Germany’s fifth-biggest city, officially called Frankfurt am Main after the river that runs through it, is shrugging off its ‘dull’ reputation and has earned a new nickname of Mainhatten, thanks to its fast-changing skyline and growing importance as a financial hub. It’s already the headquarters of the European Central Bank and is set to become an even bigger business and finance destination after Brexit. Franziskus Bumm, country manager Germany for Corporate Traveller’s sister company FCM Travel Solutions, gives us an insider’s view.
Frankfurt is far from being boring, I lived there for 19 years and even now I still manage to stumble across extraordinary new places. The city has an unusual mix of very modern and medieval heritage. Frankfurt has a ‘New York feel’ since many people who live in the city don’t stay there for a very long time, so you often hear that tourists don’t feel like tourists. You could be someone who is part of the community even if you are only there for a day.
Time difference: GMT + 1hr
Flight time from UK: 90 mins
Tipping: Tipping is appreciated: 5-10% at a restaurant; round up to the nearest euro or so at cafes and in taxes.
Getting around: U-Bahn (subways) Strassenbahn (trams) and buses can be used interchangeably at a single price based on fare zones. Tickets are valid for one hour on routes in the same direction.
Save money on a day ticket (Tageskarte) for unlimited travel inside Frankfurt’s central zone or the Frankfurt Card, available at tourist offices, which covers the greater Frankfurt area, including airport shuttle bus, plus reduction on tours and admission into museums.
Taxis can be hailed in the street or picked up at a taxi stand.
Frankfurt Main Train Station is Germany’s most important train hub.
Eating and drinking
Frankfurt is a very international place and a commuting city. Everyday 300,000 people commute into the city, which makes it very quiet in the evenings. But there are many good restaurants in all price categories – you just have to know where to find them.
Apfelwein: Apple wine is served in many pubs and restaurants. Drink it neat, sour (with sparkling water) or sweet (with orange juice).
Frankfurter sausages: Frankfurt is famous for its Frankfurter sausages and can be eaten in apfelwein bars and restaurants. This service comes with a special charm – the food is great and plates can often be shared.
Don’t eat meat? There’s plenty to eat for vegetarians. The best-known dish is gruene soße, made with potatoes and herbs, which was an essential food during the war. It’s a delicacy nowadays and is copied in many countries, but it originally comes from Frankfurt
Where the locals go
My tip is Fichtekränzi (Wallstraße 5). It opened in 1894 and is one of the oldest restaurants in Frankfurt, with long tables and benches. It’s off the tourist route and a lot of locals go there in the evenings.
Night on the town
Old Sachsenhausen has long been a touristy place, since Frankfurt was the Allied headquarters and staff from across the Atlantic populated this area. Today you can wonder around the streets of this part of the town and find plenty of pubs, restaurants and nightclubs. I’d also strongly recommend the Nordend area and the streets around Bergerstraße. This is where a lot of students live and there are good restaurants at great prices.
Music and dancing
The Jazzkeller (Kleine Bockenheimer Straße) remains a hidden gem as it’s bit tricky to find but it is really worth it. Since 1952, again as a result of Frankfurt’s position after the war, a lot jazz stars have come through this cellar club, which turns into a disco with turntables on a little desk. The club usually does not close before 9am the next day.
Along the River Main, at 35 Schaumainkai, is Dönerboot, a red and white boat where chef Meral serves Turkish kebabs, fish and homemade lemonade to passing trade who either pass by on foot or pull up alongside by boat.
Do not miss the Old Opera House (Alte Oper); and Goethe Street (Goethestraße) the luxury shopping street in the city centre, situated within the Opera Quarter. It’s named after writer and stateman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt. The Schirn is a very modern art museum; right next to it is the Romer (City Hall): an old part of the city that has been carefully reconstructed to show how Frankfurt looked before the war.
On sunny days I would recommend a walk along the Main River, which flows right through the middle of the city. If you have a bit more time the outskirts of Frankfurt are really beautiful and in 20 minutes you are surrounded by fabulous nature. Frankfurt is a banking town and, wandering around the many skyscrapers can easily feel like a little tour through ‘Mainhatten’.
Take a trip to the Feldberg for views over the metropolitan area. From there you can see the next bigger towns of Wiesbaden, Mainz and Darmstadtm which are also great to explore if you have an extra day.
Where to stay?
NH Collection Frankfurt City
Previously the NH Frankfurt City Center, this recently renovated hotel is within walking distance of exclusive shops, historic downtown, financial district, exhibition centre and two Michelin-starred restaurants: Seven Swans and the Lafleur. SmartSTAY extras for CT customers: Complimentary breakfast and wi-fi plus 10% discount on food and beverages.
Overlooking the River Main in the city centre, with the Old Town’s central Römerberg square 15 minutes’ walk away. Enjoy a drink in the stylish DAXx Mainhattan’s Bar or work out in the airy, 24-hour gym. SmartSTAY extras for CT customers: Complimentary breakfast and wi-fi plus 400 bonus IHG Rewards Club points.
Holiday Inn Express Frankfurt – Messe
A modern and newly renovated hotel, close to the Congress Center Messe Frankfurt. It’s a 30-minute stroll to the Museumsufer river embankment and seven minutes by no 37 bus to Frankfurt Central Station. There’s a pillow menu and 24-hour business centre. SmartSTAY extras for CT customers: Complimentary breakfast and wi-fi, plus 400 bonus IHG Rewards Club points.