Frankfurt is best known as a banking powerhouse, trade-fair venue and air hub, but ask the residents of Germany's most cosmopolitan city what they like about living there and they'll mention the excellent quality of life, flowery parkland, laid-back cafes and pulsating nightlife.
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What To Do
If hitting the many museums have made you all cultured out, head outside and take a tour - there are river cruises, architecture tours, walking tours, tram tours, even banking tours. For a quicker way to see Frankfurt, cycling is made easier by the provision of bike lanes.
What To See
Put in the miles on foot and there are unexpected surprises.
The Main Tower's viewing platform affords the best views of Frankfurt and its skyline. At ground level, invest in a 48-hour 'Museumsufer' ticket (available at museums) and spend a couple of days cruising Frankfurt's galleries and museums at a fraction of their individual prices.
Completely rebuilt after the war (only the cellar survived Allied bombing), the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) is furnished in the haut-bourgeois style of Goethe’s time, based on an inventory taken when Goethe’s family sold the place. One of the few pieces that actually belonged to the great man is a puppet theatre given to him at age four. Laminated information cards provide background in a variety of languages. The Gemäldegalerie (in the same building as the ticket counter) displays 18th-century paintings. PDA tours (€2) are available in German, English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Museum für Kommunikation
The Museum für Kommunikation is a touchy-feely museum displaying the history of communication, including tips on how to make invisible ink and decipher codes. It's a winner with kids, and it won't cost you a penny unless you visit the excellent café.
Most of Frankfurt’s medieval Jewish ghetto, situated along narrow Judengasse (Jews' Street), was destroyed by a French bombardment in 1796, but you can get a sense of local Jewish life during the 15th to 18th centuries from the excavated remains of houses and ritual baths. Laws confining Frankfurt's Jews to the ghetto were repealed in 1811. Ask at the ticket counter for information in English.
Paulskirche is a significant building when it comes to German politics. Built in 1789 as a Protestant church, it became the seat of the Frankfurt Parliament from 1848 to 1849; the National Assembly worked on a constitution for a united Germany here. The constitution never happened, but after Paulskirche was destroyed in WWII, it was the first building to be rebuilt post-war as a tribute to its symbolic place in the country's democratic history.
The Römerberg, a long block west of the Dom, is Frankfurt’s old central square. Buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries, reconstructed after the war, give an idea of how beautiful the city’s medieval core once was. In the centre is the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen; in 1612, at the coronation of Matthias, the fountain ran with wine! At the time of writing, the southern part of the plaza was being rebuilt. The Römerberg is especially lovely during December’s Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market).
South-bank Sachsenhausen is the closest Frankfurt gets to 'old Germany' - rowdy taverns, rustic restaurants, tiny alleys. Cross the river via the Untermainbrücke and you'll find yourself on upmarket Schweitzer Strasse, lined with more boutiques, fine-food shops, trendy bistros and wine bars than you'll ever need. Along the south bank of the Main River is Schaumainkai, called Museumsufer (Museum Embankment) for the high concentration of museums there.
Founded in 1815, this world-renowned institution has a truly outstanding collection of works by 14th- to 20th-century painters, including Botticelli, Dürer, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Vermeer and Cézanne, plus Frankfurt natives such as Hans Holbein. The contemporary art section reopened in 2012 after extensive renovations.
This farmer's market is a great place to stock up on fresh healthy rations for a hike in the woods, so good they do it twice a week! Met someone you need to impress? They have fresh flowers for next to nothing. As for cheese, don't buy it anywhere else. From an excellent range of markets, this fresh fruit and vegetable emporium is many people's favourite.
You could almost mistake the old lady who runs this shop full of wacky beer mugs for one of the items on sale. Some of the pitchers stand over 1m (3.28ft) tall, a gift that would make many a man happy. This is a treasure trove of traditional pottery, and a definite port of call if you need a quirky gift.
Hidden behind the stock exchange, this delightful mini-mall will surprise you with smart art, avante-garde ladies' fashion and an esoteric bookshop.
Really serious splurging takes place along Goethestrasse and other streets just west of Goetheplatz, which are lined with the city's priciest fashion boutiques and jewellery stores.
Freies Schauspiel Ensemble Philanthropin
Freies Schauspiel Ensemble Philanthropin is the kind of offbeat and alternative venue where an ego could explode spontaneously on-stage and find its way into the script for the next performance.
A great jazz venue with mood, since 1952. Check out the walls for photos of jazz greats who’ve played here over the years. Concerts begin an hour after opening except on DJ night (Friday) when there’s dancing to Latin and funk. Hidden away in a cellar across from Goethestrasse 27.
A top venue for cabaret and Varieté theatre, with programs that often include acrobats and circus and magic performances. Hugely enjoyable even if you don’t speak German. Reserve by phone or through the website.
Deep underground in a decommissioned pedestrian passage (60311 is the postcode), this is one of the best (and most notorious) stops in town for hard-core techno.
Frankfurt's calendar of special events kicks off in February with the pre-Lent Fastnacht parades. In March/April, the big events are the International Music Trade Fair and the spring Dippemess, which brings the fair to town, with carousels, pottery displays and regional food and wine. Wäldchestag (Forest Day) is unique to Frankfurt and falls on the Tuesday after the Whitsun long weekend. The summer months feature a bevy of festivals devoted to Frankfurt's favourite traditional tipple, apple wine (very much an acquired taste).
June's Wilhelmstrassenfest Theatrium is one of the country's largest and most exclusive street festivals, with gourmet snacks served to a jazz backbeat in the nearby town of Wiesbaden. The same month, back in Frankfurt, the Opernplatzfest puts on a week-long feast for gourmands. In late July/August, the Mainfest celebrates the River Main with apple wine literally flowing in the streets. This is followed later in August by the Museumsuferfest, which brings the riverside alive with art, music and exhibitions.
In September, the autumn Dippemess resurrects the carousels, pottery and apple wine stalls for one last hooray before winter sets in. The world's largest Book Fair takes over Frankfurt in October, followed in late October by a four-day jazz festival, with impromptu concerts and big-name musicians hitting the city's many venues. In December, the Weihnachtsmarkt Christmas fair brings the year to an exhausted close with mulled wine, choirs and traditional foods.
Food and Drink
Yes, there really are two Gebrüder (brothers), and they look pretty much the spitting image of each other. This place established itself quickly on the Frankfurt scene because the food, wine and other drinks are delicious. It's very gay and everyone-else friendly, and the brothers do a great and affordable take-along picnic basket (order ahead).
Zum Gemalten Haus
The colourful facade and the paintings inside give this apple wine tavern the edge on many others. Try local specialities like Handkäse mit Musik, the smelly cheese that keeps reminding you, and everyone around you, just how charming Frankfurt can be. The enclosed yard becomes an outdoor restaurant in summer.
Hang up your coat at one of the hooks along the wood-panelled wall, take a seat at a long table and order something local – a great beginning to a traditional, Frankfurt-style night out. Opened in 1931, this warm, woody tavern specialises in local dishes such as handkäse mit Musik, Grüne Sosse and Würstchen mit Sauerkraut (sausage with sauerkraut).
Hidden away in a courtyard in a 19th-century cellar workshop, this mellow, friendly wine bar attracts a very mixed crowd, both after work and late at night. In winter you can warm yourself by the fireplace and in summer enjoy the fresh air in a lovely vine-shaded courtyard, but the window ledge and the bar are the places to hang your buttocks and start gabbing. Serves about 40 wines by the glass and snacks.
Best Worscht in Town
A worthy pun as this hugely popular place – which in recent years has become a regional chain – does indeed serve some of Frankfurt’s finest hot Worscht (known to people from other regions of Germany as Wurst). The level of Schärfehölle (hellish hotness) goes from A up to F (for ‘FBI’) – we’ve tried D and it feels like a blowtorch. Situated 1.2km northeast of Konstablerwache.
This traditional covered food market has fruit and vegie stands, ethnic specialities, wine and beer places (along the glass northern wall) and several urst (sausage) places, including the renowned Gref Völslings Rindswurst at the western end – it’s not far from a large mural depicting impressions of Frankfurt. You can eat at narrow tables along the walls.