My time in Germany was brief, less than a day, and my host Lufthansa was good enough to coordinate a tour of Frankfurt during the frantic weekend. In talking with people before and after the trip though, I quickly realized that there exists the somewhat erroneous idea that Frankfurt isn’t worth the time to visit.
The tour started off ominously, granted, when the tour guide began by telling us that Frankfurt is more interesting than we might think. Not a good start when the city’s representative felt the need to preemptively assuage our fears at the potential boredom that awaited us.
Frankfurt has always been an important city, mostly due to its history as a financial capital. Meyer Amschel Rothschild began his vast banking empire here in the 18th century, and soon bankers from all over Europe moved to the city in order to be close to the source of financial power.
Today that financial tradition is predominant in the city, with more than a third of the Frankfurt population working for one of the many banks found here. In spite of its button-down history, Frankfurt is a treasure trove of interesting, and sometimes unusual, travel experiences.
Ebbelwei – I wrote about this in great detail recently, but the Ebbelwei express is a great way to experience Frankfurt in a unique way. The regional specialty is apple wine, or Ebbelwei. Not only can you experience the ebbelwei culture in the Sachsenhausen district of Frankfurt, but the colorful Ebbelwei Express combines a city tour with this potent potable. For about ten Euro you get an hour long, hop on hop off tour of the city and a bottle of the sour apple wine to enjoy along the way.
Frankfurt Assembly – Through an odd quirk of history, the roots of German democracy are based in Frankfurt. In 1848, following the German Revolutions, the first freely elected German parliament met at the Paulskirche in central Frankfurt. The resulting Constitution proclaimed a German Empire based on the principles of parliamentary democracy, and many of these key principles can still be found in the modern German Basic Law. The church holds tremendous symbolic importance for Germans everywhere, and was the first building reconstructed after World War II.
Altstadt – Even though many parts of Frankfurt’s historic center were destroyed in World War II, the traditional city center was rebuilt to look exactly as it appeared before the War. Because of this preservation, the historic core retains much of the look, if not the age, of medieval Germany. The most popular attraction here is the Römerberg plaza, home to the Römer which has been Frankfurt’s city hall for more than six centuries. This is a great area to grab a coffee or hot cider and stroll along the ancient corridors, experiencing Old Germany at its best.
Restaurants – Any city that is home to thousands of professionals with hefty expense accounts is usually also host to many great restaurants. If you’re going to splurge on a meal in Germany, Frankfurt is the place to do it. A particularly creative menu is found at Roomers, well situated on Gutleutstrasse. This offbeat restaurant is also a boutique hotel, one of the best in the city, and combines French and German cuisine in a bizarre, but tasty, example of continental fusion cooking. For something a little more casual, stroll along the Innenstadt area of town and you will find no shortage of quality, one-off cafes and bistros.
Frankfurt may not be the most exciting town in the world, unless you’re an investor, but there are many engaging experiences to be found in this ancient city.