Fribourg : Neuveville and Planche-Supérieure
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From the Hôtel de Ville, the ancient cobbled Rue de la Grand-Fontaine heads sharply downhill into Neuveville – if you’re male walking here, you’re likely to be whistled and clicked at by women hanging from the top windows of the old buildings, since this street amounts to Fribourg’s red-light district. Neuveville is, nonetheless, perhaps the most peaceful and picturesque area of the city, exemplified by the Escaliers du Court-Chemin (Short-Cut Stairs), which clatter down the hill through a triangular open square adorned with the tinkling Fountain of Strength (1550) onto Rue de la Neuveville, boasting whole rows of original Gothic buildings overlooked by the Hôtel de Ville on high. A quirky funicular runs down from St-Pierre, beside Place Python, to Place du Pertuis at the western end of Rue de la Neuveville (daily 9.30am–7pm; Fr.1, city passes valid) – it works by tapping the city’s sewers and diverting raw sewage into a chamber beneath the car at the top to make it heavy enough to be able to haul its partner up the slope. It’s without doubt the smelliest ride in Switzerland.

From Neuveville, the triple-arched Pont de St-Jean leads you past a tiny church up into the huge open Planche-Supérieure, overlooked by a fountain statue of John the Baptist (1547) and these days used as a car park. Dominating the square is the old granary (1708), in shimmering white with dizzily zigzagging step gables and equally dizzy chevron-design shutters. At some point, the building is due to open as a museum of archeology. Cafés on the square offer incredible afternoon panoramas across the valley to the backs of the Grand’Rue mansions, all of which are supported on foundations that plunge as far down to the bedrock as the house is built above: they may show seven or more storeys of windows to the valley, but only the uppermost three or four are above the level of the street.

Stepped paths from the square climb south up to the ridgeside Porte de Bourguillon and, beside it on a lofty terrace, the Loretto Chapel, an ornate little building built in 1648 that offers spectacular vistas out over the whole city.

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