If cities were books, Frankfurt would be the time you bought one on a whim, but one which grew on you once you began reading it. The city has been a fixture in German history since the times of the Roman Empire, and is also Europe’s financial nerve centre. The charms of Frankfurt don’t conform to hipster coolness requirements, but grow on you as you explore it.
What to see
Start off at the neo-Renaissance building of Frankfurt Stock Exchange, taking selfies with the bull and bear statues outside. Continue to Romerberg, the central square of Frankfurt’s Old Town, which has witnessed everything from coronation of Holy Roman Emperors to Germany’s oldest Christmas market. Taking in the picturesque half-timbered houses of the Ostzeile from the square’s cafes is the epitome of a laidback morning. Medieval churches flank the square – the Old St Nicholas Church has a 47-bell carillon that rings twice a day, while the Paulskirche’s brick façade with a circular nave is an impressive sight. The Frankfurt Cathedral, or Dom, has a grand Gothic façade, with towering spires and ribbed vault. A climb of the 300-odd steps of the cathedral’s tower is rewarded by sprawling vistas of the city.
Crossing the old iron bridge across the Main river brings you to Frankfurt’s museum district. The Städel Museum’s collection spans 700 years of European art, showcasing masters from Rembrandt and Botticelli to Picasso and Jackson Pollock. The Museum for Communication covers the history of communication, from Babylonian clay tablets to the latest in new media, through interactive exhibits, while the Deutsches Filmmuseum explores the evolution of filmmaking from 18th century magic lantern shows to modern digital projection techniques. Wrap up with an evening at the historic Opera House.
What to eat
Sachsenhausen is the best place to try out hearty German grub. Go traditional at Adolf Wagner, known for its schnitzel (with indigenous green sauce), enjoy Frankfurters and sauerkraut at Exenberger, or grab some currywurst from any of the sidewalk cafes in the district. To explore multiple cuisines, look no further than Kleinmarkthalle, an indoor market hall with 160-odd stalls with a variety of food options.
Germany’s diverse immigrant history has enriched its culinary scene. Turkish food is ubiquitous in Frankfurt, with Merkez and Bayram being popular places to indulge in doner kebab and baklava. Germany hosts the second largest Korean community in Western Europe, and you can satisfy your bibimbap and bulgogi cravings at Korean restaurants like Sonamu or Koryano.
What to shop
Zeil is to Frankfurt what Fifth Avenue is to New York – a central shopping street with high street and luxury labels. If you prefer local boutiques, head to Bergerstrasse, which also hosts a farmer’s market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, or to Töngesgasse, which has specialist shops selling everything from ferns to fashion. The Sachsenhausen river bank hosts a flea market every Saturday, where you can shop for antiques, trinkets and art work.
Where to stay
Frankfurt has a bevy of design and boutique hotels for every taste. The Gerbermuhle in Sachsenhausen dedicates itself to German poet Johann Goethe through its design and aesthetics, while Capri by Fraser has a funky upbeat air. The Grandhotel Hessischer Hof, managed by the Prince of Hesse foundation, embodies its opulent ancestry.