Fribourg the city is the capital of the Swiss canton of the same name. The city straddles the Sarine River on the plateau and is a cultural and educational center between German speaking Switzerland and French speaking Switzerland. The Old City in Fribourg is one of the most beautifully maintained in Europe, perched on a hill above the Sarine valley. The valley floor in the immediate vicinity around the Old City is the only part of the valley floor that is settled.
Fribourg sits at an elevation of 581 meters. It is located 28 km to the southwest of Bern. In terms of area, the city of Fribourg is relatively small. It is bisected south to north by the Sarine River, which has created gorges of up to 100 meters depth from the surrounding plateau.
A reservoir called the Perolles-See was created by the Maigrauge Dam in 1872. It is located south of the city. Another artificial lake, the Shiffenensee is located just north of the city. Both these artificial lakes cover most of the valley floor. To the east of the city, Mount Schonberg, the highest elevation in Fribourg, rises to an elevation of 702 meters.
At the end of 2008, the city of Fribourg had a population of just over 34,000, making it the largest in the Canton of Fribourge. Almost 30% of the residents of Fribourg are foreigners. Though the population grew steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century, after the population peaked at 42,000 in 1974, it began to decline. If you count the developed metropolitan areas that coalesce around Fribourg proper, the population rises to 110,000. These smaller "bedroom" communities include Villars-sur-Glane, Matran, Marly, Granges-Paccot, Givisiez, Corminboeuf, Belfaux, and Avry.
Fribourg began being industrialized in the 13th and 14th centuries. At that time the city extended along the east bank of the Sarine due to economic growth. Water power was used for mills, and along the river, trade developed with other towns, like Matten, Neustadt, and Au.
From the 14th through 15th centuries, textiles, and tanneries led to intensive sheep farming, which caused the economy to grow even more. Fribourg was thus able to make its trading products known throughout all of central Europe. However, in the last part of the 15th century, cloth manufacturing declined from local farmers replacing sheep with cattle. Also contributing to the decline of the cloth industry was a guild decision to refuse new materials or styles.
It was not until the Swiss Railroad connected to Fribourg that the area was re-industrialized, in the 1870s. Additionally, the construction of Lake Perolles in 1872 meant energy was supplied to the plateau west and south of the city. Through the mid 20th century the plateau was successfully industrialized.
In Fribourg, tourists enjoy the Old City and its Gothic Cathedral of St. Nicholas. The Natural History Museum and the Museum of Art and History are popular too. Tourists can also visit the Swiss Museum of Marionettes, the Gutenberg Museum, and the Swiss Sewing Machine Museum.
The city has a festival of religious music, an international film festival, and an international folklore convention. But even without these cultural features, visiting the Old City would be reason enough to go to Fribourg. It is one of the most beautiful and well preserved in Europe, with churches and fountains that go back to the 12th century.