Freiburg, 117 mi/188 km southwest of Stuttgart, is a pleasant town that makes a good base for exploring the Black Forest and the idyllic Upper Rhine Plain with its terraced vineyards.

Ruled for centuries by the Austrian Hapsburgs, Freiburg maintains distinct cultural traditions—particularly visible during Carnival, which takes place during the week leading up to Ash Wednesday (usually late February or early March). It is also a great place to taste the excellent wines of the Baden region, which has Germany's warmest climate.

For a fantastic view, climb the tall spire of the Munster, a beautiful Romanesque and Gothic cathedral with pretty stained-glass windows. Some old buildings remain, or have been rebuilt, on Munsterplatz and around the town hall. The city's university dates from the 17th century, and its more than 20,000 students give the town a vibrant feel.

For another fine view of the old town and Munster, take a chairlift up the Schlossberg, a steep hill—the view is particularly nice at sunset. A little farther from town, the cable car to Schauinsland offers extensive views of the Black Forest.

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