Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Frankfurt's most famous resident, once said that "Frankfurt is full of curiosities." There is still truth in these words today. One such curiosity is the interplay between the traditional and the modern, manifested in the mishmash of towering skyscrapers and tiny, half-timbered houses. With over half a million residents and a large immigrant community, Frankfurt displays all the signs of a unique city to visit.
Ever since the first trade fair took place here in the Middle Ages, Frankfurt has been shaped by business and commerce. "Bankfurt" is home to over 400 banks including the European Central Bank and Bundesbank, as well as continental Europe's biggest
After severe Allied bombing in March 1944, Frankfurt's Altstadt (old town) was almost completely destroyed. Yet there are still many sights to see—the
In the 1920s, more than 20,000 people lived in the ornate houses close to the main station, the
The district of Bockenheim, home to Frankfurt's Johann Wolfgang Goethe University and some 40,000 students, is extremely lively. The cafés, bistros, pubs, and shops near the university have focused their attentions on the young clientele.
The "merry village" of Bornheim spans the divide between the traditional and the trendy. Old-world cider pubs, spanking-new bars, exclusive boutiques and simple corner shops attract a mixed clientele. At the heart of this residential area is Berger Straße, a great place for a bit of shopping. You'll find entertainment a plenty in the
The district of Höchst, which gave its name to the world-famous paint factory, was incorporated into Frankfurt in 1928. The old town's baroque beauty is showcased in the
Nordend, the most densely populated and popular residential area of Frankfurt, boasts attractive streets and quaint 19th-century houses. It is also home to numerous pubs and small shops. The area hosts a community of wealthy bankers who live alongside the student population. People meet up in one of the many Italian, Greek or Turkish restaurants in the area, or in bars such as
Once a run-down working-class district, today Ostend is a much sought-after residential area. This neighborhood offers more than just industrial parks; it houses countless ornate villas and plenty of culture and entertainment possibilities. Literary enthusiasts meet in the
The district of Sachsenhausen on the opposite bank of the River Main is known for its cider and its old, half-timbered houses. Old Sachsenhausen has lost some of its charm over recent decades due to war and political strife, but it still has a lot to offer. For instance elegant town houses on the river bank and fine boutiques on the elegant Schweizer Straße. Art and culture are alive at
Westend is situated in the shadows of the skyscrapers and high-rises that are home to the city's banks and financial companies. In the 1970s the district was full of students and squatters demonstrating against the destruction of the area's old buildings. Today, offices and banks lend the area its character. Owners of the luxury flats and penthouse suites meet up to jog in Grüneburg park or relax in the
Art & Museums
Frankfurt offers a plethora of museums and exhibitions. A must for art lovers is the Städel Museum, home to an enormous collection of European paintings from the Middle Ages to the present day, including works by masters such as Rubens, Holbein and Rembrandt. Another top address for art is the Schirn Kunsthalle, which hosts some fantastic temporary exhibitions and displays. The Museum of Modern Art (MMK) exhibits works by the likes of Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol.
Nature lovers and archaeologists will get their money's worth in the Senckenberg Research Institute & Natural History Musuem, where, amongst other things, you can marvel at the enormous skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Film lovers should pay a visit to the National Film Museum; fashion victims can check out the latest designer wear (as well as the crazes of yesteryear) at the German Leather Museum (DLM) in Offenbach. Frankfurt also has dozens of other museums, as well as numerous art galleries, many of which are well worth a visit.
Theatre & Opera
Frankfurt has two opera houses: the Oper Frankfurt and the older Alte Oper. Both houses are host to a constant stream of operas and concerts by an array of international artists. The Schauspiel Frankfurt is a good bet for traditional German theatre, while more experimental pieces are performed at places like the TAT and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm. If you prefer your plays to be performed in English, then head for the English Theatre or the Internationales Theater, which also puts on pieces in Russian and Italian.
Clubs, Parties & Nightlife
There's something for everyone here! For rock, head to MTW in Offenbach, to das Rind in Rüsselsheim or Batschkapp in Frankfurt. Ambient fans will be in their element at places like Opium and Living, while hardcore techno enthusiasts shouldn't miss U60311. Frankfurt's most popular nightlife hotspot is the area known as Konstablerwache, which gets particularly busy at weekends. But if you're looking for something special, pop into the Odeon, a wonderful classical building which is the venue for various weird and wonderful theme nights.
If you prefer things a bit quieter, then there are plenty of bars and bistros where you can have a chat over a beer, a cocktail or a glass of cider. The district of Sachsenhausen is a particularly good starting point for a night out on the town. Most of the Irish pubs and cider pubs are very popular.
On the weekend, Frankfurt's gay community meets at cult places like the L.O.F.T House, which hosts some of the wildest parties in town. The Blue Angel is a good place for a dance, while Lucky's Manhattan is perfect for a final drink before hitting the hay. Harveys is a bit more up-market, and is particularly popular during the daytime when gay couples meet here for breakfast. Much bigger, but a fair way out of town, is the MS Connexion in Mannheim, a huge bar-cum-club which stretches out over several floors. Their Gaywerk evening is particularly popular.
Football fans should head straight for the Commerzbank Arena, where Eintracht Frankfurt seem locked in an eternal (but hitherto successful) battle against relegation from the Bundesliga. Another local attraction is the Frankfurter Lions ice hockey team. Other highlights on Frankfurt's sporting calendar include the Henninger Turm bike race and the ATP tennis tournament in the Messe Frankfurt exhibition center.
As the legend has it, when the Saxons defeated Charlemagne, King of the Franks, in the 8th Century CE, he fled westward with his troops, only to have his path blocked by the River Main. Suddenly, a deer sprang out of the forest and crossed the river by a ford (Furt). The Franks (Franken) followed the deer across the river and thus escaped slaughter by the Saxons. Overjoyed at their salvation, Charlemagne built a town to protect the ford. This town was named Frankfurt.
Each and every resident of Frankfurt knows the story of the king and the deer, but the origins of the town go back much farther. Archaeologists have discovered the foundations of buildings which date back over 7,000 years! Frankfurt was occupied by the Romans in the first few centuries CE, then by the Alemanians and later by Charlemagne's Franks. In around 700 CE, a stone church and a palace were built on the site of today's cathedral, the Dom.
Documents dating from 1140 describe Frankfurt as an important trading town. Frankfurt became the venue for an annual trade fair in 1240, and a spring trade fair was established after 1330. Frankfurt's first book fair was held in 1480.
Frankfurt was also the venue for the election and crowning of Germany's kings, with the first king elected here in 1147. Frankfurt became a free town in 1372, and a total of 10 kings and emperors were crowned in the Dom after 1562.
By the early 14th Century, Frankfurt's population had grown to over 10,000 and the town was bursting at the seams. A new city wall with moats and fortresses was built in 1333, and the Zum Römer house was acquired by the city in 1405 for use as a town hall.
In 1533, Protestant Frankfurt joined forces with the Lutherans, and was consequently invaded by the Emperor's army. Once the freedom of religion was established in the Edict of Augsburg (1555), Frankfurt was allowed to call itself a "Protestant-free city".
Social unrest and the "Milk Rebellion" of 1614 made the Patricians flee the town. The Jewish ghetto (near the Old Jewish Cemetery) was plundered and the Jewish community tormented.
On the August 28, 1749, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt (see Goethe's House) and spent his formative years studying law in the city. In 1782, the first municipal theatre was opened here.
After the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Frankfurt sided with the royalists and was brutally savaged by Napoleon's troops in the following years. After the collapse of Napoleon's Empire in 1814, the "free city" became the permanent seat of the Council of the German Federation. The first German National Assembly met in the Paulskirche on May 18, 1848. But the passing of a constitution and the choosing of a new German Emperor failed, and the people's rebellion that followed was bloodily suppressed by Prussian troops.
During the Prussian-Austrian War, Prussian troops occupied neutral Frankfurt in the 1860s and burnt the cathedral to the ground.
The founding of the Second German Reich in 1870-71 led to a major economic boom in Frankfurt: bridges were built, sewage and water systems installed and industrial enterprises founded. Fantastic buildings such as the Alte Oper, Hauptbahnhof and Städel were erected. The city increased in size and swallowed up many of the surrounding villages and towns.
The First World War left Frankfurt largely untouched. Frankfurt University was founded in October 1914 and the trade fair was reestablished in 1920. In the following years, the Waldstadion stadium, racetrack, main market hall and an airport were built.
The 1930s global depression took its toll on the city. On March 12 1933, the Nazis came to power. The deportation and extermination of Frankfurt's Jewish community began in 1941. Frankfurt was heavily bombed by the Allies during the latter years of the War, which ended when American troops moved into Frankfurt on March 26, 1945.
In the rebuilding period which followed the War, Frankfurt received a new face. Over 150,000 flats were built, as too were industrial complexes and hundreds of high-rises in the Banking Quarter.
In 1949, Frankfurt lost out to Bonn in the race to become the capital of West Germany. But this did nothing to halt the city's rapid development into an international economic metropolis. With over 400 banks (including the headquarters of the German Bundesbank and the European Central Bank) and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Frankfurt has become one of the world's most important financial centers.
"Commercial hospitality" is a long-standing tradition in Frankfurt. Hoards of travelers have been descending on the town ever since the conferment of trading rights in 1240. At the end of the 18th Century, visitors could choose from over 70 guest houses. Nowadays, over 160 hotels, guest houses and hostels with 22,000 beds cater to about 2.5 million visitors annually. Over half of all visitors come from abroad. With an average stay of just under two days, Frankfurt is still a place for people in transit. The choice ranges from small, family-run guest houses to huge establishments offering every imaginable luxury.
If you'd prefer to stay in the city center, then the Hotel Zentrum Hauptwache is a good option. Their rooms come with soundproof windows and doors to ensure that your stay is peaceful. The Hotel am Dom is also centrally located. It is within walking distance of the Paulskirche and the Altes Rathaus Bergen. The unpretentious rooms and décor are comfortable, while the service is friendly and efficient. Other hotels in the city center include the Steinberger Frankfurter Hof, a splendid nineteenth century Renaissance establishment situated close to the Zeil shopping street. One of Frankfurt's most renowned and respected addresses is the Hessischer Hof opposite the Exhibition Center.
Northend and Eastend
The Mondial in Nordend is off the beaten path and ideal for those looking to save some money. It's also not far from the main train station and is a short walk to the city center. The Best Western Alexander am Zoo is ideal for families considering its proximity to the Frankfurt Zoo in Bornheim. It also features fantastic views of the city from its open air terrace. The Admiral is located not far from many restaurants and cafes, and features a clean decor and complimentary breakfast.
Popular choices for both tourists and business people are the Manhattan and Intercity hotels, both of which offer comfortable rooms and a pleasant staff. The elegantly-decorated Nizza and over a century old Victoria are charming 19th century establishments. Both hotels are great selections if you're not put off at the thought of staying close to Frankfurt's red light district. Luxury hotels include the Le Meridien Parkhotel, an elegant art nouveau palace close to the main station. You'll also find the Intercontinental here, a luxurious hotel with a fitness club, sauna and high-quality Japanese restaurant. The Hilton is one of the best hotels in Frankfurt.
Not far from the Exhibition Center, is the district of Westend and another place with a good accommodations. The Palmenhof and small, quaint hotels such as the Hotel Florentina, Backer, Liebig are particularly recommended. There are also some charming guest houses here, like Hotel Gölz and Pension Sattler. Over on the other side of the street is one of the tallest hotels in Europe, the Marriott.The nearby Astoria Hotel doesn't quite offer the same level of comfort, but it wins people over with its low-key atmosphere.
If you arrive in Frankfurt by air, then you can book into one of the airport hotels at the drop of a hat. With more than 1,000 rooms, the Sheraton Frankfurt Hotel & Towers, Conference Center is one of the bigger hotels in the region. The Steigenberger Airport Hotel offers weary travelers high-class service, while the Kempinski—located on the edge of the city forest—is a particularly good alternative for travelers looking for a breath of fresh air after a long flight.