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Frankfurt: A City Often Overlooked By Tourists

Frankfurt MainHattan

Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Frankfurt

 

Most tourists do not give Frankfurt a passing thought. Frankfurt is the location that many international flights fly in and out of, so getting to know the city and checking out the city at the bookends of your trip can yield some pleasant surprises. 

Located on the Main River, Frankfurt am Main is an old imperial city that has long been an important center for commerce and economics. The city’s impressive skyline, dominated by the banking quarter’s enticing cluster of high-rise buildings, evokes North American influences, earning the city such nicknames as “Mainhattan” and “Chicago on the Main.”

In addition to serving as an important cultural and tourist center – Frankfurt has long been rated as one of the top 10 best cities to live and do business. In pre-covid days the expansive Messe Frankfurt trade fair complex hosted major events such as Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s most important publishing event.

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The city of Frankfurt also boasts a variety of fine museums dedicated to science, history, and art. It’s also a great city to explore on foot. A major highlight of a walking tour is crossing the Main via the Eiserner Steg, an old pedestrian bridge built-in 1911 (and reconstructed over the years) that links the Sachsenhausen district with the city center. Don’t worry, the Sachsenhausen district had nothing to do with the infamous concentration camp. 

lufthansa frankfurt airport

Note: Some businesses may be closed temporarily because of recent global health and safety issues but with Germany on the verge of reopening it is still wise to check out websites for updated hours of some of the attractions..

1. Römerberg, the Old Town Center of Frankfurt

romerburg frankfurt

 

Römerberg is an irregularly-shaped square located in Frankfurt’s Old Town (Altstadt), with the Justice Fountain (Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen) at its center. In addition to being Frankfurt’s most scenic public square, this pedestrian area is the city’s busiest and offers a long list of attractions and events, including Christmas markets.

A few of the most noteworthy attractions here are its many open-fronted shops, once common to the old town, and the Römer, an 11-building ensemble that together formed the medieval-era Stadthalle (Altes Rathaus), which was faithfully restored from original 15th- to 18th-century plans after World War II. Its elegant Imperial Hall (Kaisersaal) was once the site of lavish banquets.

The Römerberg is also home to the Neue Rathaus (1908), St. Leonhard Church, 14th-century Gothic; and St. Nicholas Church, with its carillon.

There is also Frankfurt’s Historical Museum (Historisches Museum). Founded in 1878, it has fascinating collections related to Frankfurt’s rich cultural history from medieval times to the present, as well as the six traditional-style buildings of the Ostzeile.

It is still possible to see the historic Wertheim House (Haus Wertheym), the only building that managed to survive the 1944 air raids that destroyed much of the old Frankfurt.

2. Museum Städel

Städel Museum

The Städel Museum (Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie), with its extensive collection of paintings from the 14th century, is probably the most important of the top-ranked museums in Frankfurt’s Museum District (see #3 for more details).

Of its many collections, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Goya, and Monet constitute the most important, but other great artists such as Degas, Beckman, and Picasso round out the collection. Bacon and Baselitz are two of the more contemporary artists. Additionally, the collection contains prints and drawings by Durer, Cezanne, Pollock, and Ernst.

There are guided tours in English, as well as audio guides for those who prefer to explore on their own which is my recommendation. Address: Schaumainkai 63, 60596 Frankfurt am Main

Official site: www.staedelmuseum.de/en

3. Museumsufer 

Museumsufer

Germany’s Museum District (Museumsufer) on the south and north banks of the River Main is home to 16 museums, many of them of international stature. Apart from the Städel Art Museum as the city’s centerpiece, the Museum of World Cultures (Museum der Weltkulturen) is an excellent ethnological museum. The museum was established in 1904, and its collections include more than 65,000 artifacts from as far away as Asia, Africa, and North and South America.

There is also a museum here dedicated to ancient sculpture (Städtische Galerie Liebieghau). Located in the 19th-century Liebieghaus features a large collection of Asian,  Egyptian, Greek, and Roman sculptures, as well as pieces from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods.

Also worth visiting is the Icon Museum (Ikonen-Museum der Stadt Frankfurt am Main) which houses over 1,000 Christian Orthodox images from all over the Orthodox Diaspora.

Address: Schaumainkai, 60596 Frankfurt am Main

Official site: www.museumsufer.de/portal/en

4. The Palm Garden

The Palm Garden, Frankfurt

In 1871, the beautiful 54-acre Palm Garden (Palmengarten), the largest botanic garden in Germany (and one of three in Frankfurt), opened to the public on the Bockenheimer Landstrasse. Several of the best performers of the day came to the attraction, including Buffalo Bill, who brought his Wild West show there in 1890.

It features beautiful outdoor botanical exhibits, organized by geographical region, as well as a number of greenhouses containing tropical and subtropical plant species. Among other amenities, the gardens feature a boating lake, kid’s playground, and picnic areas, and guided tours are available. If you have young ones in tow they would much prefer it to other more adult places.

In addition to being a 337-meter high telecommunications tower, the Europaturm is also referred to as the “Tower of Europe” – located within walking distance and worth visiting for its viewing platform and restaurant (great views can also be enjoyed from the city’s Main Tower, which is one of its tallest structures).

5. Senckenberg Museum of Natural History

Senckenberg Museum of Natural History

Frankfurt’s Senckenberg Gardens is home to the Senckenberg Natural History Museum (Naturmuseum Senckenberg), one of Europe’s most modern natural history museums and second-largest of its kind in Germany. Additionally to the museum’s displays on the biodiversity of our planet and the evolution of organisms, Europe’s largest collection of large dinosaurs is on display, making it a favorite attraction for families (life-sized replicas of dinosaurs welcome guests in the museum’s forecourt).

Additionally, it has the world’s largest collection of stuffed birds, as well as an exhibit tracing the history of humanity. It is possible to rent audio guides if you want to tour on your own. There is also a bistro and a souvenir shop on the premises.

Official site: https://museumfrankfurt.senckenberg.de/en/

6. The Cathedral of Frankfurt

Frankfurt Cathedral

The Roman Catholic Frankfurt Cathedral (Frankfurter Dom) – or to give its full name, the St. Bartholomäus Cathedral (Dom St. Bartholomäus) – stands out for its beautiful color. Certainly not as famous as the Dom in Cologne or as tall as the one in Ulm it is still pretty impressive. As one of the oldest buildings in this city of skyscrapers, the cathedral was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries from red sandstone. As one of only a few Imperial Cathedrals in Germany, the Election Chapel was used from 1562 to 1792 to crown emperors.

Below the tower stands the magnificent Crucifixion by Hans Backoffen, sculpted in 1509, while in the Marienkapelle stands the Maria-Schlaf-Altar from 1434.

Additionally, there are numerous 15th and 16th century carved altars and the grave slab of King Günther von Schwarzburg from Frankfurt, who died in 1349. St. Bartholomew’s skullcap is kept in the cathedral’s Gothic Bartholomew’s Choir, the most important relic. Many of the cathedral’s most important artifacts are on display at Dommuseum Frankfurt.

7. Kleinmarkthallen

Kleinmarkthallen

Frankfurt’s Kleinmarkthalle, where many locals shop every day, is a great way to get a feel for the city. The current hall dates to 1954, and its 1,500 square meters are home to 150 market stalls selling some of the finest foods in Germany. If you’re in the mood for Frankfurt’s “Green Sauce” (Frankfurter Grüne Soße), which is made from seven herbs, sour cream, and an egg, you can get it here. Among the local specialties are sausages, cheese, and pastries. Just be sure and eat them while you are in Germany so the agriculture inspectors don’t confiscate them on your return home.

 

8. House and Museum of Goethe

Goethe house frankfurt

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s greatest writer, was born in Frankfurt. Unless you are very learned you may not have heard of him before coming to Germany. Goethe was born on August 28, 1749, at Goethe House in Frankfurt, and lived there until 1765. It shows the lifestyle of a well-off family, including their staff. The house features everything from a sumptuously decorated dining room on the main floor to the writing room on the top floor, where Goethe wrote his earliest works and where he played as a boy with his puppet theater.

In the nearby Goethe Museum, 14 rooms of artworks are on display, including masterpieces from the late baroque and romantic periods. Guided tours of both properties are available.

Another Frankfurt attraction that reflects the writer’s fame and importance is Goethestrasse, a high-end shopping district full of fine boutiques, art galleries, and cafés.

Official site: www.goethehaus-frankfurt.de/welcome/view?set_language=en

9. Hauptwache

Hauptwache

Frankfurt’s Hauptwache – literally translated as “Main Guard” – is famous for its mix of historic and modern buildings in the heart of the city. One of the most notable buildings in this area is the old Baroque Guard House, after which the square is named. Originally built in 1730 as a militia building, prison, and police station (it is now a café).

One of my favorite shopping areas in Germany. Frankfurt’s main shopping district is located here, along with an underground mall. From here, the city’s main shopping and commercial streets radiate outward. Pedestrian-friendly Zeil leads east, and Kaiserstrasse, with its many adult entertainment options on its side streets, leads southwest past the Rossmarkt and Kaiserplatz to the Hauptbahnhof. Built in 1888, it is one of the largest train stations in Europe and where you can begin many of your travels around Germany from.

10. (MOMA) Museum of Modern Art

Museum of Modern Art

As one of Europe’s most important galleries of contemporary art, the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art (MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt) was opened in 1991. The museum includes some 5,000 fine examples from more than 450 leading artists in its collection. These works span between the 1960s and the present and are by artists such as  Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Francis Bacon.

Additionally, the museum operates MMK Zollamt, a smaller satellite exhibition venue featuring young and unknown artists. In addition, there is the Frankfurt Museum for Applied Art (Museum für angewandte Kunst), housing more than 30,000 works of European and Asian applied art, including furniture, tapestries, glass, ceramics, and books. Also worth a visit is the Caricatura Museum, known for its exhibits and displays on comic art.

Official site: www.mmk.art/en/

11. The Frankfurt Zoo

The Frankfurter Zoo

At the Frankfurt Zoo, over 4,500 animals represent at least 510 species. It occupies 32 acres near Frankfurt’s historic  Friedberger Tor. Germany’s second oldest zoo was founded in 1858. It is noted for its excellent animal houses, including the Grzimek House, which is filled with displays of Madagascar’s diverse fauna.

The Exotarium features animals from different climatic regions, such as marine life, reptiles, and crocodiles. Authentic jungle surroundings can be found at Borgori Forest, which features a magnificent ape house. There is also the Nocturnal Animals House and the Bird Hall.

Official site: www.zoo-frankfurt.de

12. The Frankfurt Old Opera House

The Frankfurt Old Opera House

The Old Opera House (Alte Oper) was built in 1880 in the style of the Italian High Renaissance on Frankfurt’s Opera Square (Opernplatz). After being destroyed during World War II, it was rebuilt and reopened in 1981 and became one of the most important concert halls in the city. The city’s new opera house, Oper Frankfurt, and its drama theater, Schauspiel Frankfurt, share a modern venue, known as the Städtische Bühnen Frankfurt.I find it amusing that such a classy place is only located a couple of blocks from Frankfurt’s Red Light District.

13. Tower of Eschenheim

Eschenheim Tower

In the early 1400s, the Eschenheim Tower (Eschenheimer Turm) was built and remains the finest relic left from Frankfurt’s old town walls. The 47-meter-tall tower looms over the Eschenheimer Gate district and continues to impress with its dimensions.

Today, the tower is home to the local historical societies’ café and meeting rooms. There is also the nearby Stock Exchange, built-in 1879 and the largest in the country.

Address: Börsenplatz, 60313 Frankfurt am Main

14. Frankfurt Jewish Museum

Frankfurt Jewish Museum

Dedicated to the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, one of the most important events of Germany’s persecution of its Jews during the 1930s, the Jewish Museum opened in 1988 is well worth a visit. It’s spread across two venues.

The main collection at the Rothschild Palace location presents Frankfurt’s Jewish history and culture over the past 900 years. Among its highlights is an exhibit about Anne Frank in the Frank Family Center, as well as a state-of-the-art research library.

Also worth seeing is Museum Judengasse. One of the most interesting features here is the foundations of 19 houses dating to the 1400s when Europe’s first Jewish ghetto was founded. These exhibits and artifacts offer an insight into the Jewish culture that prevailed during this period in European history.

Official site: www.juedischesmuseum.de/en/

15. Sachsenhausen 

Sachsenhausen  frankfurt

As previously mentioned, Sachsenhausen has nothing to do with the concentration camp. From the 12th century onwards, Sachsenhausen served as a bridgehead for Frankfurt. The oldest documents date back to 1193. Frankfurt’s historic city center was blasted to the ground after British bombings in 1944, but Sachsenhausen was relatively unscathed so some of  Sachsenhausen’s old town is partly preserved. The Frankfurt youth hostel is located on its riverside. I have stayed there myself on many occasions due to its proximity to the main street of Sachsenhausen called Schweizer Straße, a cosmopolitan promenade with bars and two of Frankfurt’s most traditional cider houses, Zum gemalten Haus and Wagner. Cider houses that produce their own ‘Apfelwein‘ (applewine) can be identified by the presence of a wreath of evergreen branches hanging outside the location or a similar image included on their signpost. You’ll find the best cider houses in Frankfurt along the Textorstraße and in the old town or Altstadt. 

You will also find some of the most eclectic variety of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in Germany here. You have everything from New Zealand and Australian bars, Irish Bars, a fake Hard Rock Cafe as well as numerous small bars that we would describe as dive bars, some only seating just a handful of people. The most unusual restaurant I have ever seen was here, a Mexican-Iranian restaurant. The Apfelwein houses are a real treat though with some delicious regional cuisine.  



 

 

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Frankfurt: A City Often Overlooked By Tourists
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Frankfurt: A City Often Overlooked By Tourists
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Most tourists do not give Frankfurt a passing thought. Frankfurt is the location that many international flights fly in and out of, so getting to know the city and checking out the city at the bookends of your trip can yield some pleasant surprises. 
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European Travel Blog
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