Best known as a centre for business and capital of finance for Continental Europe, Frankfurt-am-Main is often overlooked as a city break destination. Perhaps more famous for its futuristic skyline, home to some five million inhabitants and 400 financial institutions including the European Central Bank and the German Stock Exchange, Frankfurt also maintains an olde-worlde feel that one might expect from a city with a history dating back as far as the Holy Roman Empire, with its traditional Germanic timbered architecture and cobbled streets, particularly around the Sachsenhausen and the Römerburg.
Dissected by the River Main, the bulk of Frankfurt’s touristic attractions are largely to be found on its northern bank. A good starting point for most tourists is the aforementioned Römerburg, a charming Mediaeval square lined with tall timber-framed buildings, home to the city’s Gothic town hall, Alte Nikolaikirche and the Fountain of Justice along with a selection of shops and cafés. From here, you’re but a few steps from the majestic 14th-century St Bartholomeus Cathedral or Kaiserdom, setting for the crowning of the Holy Roman Emperors in the 16th and 17th centuries. Climb to the top of its 96-metre-high steeple and you’ll be rewarded with some amazing views over Domplatz and the city beyond.
The Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge) across the river leads you to Sachsenhausen where you’ll find Schweizer Strasse, a cosmopolitan boulevard lined with bars, beer cellars and traditional cider houses, as well as a weekly flea market on a Saturday. A walk along the river not only offers you great views of the Frankfurt skyline, but also brings you to Museumsufer, home to 13 of the city’s museums all housed in beautifully restored villas from the 1900s. These include the Städel Museum, containing a wealth of art by great names including Rembrandt, Monet and Picasso, the German Film Museum, Architecture Museum, Jewish Museum and Museum of Applied Art.
Crossing back to the northern bank of the Main, other attractions of interest include the Goethe-Haus, birthplace of Germany’s most celebrated writer, the boutiques and department stores of the Zeil and Goethestrasse, the 54-storey Main Tower with its magnificent city panorama. Take time also to appreciate the tranquil surroundings of Palmengarten, Frankfurt’s beautiful botanical garden as well as Grüneburgpark, the city’s largest park. And of course, there’s the option to see the varied vistas of Frankfurt on a sightseeing cruise, or perhaps sample the famous Frankfurt apple wine, ebbelwei, on the Ebbelwei Express, a one-hour tram ride around the city.
For those with an interest in the city’s financial wheelings and dealings, tours of the German Stock Exchange provide a fascinating insight into the workings of this powerhouse institution but make sure to book in advance as popularity is extremely high! There’s also a gift shop at the European Central Bank. You could also take a wander through the city’s financial district, taking in some of the imposing and rather awesome skyscrapers, including Sir Norman Foster’s Commerzbank-Tower rising some 259 metres (300 if you include the antenna!) into Frankfurt’s skyline.