Unless you’re a business traveller, I’m guessing most of you have never set foot in Frankfurt, never mind considered it for a German city break. Poor old Frankfurt tends to get left behind in favour of the Berghain beats of Berlin or Oktoberfest madness of Munich. Well, for Irish tourists at least. But the oft-overlooked Frankfurt has lots to keep you entertained if you’re there on business or just passing through.
Despite the stuffy financial hub image, Frankfurt has plenty of pluses in its favour. With a population of just 700,000 people you’re never thronged by crowds on the streets, and, even though it has a highly efficient public transport system, you can pretty much walk everywhere. The city mixes old-style architecture with slick skyscrapers and, despite the cosmopolitan spirit, you won’t have to search far to indulge in a traditional apple wine or schnitzel.
Here are my five favourite things to see and do in Frankfurt:
1. CHILL OUT: Palmengarten
If there’s one way to shake off your notions of Frankfurt as a grey financial hub, it’s an afternoon at the expansive Palmengarten botanical gardens. Located in the city centre, this impressive garden is the biggest in Germany and it offers an irresistible explosion of colour, as well as being home to thousands of plants including exotic species like aloe vera, cacti and enormous bamboo trees. Stroll through “continents” to find out about the natural habitat of plants and learn all about some insane flora such as one that looks like gone off meat but it’ll eat you alive. Amazing! In the summer the garden is a hive of activity with regular music events in the gardens and cute picnic tables. After an afternoon in here you’ll feel beyond revived.
2. VIEWS: Main Tower
Anyone who has been to Germany before will take one look at Frankfurt’s skyline and spot what makes it different from the rest. Frankfurt is the only German city with skyscrapers, making it the most Americanised city. In fact, locals like to compare it to Manhattan – or ‘Mainhattan’ because of the river Main running through it – clever! In the financial district, the Main Tower zooms you up to the 56th floor so you can get a panoramic view of the city’s skyline. At 200 metres above the city, you can clock planes touching down and trains taking off from the main station as well as whopping views of the city.
3. ART: Stadel Museum
For your cultural fix, the superb Stadel Museum is about ten minutes’ walk from the main train station and is an art dream. With 600 permanent pieces on display plucked from 7 centuries worth of art history, Stadel is one of the most important galleries in Europe. Mixing old masters with the new hopes of the contemporary art scene, Stadel’s highlights include a print of ‘Betty’ by Gerhard Richter, whose art sold for more than $200 million (!!!) a couple of years ago as well as works by Botticelli and Raphael, Renoir and Andy Warhol. When you’re done, sit outside and have a picnic overlooking the river Main. Lovely.
4. DAYTRIPPER: Rudesheim am Rhein
If you’ve got a day free and want to inject a bit of romance into your break, hop on board a train for Rudesheim, a UNESCO city known for its wine-making prowess. Take a cable car up to the Niederwald Monument and enjoy the views of the Rhine and lush vineyards below. You can even book a romantic package and enjoy some bubbly while you’re up there or take a cruise on the Rhine.
5. HISTORY: Romerberg Square
Most of Frankfurt was bombed in the war but they’ve done an impressive job of restoring distinctive buildings to their former glory. A case in point is Romerberg, the famous meeting point in the city’s Old Town where Frankfurt was founded. I was admittedly more than a little disappointed when I discovered that the “historic” buildings were mostly reproductions but the buzzing square full of outdoor drinking areas, performance artists and jolly locals soon won me over. Plus, the postcard-perfect timber-framed houses make a great background for cheesetastic tourist snaps. Go on, you know you want to.
The best time to visit: In August the city hosts a number of major celebrations, including Europe’s biggest arts festival, as well as numerous wine festivals so August really is the month to see Frankfurt in full swing.
For information on what to see and do in Frankfurt visit www.frankfurt-tourismus.de or click on my pics below: