Frankfurt is Germany’s fourth most-visited city. However, the financial capital rarely appears on travel blogs, and none of my friends or family have ever visited.
Considering that it jostles for attention with the likes of Berlin, Munich, Cologne and Hamburg (just to name a few), Frankfurt was relatively low down on my German bucket list too. I had nothing against the city. But I knew so little about it, it wasn’t even on my radar.
Then, something happened to implant the city in my consciousness. We were offered our first overseas housesit there. So, we jumped at the chance. And what a pleasant surprise we got in return.
As mentioned in my intro, Frankfurt is the financial hub of mainland Europe and home to the European Central Bank. However, don’t let the skyscrapers fool you into thinking that the city takes itself too seriously.
Visitors will find many opportunities to let their hair down, whether that means soaking up some culture at Frankfurt’s many museums, theatres, and galleries, or sampling the Ebbelwei (the region’s famous apple wine) in one of the city’s bars.
There’s also plenty of green space to be enjoyed. Frankfurt boasts more than a dozen parks, and not one, but two botanical gardens (the Palmengarten and the University’s Botanical Garden).
Officially known as the Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, Frankfurt’s largest church is well worth a visit. The Roman Catholic place of worship emerged in the 7th century and therefore boasts a wealth of history. However, even if the past’s not really your thing, it’s still a pretty spectacular place to mooch around. You can even scale the church tower to gain a different perspective of the city.
Frankfurt’s former opera house was destroyed by enemy bombing during the Second World War. However, in the decades that followed, the grand building was restored to its former glory. And since reopening in 1981 the striking pile has become the city’s premier concert hall.
Römerberg is Frankfurt’s main public square. It is home to the city’s wonderfully pink city hall as well as some expertly restored half-timbered houses. As a result, it is a feast for the eyes no matter which direction you face.
Saalgasse is one of Frankfurt’s oldest streets. However, just like the old opera, the important thoroughfare fell victim to World War Two airstrikes. The road was rebuilt in the 1980s when the city ran an architectural competition to design a series of townhouses along the strip. As a result, Saalgasse hosts a series of post-modern buildings, all different in style, but tied together by their shared bizarreness.
IG Farben Building
This iconic Bauhaus building is one of Frankfurt’s most historically significant structures. Originally built as the headquarters for IG Farben, the building has a dark past given the chemical company’s link to the Nazi Party and its production of Zyklon B.
As a result, the building’s grounds are home to the Norbert Wollheim Memorial, named in honour of a Holocaust survivor who performed forced labour on behalf of IG Farben at Buna/Monowitz concentration camp.
Following the Second World War, the building served as the headquarters for the Supreme Allied Command. It’s still in use today but now serves as a campus for the University of Frankfurt.
Where to Hang out
With its cobbled streets and interesting architecture, the suburb of Sachsenhausen is a lovely place for an afternoon stroll. However, it’s not until the evening that the area really comes alive. It’s then that locals and tourists alike make the journey across the Main to spend the night in Frankfurt’s premier party location.
Sachsenhausen plays host to an entertaining mix of traditional wine houses, sports bars, and hipster haunts. My particular favourites are the laid back Schwimmbad Bar and the eclectic Alte Leibe. You also can’t go wrong by sticking to the pedestrianised section just off Paradiesgasse.
When the sun shines, it seems that all of Frankfurt descends upon the banks of the Main. And you can’t really blame them. There’s an amazing beer garden on the Sachsenhausen side of the river, conveniently called Maincafé. However, those in the know take their own drink and simply find a perch on the edge of the water.
The city’s Kleinmarkthalle is the place to be seen on Saturday afternoons. It’s then that the humble indoor market turns into a foodie hub, offering all kinds of fresh fare to enjoy on the spot or take home for later. In between shopping and eating, most visitors grab a wine (or two) and socialise by stalls or outside the market entrance.
Grüneburgpark is one of the biggest of Frankfurt’s aforementioned green spaces. Boasting expansive lawns and winding walkways, the park is perfect for whiling away the hours when the weather’s good. It is located conveniently close to the Palmengarten, as well as the IG Farben Building, and the pretty West End is also nearby, so it’s easy to make a day of it in this part of town.
Bornheim is located on the north-east side of Frankfurt town centre and is particularly popular with young people. The neighbourhood has a village-type feel and boasts a number of drinking and eating spots, especially around Beger Strasse. Each Friday night hoards descend on Friedberger Platz to attend the biggest pre-sesh in the city. There are a few market stalls selling booze, but most people seem to grab some bottles from the nearby Rewe before catching a tram into town or Sachsenhausen.
Like I say, discovering Frankfurt’s charms was such a pleasant surprise. I’d love to go back some day, so any further recommendations would be welcomed. Alternatively, have you ever visited anywhere that unexpectedly blew you away? Like, when you arrived, you just kind of clicked? Let me know 🙂