Duke Berthold III founded Freiburg im Breisgau in the 12th century as a free trading city. World War II left extensive damage, but skillful restoration helped re-create the original and compelling medieval atmosphere of one of the loveliest historic towns in Germany. The 16th-century geographer Martin Waldseemüller was born here; in 1507 he was the first to put the name "America" on a map.
For an intimate view of Freiburg, wander through the car-free streets around the Münster or follow the main shopping artery of Kaiser-Joseph-Strasse. After you pass the city gate (Martinstor), follow Gerberau off to the left. You'll come to quaint shops along the banks of one of the city's larger canals, which continues past the former Augustinian cloister to the equally picturesque area around the Insel (island). This canal is a larger version of the Bächle (brooklets) running through many streets in Freiburg's Old Town. The Bächle, so narrow you can step across them, were created in the 13th century to bring fresh water into the town. Legend has it that if you accidentally step into one of them—and it does happen to travelers looking at the sights—you will marry a person from Freiburg. The tourist office sponsors English walking tours daily at 10:30, with additional tours on Friday and Saturday at 10. The two-hour tour costs €8.