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Sprawling Frankfurt on the River Main is celebrated more by the business crowd than curious tourists. The city is a major transport hub and an industrial and financial powerhouse, not only in Germany, but the whole of central Europe. Frankfurt is home to Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank and one of Europe's most important stock exchanges, which has been trading since 1585.
For tourists, Frankfurt offers many intriguing sights, some great restaurants, a variety of cultural events and excellent shopping opportunities, not to mention an energetic nightlife scene. Attractions are mostly confined to the historical district known as the Römerberg, where Charlemagne erected his fort in medieval times. Most of the original buildings were destroyed during World War II, but some have been reconstructed, including the home of Goethe, Frankfurt's most famous son who became Germany's greatest writer. For shopping, it's hard to beat the Zeil, Germany's equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue.
With its excellent rail connections and autobahn system, Frankfurt is the natural hub for travellers wishing to explore the surrounding towns and countryside. It's also the venue for numerous trade fairs, exhibitions and congresses, drawing about 12 million event-goers a year. The largest and best known is the annual International Book Fair, attended by thousands of publishers, writers and avid readers.
The Eschenheimer Turm is one of the few remaining towers of Frankfurt's medieval fortifications. The 154-foot high (47m) Gothic tower was built in the 15th century, one of approximately 60 towers surrounding the city. The tower is both the oldest and the most unaltered building in the largely reconstructed city centre and is a striking Frankfurt landmark. The tower has eight levels and four smaller side-turrets, looking like something out of a fairytale. Now a popular tourist attraction in Frankfurt, there is a restaurant and bar at the base of the Eschenheimer Turm that offers a good place to relax and unwind after a day of seeing the sites.
The birthplace of Germany's iconic poet and writer, Goethe-Haus is now a shrine to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's memory and preserved as an example of how the well-to-do lived in Frankfurt in the late Baroque era. The house, which is a reconstruction because the original was destroyed during World War II, consists of two neighbouring half-timbered houses in Grosser Hirschgraben and is situated next to the Goethe Museum, which contains a huge library of books, documents and graphics. Even if you aren't particularly interested in the writer, Goethe-Haus provides welcome insight into 18th-century Frankfurt. All the rooms are beautifully decorated and furnished, and many of the artefacts have recorded stories and associations from the Goethe family.
The well-ordered and interesting Botanical Garden in Frankfurt is administered by the university and is a beautiful place to while away a few hours. The gardens are designed to take visitors on a journey through different areas of the plant kingdom, from the hardwood forests of North America to the vast savannahs of Africa. The gardens cover more than eight hectares (20 acres) and contain more than 6,000 different botanical species, from exotic rainforest flowers to European weeds. There is a playground in the gardens to amuse little ones, as well as miniature golf and a cafe.
St Bartholomew's Cathedral dominates the Frankfurt skyline with its imposing 311-foot (95m) spire, contrasting sharply with the modern skyscrapers in the downtown area. The cathedral was built in the 14th and 15th centuries, and has seen the crowning of kings and emperors. The architecture is traditional Gothic, with an interior boasting artistic treasures and striking carvings. The winding spiral stairs leading to the tower bells make for some spectacular views, with informative booklets educating guests on its history and the artefacts down below. As the cathedral is still an active place of worship, it's partially closed to tourists at times for services.
Built for a baron in 1896, the Liebieghaus is today home to Frankfurt's Museum of Sculpture. It almost looks like a castle, with its beauty and majesty adding to a medieval atmosphere. Exhibits cover ancient times from Sumeria and Egypt to Greece and Rome, as well as Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance periods. There are some 5,000 pieces in the collection, but the museum somehow still feels intimate and is usually less crowded than other big art institutions in Frankfurt. The Liebieghaus also puts up some great temporary exhibits showcasing modern sculptors, while tours and audio guides are both available.
The Historical Museum has many permanent exhibitions featuring objects and works of art ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum's changing exhibitions cover a range of themes such as cultural history, art history and general history. Collections feature examples of gold and silver crockery and jewellery; pottery and porcelain; paintings and photographs; and scaled-down models of the Altstadt (Frankfurt old town) at various periods of development. The museum is useful for giving visitors an idea of how different Frankfurt looked before the damage of World War II. The Children's Museum, which lies adjacent to the Historical Museum, features a variety of special offers and exhibitions for youngsters of all ages.
Frankfurt's most important art gallery is the Städel Gallery, which contains a fantastic collection of many European schools of painting and a revolving calendar of high-quality temporary exhibitions. The first floor features the works of German painters of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as famous French Impressionists such as Renoir and Monet. The second floor offers an outstanding collection of Flemish Primitives, 17th-century Dutch artists and 16th-century German masters such as Dürer, Grünewald, Memling and Elsheimer, with one of the most prized paintings being Jan van Eyck's Madonna (1433).
Located in Ostend and almost completely destroyed in World War II, the Frankfurt Zoo has grown to become one of the most popular in Europe. It's home to more than 3,200 animals from about 600 species, and is renowned for keeping them in environments that closely resemble their own natural habitats. A major drawcard for the zoo and one of its most unique features is Grzimek House, which is home to nocturnal animals. Other popular animals include tigers, penguins, rhinos, lions, crocodiles and hippos, as well as a vast collection of fish, insects and reptiles.
One of the biggest natural history museums in Germany and housed in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History features extensive exhibits on the biodiversity and evolution of life on Earth. A popular attraction of the museum is the fascinating palaeontology exhibit which features fossils that date back over 50 million years. Adults and children alike will love exploring this fascinating museum, learning about the solar system and discovering the evolution of life.
Frankfurt has a temperate oceanic climate, characterised by warm summers and cold winters. Temperatures are not extreme and almost never severe. Summers are sunny and warm but can also be quite wet, with frequent rain and sometimes quite high humidity. Winters are fairly cold and can bring occasional violent storms. Light snowfall is to be expected and it can get windy which adds to the chill factor. The average temperature in mid-winter (January) is 34°F (1°C), and in mid-summer (July) the average temperature is 66°F (19°C). Although summer is definitely the best time to visit Frankfurt, it is also the most popular time and it can get busy, crowded and expensive. Outside of this period, visitors can get pleasant weather and plenty of sunshine in spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October).
Frankfurt's diverse restaurant scene reflects the multicultural make-up of the city. Whether looking for German classics such as schnitzel, Eisbein and sauerkraut, local legends like Frankfurter Hacksteak (chopped steak), or the very best of international cuisine, visitors will find it in Frankfurt.
Most traditional German restaurants are located in the Freßgass pedestrian street, and in Sachsenhausen, with apple-wine pubs set along cobbled streets bordering its row of museums. The best Frankfurt eateries serving modern and international cuisine tend to be in the city centre or Westend, while Nordend boasts some great cafes and a few more exotic establishments. There are quality restaurants all over the city and travellers can stumble onto something special almost anywhere.
Visitors should try apple wine, a popular drink in Frankfurt which tastes like cider and referred to by the locals as Ebbelwoi. Of course, beer is also a staple in Frankfurt, just like in the rest of the country, and there are plenty of good bars and pubs to enjoy.
Frankfurt restaurants have various trading hours and it is best to call ahead and make reservations. Many include a service charge in the bill, as is the norm in most of Germany, but if this is not the case, a tip of about 10 percent is customary.
This huge, wood-panelled old apple-wine tavern produces hearty German dishes, like many of the other establishments in the popular Sachsenhausen area. Dishes like the pork shoulder and liver dumpling can be enjoyed with a slow glass of apfelwein or a choice of beer or cider. There are daily specials, complimented by an atmosphere of communal tables that is fun, boisterous and crowded. Open daily from 11am until midnight.
Erno's Bistro is one of the best restaurants in town and something of a Frankfurt culinary institution, offering classic French cuisine such as lobster broth, quail spit and fresh fish dishes. There is an excellent wine list to make the meal even more memorable, as well as some sensational desserts. Erno's is a chic gourmet rendezvous that is always busy, so reservations are essential. It's closed on weekends.
This upmarket restaurant is presided over by chef Werner Döpfner who serves contemporary dishes in a candlelit setting. Maingau Stuben is famous for its fresh fish and game meat that is carved at the table, and the cellar is full of rare German wines. Closed Monday. No lunch Saturday and no dinner Sunday.
This stately Michelin-starred restaurant is very conscious of upholding the high standard of its accompanying five-star hotel. It's an ideal venue for a special occasion with a quiet and sophisticated atmosphere, elegant furnishings, attentive service and high quality food that is beautifully prepared and presented. The menu offers international fare that is light and French-inspired, with delicacies such as quails in champagne and grape sauce. Open Monday to Friday. Reservations required.
Located in the Westend, the Alte Kanzlei is one of those restaurants that evokes a deep sense of history, and the mahogany wooden interior coupled with the crisp linen tablecloths and fine silverware creates a sophisticated yet romantic ambience. Established in 1974, this classic Italian eatery specialises in serving authentic Italian fare from the region of Calabria. The menu changes daily, but highlights include the spaghetti with prawns and lobster sauce or the veal fillet in pepper crust served with a chive sauce. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner. Saturday dinner only. Closed Sundays. Reservations essential.
Located on the first floor of the Old Opera House, there's no need to guess where this restaurant gets its name. With wonderfully historic and ornate décor, as well as exciting and traditional cuisine, Opera has become one of Frankfurt's most popular restaurants. Diners can sample delicious Asian fare such as the teriyaki from yellowfin tuna on fried vegetables with Asian egg noodles or a traditional German Milchkalbrücken wiener schnitzel served with fried potatoes or potato salad. Open daily for lunch and dinner. Reservations recommended.
One of Frankfurt's favourite Indian eateries, Jewel of India prepares traditional Indian cuisine and does not disappoint. The warm interior with burnt orange and yellow tapestries adorning the walls, juxtaposed by the cream linen tablecloths creates a warm and cosy dining environment. With favourites such as the Chicken mango curry, Rogan Josh and lamb Vindaloo, lovers of classic Indian cuisine will find themselves returning time and again. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and Saturday and Sunday dinner only. Reservations recommended.
The Frankfurt Christmas Market is one of the biggest and oldest in Germany, dating back to the 14th century. Traditionally, Germans used to buy all their decorations, seasonal foodstuffs and children's presents solely from the market. The entire old town centre transforms into a festive, beautiful marketplace, where the scent of roasted chestnuts, mulled wine, gingerbread and baked apples mix with the sounds of Christmas tunes in the crisp winter air. The fair also offers concerts, games and plenty of arts and crafts, from creative candles to carved wooden toys, and traditional Frankfurt specialities such as apple wine soap, slippers and traditional tree ornaments.
The spectacular festival of art and culture on the banks of the Maine River is one of Frankfurt's most popular outdoor attractions and arguably the city's most popular festival. All the museums put up special exhibitions and offer deals to the public during the weekend of the festival. The Museumsuferfest attracts international artists and musicians, with stages showcasing great music and numerous world-class exhibitions. Stalls along the picturesque riverside offer a wide variety of food and drink, making this festival a fun culinary experience as well. There are many accompanying events organised around the festival including workshops, lectures and debates. A fireworks display on the last evening brings the festival to a close.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest in the world, receiving visitors and book dealers from more than 100 countries. Largely focused around trade, distribution and selling, it carries a heritage of some 500 years under its belt. Fittingly, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press just outside Frankfurt in the town of Mainz, and the first fair was held by local publishers shortly afterwards. The festivities include many lectures, workshops and conferences, as well as book signings and discussions. This is a great event for industry professionals but also for fans who come to meet their favourite authors and enjoy the colourful literary atmosphere.
It might not be expected of a city known for its finance industry to have much of a nightlife. But with its high rollers and multicultural expats, Frankfurt parties hard after dark. Whether looking for an epic night in the club or a laid-back jazz session, Frankfurt will have plenty on offer to appease any taste.
Some of the best clubs in Frankfurt feature techno and house music, and the club scene is energetic and trendy. Those looking for something slightly more sophisticated will find that Frankfurt is one of the jazz capitals of Europe. For opera and classical music visitors should see what's playing at the Oper Frankfurt and the venerable Alte Oper, or check out one of Frankfurt's many wonderful theatres.
The city's nightlife is clustered around the northern area, near Freßgass, Zeil and Römerberg. The cobbled lanes of Sachsenhausen have some especially lively Latin, Irish and local joints to enjoy for those homesick travellers longing for something familiar. Adult entertainment is also a booming industry in Frankfurt and the area known as Bahnhofsviertel is one of the largest red light districts in the world.
The Zeil in Frankfurt is a large street where all the biggest stores and shopping centres can be found. This is the place to do a spot of clothes shopping, lazily browse through bookstores or look for end-of-season sales at the mainstream stores.
The Apfelwein district in Sachsenhausen is the best place to find traditional German souvenirs, with favourites such as ceramic German steins, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks and traditional Christmas decorations. For the peckish explorer, there are specialist food stores, cafes and delicatessens lining the upmarket Freßgass, ready to serve delicious local fare.
Head on over to Goethestraße for top-end designer shops and jewellery stores in Frankfurt. Schweizerstraße, in Sachsenhausen, is home to exclusive boutiques and independent stores aimed at the trendier, younger market.
Most Frankfurt shops are open from 10am to 10pm, from Monday to Friday, and from 10am to 4pm on Saturdays. Most shops are closed on Sundays.
Public transport in the city is expensive but efficient, consisting of an integrated network of fast, modern underground U-Bahn lines, S-Bahn city trains, trams and buses. The U-Bahn and buses operate between about 4am and 1am, and there are also several night bus routes. Fares are standard and are based on a zone system, with most tickets valid for an hour and used for any number of transfers between all modes of public transport within that time.
Tickets must be bought prior to boarding. The Frankfurt Card (available from the tourist office) is good value, allowing for unlimited travel within greater Frankfurt, plus airport shuttle transport and discounted admission to museums. Taxis are safe and plentiful, but expensive, while ride-sharing apps also operate in the city. Driving a car in the city involves rush hour congestion, expensive parking lots and confusing road systems, so it's best to park that idea and use public transport.
Frankfurt has some fascinating historical attractions, while there's also a lot to see for the trendy traveller hungry for fashion and contemporary thrills. Sightseeing in Frankfurt is best done in the summer months, when the weather is warmer and the days longer. But as the city boasts some truly wonderful museums, galleries and other indoor attractions, Frankfurt is essentially a year-round destination.
For history buffs, some of the best Frankfurt attractions include the Well of Justice fountain in Römerberg Square, dating back to 1541, and the Eschenheimer Turm, a medieval tower from the 15th century. The Historical Museum exhibits a range of impressive artefacts from the Middle Ages, while the Goethe-Haus is where writer Johan Wolfgang von Goethe was born in 1749.
Other popular cultural sites in Frankfurt include the Städel Gallery, which houses works by Renoir, and the Museum of Sculpture, which boasts beautiful pieces from ancient Greece and Rome. Visit the German Film Museum (Deutsches Filmmuseum) to watch one of the classics from its enormous collection, or perhaps stroll through the vast plant kingdom found in Frankfurt's Botanical Gardens. Those travelling with kids in Frankfurt will find lots of family-friendly attractions too, including the wonderful Frankfurt Zoo and the Senckenberg, a natural history museum.
The historic university town of Heidelberg is a city of music and romance along the Neckar River. One of the few German cities that escaped relatively unscathed from World War II, it boasts numerous Medieval and Renaissance buildings, including some beautiful historical churches and university structures from 1386. A good way to enjoy scenic views of Heidelberg is along the Philosopher's Walk, a path alongside the Heiligenberg. A vibrant atmosphere permeates Heidelberg, particularly in the student quarter with its narrow streets and lively pubs. The weather in Heidelberg is famously sunny and warm compared to much of Germany, and this is a major draw for the millions of tourists who visit each year.
The German Fairy Tale Road follows a meandering 370-mile (595km) route through charming villages and gingerbread houses, lush forests and well-preserved medieval towns. It traces the path of the Brothers Grimm, famous storytellers who collected the folktales which inspired characters such as Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood, and Hansel and Gretel.
Starting in their birthplace of Hanau, visitors explore attractions like the Brothers Grimm National Monument in the town square, the Puppet Museum at Williamsbad, the Marienkirche and the Philippsruhe Palace. Further on, the town of Kassel is home to the Brothers Grimm Museum. From there, it's on to Hameln, the famous town of the Pied Piper, and the Fairy Tale Museum in nearby Bad Oeynhausen. The road ends in the town of Bremen, home of both the mythical Little Nienburg Girl and the very real Rathaus, a vibrant marketplace filled with town musicians and the famous Ratskeller Restaurant.
Situated in a valley between the Rhine River and Taunus Mountains, charming Wiesbaden is arguably Germany's favourite spa resort. Once enjoyed by the Ancient Romans, it offers 26 springs averaging around 105°F (41°C). Wiesbaden is also a cultural centre, its events focusing around the major Kurhaus concert hall complex. A walking tour is a great way to take in the historical and cultural attractions of Wiesbaden, with Wilhelmstraße replete with enticing boutiques and striking architectural landmarks. Another great activity is to catch the view from the Greek Orthodox Church on the hill, reached by the Nerobergbahn, a water-powered train which has been running since the late 1800s.
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