“Mainhattan” Offers Much to See, Do, Experience and Savor
Frankfurt on the River Main, is more similar to New York City than to any other European city – not only because of its historic importance as an economic and financial center – but also because of the diversity and number of its attractions and recreational opportunities.
Frankfurt’s population is about 700,000. Bisected by the Main River, Frankfurt city consists of highly individualized small neighborhoods each with its own distinct feel, flavor and personality. Each is as different from its neighbor as New York’s Chelsea and Tribeca, Murray Hill and Turtle Bay, or Hell’s Kitchen and the Upper West Side.
The concentric circles of suburbs and exurbs and other cities that make up the greater Frankfurt/Rhine Main Metropolitan Region is home to close to six million people in some 40 towns and villages and three key cities. Frankfurt offers its lucky residents and nearby neighbors, year-round world-quality events, entertainment, food and amenities at prices folks in New York, London, Paris, or other mega-cities can only envy.
These include popular and classical performing arts –outdoor concerts, innovative, modern opera, a world-class ballet company, every manner and form of concert or recital performances. There are many museums with permanent and visiting collections, a modern, animal-friendly zoo, luxury one-of-a-kind and chain hotels and simple pensions. Dining in Frankfurt is a delight reflecting Frankfurt’s diverse multicultural makeup. (About 25% of Frankfurt residents are foreign nationals from outside the EU.)
Financial and Trade Center
Frankfurt was a crossroads for commerce during the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago – centuries before the Rothschilds, Bethmanns and others created Europe’s world of international banking in the 17th Century. The Frankfurt Boerse (Stock Exchange) with a history dating back to the 9th Century, the European Central Bank and the German Central Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank) are vital financial institutions headquartered in Frankfurt. There are well over 200 banks with branches in Frankfurt as well as many other types of financial institutions that include investment firms, insurance companies and others.
Since trade and finance go hand in hand, Frankfurt has historically been a center for trade and trade fairs. Being at the crossroads of Europe made Frankfurt a natural choice for trade fairs. Historical mentions of trade fairs date back to 1150. And the first Book Fairs were held in the 1400’s. Today the Frankfurt Messe Fairgrounds are home to some of the largest and most important trade exhibitions in the world.
Among the many important trade shows at Frankfurt’s huge Messe or Fair, two of the most interesting and exciting are the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Automotive Show both of which are open to the public. They draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
Just 15 minutes from the Airport and a few short minutes from the Hauptbahnhof, the Messe is directly serviced by S-Bahn and street car connections.
World Class Airport
As the home of the Continent’s second largest airport, travelers, tourists and residents heading to all parts of Germany funnel into Frankfurt. With international and national high-speed rail connections at the airport (as well as regional, local and suburban rail service and bus transportation) all of Germany is within five hours’ travel.
For anyone faced with a long layover for a continuing flight a five or six hour visit to Frankfurt offers a change of pace that could include a bit of sightseeing downtown, a museum visit, even a boat excursion on the Main or Rhine, and a snack, light meal or major dining experience.
Travelers heading on to destinations in Germany really ought to grant themselves a few days in the city itself. Frankfurt’s city limits encompass a well-balanced mix of old and new. For example, Frankfurt has Germany’s only true skyscraper sky line contrasting with architecture going as far back as medieval times.
As befits a major international city, there are all manners of shopping experiences to be had. It’s shop ‘til you drop on the Zeil, a kilometer of stores leading from the Hauptwache east. Anchored by two large department stores there are all sorts of stores in between selling all sorts of goods. These include small boutiques, fashions stores and a wide range of other specialty stores. A relatively new and very modern multi-story shopping mall on the Zeil offers everything a good mall should in terms of shopping and dining.
Upscale shopping and luxury goods are available on the Goethestrasse. There are other high-end shops on the Schillersstrasse. The Bergerstrasse and Oederweg have many smaller family owned shops. Boutiques and handicraft stores are common along the Brückenstrasse in Sachenhausen. Small kiosks throughout the city sell sweets, tobacco products, drinks and other items.
The “Farmers Market” is the Kleinmarkthalle close to the Zeil and Römerplatz. The Main Train Station (Hauptbahnhof) has a number of small stores as well as a food court and a large international new and bookstore that is open on Sundays. The Airport also has a wide variety of stores (including a grocery store) that are also open on Sundays.
The surrounding suburbs have all the standard Germany “big box” stores offering home electronics, DIY items as well as furniture. Also in the suburbs are the “hyper stores” – complexes that include large grocery stores and other stores that sell household items, applicance CDs, DVDs and other items. There is also a large mall in the suburb of Eschborn and one in the northwest part of the city.
Smaller green grocers and other food shops populate the various neighborhoods of Frankfurt. And, because of the large number of international residents, a shopper is not at a loss at all to find small stores selling specialized food and grocery products from around the world.
Food & Drink
Frankfurt is gourmand’s paradise – be it traditional local Hessian/Frankfurt fare, German favorites from Bavaria, the Palatinate, the Rhineland, Berlin and the North or eastern provinces – all of it genuine. Frankfurt also offers the new Euro-Germanic lighter, healthier kitchen, high end northern Italian and French haute cuisine, Mandarin Chinese, sophisticated East Indian fare, American steakhouses, and searing hot Ethiopian foods along with more Pacific Rim representation from Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Australia as well as Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile.
Scores of dining opportunities mark every part of Frankfurt. One small area known to all looking for a night on the town is Sachsenhausen: bars, cafés, pubs, taverns, up- and downscale restaurants are crammed into a few square blocks in this medieval, cobble-stoned maze of tiny alleys, passages and half-timbered buildings in Frankfurt’s party district south of the Main. The Bahnhof area’s Kaiserstrasse is flanked by low-end eateries and fast food outlets in keeping with its transient nature, just meters from finest international dining in neighboring top hotels.
As if its hundreds of eateries were not enough, there’s always the Fressgasse with its 300 meters of restaurants connecting the Hauptwache and the Alte Oper. There are farmer’s markets all around the town including the Eschenheimer Tor’s offerings and many food stores and booths from the Hauptwache to the Konstablerwache along the Zeil.
And food is a big part of the shopping experience on the Zeil. Enjoy brunch, lunch, Kaffee, or early, pre-theater supper in the department stores’ own, inexpensive cafeterias – solid, good, fresh, hot food at bargain basement prices. Of course, there is also supermarket food stores offering better quality edibles in the basement, along with yet more snack bars!
Wine & Beer
Wine tourism flourishes in areas around Frankfurt: eight of Germany’s thirteen official appellations lie within 30 minutes of “Bankfurt.” The vineyard areas include the gemlike Hessian Bergstrasse south of Darmstadt (parallel to Autobahn 5); the Rheingau immediately west of town; across the Rhine – Rheinhessen – Germany’s largest area south and west of Mainz,; and to its north the Nahe.
Frankfurt is the home to a unique Apfelwein (apple wine) – “Ebbelwoi” – as the locals call it. Sweet or sour, hard or soft, cut with sparkling water or straight, this Frankfurt specialty is best savored in beer-garden like neighborhood eateries along with many of the Frankfurt specialty foods. Delicious indoors in winter, great outdoors in the twilight spring and summer months, Ebbelwoi’s a fantastic thirst-quencher made exclusively from gnarly, small, nasty, green apples suitable only for Apfelwein.
Of course, beer drinkers can rejoice in the many moderately hopped, locally brewed beers made in the drier Pils or more fulsome export style. Hefeweizen – the Bavarian wheat beer served in tall, bulbous glasses has become equally popular and is also now brewed locally. Foreigners can of course get their favorite national brands. Even Bud and Corona can be had as well as brews from Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Austria.
The Great Green Outdoors
Frankfurt is Green. It is surrounded by a Green Belt – an encircling chain of forests and parks devoted to keeping the air fresh while providing quiet and relaxation. The Taunus Mountains and preserve are to the north and the Odenwald forest to the south. All are readily accessible by subway, light rail, tram and/or bus, usually within 25-minutes ride from the City center. Boating, canoeing, kayaking as well as river cruises on the Main are favorite leisure activities. Footpaths, bike paths, and horse paths encourage walkers, hikers, bikers and equestrians to get out and move. The heavily wooded Taunus Mountains form a 30-kilometer deep recreation zone excellent for winter sports, and hiking, biking and camping. The mountains’ forests buffer the city from cold winds in winter and provide relief from hotter summers.
Schrebergaerten – tiny garden plots with flower beds and vegetables abound on the edges of the City and along side of railroad right of ways providing a colorful aspect, a bit of green and recreation for green thumbs.
Massive tall trees and handsomely kept lawns in the City’s parks, replete with well-tended bushes and plantings enhance every neighborhood, be it that of Holzhausen with its mini-castle or the opulent Palmengarten which is near the old IG Farben complex (now the main campus of Frankfurt Goethe University) replete with amazing hothouses and gorgeous flower gardens. It’s a tropical hideaway in winter and a spacious, colorful, leafy retreat in summer.
Yet another Green Belt extension is the open air Hessen Country Museum Park near the Nidda River to the northeast of Frankfurt.
Frankfurt has been the Expatriate Capital of Germany since time immemorial even if the capital has been in Berlin, Bonn or briefly Weimar. After WWII, a large American military presence further enhanced the English-speaking population.
Whether enjoying a momentary break from work or travel, or a holiday or weekend, Frankfurt offers its residents and visitors a broad spectrum of leisure, free time, and recreational facilities and activities.
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