Frankfurt has the somewhat unfair reputation of being a dull, rather stuffy city, there are many interesting things to see in Frankfurt Germany! It is well known for its trade fairs, and it has become the center of Germany’s banking industry, an international business center and the home of the European Central Bank. But visitors to Frankfurt, whether on business or vacation, will find a cosmopolitan city, with excellent shopping, museums, and picturesque neighborhoods. Let me show you where to go in Frankfurt.
Things to See in Frankfurt Germany
Frankfurt is a modern city, with some of the country’s tallest skyscrapers. It has given itself the nickname of “Mainhattan,” after the river Main that flows through the city. If you want to get an overview of Frankfurt, head up to one of the two viewing platforms in the 656 foot high Main Tower. One of the best views of the city is from the restaurant at the top of this circular tower covered in blue glass. And for those of you who like to keep in shape, it’s also home to the highest fitness center in Europe (while it’s high, the altitude isn’t really enough to help your cardio… but the view might distract from the pain of those crunches.)
While the city IS very modern, it has preserved and reconstructed several historic areas, and much of Frankfurt is often a fascinating contrast between old and new. A good place to start any visit here is the Römerberg, the large square that has been the heart of the city for centuries. On one side of the square is the city hall; on the other is a row of beautiful half-timbered houses, most of which house gift shops and restaurants. A traditional German meal in one of these restaurants overlooking the square is a memorable dining experience.
The narrow streets leading off the Römerberg retain some of the old city’s atmosphere, and there are several picturesque buildings in this area worth visiting. The Kaiserdom church dates from the 13th century and offers magnificent Gothic wood carvings, as well as a panoramic view of the city from the top of its tall sandstone tower. Although it’s called a Dom, it’s not a true Cathedral. It was granted the Dom name for being the site of the Holy Roman Emperor’s coronation.
The Carmelite Monastery has a museum of early history and is famous for displaying one of the largest religious frescoes in Germany. You can also see the house where Goethe, Germany’s most famous poet was born. After bombs destroyed it during World War II, preservationists faithfully reconstructed the house.
Zeil; Shopping in Frankfurt
A few minutes’ walk from the Roemerberg is a pedestrian street called the Zeil. The Zeilgallerie, Frankfurt’s main shopping area, and is lined with department stores, cafes, and restaurants and an IMAX cinema. It’s supposedly the busiest and most exclusive shopping street in the country. At the other end of the shopping spectrum is the weekly flea market held on the other side of the river in the Sachsenhausen district.
Museums in Frankfurt
Frankfurt has a selection of museums to rival any in Europe, all grouped in a park-like setting on the south bank of the river Main. There are excellent museums devoted to architecture, sculpture, and communications. One of the best museums in this area (especially if you are a movie fan) is the German Film Museum, chronicling Germany’s long association with the cinema. The museum regularly shows historical and avant-garde movies. (There is a modern cafe attached to the museum that is well worth a visit).
My absolute favorite Frankfurt museum (and quite possibly my favorite museum in the world) is the Städel. Officially known as the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie (quite a mouthful for ANYONE), this art museum has a fabulous collection of works exhibited in a lovely well lit building. What makes it my favorite… simple. There are a lot of amazing pieces in a relatively small space. You won’t walk your feet off like at the Louvre in Paris or the Accademia in Florence. You can see works by Renoir, Degas, Van Eyck, Monet and Picasso… and still have time and energy for a nice walk and lunch along the Main.
Apfelwein in Frankfurt
One thing you must do while in Frankfurt is sample the local apfelwein. This highly alcoholic drink is brewed and served in taverns all over the city, and often it is the only thing on the menu in some of the more authentic places. If you see a pine wreath hanging over the door of an apfelwein tavern, it means the establishment brews its own wine. Apfelwein is usually served in a Bembel, a very collectible grey stone jug with blue decorative painting, to keep it cool. Be sure to bring some home as a reminder of your trip…
Although you can find Apfelwein taverns all over the city, Sachsenhausen, one of Frankfurt’s oldest neighborhoods, has a distinctly medieval atmosphere. Apart from the many authentic bars, it has cobblestone streets, half-timbered houses, and small family-run shops. At the edge of the district, you can still see the remains of a tower dating from the 15th century, when the area was a separate village and had its own fortifications.
Bornheim is one of Frankfurt’s liveliest neighborhoods and seems a world away from the banks and insurance companies. Once known as Das lustige Dorf (“The merry village”) because it was home to Frankfurt’s Red-Light district, today Bornheim is a young person’s hang-out. This pleasant residential area close to the city center is home to streets lined with cafes and bars, clothing shops and several cinemas. Like just about everywhere else, it’s easy to reach on the city’s efficient and affordable public transport.
Frankfurt Book Fair
And don’t forget, the world’s largest publishing event takes place in mid-October, the Frankfurt Book Fair, which has regularly been held since 1454. This “publishing event of the year” attracts THOUSANDS of people… and authors from around the world. If you are a book lover (and I am….) the Frankfurt Book Fair NEEDS to be on your bucket list.
Looking for great stuff to do in Frankfurt? Check out these tours and activities!
There is More to Frankfurt than just the Airport!
Most visitors to Frankfurt are either passing through its airport, or in town for a trade show or business meeting. But this German city offers a lot more and is also a convenient base for exploring the surrounding region. Spend some time looking around… there are LOADS of things to see in Frankfurt, Germany!