“Latin Vadum Francorum”, “the ford of the Franks on the Main”, “Financial capital”
Such a very long time since the only time I’ve been in this city, possibly 8 or 9 years. I’m not going to lie in saying that there is no other reason than preferring always going somewhere else than repeating here. After all Frankfurt is one of the “least” historic cities in Germany due to its almost complete destruction during WWII. Nowadays it is of course important in another sense, one of the strongest and largest financial centres in the world. It does translate in a new sight itself, the modern architecture. The striking skyline of skyscrapers designed by world renown architects, that’s worth to see. Not misjudging here, there are of course many nice places and sights through the city, some of which a great reconstruction of the buildings that once stood such as the Römer (City Hall), noticeable around the central square Römerberg.
Frankfurt was until the beginning of WWII home to the largest timber-framed old town in Europe. It was known worldwide for such constructions and beauty, some of the largest ever built in wood as structure. It is very unfortunate that almost all of it was destroyed during the war, and not because of the bombings, but the fires caused after the explosions did the worst. That’s why we are talking in here about a “newer” city comparing to usual German standards. The German state of Hesse holds, in the other hand, some of the finest timber-framed cities, villages and castle, possibly in the whole of Europe. So while its capital lost such charm, literally next door you are in the “idyllic German region” you can possibly think of when talking about this country. But no “witches” nor candy houses though :).
A day for visiting the city is well enough to enjoy every sight without any rush. The “old town” is small and very compact, and the business and financial centre is surrounding it. While you will see some great towers and squares as you tour the city, you cannot leave Frankfurt before you get the picture-perfect skyline. There are some places to do this, most across the Main River, an unforgettable view with the bridges and skyline in the background. Eiserner Steg, Alte Brücke or Deutschherrnbrücke bridges are the best spot by all means.
Our trip here was a bigger one, taking advantage it was a bank holiday in England, hence 3 full days for touring around not only Frankfurt, but another 4 other cities, all of which having a site listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Lorsch, Speyer, Maulbronn and Wurzburg. And believe it or not, there was still some time for including Heidelberg in our tour and enjoy a nice dinner in such beautiful city. A busy 3 days ahead of us, however, near each other and small and counting with a rental car therefore a great choice in what we did, as you can see in the relevant travel guides for each of these places.
When thinking about food, well, don’t think too much. Frankfurt = Frankfurter = Sausage! Of course here you can get some of the best sausages, although this is not difficult at all anywhere in the country to be honest. Currywurst is always the most traditional, where you get a sausage with fries and curry sauce. For the most authentic, try to find an imbis, this is, a small place, generally take away with few tables and chairs, they do the best, and are the cheapest ones. In the other hand, you have this in any restaurant and especially brewery, sometimes at double the price, but plenty of more options and great beer. Anywhere around Freßgass Street will be the best bet, and so it the main shopping street Zeil. Here I can recommend you the imbis Best Worscht in Town and the restaurant Weidenhof, both located in the same building in the middle of the road right across the shopping centres My Zeil and Zeilgalerie arcade.
For more information about Frankfurt check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Germany’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Frankfurt:
- West of the historic centre Area characterised for being one of the most modern districts in the city, home to some of the major skyscrapers.
-Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage At the northwest from the main train station, provides access to the enormous exhibition hall (Messe). One of the landmark towers, in circular shape, the Messeturm, remains as one of the highest in the city.
-Central Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) One of the largest in the country and Europe, built in 1888 in neo-renaissance style.
-Kaiserstraße One of the grandest streets in central Frankfurt for the amount of Gründerzeit style buildings (historicism style) heading from the central train station towards the financial district and the beginning of the historic town.
-Taunusstraße and Münchener Straße One of them at the north of Kaiserstraße, the other at the south, all of which parallel to each other.
-Holbeinsteg Bridge Links near the train station to the south bank of the river.
-Städel One of the most famous art museums, with the largest collection of European paintings in Germany covering from the 14th to the 21st centuries. Right across the Holbeinsteg Bridge.
- Business District Right in between the central train station and the historic town, along the area that used to be the medieval city walls, now converted into parks, gardens and squares. Here you can find some of the landmark skyscrapers.
-Taunusanlage, Willy-Brandt-Platz and the Gallusanlage These three gardens right at the eastern end of the three streets mentioned above are on what used to be the fortification walls.
-Central European Bank One of the landmark towers and the most picturesque, with the large Euro sign at the bottom.
-Japan Centre This skyrise was created based on the measure of a Japanese tatami mat, resembling a Japanese stone lantern.
-Main Tower In the row of buildings behind the Japanese Centre, is the only one of all the towers in the city with a viewing platform at its top. 7.5 Euros to enter. It’s shape is both a cube and a cylinder linked together.
-Commerzbank Tower The tallest in Germany, designed by Norman Foster in a triangular shape, remains as the highlight of the business district.
- Historic centre East from the Business District front of buildings. If you see this on a map you will notice the shape around the edges, legacy of the former medieval walls.
-Kaiserplatz This is the square where the main street Kaiserstraße ends, right at the western edge of the old town. It retains some of the original buildings in between the newer ones and the towers around.
-Roßmarkt Street Heads from Kaiserplatz towards the northeast of the historic centre, passing some of the main sights.
-Roßmarkt Square Along the street, this square provides access to the greater Hauptwache Square just ahead.
-Hauptwache Square The largest and one of the most important in the city. It’s name comes from the 1730s baroque building that translates “Main Guards House Square”.
-Saint Catherine’s Church (Katharinenkirche) The largest Lutheran Church in the city. Dating from the middle 17th century, had to be rebuilt (more austere) after WWII.
-Hauptwache Building Opposite the church, was a prison and police station at the time where the city was still having its own defensive walls that lasted until the end of the 19th century. Damaged during WWII, was dismantled and moved above the underground train station that was built in the square.
-Galleria Kaufhof’s At the other end of the square from the church, nothing special in architecture, however something you should not miss is going up to the roof garden. The views of the square and skyscrapers behind are really worth it.
-Goetheplatz Parallel to Roßmarkt and Hauptwache. You can access it from Hauptwache along the small street that divides these squares.
-Goethestraße The most exclusive shopping street in Frankfurt where all the luxury boutiques and jewelers are. It traverses between the Goetheplatz and the Opernplatz in the west.
-Börsenplatz Home to Germany’s most important Stock Exchange houses in a classical style building, and the famous sculpture at its front, the Bull and Bear, two symbolic beasts of finance. Is is only a street ahead from Goetheplatz.
-Eschenheim Tower Built in the 15th century as a gate on the back then existing medieval walls. The view of this tower with the newly built glass skyscraper right behind, the Nextower, is quite a sight. It is along the Börsenstrasse, not far behind the Stock Exchange.
-Freßgass Street Parallel to Goethestraße, runs between Börsenstraße and Goetheplatz being a main point for restaurants and bars.
-Opernplatz The Opera Square, nicely landscaped showcasing the Opera House building, from 1880. It laid in ruins after WWII, nicknamed the most beautiful ruin in Germany until it was rebuilt in the 1980s.
-Zeil Street Frankfurt’s central shopping street. It runs from the western terminus Hauptwache Square to the middle Konstablerwache Square fully pedestrian, and towards the eastern terminus at Friedberger Anlage, where the medieval city walls used to be. Contains all major shops of any kind, with many shopping centres and galleries. The most spectacular for its architectural design are My Zeil and Zeilgalerie arcade.
-Berliner Strasse Starts at Willy-Brandt-Platz, next to Kaiserplatz where the Roßmarkt Street described above starts. This one goes all the way from the west to east edges of the historic town dividing the city in two: one part north of the street all I’ve listed above, while all that lies south used to be the medieval town centre.
-Goethe’s House This is the birthplace home of one of Germany’s most influential writers, at number 23 Großer Hirschgraben, almost by the beginning of Berliner Street, and not far from Goetheplatz.
-Paulsplatz In between Berliner Strasse at the north and the parallel Bethmannstraße at the south. The first of the squares within the medieval core.
-Saint Paul’s Church (Paulskirche) Completed in 1833, is of especial importance not just the city but across Germany for being the seat of the first democratically elected Parliament in 1848.
-Bridge of Sights Connects the two town halls north and south of Bethmannstraße, by the south of the Paulskirche.
-City Hall Some of the buildings that compose the complex are facing Paulsplatz, while the most famous towards Römerberg around the corner in the next square.
-Bethmannstraße The parallel street to Berliner, and the most beautiful in this part of the city, with majority of the original buildings already reconstructed with more coming soon.
-Römerberg The main square in the historic centre, once home to incredible timber-framed houses everywhere, nowadays majority reconstructed, with more to come (thankfully) as part of a recently approved project to bring back further buildings that once stood. It’s south of Paulsplatz.
-The Römer Translated as Roman, is the City Hall. A complex of 9 houses in between the two squares, being the ones facing the Römerberg entirely reconstructed.
-Row of townhouses Along the eastern side of the square, all of which reconstructed yet creating the most picturesque image of “old” Frankfurt.
-Alte Nikolaikirche At the south corner of the square, originally built in the 12th century as an early Gothic hall, the chapel dates from the 15th although as almost everything in the city, reconstructed in 1949, then again restored to the original look in 1992.
-Historic Museum South of the square, behind the Alte Nikolaikirche, showcasing the history of the city since prehistoric times. The building facing the riverside is the Saalhof, the oldest surviving building in the city, dating from the 12th century. It was the Dutch cloth hall exhibition from the 14th century.
-Wertheim House Not right in Römerberg itself but just meters from it towards the river, opposite the Historic Museum. The only timber-framed house that survived intact WWII.
-Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge) Built in 1868 connecting the Römerberg from behind the Historic Museum and Sachsenhausen across the Main River, it is one of the notorious landmarks in Frankfurt. The views of the skyline and riverside are good from here.
-Archaeological Garden In between the Römerberg and Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral, contains some remains of the original Roman town and the 6th century Royal Palace.
-Saint Bartholomew’s Cathedral The Dom was built between the 14th and 15th centuries becoming the most important in the Holy Roman Empire for the election of the Kings, and afterwards from the 17th century for the crowning of Roman-German emperors. It had to be half rebuilt after WWII. The bell tower has a viewing platform with great views over the city.
- Outside of the city centre Along both banks of the Main River is always a great place to be, with nice gardens, museums and the best views of the skyline.
-Deutschherrnbrücke Farther east of the city, this bridge offers the best views without equal of the entire skyline, the River Main and its other bridges.
- Region near Frankfurt There are way too many cities and villages not far from Frankfurt to keep any tourist going for days and weeks visiting. From incredible castles to some of the finest timber-framed cities; palaces, monasteries and nature. Everything within easy reach, with a lot of these places listed UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
–Eppstein Located 30 kilometres west of Frankfurt. Home to some of the finest some of the finest timber-framed buildings in Germany.
–Dietz At 70 kilometres northwest of Frankfurt, is home to an incredible castle perched on top of the mountain right in the middle of the village.
-Limburg The largest of the timber-frame cities towards the north of Frankfurt, next to Diez.
–Lorsch South of Frankfurt, only 60 kilometres apart, it is listed an UNESCO WHS for its well known Abbey, founded in 764 by the Frankish Count Cancor and his mother Williswinda becoming one of the greatest centres of Carolingian art.
–Heidelberg 90 kilometres south of Frankfurt, around 25 from Lorsch, famous for the mix of timber-frame and elegant stone houses along the river Neckar.
–Speyer By the River Rhine, around 100 kilometres south of Frankfurt, near Heildelberg and Lorsch. Founded by the Romans it is one of the oldest cities in Germany, whose Cathedral is listed an UNESCO WHS.
–Maulbronn 150 kilometres south, home to the UNESCO WHS listed Cistercian monastery.
–Wurzburg 120 kilometres east, located by the River Main, in the region of Franconia home to the impressive Royal Residence built between 1720 and 1744, UNESCO WHS listed.
Frankfurt is home to one of the largest and most busiest airports in the world, however in the nearby region it counts with more airports at easy reach. This is from where you can fly to most destinations worldwide in Germany and neighboring countries in fact. Located 12 kilometers southwest, it is best accessed to/from via commuter railway. Both S8 and S9 lines pass through the central train station and others in between and beyond, taking only 15 minutes. A slower but cheaper choice is the bus Line 61 to Frankfurt Südbahnhof (Frankfurt South Station). The current fares for the train are €4.65 for a single, or for €9.10 you can get a day ticket (cheaper than a day return), however, if you are at least 2 people (and up to 5 maximum) you can get the group day ticket for €15.80 which can save you lots of money on your arrival.
Note there are 2 train stations in the airport, being one for commuter trains while the other for long distance trains. There is no need for having to get first to Frankfurt main train station and change for another train, majority of the Inter City and high-speed lines do also call at the airport station.
The secondary airport Frankfurt Hahn is 120 kilometres from the city, making it not very convenient to be honest however this is the major base for low-cost carrier Ryanair. Hourly buses do connect this airport with Frankfurt’s central train station, taking approximately 1.45 hours.
The city counts with an over-extended network of public transport, super efficient, reliable but not cheap. There are 9 lines of commuter railways connecting the entire metropolitan area; 9 underground metro lines, 10 tram lines and countless bus routes. A single ticket on metro, tram or bus costs €2.80, while the day ticket €7.00 (this does not include the train to the airport). And once again as mentioned above, if you are between 2 and 5 people, it is better to get the group day ticket in which case is €10.50.
Being one of the top cities in Europe, right at the same level as London or Paris are, a financial motor and one of the largest and most important exhibition halls in the world, no one can argue on the enormous choice of hotels of any kind. Finding a good deal should not be too difficult however bear in mind hotels in general in Germany are not the cheapest (talking about a 4* as usual rule). In this occasion we actually found our best deal on the British Airways website on a flight+hotel deal, but as usual the same applies that a good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, Hotels Click, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We stayed at the Hotel Bristol, in Ludwigstrasse 15 right around the corner from the central train station. A great area to start any sightseeing tour, and also on a quieter and nicer street rather than the busy ones at the front of the station. A nice 4* property, with great comfortable bed and bedrooms and a nice breakfast. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and extremely welcoming. Will for sure not hesitate in staying here once again.