for their youth team to use. Built in 1922, the 18,000-capacity Mösle was the main football arena in town until the Dreisamstadion (later named the Mage Solar, then Schwarzwald) was built in 1953.
Forced to groundshare with age-old Blau-Weiss Wiehre Freiburg, recently promoted out of the tenth-level Kreisliga Freiburg B, FFC currently play at the Dietenbach-Sportpark, Robert-Ruh-Weg, north-west of town. It’s a pleasant stroll from the Rohrgraben stop on tramline No.3 or Betzenhauser Torplatz on tramline No.1.
EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg near Basel is 70km (43 miles) south-west of Freiburg im Bresgau, served by a Freiburger Reisedienst bus. Hourly buses (€25, €40 return) take 55mins to reach stop No.2 at Freiburg central bus station in the concourse outside the train station. Basel Airport is actually in France, and you can exit into France or Switzerland. A taxi to Freiburg from the French sector should cost €110, and SF320 (€260) from the Swiss sector.
Once in Freiburg, public transport consists of trams, buses, S-Bahn and regional trains. A single ticket is €2.20, a REGIO24 24hr ticket is €5.50, also allowing one adult to take up to four children. For a taxi call +49 761 55 55 55.
The Freiburg Tourist Office has a hotel-booking service.
Of the scores of hotels downtown, the Colombi offers five-star luxury while the Minerva, the four-star Park Hotel Post, and the Markgräfler Hof can be classed as upper mid-range, as can the Rheingold and the Best Western Premier Hotel Victoria. The Barbara and the Hotel am Rathaus, Freiburg’s first smoke-free accommodation, are both perfectly acceptable as well. The convenient InterCity at the train station offers a superior chain experience.
Just over the Dreisam from the stadium, the Jugendherberge Freiburg is a tidy youth hostel at the edge of the Black Forest that also offers single and double rooms.
Lively Freiburg is at its liveliest in a little hub where main street Kaiser-Joseph-Straße meets Löwenstraße and Humboldtstraße, close to the university, where local Gantner beer flows with abandon on Friday nights.
The wonderful Schlappen, where 20 types of beer are offered amid ancient walls covered in faded theatre posters, is easily the best choice but it’s three-deep at the bar at weekends. Nearby Cheers is no less popular but is typified by live football and support for the local ice-hockey team. Draught Fürstenberg beer from Donaueschingen makes a tasty change from the ubiquitous Gantner.
Across from Cheers, two-storey-with-terrace Mehlwaage is geared towards food downstairs, and live TV football upstairs. After nightfall, clubby, evening-only Cohibar (Milchstraße 9) comes into its own, with affordable cocktails, DJs and live Sky games when the occasion demands.
Of the pubs, basement Isle of Innisfree in a small shopping arcade on Gerberau towards Augustinerplatz, is both football- and music-focused, while O’Kelly’s dedicates a whole room to sport-gawping, adjacent to the permanently busy main bar.
Finally, just across from the station, Baltino is a convenient if wantonly fashionable spot whose big screen can be called into service on big-match nights.