The sprawling city of Frankfurt, on the River Main, is celebrated more by businesspeople than traditional tourists, but the city offers many pleasures as well as opportunities for those doing business. Regardless of purpose, huge numbers arrive annually at Frankfurt's showpiece airport. 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 Europe's most important stock exchange, which has been trading since 1585.
For tourists Frankfurt does offer many intriguing sights, some great restaurants, a variety of artistic and cultural events, and excellent shopping opportunities, not to mention an energetic clubbing scene. Sightseeing attractions are mostly confined to the historical core of the city, known as the Romerberg, 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 is 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 is also the venue for numerous trade fairs, exhibitions and congresses, drawing about 12 million visitors a year with these events. The largest and best known is the annual International Book Fair, which is attended by thousands of publishers, writers and avid readers.
The Eschenheimer Turm is one of the few remaining towers of the medieval fortifications that once encircled the city of Frankfurt. The 154-foot high (47m) Gothic tower was built as part of the medieval wall which encircled the city in the 15th century, when approximately 60 towers surrounded the city. Citizens used to build high walls and watchtowers to protect Frankfurt from danger. The tower is both the oldest and the most unaltered building in the largely reconstructed city centre of Frankfurt and it is a striking landmark of the city. The tower has eight levels and four smaller side-turrets and looks rather like something out of a fairy-tale.
There is a weather vane perched on the very top which is the subject of a local myth: apparently a convicted poacher shot the vane nine times and so impressed the city authorities that they set him free. You can clearly see nine bullet holes if you get close enough to the vane, but it is definitely not still the same one from the story. 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 people-watch in the busy plaza surrounding the tower.
The house where Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany's world-famous poet and writer, was born in 1749 is now a shrine to his memory, 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 the Second World War, 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 relating to the poet. Although the appeal of Goethe-Haus is self-evident for those that love his work, even if you are not particularly interested in Goethe this attraction provides welcome insight into 18th-century Frankfurt. All the rooms are beautifully decorated and furnished and many of the objects have recorded stories and associations from the Goethe family. Unfortunately, there is no wheelchair or baby carriage access to the house.
The well-ordered and interesting Botanical Garden in Frankfurt is administered by the university and is really a beautiful place to spend 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 barren savannah 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 are many enclosed greenhouses so there is still lots to see in winter. Aside from admiring the flora, there are fun family activities like miniature golf and boat hire to enjoy, as well as a gift shop and cafe. The botanical garden is a great attraction for the whole family and if you're travelling with kids in Frankfurt its a nice break from more traditional sightseeing. There is a playground in the gardens to amuse little ones.
St Bartholomews Cathedral, or Dom Sankt Bartholomäus, 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. St Bartholomews has been rebuilt several times, once in 1867 after a fire, and again in the 1950s following damage suffered in World War II. The architecture is traditional Gothic. The cathedral boasts some artistic treasures and the carvings are particularly striking. You can climb the winding spiral stairs to reach the bells in the tower for some spectacular views. There is a small museum and shop inside. You can get information booklets at the door which are quite informative and tell you a bit about the church's history and the artefacts on display. As the cathedral is still an active place of worship it is partially closed to tourists at times for services.
Situated on the south bank of the river Main, the Liebieghaus was built in 1896 for Czech Baron Heinrich Liebieg, but today is the home of Frankfurt's Museum of Sculpture. The building itself is gorgeous and castle-like and adds a great deal to the atmosphere and appeal of this interesting museum. Exhibits include sculptures from ancient times, covering art from Sumeria, Egypt, Greece and Rome as well as more modern Baroque, Rococo and Renaissance examples. A range of Asian pieces also feature in the collection as well as a few works by world-renowned artists. There are about 5,000 pieces in the collection and the museum feels intimate and is usually less crowded than other big art museums in Frankfurt. The Liebieghaus also puts up some great temporary exhibits showcasing modern sculptors - check the website to see what is currently on show. Labels and tours are in multiple languages and there are audio guides available. The cafe outside in the courtyard is charming.
The Historical Museum (Historisches 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 its development. The museum is useful for giving visitors an idea of what Frankfurt looked like before the damage of World War II when it was quite a different city in some regards.
The Children's Museum, which lies adjacent to the Historical Museum, features a variety of special offers and exhibitions for youngsters of all ages. The museum has recently undergone extensive renovations and has been greatly improved.
Frankfurt's most important art gallery is the Städel Gallery which contains a fantastic collection of most European schools of painting. 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 visitors the pleasure of viewing an outstanding collection of Flemish primitives, 17th-century Dutch artists, and 16th-century German masters such as Dürer, Grünewald, Memling, Elsheimer, and many others. One of the most impressive paintings is Jan van Eyck's 'Madonna' (1433). The gallery also puts up regular temporary exhibitions of very high quality and it is worth checking the website to see what's on during your visit. The gallery has a restaurant, a coffee shop and a bookstore which has a selection of great gifts. This gallery is consistently ranked very highly as an attraction in Frankfurt by tourists.
The Frankfurt Zoo, located in Ostend, was almost completely destroyed in World War II, with only 20 animals surviving. It was rebuilt in the early 1950s and since then has grown to include several innovative new sections such as the highly popular Big Cat Jungle, and the Exotarium which houses fish, insects, reptiles and penguins, all kept in their natural surroundings. The Frankfurt Zoo is 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 draw card for the zoo and one of its most unique features is Grzimek House which is home to nocturnal animals who think it's night-time during the day. Other popular animals include the tigers, rhinos, lions, crocodiles and hippos, among many others. The zoo has a reputation for being one of the most attractive, pleasant and popular zoos in Europe. Away from the fauna there are two restaurants as well as a terrace to enjoy in the summer months.
One of the biggest natural history museums in Germany and housed in a building which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History in Frankfurt features extensive exhibits showcasing biodiversity and the evolution of the planet and 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; dinosaurs simply never go out of fashion with kids. There is also a huge collection of stuffed animals on display.
Children of all ages, and adults, will love exploring this fascinating museum and learning about the solar system and the evolution of life. Some of the labels and descriptions are only in German which is a disadvantage. Despite this, the museum is consistently rated highly as an attraction in Frankfurt by visitors and it is one of the best places to bring kids in the city. There is a nice museum cafe on the top floor where you can get refreshments and light meals.
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 Fressgasse pedestrian street, and in the Sachsenhausen area. The best Frankfurt restaurants serving modern and international cuisine tend to be in the city centre or Westend, while Nordend boasts some great cafés and a few ethnic restaurants. 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 which the locals call 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 restaurants 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 is a classic that produces hearty German dishes, which are better than the many other similar taverns in the popular Sachsenhausen area. Dishes like the pork shoulder with sauerkraut, and liver dumpling can be enjoyed with a slow glass of apfelwien, or a choice of beer or cider. There is also a Menu of the Week with a special dish of the day each day. The atmosphere is fun, boisterous and crowded. Seating is at communal tables with a mix of locals and visiting German businessmen. Open daily from 11am until midnight.
Erno's 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. Closed 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 the five-star hotel that it complements. It is 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 a wonderfully historic and ornate décor and exciting and traditional cuisine, this restaurant has become one of Frankfurt's most popular. 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 and fresh leaf 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 again and again. Open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, and Saturday and Sunday dinner only. Reservations recommended.
This Spanish eatery has earned a reputation as one of Frankfurt's most popular restaurants with both young and old. The terrace affords patrons the opportunity to dine and the friendly waitstaff are attentive and helpful. The tapas served here is delicious! Try the Spanish omelette for breakfast or the tagliatelle with mozzarella and parma ham for a heartier meal. Open daily for lunch and dinner.
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 Christmas readings, Advent concerts, and a visit by St Nicholas, as well as plenty of arts and crafts, from creative candles to carved wooden toys, and traditional Frankfurt specialties like apple wine soap, slippers, and traditional tree ornaments. There are usually also plenty of activities and games, or nostalgic amusement park rides on offer.
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. The Museumsuferfest attracts artists and musicians from all over the world and there are a series of stages showcasing great music of all kinds as well as numerous world-class exhibitions. One of the main focus points of the festival is, of course, the collection of fine museums along the river bank, all of which put up special exhibitions and offer special deals to the public during the weekend of the festival. Stalls along the picturesque riverside offer a wide variety of food and drink making this festival a fun culinary experience as well. Apart from the concerts and dramatic performances of all kinds there are many events organised around the festival including workshops, lectures, discussions and the like. A fireworks display on the last evening brings the festival to a close.
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the largest international book fair in the world, receiving visitors and book dealers from more than 100 countries. The event is largely focused around trade, distribution, and selling, though the fair has quite a heritage to it with some 500 years under its belt. Historically, Frankfurt is uniquely qualified to hold a book fair: Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press just outside of 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 like publishers, booksellers and writers, looking to network and pick up new skills, but the fair also attracts throngs of people who come to meet their favourite authors and enjoy the colourful literary atmosphere. The fair covers an enormous range of literary genres with cookery classes for the foodies, high-brow academic discussions and comic book exhibits as well as lots of events for children. For details on each year's programme check out the official website.
You might not expect a city known for its banking 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 session of jazz, Frankfurt will have plenty on offer.
Some of the best clubs in Frankfurt feature techno and house music, and the clubbing 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 see what's playing at the Oper Frankfurt and the venerable Alte Oper. Frankfurt is also home to many theatres.
The Frankfurt nightlife is clustered around the city's northern area, near Fressgasse, Zeil and Römerberg. The cobbled lanes of Sachsenhausen have some especially lively Latin, Irish and local joints to enjoy. 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.
Shopping in Frankfurt is not only about splurging on must-have items, but is also a taste and smell sensation with plenty of specialist food stores, cafés and delicatessens lining the Fressgasse, ready to recharge weary shoppers' batteries.
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 Sachsenhause is the best place to find traditional German souvenirs: favourites include ceramic German steins, lederhosen, cuckoo clocks, and traditional Christmas decorations.
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 Sunday.
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. Most tickets are valid for an hour and can be 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. Driving a car in the city involves rush hour congestion, expensive parking lots and confusing road systems, so it's best to park and use public transport.
Frankfurt has some interesting historical attractions and there is 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 Romerberg 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. The Goethe-Haus is where the author of Dr Faustus, poet Johan Wolfgang von Goethe, was born in 1749.
Other popular cultural sightseeing attractions in Frankfurt include the Städel Gallery, which houses works by Renoir, and the Museum of Sculpture, which features 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, including the wonderful Frankfurt Zoo and the Natural History Museum.
The historic university town of Heidelberg, about 55 miles (89km) south of Frankfurt, is billed as a city of music and romance. It is one of the few German cities that escaped relatively unscathed from air raids during World War II, and still has numerous buildings from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to explore, including some beautiful historical churches. The university was established in 1386, and features some picturesque buildings on its campuses. A good way to enjoy scenic views of Heidelberg is along the Philosopher's Walk, a path alongside the Heiligenberg, so named because university professors would walk along the path when they needed to think.
The city is built along the banks of the Neckar River, and has a vibrant atmosphere thanks to its large student population, particularly in the student quarter with its narrow streets and lively inns. The modern part of the city, around the Bismarckplatz, has some good hotels and restaurants, and enticing shopping plazas. 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 Fairy-Tale Road follows a meandering 370-mile (595km) route that traces the path of famous storytellers the Brothers Grimm. Many people don't realise that the Brothers Grimm didn't simply invent their famous stories, but recorded and collected local legends and folk tales from their homeland near Frankfurt. Between charming villages and well-preserved medieval towns, Germany's Fairy-Tale Road wanders through lush forests and 'gingerbread' houses that inspired the worlds of well-loved characters like Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Riding Hood and Hansel and Gretel.
Starting in the town of Hanau, where Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm were born, visitors can explore attractions like the Brothers Grimm monument in the town square, the Puppet Museum at Williamsbad, the Marienkirche where Jakob was married, and the Phillippsruhe Palace, which hosts performances of the fairy-tales (though mostly in German).
The next town on the journey is Steinau, where the brothers spent their youth; and Marburg, a university town where they began to research local legends for their collection. Further on the town of Kassel is home to the Brothers Grimm Museum. Nearby Baunatal was the home of Dorothea Viehmann, who told the Brothers Grimm many stories, and visitors can have a beer in the Knallhüt brewery, which occupies the building she was born in.
From there the Fairy-Tale Road follows the Weser River to Hameln, the famous town of the Pied Piper. In nearby Bad Oeynhausen travellers will find the Fairy-Tale Museum. 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.
Wiesbaden is arguably Germany's most favoured spa resort and it lies about 25 miles (40km) west of Frankfurt in a valley between the Rhine River and Taunus Mountains. This charming and ancient town makes for the perfect excursion from Frankfurt. The town has been a spa resort since the time of the ancient Romans, with its 26 hot springs averaging temperatures of around 122°F (50°C).
Besides being known for its luxurious spa hotels, Wiesbaden is also a cultural centre, its events being concentrated around the major Kurhaus concert hall complex. The complex includes a casino and restaurant, conference and exhibition facilities. There are many quality restaurants in the village and Wilhelmstrasse is a good starting point for explorations of the town because it is the best shopping street and boasts some striking architectural landmarks. A walking tour is a nice way to take in the historical and cultural attractions of Wiesbaden. Another great activity is a visit to the Greek Orthodox Church on the hill which has beautiful views and can be reached by the Nerobergbahn, a water-powered train which has been running since the late 1800s. There are also obstacle courses, a swimming pool and a cafe on the top of the hill.