If you happen to be in Freiburg or visiting Freiburg with a car then the theme or parking will be an essential one to research before you set off.
The first thing you should know is that Freiburg is a 'Green city', something the city harps on about at every possible opportunity. Being a green city is also not a bad thing either as the status has earnt Freiburg its prestige over the years amongst the environmentally friendly portion of society.
That said, I'm not so sure that I find Freiburg all that green when it comes to parking possibilities and it's ability to turn tourists away who are wanting to visit the city and pour money into the local economy. Yes there are solar panels on a huge number of rooves around the city and yes a large number of companies in the region invest in solar technology and wind power generation but where can I park my car / bus / van / motorhome when I want to visit the city?
Glad you asked. I have spent God-knows how much money parking in the various multi-storey parking blocks as well as burnt off a biblical amount of petrol aimlessly driving around and around looking for an empty spot to park my too-heavy-to-carry-to-my-apartment car in.
Over the years, I have lived at various locations around the city and am now based outside of Freiburg's imaginary city walls. Early on in my tour of duty, I lived smack-bang in the city centre, in an are called "die Insel", or the Island. If you know where the Fierling beer garden is then you'll know the area that I'm talking about.
Residents of areas such as this one can apply to the council for a Bewohner Parkausweis, or residents parking permit as it roughly translates. For 40 Euro a year, the city council are more than happy to sell you one of these cards (green or blue depending on which region and which rules apply). The trouble is, no matter who you are and how many people do the same, the city is quite happy to take your money if you show them a copy of your apartment leasing contract and your registration to the city certificate. Why this is a problem is because every year the city is also actively reducing the amount of parking spaces available to holders of such permits thus making the chance to finding an empty space very slim indeed.
It is no exacggeration when I state here that on average three out of five of my working days after a long day at work, I would spen at LEAST forty minutes driving around the streets of the quarter in which I lived looking for a space to park, hence why I jokingly mock the 'green city' tag that Freiburg has self-imposed upon itself due to the countless gallons of fuel lost partaking in this act.
Now, these rapidly disappaearing spaces are often occupied by (usually French for some reason) cars that are not allowed to park there, especially during school holiday periods and Christmas shopping peak times. The effect of further reducing the parking opportunities has meant that residents of the affected areas have either moved away, sold their transport or parked further away from the city centre.
The council, in their wisdom have created four (currently, 2011) Park-and-ride parking stations at strategic points on the outskirts of the city at the following locations:
These parking 'fields' are situated VERY close to tram stops a relatively short ride away from the central hub of the city, where all trams stop, meaning that it is theoretically possible to connect and travel to anywhere else in the city.
Parking in these bays is always free and there are no restrictions as to how long a car can be parked there.
On top of these Park-and-Ride bays, of which there is always enough space, the city has created several city-centre multi-storey car parks. The location of these car parks is very convenient for those staying an hour or two in the city centre but the rate at which the hourly stay price increases makes it a very expensive option to those wishing to stay the day, never lone live there.
Prices for the city centre car parks start at around 1 Euro per hour for the first hour and rising dramatically as the day wears on.
Avoiding these car parks in favour of a street-side parking space can be a mistake, a costly one at that. Pretty much everywhere within a two kilometre radius of the city centre is for residents permit holders only or not available to park regardless.
My tip when deciding if one is allowed to park in a parking space is first to look for a sign that consists of a blue circle with a red X and red ringed border around it. This sign means that under absolutely no circumstances are you allowed to park on this road until the point that another sign tells you otherwise. Parking here will incur a huge fine and quite possibly result in your vehicle being towed away without any notice given.
Note that wheel-clamping is not common in Freiburg.
The second thing to look out for is a blue circular sign with a red slash through it, a red ring around it and a black or white arrow pointing in one direction. This sign means no parking after this sign and direction in which parking is allowed is shown by the arrow underneath. Again, there are no guarantees that you will not get fined or towed because it is also possible that other restrictions are in place.
Another tip would be to look at whether other cars parking on that road have got either green or blue parking cards in their windscreen OR a receipt-like print out from a parking pay-and-display machine. If the former is present, don't park there as that space is reserved for residents only. If a pay-and-display print out is shown in the window, then usually you may park in that area when you have successfully paid at the pay station located nearby.
Again, there are still no guarantees that you may get away scott-free parking there. The next thing to locate is the sign above the pay station. If the sign includes the words "nur für Anwohner mit Parkausweis ab 19.00 Uhr bis 7.00 Uhr", which is often the case around Freiburg, then you may park in that space until 7pm in the evening and from 7am in the morning with a pay-and-display ticket. After 7pm and until 7am, only residents with parking permits may occupy those spaces and they may stay in those spaces a long as they wish. These spaces are checked often by traffic wardens who are more than happy to dish out parking fines to offenders of the rule, trust me, I've broken them a few times and have rarely driven away without a fine.
A few parking metres exist very close to the city centre but these are slowly disappearing and they are so few in number that one shouldn't go looking for one.
The internationally recognised symbol for disabled parking only is used throughout the city for wider spaces and spaces close to ameneties. Look out for them as if you occupy one and are not registered disabled WITH a disabled parking permit, then you will also be fined, quite heavily too. I have once fallen foul of this rule and had not noticed a faintly painted disable sign directly under my car after I got out of it. A fine in excess of 35 Euro was the solution and that was over six years ago.
One final note on the theme of parking is that you should also check out the time of closure of indoor parking houses as if you outstay your welcome, a long night will have to pass before you may return to your car. As far as I can remember, quite a large number of these parking houses close their barriers for the night at around midnight, far earlier than restaurants, pubs and clubs close their doors.