By Rachael Funk
Formally named Frankfurt am Main, this city has burgeoned into a thriving travel destination since its days as a transit point to other major destination cities. Sometimes called the “Gateway to Europe,” Frankfurt has caught the attention of travelers with its emerging position as a hotspot for culture, history, and recreation.
What to Know
A city boasting a high-powered finance and business hub, 5.5 million inhabitants, and one of the world’s largest stock exchanges, Frankfurt is unlike anywhere else in Germany. It has earned the nickname “Mainhattan” (a reference to the Main River, which flows through the city), though closer inspection will reveal the city’s charming heart filled with cozy cafes, boutiques, street art, picturesque parks, energetic nightlife, and an impressive collection of museums.
When to Go
Frankfurt is a joy to visit no matter the season. For the mildest weather, a visit between the months of April – September is advisable. In spring, crowds will be low, flowers will be in bloom, rain is scarce, and festivals such as the arts-and-crafts market and the largest folk festival in the Rhine-Main region take place. Summer is the most popular season for a visit; the sun doesn’t set until about 9:30pm in June and temperatures rarely top 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Autumn travel offers perks such as golden foliage, apple wine, and Frankfurt’s version of Oktoberfest!
How to Get Around
Once you arrive in the Altstadt, the area is quite walkable, including the Museumsufer on the opposite side of the river. The city itself isn’t small, but the main sites are easy to navigate on foot. Since much of the city was bombed during WWII, it’s not a bad idea to hire a German guide for a walking tour to find out which buildings are authentic and which have been rebuilt to look old!
You can make use of a network of the U-Bahn (subway), Strassenbahn (streetcars), and buses, all operated by the Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund (RMV) interchangeably at a single price based on fare zones. Tickets are valid for an hour on routes headed in the same direction. You can get a ticket at a counter or from a machine at a U-Bahn station and next to tram and bus stops.
Taxis are also available in Frankfurt, charging by trip and number of passengers. You can hail a cab on the street if the light on the roof is illuminated, or you can get a cab at a designated taxi stands. Alternatively, you can call 069/230001 to dispatch one to your location.
Where to Eat
The foodie scene in Frankfurt is expansive, with a reach far beyond the apple wine pubs it is famous for. Simple and delicious fare such as Fleischwurst, a lightly spiced sausage served with mustard, and schneegestober, which is herbed cheese spread on brown bread, is a snap to find no matter where you stop. If you’re looking for a truly impressive dining experience, here of some of the shining stars in Frankfurt’s culinary world.
- Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge Neue Mainzer Str. 52-58, 60311 Frankfurt am Main Phone: + 49 69 36504777
- Villa Merton Am Leonhardsbrunn 12, 60487 Frankfurt am Main Phone: + 49 69 703033
- Apfelwein Solzer Berger Str. 260, 60385 Frankfurt am Main Phone: + 49 69 452171
- Oosten Mayfarthstraße 4, 60314 Frankfurt am Main Phone: + 49 69 9494256814
- Sommergarten 60323 Frankfurt
- Francais Am Kaiserplatz, Bethmannstraße 33, 60311 Frankfurt am Main Phone: +49 69 215118
- The Ivory Club Taunusanlage 15, 60325 Frankfurt am Main Phone: +49 69 77067767
What to See
In the middle of Altstadt, Frankfurt’s Old Town, the Romerberg is an oddly shaped square with the Justice Fountain showcased at its center. One of the city’s most idyllic spots, not only is it a great spot to kick back with a coffee for people-watching, it’s packed with shops and things to do. The area also has a fascinating history and has been carefully reconstructed from its original 15th to 18th-century plans, so it’s a great place to take a walking tour!
The Museum District
Also called Museumsufer, this area is located on the south bank of the River Main. There, you can visit first-rate museum after first-rate museum, many with international standing. If you visit on the last weekend of August, you can catch Museumsiferfest, which means later opening hours, multi-passes, outdoor music and dance performances, and a two-day dragon boat regatta on the Main.
Even if you don’t visit for an incredible meal at the tower’s restaurant, swing by the Main Tower to see the public viewing platform. The tower is the fourth-tallest building in the city and gives a pristine view over the Altstadt and the Main, making for an irresistible photo opportunity. On Fridays and Saturdays, the observation deck is open a little later so you can stop by in the evening and see the city light up in the evening.
This former collegiate church was given the title of “cathedral” in 1562 when it was selected to be used as the coronation site for Holy Roman Kings. From 1562 to 1792, 10 kings were crowned at this cathedral and before then, imperial elections were held at the church starting in the 1300s. The cathedral itself has been rebuilt twice; once after a fire in the 1800s and again in the 1950s after WWII.
Frankfurt’s botanical garden is the largest in Germany and was an instant hit with the public when it opened in 1871. Highlights of the park are the outdoor botanical exhibits organized by region, greenhouses containing tropical and subtropical species, and plenty of scenic spots for picnicking. The gardens also have a children’s playground, boating, and the Europaturm, a telecommunications tower that offers a restaurant and a viewing platform.
Tips and Tricks
Keep in mind aside from the occasional “shopping Sunday,” most shops are closed on Sundays. Make sure you do your bargain hunting on Saturdays, or else you might head home empty-handed!
In most casual restaurants, you seat yourself instead of waiting to be invited to be seated. Tipping is modest in Germany, so you can just round your bill up a few euros and include it when you pay the bill; don’t leave change on the table.
Don’t worry if service people don’t seem as friendly as you’re used to in the States – smiling isn’t a standard in Germany the way it is in the United States. They’re not being impolite, just professional and efficient.
Keep cash on you; debit cards are accepted more widely than credit cards, but cash is your best bet no matter where you’re trying to make a purchase.
The Rhine Valley
This breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessible from Frankfurt via car, public transport or riverboat and sprawls all the way from Switzerland to the Netherlands. This storybook region is vast and full of things to explore. Slip away to the spa town of Wiesbaden to enjoy the thermal baths and saunas of visit the city of Worms to marvel at the magnificent cathedrals.
Baden-Baden and the Black Forest
A picturesque 90-minute drive south of Frankfurt, Baden-Baden has been a go-to for wellness travelers since Roman times. Indulge in the town’s thermal springs and public baths, then hit the Kurgarten, where you’ll find fine boutiques, art galleries, and cafes. Not only that, the town is on the cusp of the stunning Black Forest, where you can climb Germany’s highest waterfall, take a scenic hike, or drive through the postcard-perfect villages to the lake of Mummelsee.
A little farther from Frankfurt, Neuschwanstein Castle is a great stop for anyone who’s eager to check this iconic site off their bucket list. The castle that is rumored to have inspired Walt Disney, Neuschwanstein Castle is stunning whether covered in snow, surrounded in fall foliage, or gleaming in the summer sun. To avoid long lines, get there early in the morning or after 3:00pm.