Freistadt is a picturesque town in Upper Austria that many people miss on their trip to Austria, however beer lovers cannot miss this stunning town with a fascinating secret: a brewery owned by the residents of the city.
Freistädter Bier is one of the most famous beers in Upper Austria and I include information about the history of this Austrian beer…and where to try it at its source! I also include tips for spending a day in Freistadt.
After hearing about the fantastic beer in Freistadt, we traveled from Linz to Freistadt by car. It’s a short drive along the highway to Freistadt, which sits within the hilly Mühlviertel region of Austria.
History of Freistadt
Freistadt sits along the medieval salt trade route between the Salzkammergut (where Hallstatt sits) and Bohemia. The city sits very close to the modern-day Czech border, which also gave it extra allowances in the medieval period. It was incorporated as as a town and allowed to have a market.
Trade allowed Freistadt to prospect from the mines of Austria as well as beer, which is still reflected in the medieval skyline today. (The city was rebuilt following fires in the early 1500s.) You can still see the original medieval center as well as the walls.
The city became less important for trade after the Thirty Years’ War, but Freistadt remained independent and became further fortified as it was used to prevent the Bohemians from invading Habsburg lands.
Once Bohemia became part of the Habsburg empire, Freistadt faded in significance As a result, the medieval center of Freistadt has remained perfectly intact.
Freistadt Brewing History
One of the rights given to the independent Freistadt was the right to brew beer. Starting in 1383, any citizen could brew their own beer although this was determined by property value. Although there were 12 breweries in the 1500s, there were only two breweries at a later point in history.
In 1770, the community decided to draw up a contract to create a united brewery with high quality beer. All the residents of the town became the “investors” of the Braucommune and this has remained the same today. In 1780, the brewery was officially opened!
The distribution of the beer was uneven, so in 1835, the brewery was professionalized with professional management. Today, property owners in Freistadt receive a cut of the profits of the beer sold.
The beer is produced with local ingredients from hops and yeast produced in the region. Similarly, the water comes from a local well. The malt also comes from elsewhere in Austria, making the beer 100% produced in Austria.
Trying Freistädter Bier at Braucommune in Freistadt
One of my favorite experiences in Freistadt was visiting the Brauhaus at the Braucommune in Freistadt to taste the beer where it’s produced. The brewery is housed in a beautiful Baroque building dating back to the 1770s. Inside, you’ll find a shop selling rare beers and a restaurant.
It doesn’t take much planning to visit the Braucommune in Freistadt if you simply intend to get a beer, however if you wish to see the brewery, you can take a tour at 11am on Thursdays for 9 euros. It is also possible to take a tour on other days if you contact them in advance.
The brewery also holds special events (in German) where you can brew your own beer, enjoy a tasting menu, or even become a beer sommelier.
We ended up entering the brewery on a sleepy afternoon after walking around the the town center. Although they have around 10 beers available although they also stock seasonal specialities, so ask what’s on tap at the moment before ordering. I ended up getting a delicious beer with orange that the waitress recommended.
You can pay with a credit card unlike at some bars in Austria. If you wish to bring home some beers, stop into the World of Beers shop, which stocks 100+ beers as well as Freistädter Bier for sale. (You can also get a custom mug!)
Other things to do in Freistadt
Explore the beautiful medieval historic city center
Freistadt is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Austria! History lovers will enjoy walking around Freistadt. You can climb the iconic 50 meter tall tower at Freistadt Castle, which dates back to 1397, for a few euros. (You can also admire it from outside for free.)
Linzertor (pictured above) is one of the iconic buildings in Freistadt. Its elaborate roof is easily seen as you enter the historic city on foot. There used to be a drawbridge, but it is not there anymore.
The Bürgerkorpsturm is now an art gallery surrounded by a playground in the former moat. Coming from the Brauhaus, you will see this tower dating back to 1777 along with the city walls. Similarly, you can also find the medieval Bohemian Gate, which was unfortunately damaged in a fire, but remains intact.
You’ll find quite a few other perfectly preserved buildings, including the Salthof, the oldest building in Freistadt This is where salt was traded in the Middle Ages. I actually walked straight past this without realizing the history.
Shop for Tratchen
I ended up purchasing a beautiful dirndl at Gaby’s Secondhand Hand, a cozy little shop along the main Hauptplatz. Gaby, the owner, was incredibly helpful with helping me find the perfect size as well as ensuring that everything fit perfectly. It was the most delightful shopping experience and I came home with a gorgeous dirndl for less than a hundred euros, including the shirt, thanks to my experience.
If you’re looking for a non-secondhand dirndl, you can head across the way to Rita’s Tracht, on the other side of the main square. Given that the dirndls are new, expect to spend at least two hundred euros on a quality one that should last for years to come.
Getting to Freistadt
If you’re planning on properly indulging, I recommend avoiding driving as it meant that Jacob was limited to just one beer. We drove from Linz to Freistadt as it was about halfway between Linz and Cesky Krumlov (Czechia). We found free parking just outside the city center, so follow the parking signs.
If you plan on enjoying more beers, I’d recommend staying in Linz and taking the train up to Freistadt for a relaxing afternoon exploring this charming town! There’s an hourly train from Linz to Freistadt, so no driving required.
I’d also recommend staying in Freistadt overnight if you don’t want to worry about the trains although book ahead as there aren’t too many hotels in the area… Hotel Zum Goldenen Hirschen is your best (and only) option if you want to stay in Freistadt.