Parking in Freiburg, Germany

By Stephen O. Addison, Jr.
This item appears on page 14 of the April 2014 issue.

Freiburg is reputed to be both the warmest and the sunniest town in Germany. When my wife and I visited this “jewel of the Black Forest” in late November 2013, it was at least somewhat sunny, but temperatures were near freezing.

Like many travelers, we were there to see the town’s medieval Altstadt (Old Town) and cathedral, along with its Christmas markets. In addition to enjoying our brief visit to this university town, we learned some useful information about parking in Freiburg.

Travelers arriving in the city by train have it easy. From the train station, it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk or a couple of tram stops to the heart of the Altstadt. However, if you’re driving, it’s not so simple.

Freiburg prides itself on being a “green” city. Consequently, there are restrictions on where you can drive, unless you have a special green zone permit. Even if you’re authorized to drive deep into the city, on-street parking is typically by permit only, leaving expensive and potentially difficult-to-find parking garages as your main option. (See this page [in German] for garage locations.)

Rathausplatz Christmas market — Freiburg. Photo: Addison

Fortunately, the city provides free park-and-ride (P+R) lots outside of the green zone. These parking lots are located near public transportation, which can take you to and from the Altstadt.

Discovering where to park was more challenging than it needed to be. Both of our Germany guidebooks (by Lonely Planet and Rick Steves) were silent on this subject. 

With help from Google, I found the website for Freiburg’s public transportation company, Freiburger Verkehrs AG, or VAG. VAG operates the P+R lots, and their website provides maps showing the lots’ locations. 

The English-language version of this website didn’t function well for me, but the German version worked fine with my browser’s (Chrome) native translation feature.

At the time we visited, it was necessary to get the latitude and longitude of each lot from VAG’s website and plug those coordinates into Google Maps to see a map showing the parking lot’s location.Fortunately, VAG’s website now provides the exact addresses of P+R lots, which are much easier to enter into a GPS for directions. 

(A third-party website with maps indicating the exact locations of parking lots is that of Parkopedia, something I didn’t discover until after our trip.)

It was our intent to park in a P+R lot off of Bissierstraße, but, due to ambiguous signage and the lack of a precisely mapped location, we ended up in a nearby lot, where we parked without incident.

VAG’s maps also list the public transportation options from each P+R lot — trams and buses plus route maps, fares, etc. We rode tram No. 3 (Vauban direction) from Bissierstraße six stops into the Altstadt (the fourth stop was at the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station). 

The ticket machine at the Bissierstraße stop was broken, but we were able to purchase tickets (2.20 each) from the driver. My estimate is that if we had walked instead of taking the tram, it would have taken about a half hour.

If it’s an option for you, it might be better to park in one of Freiburg’s centrally located pay-to-park garages. Otherwise, the free P+R lots are your best option. I recommend that you select a couple of parking options in advance, since your first choice might be full, then use the tips above to find the lot’s exact location.


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