#26Cantons52Weeks: Fribourg / Freiburg


Canton: Fribourg /Freiburg

Destination: The canton’s capital city, also called Fribourg (Fr) / Freiburg (De)

Interesting thing: The “röstigraben” – the divide between French and German speaking parts of Switzerland – runs right through the city of Fribourg, literally, in the form of the river Saane / Sarine.

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Our visit to Fribourg was another slightly last-minute affair. I had actually planned to use my trip to this western Switzerland canton to check out the city of Gruyères, where the cheese is produced and also the location for the goth-horror designer H.R. Giger’s museum and bar (it’s the largest collection of his work, and the bar looks wicked!) But I sort of forgot that and also not sure the kids are quite ready/old enough for the Giger onslaught. Anyway.

One thing I love about Switzerland is pretty much every canton, area and large or noteworthy town has its own tourism website with a wealth of info and suggestions. There’s usually a “family” section too, which is where I found this downloadable map for a Discovery tour of Fribourg for Kids. We were set.

It is about 1.45 drive from Zurich so we arrived just in time for lunch. Another thing I love about Switzerland is, while almost all the shops are closed on Sundays, you get a really nice atmosphere at the restaurants, with groups of friends and families coming together for brunch, lunch and beyond. On this particular Sunday in Fribourg, we hit a restaurant that was catering to a twins convention, so it was twice as nice!

As well as Giger, the canton also hosts a museum for two more famous local sculptors: Jean Tinguely and Niki de Saint Phalle, which we also forgot to check out (oops!) although I would have liked to. We did see the Tinguely fountain in the Grand-Places park though! Tinguely, who is famous for his kinetic, surrealist sculptures, was born in Fribourg and Saint Phalle (his wife) was French. If you know Zurich, you should be familiar with Saint Phalle’s colourful “Nana” angel sculpture which hangs in the main hall of the Hauptbahnhof. And you may have seen Tinguely’s stuff down the lake and/or in Basel.

Tinguely fountain, Fribourg

Anyway, we had a very pleasant wander around Fribourg following the discovery trail (and won the prize of locally-made chocolate from the tourism office!).

The town is set quite dramatically in a gorge between three rivers and the old bit contains some beautiful medieval buildings and frontages. The stained glass windows in the cathedral were particularly stunning – art deco style, my fave! It’s a university town and it seems the mix of French/German and students adds a real zing of liveliness. I must confess I was sorry not to be able to spend a few hours also checking out the many charming pubs and beer bars we kept passing.

Our final stop on the kids tour was possibly Switzerland’s stinkiest funicular. The Fribourg funicular is powered by wastewater – unique in Europe. Although no doubt it’s a triumph of recycling and sustainability, you could really smell the sewerage: Pooh! Glad the trip was only a few minutes’ long.

stinky funicular

Cantons visited / to go so far. 


Appenzell Ausserrhoden

Appenzell Innerrhoden



Bern *













St. Gallen









*I haven’t written this up yet!

St Gallen

Another day, another day trip. I took my in-laws up to St Gallen this week and it was simply stunning. Autumn in Switzerland can deliver these crisp, sunny days with amazing dark blue skies. It was warm in the sunshine but cool in the shade – perfect weather for sightseeing, really!

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We visited the Stiftsbibliothek – where no photos are allowed. I don’t quite know how to convey how awed I was by this place. Having studied Medieval History and medieval manuscripts at university, I felt quite moved to visit this ancient library. They had texts there from Charlemagne and the Bishop of Wurms – stuff I’d read about and written essays on! Seeing the illuminated scripts (under glass) in this environment really gave a wonderful impression of how it might have been as a monk back in the day in the presence of all these incredible books. I think I’m actually still processing what I saw and the enormity of it. Texts dating back to 800-900 – those early middle ages are such a fascinating time. Wow.

St Gallen is a small(ish) town in the mountains with a beautifully preserved medieval main square (Gallusplatz) encompassing a UNESCO world heritage site. In the old town centre, many buildings feature ornate oriel windows dating back to the late middle ages (shades of The Name of the Rose – a book I also read while at uni, thankfully at the time I knew the most Latin!). Apparently the oriel windows were a sign of wealth and St Gallen has some of the best/most examples of them around.

We also visited the cathedral/ the Dom. I’m always taken with just how different the impression you get of a church is from the outside compared to how it “feels” when you step in. This place was a serene, baroque fancy, all decked out in soft green-painted plasterwork and gold leaf. You get the feeling there’s still no shortage of cash in and around St Gallen! The green colour was reminiscent of copper roofs (which many churches have) or tree moss, so gave a lovely sense of the outdoors inside. And it was so light. Just beautiful.

I really enjoyed our trip to St Gallen (1.5hr by train from Oerlikon).


I’ve had my in-laws here this month and we’ve done some great day trips so I thought I’d post a couple of photo blogs for the 3 people who read this that aren’t Foolbook friends…

This was our visit to the Rheinfall (Rhine Falls) – the largest waterfalls in Europe. Even at what is probably the lowest ebb of the year, the sheer volume of water was impressive. It would be amazing to go back in spring when all the snowmelt is pouring down! Also for 1 August (Swiss National Day), they have fireworks above the Rheinfall, which would be something to see!

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