There is no doubt about it. Frankfurt is the European city of skyscrapers, its famous skyline giving it the moniker “Mainhattan”. Two of the highest buildings in Europe are located here, the Commerzbank Tower and the Messeturm, or Main Tower.
There is even a Wolkenkratzer Fest featuring base jumping from some of the city’s towering business centres, but you’ll have to wait until 2017 for the next one.
In the meantime, dine among the stars at the Main Tower Restaurant and Bar on the 53rd floor, one of Frankfurt’s top restaurants. Once you are up there, go even higher on the 56th floor to the observation tower for a 360 angle view of the city. Or, if you want to burn those calories you just ate, take the 1,090 steps up!
This city on the river Main, is also known as Bankfurt, because of the more than 300 banks that can be found here. But Frankfurt is more than just skyscrapers and banks. Being at the crossroads of major trade routes across Europe, the city has a history of trade fairs going back to AD 1150 and it now hosts, among others, the world’s largest book fair each autumn, the world’s largest music fair in the spring, and the world’s largest automobile fair in September.
On the cultural side, Frankfurt’s opera house is award winning: it is the most loved opera house in Germany, and was placed second internationally after Basel this year as ‘Opera House of the Year’.
The annual Night of the Museums, when all 48 of the city’s museums are open until 2am, is on May 7. Many of the museums are concentrated on the banks of the Main and include the Städel, where you can currently see 300 of the museum’s paintings arranged in chronological order from the 14th to the 21st centuries accompanied by references to political, social, cultural, and scientific key events. While you are there, visit Holbein’s, a popular, stylish bistro-restaurant. The Frankfurt area is well known for its white asparagus; the season is now, and Holbein’s creates many dishes highlighting what the Germans call ‘edible ivory’.
The Zeil is Frankfurt’s main pedestrian shopping street, and one of the newest malls there will certainly catch your eye. MyZeil is an architectural wonder of swirling glass funnels designed by the Roman architect Massimiliano Fuksas. Millions have marvelled at this natural, light-flooded shopping and entertainment complex from the day it was opened six years ago. From Accessorize to Xenos, there are more than 100 shops and services on eight levels catering for fashion, food, health and beauty, household items, lifestyle, technology, and toys.
The 47m-long ExpressWay escalator whisks you straight up to the Gastro Boulevard on the 4th level where you can relax and have a coffee or sample some tasty treats from Italy to Japan or from Mexico to Switzerland.
While MyZeil is more of a typical high-street shopping centre, for luxury shopping you will want to head to the nearby Goethestrasse, a tree-lined street between the Opernplatz and Goetheplatz where 20 of the world’s 50 top labels can be found, including Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Versace, Gucci, Bvlgari, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co.
Running parallel to Goethestrasse is the Fressgass, Frankfurt’s culinary mile. So named at the turn of the last century because of the especially high concentration of butchers’ shops, bakeries, delicatessens, and places to eat, today it is lined left and right with one café or restaurant after another, from traditional German restaurants to Starbucks and Häagen Dazs.
If you love French pastries, you may wish to try Zarges, which also has a restaurant open until midnight. A few doors down is the delicatessen and restaurant Meyer where you can dine on fusion food in classic elegance. The Fressgass is also the scene of several festivals each year, one being the Fressgass Fest.
But, since you are here, try some of the traditional German food in one of the many restaurants around.
Altes Zollhaus, one of the best restaurants featuring traditional German cuisine. Make yourself comfortable in the homey dining rooms featuring rough hewn timber posts and beams and decorated with high backed tapestry chairs and small table lamps. Try the delicious asparagus when served in season. Venison, pheasant and sausage entrees are also quite good. A must for time-honored German dining.
Apfelwein Wagner is favored for its festive atmosphere and reasonable prices. This is a traditional German apple wine café with hearty German food on the menu, like slow cooked steak with horseradish sauce, wurst and schnitzel, and lots of potatoes. One of the highlights of your meal here will be watching the bustling server who does nothing but replace empty glasses of apple wine.
10 Top Tourist Attractions in Frankfurt
1. The Römerberg – Frankfurt’s Old Town Center
In the heart of Frankfurt’s Old Town (Altstadt), the Römerberg is an irregularly shaped square with the Justice Fountain (Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen) at its center. Not only is it Frankfurt’s most picturesque public square, it’s the city’s busiest pedestrian zone, home to numerous tourist attractions from its many Kulturschirn, a form of open-fronted shop once common throughout the old town, to the Römer, a complex of 11 lovely old buildings from the 15th to 18th centuries that include the Old Town Hall (Altes Rathaus) with its Imperial Hall (Kaisersaal), once the scene of splendid banquets. Other notable buildings include the New Town Hall (Neues Rathaus) from 1908, the 14th-century Gothic Church of St. Leonhard, and St. Nicholas Church, notable for its carillon. Also of interest are the Historical Museum (Historisches Museum), founded in 1878 with its collections related to Frankfurt’s rich cultural history from medieval to modern times, and the six traditional-style buildings of the Ostzeile.
2. Goethe House and Museum
Frankfurt has the distinction of being the birthplace of Germany’s greatest writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. His family home, Goethe House, is where Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, and where he lived until 1765 and shows how the well-to-do family (and their staff) would have lived. There are many rooms to explore, from the sumptuous décor of the Dining Room on the main floor to Goethe’s writing room on the top floor where he penned many of his early works, and where he played as a child with his puppet theater. Next-door is the Goethe Museum, a 14-room gallery showcasing artworks from the writer’s time, including masterpieces of the Late Baroque and Romantic periods. (Family guided tours of both properties are available.) Other Frankfurt attractions that stand testament to the writer’s fame are the Goethe Tower, a 43-meter-tall wooden structure offering superb views of the city, and Goethestrasse, a high-end shopping area with many fine boutiques, art galleries, and cafés.
3. Senckenberg Natural History Museum
In Frankfurt’s Senckenberg Gardens, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum (Naturmuseum Senckenberg) is one of the most modern museums of natural history in Europe, and the second largest of its kind in Germany. Along with its numerous displays relating to our planet’s biodiversity and the evolution of organisms, the museum houses Europe’s biggest exhibition of large dinosaurs, making it particularly popular with families (a number of life-size replica dinosaurs greet guests in the museum’s forecourt). It’s also home to the world’s largest collection of stuffed birds, along with an extensive exhibit outlining the development of mankind. English language tours are available, and audio guides can be rented (€3).
4. The Old Opera House
In the heart of Frankfurt’s Opera Square (Opernplatz), the Old Opera House (Alte Oper) was constructed in 1880 in the style of the Italian High Renaissance. Although destroyed during WWII (it reopened in 1981), it remains one of the city’s most important concert venues. The city’s new opera house,Opern-und Schauspielhaus Frankfurt, is also located in the square and in addition to acting as the home of the Frankfurt Opera company, it also houses Theatre Frankfurt in its state of the art theater.
5. St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral
Roman Catholic St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral (Frankfurter Dom, or Dom St. Bartholomäus), was built of red sandstone in Gothic style between the 13th and 15th centuries, and at 95 meters, still manages to stand out in this city of skyscrapers. One of only a handful of churches in Germany to be designated as an Imperial Cathedral, it was here from 1562 to 1792 that the coronation of Emperors took place in the Election Chapel. Beneath the tower is the magnificentCrucifixion by Hans Backoffen, sculpted in 1509, while in the Marienkapelle is the Maria-Schlaf-Altar from 1434. Other highlights include the grave-slab of King Günter von Schwarzburg who died in Frankfurt in 1349, as well as numerous carved side altars dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. The cathedral’s most important relic is the skullcap of St. Bartholomew, kept in the Late Romanesque Bartholomew’s Choir.
6. Zoo Frankfurt
Home to more than 4,500 animals representing at least 450 different species, Zoo Frankfurt covers 32 acres near the city’s old Friedberger Tor. Founded in 1858, it’s Germany’s second oldest zoo and is noted for its many excellent animal houses, including the unique Grzimek House with its displays of Madagascar’s diverse fauna. Also of interest is the Exotarium with its many animals from different climatic regions, including marine life, reptiles, and crocodiles. The Borgori Forest is also a must see, and has a superb Ape House in an authentic jungle setting. Other highlights include the Nocturnal Animals House and the Bird Hall. A variety of fun events and programs are offered, including family festivals, exhibits, and themed tours.
7. The Palmen Garden
On the Bockenheimer Landstrasse is the beautiful 54-acre Palm Garden (Palmengarten), the largest botanic garden in Germany. An instant hit with the public upon its opening in 1871, it attracted some of the top performers from around the world, including Buffalo Bill who visited with his Wild West show in 1890. Highlights of a visit include outdoor botanical exhibits laid out according to their geographical location, along with a number of greenhouses containing subtropical and tropical plant species. The gardens also offer recreational facilities such as boating, a children’s playground, and picnic spots. From Palmergarten, the Europaturm – a telecommunications tower also known as the Tower of Europe – is just a short walk away, and worth visiting for its viewing platform and restaurant. Other Frankfurt parks of interest are the 72-acre Grüneburgpark Botanic Garden, and the even larger Nidda Valley People’s Park (Volkspark Niddatal) covering some 415 acres on the outskirts of the city.
8. The Hauptwache
In the middle of the city and undoubtedly one of Frankfurt’s busiest pedestrian areas, the Hauptwache – literally translated, the Main Guard – is famous for its mix of fine old historic buildings and newer modern structures. The most notable building here is the old Baroque Guard House after which the square is named. Built in 1730, it once housed the city’s militia, a prison, and later, a police station, and now serves as a café. The square itself is one of Frankfurt’s main shopping areas, complete with a large underground mall. It’s also the point from which the city’s main shopping and commercial streets radiate: the pedestrian-friendly Zeil heads east, and Kaiserstrasse, with many places of entertainment in its side streets, runs southwest by way of the Rossmarkt and Kaiserplatz to the city’s main train station, the Hauptbahnhof, built in 1888 and one of the largest stations in Europe.
9. The Museum District
Frankfurt’s Museum District (Museumsufer), on the left bank of the River Main, is a first-rate collection of 12 separate museums, many of them of international standing. Highlights include the Museum of World Cultures (Museum der Weltkulturen), regarded as one of Europe’s top ethnological museums. Founded in 1904, its collections include more than 65,000 artifacts from as far afield as Asia, Africa, and North and South America. Another important museum is the Museum of Ancient Sculpture (Städtische Galerie Liebieghau) in the 19th-century Liebieghaus, home to a large collection of Asian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sculptures, as well as pieces from the medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Other museums of note are the German Architectural Museum (Deutsches Architekturmuseum), focusing on architectural design and boasting more than 200,000 plans, drawings, and models; the Film Museum(Deutsches Filminstitut) with exhibits relating to the Lumière brothers and the history of the cinema; and the Museum of Applied Art (Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurtor), or MAK for short, with its displays of more than 30,000 objects representing European and Asian decorative art.
10. The Echenheimer Tower
The Eschenheimer Tower (Turm), built in the early 1400s, remains the finest relic from Frankfurt’s old town walls. At 47-meters high, it still impresses with its dimensions and dominates the Eschenheimer Gate district. Today, the tower houses a café and meeting rooms used by local historical societies. Also of interest is the nearby Stock Exchange, built in 1879 and the largest such establishment in the country.
For a great finale of the day, go and feel the amazing vibes in one of Frankfurt’s nightclubs and bars.
Owned by renowned German DJ Sven Väth, Cocoon is absolutely state of the art from top to bottom. The triangular space is rimmed with cozy individual pods (or “cocoons”) that screen out some of the sound without removing you from all the action — perfect for a little tête-à-tête. The two adjacent restaurants, Micro and Silk are fashionable destinations on their own, but the main draw is the club itself. Expect top notch lights, video, and music from this cutting-edge spot.
An old bomb shelter put to good use as a dance club. The space is dark and smoky, with two main rooms featuring different music styles each night. The set-up is attractive to a young-ish crowd, which usually includes a lot of students. Sounds range from 80s pop to reggae, and the club often hosts local bands.
King Kamehameha Club
The trendy King Kamehameha club is housed in what was once a brewery, appropriate real estate for a happening nightspot. The two floors inside offer different spaces for different moods: a restaurant for the hungry, a bar for the thirsty, a lounge for the lazy, and a big central dance floor for the energetic. Music is supplied by resident DJs, with occasional performances by regional musicians.