I’ve written about how misunderstood Frankfurt, Germany is, and it’s easy to understand why some people think it’s boring. In a country of medieval villages and iconic cities, it’s difficult for a city like Frankfurt to stand out. Most people only know the banking and financial side to this historic city, but as I learned there’s so much more and I think it can be summed up in three words.
Traditional – As an American I expect certain things whenever I visit Europe. Easy access to good, strong coffee and fluffy pastries, buildings older than the country in which I live and an ease of life that makes any trip a pleasure are all at the top of my list. Going beyond the EU banking side of town and walking through the true altstadt, this classic and wonderful Europulchritude abounds in spades. Even though large swaths of the town were destroyed during World War II, the city went through great pains to restore the damaged buildings to their former glory. It’s not just about rebuilding what was lost, it’s about recapturing an important part of the city’s legacy. The Paulskirche is the site where the modern German state was formed and the gingerbread buildings linking the main square carry stories and personalities all of their own. We’re lucky that today as visitors we can walk around this historic core and get an idea of not just what it means to be a Frankfurter (stop laughing) but to be a German. Plus the pretzels are amazing.
Striking – Frankfurt is a beautiful city, a damned beautiful one. I suspected this was true as I wandered around town, but it was confirmed without a doubt as I ambled around town without any clear agenda and found the Eiserner Steg or The Iron Footbridge. At first it may not seem like much, a bridge not unlike any other but when the River Main is the backdrop, and hundreds of mysteriously barren trees the accents, there’s no denying the beauty. It also possesses a certain beauty of spirit, which according to the hundreds of locks on the bridge has not gone unnoticed. In a tradition that now spans the globe, young lovers inscribe locks with their initials and secure them to the bridge. When I was there I found scores of them, each professing a love unique to its owners and stories I would love to know.
Relatable – Even though I have a Pollyannaish way of liking most places I visit, I found Frankfurt to be unusually relatable. Sure, it’s a big city but it never felt that way to me. Walking around town, navigating the trams and subway are easy and dare I say a pleasure? Shopkeepers smiled as I passed and restaurant owners were patient as I mangled the language in an attempt to secure a schnitzel and some beer. I felt at home almost instantly, making the rest of my visit not awkward, but fun. Maybe that’s another word I should’ve included, fun. It’s not entertaining in a Disney World or LegoLand kind of way, but it’s fun in its ability to charm and fascinate. I just love walking around the old town, having a light snack in front of the main square and trying to find the best café for the city’s famous apple wine. So while it may not be as flashy as Paris or as ancient as Rome, Frankfurt is an easy city to know and an easy one to love.
Have you been to Frankfurt? What are some things you like about it?
10 thoughts on “Frankfurt in Three Words”
I too enjoyed Frankfurt and felt I should sell it to more visitors. I went at Christmas and the city really lent itself to the whole Christmas market vibe too. I know it has the nicknames like Bankfurt and Meinhatten, but you’re right there is so much more to it than finance. I feel the same about Zurich too! :-)
Nothing better than a good German Christmas market :)
I have been into the city once for a quick trip and found it to be quaint and pleasant. Been to the airport a few times more and like it! Matt, I just realized the other day that I don’t get notified if you respond to a comment – you may have been responding for years and I never knew!
Yeah, years :) Sorry about that
I actually went to Frankfurt am Main out of an obsession with Goethe. There’s a great little Goethe museum there. I also spent time (and fell asleep in) the botanical gardens. My hubby and I went to the zoo (it was our honeymoon). It’s wasn’t as active or cosmo as Berlin, but it has its own charm. It’s actually quite nice to be a tourist in a place not overrun with them!
Nice! I wish I’d known about the Goethe museum, although I’m sure I’ll find myself there sooner rather than later.
Actually, I have never visited Frankfurt per se. It would never occur to me, but exactly because of the reputation it has as just the banking centre. I think you put it rather well saying it’s not fair to compare it to medieval villages. I might have to re-evaluate :) Love the detail of the bridge with all the locks.
I lived there for 3 years and Frankfurt has such a bad reputation, even though it is a beautiful city to live in. Glad you bring up some good points in your blog here.
I have lived in Frankfurt as an American since 1984 and I love this city! it has everything a big city should have without a huge population and it is so green and so many things to do and great nightlife. Glad you enjoyed it Matt and it is truly a city misunderstood.
Plus, if you’re into European football, Eintracht Frankfurt plays in a world class stadium with a dedicated fan base. I met up with some Eintracht fans at a local pub when I was in Frankfurt by myself. They ended up taking me to the game and showing me around. Great times!
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