Nerve centre of the Eurozone, headquarters of Germany’s banking industry, Germany’s busiest airport – you could be forgiven for feeling Frankfurt is all rush, rush, rush. But relax. The Rhine-Main metropolis knows how to show you a good time, too. Regular Frankfurt visitor Neville Walker reveals his top tips on how to make the most of your day in Frankfurt.
0700-0900. Hip hotels cluster near Frankfurt’s vast railway station (Am Hauptbahnhof, 069 265 1055), so it’s as good a place for an early start as any, with a coffee from an all-night bakery stall. If you’re here on a weekday, collect an iPod city guide from the tourist information office (Empfangshalle, 069 2123 8800). Stroll along tree-lined Kaiserstrasse through the Bahnhofsviertel, an edgy mix of 19th-century architecture, sleaze and multicultural colour with a scattering of hip bars. Cross the gardens at Gallusanlage to reach Willy Brandt Platz. Stop here for that all-important establishing shot of the Euro sign at the foot of the European Central Bank.
0900-1100. In canyon-like Neue Mainzer Strasse, where skyscrapers loom overhead, it’s obvious where Frankfurt’s ‘Mainhattan’ nickname came from. Admire Norman Foster’s eco-friendly 1997 Commerzbank, still the pick of a tall bunch; you’ll be visiting its neighbour later. Continue on foot to Café Karin (Grosser Hirschgraben 28, 069 295 217), the most enduringly popular café in Frankfurt, with masses of choice on its breakfast menu and – on fine days – high demand for an outside table. Across the street is the Goethe-Haus (Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25, 069 138 800), where Germany’s greatest writer was born in 1749; its post-1945 transformation from smoking ruin to flawless time capsule is astonishing.
1100-1300. The oldest bits of Frankfurt stretch east along the banks of the Main River. Cross bleak Berliner Strasse to reach the heavily-restored Karmelitenkloster (Münzgasse 9, 069 2123 0142). Hardly Frankfurt’s most-visited monument, it’s worth a stop for Jörg Ratgeb’s richly coloured, late-medieval frescoes. The nearby St Leonhardskirche is a small riverside church whose creative medieval architects did amazing things with Gothic vaulting. Unlike Frankfurt’s other churches it escaped serious wartime damage, so it still has the smell and patina of age. Continue along the Mainkai to reach Römerberg, Frankfurt’s most historic square, dominated by the step-gabled medieval town hall and the setting for the famous Christmas market. It’s all very impressive, but most of its ‘historic’ houses are modern copies; the originals vanished in the 1943 air raids. Plans are afoot to rebuild more on the vacant plot between Römerberg and the cathedral. In the middle of all this are the uncompromisingly modern Schirn Kunsthalle (Römerberg, 069 299 8820), which hosts big touring art exhibitions, and the MMK contemporary art gallery (Domstrasse 10, 069 2123 0447), where the collection includes works by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol.
1300-1500. Skip Römerberg’s indifferent culinary offerings for the more promising shores of Sachsenhausen, where the modern Austrian menu at Lohninger (Schweizer Strasse 1, 069 2475 57860) offers classic Wiener schnitzel and black cod with smoked consommé and radish. The terrace at Holbein’s (Holbeinstrasse 1, 069 6605 6666) is the place to don shades and talk knowingly about art, while at weekends La Trinca (Schweizer Strasse 14, 069 622 393) serves lunchtime tapas in stylish modern surroundings.
1500-1700. Stick with Sachsenhausen for world-beating art and some of Frankfurt’s most inspired shopping. Clear favourite for culture vultures is the Städel art gallery (Schaumainkai 63, 069 605 0980), with old masters behind an impressive sandstone facade and a wonderful new exhibition space beneath the lawn for its modern collections. Meister und Margarita (Schulstrasse 38, 069 6657 5775) sells exquisite contemporary jewelry from its atelier between the river and Alt-Sachsenhausen, while for inspired womenswear and accessories try Yasmin Lambrecht’s pretty Blütenstaub (Wallstrasse 26, 069 6032 9599) or Natascha Spendic’s Frauenzimmer (Wallstrasse 4, 069 6060 7117). You can get espresso with hipster trainers at Conmoto (Wallstrasse 22, 069 6696 2010) and all manner of stylish things from fashion to toys at concept store Colekt (Brückenstrasse 21, 069 1749 8949).
1700-1900. You can’t leave Sachsenhausen without trying Frankfurt’s cider-like local brew, Apfelwein. The densest concentration of Apfelwein taverns is in Alt-Sachsenhausen, but the area is a bit of a tourist trap; try Fichtekränzi (Wallstrasse 5, 069 612 778) or Zum Gemalten Haus (Schweizer Strasse 67, 069 614 559) instead. Afterwards, cross the river again to Neue Mainzer Strasse to ascend to the 56th-floor viewing terrace of the MainTower skyscraper (Neue Mainzer Strasse 52-58) for panoramic views across Frankfurt and the surrounding landscape. The terrace is outdoors, which makes it perfect for photography in the soft evening light.
1900-2100. You can dine in the MainTower – the smart restaurant on the 53rd floor (069 3650 4777) has more than just its view to recommend it. Alternatively, Heimat (Berliner Strasse 70, 069 2972 5994) is classy and central, with a short menu, good European wines and a lovely setting in a glassy little 1950s pavilion. Nordend is a promising part of town for culinary wanderings. Try the popular, welcoming Exil (Mercatorstrasse 26, 069 447 600), where the eclectic, seasonal menu changes daily, Blumen (Rotlintstrasse 60, 069 4908 6510), with just 18 covers and choice limited to four or seven courses from weekly-changing set menus, or Fette Henne (Friedberger Landstrasse 62, 069 9043 7307) where the hotly-tipped kitchen quite outshines the unassuming décor.
After 2100. After the last tables are cleared, Blumen (Rotlintstrasse 60, 069 4908 6510) metamorphoses into a hip bar. Most Tuesdays it hosts Coolnago, with cocktails and local or international DJs. Luna Bar (Stiftstrasse 6, 069 294774) is a popular and central smokers’ bar, with good classic or creative cocktails. There’s an exclusive, clubby feel at 22nd Barlounge (Neue Mainzer Strasse 66-68, 069 210 880) on the 22nd floor of the Innside Eurotheum Hotel in the banking district, with fabulous views over the city. For something hip and minimalist, try Bar ohne Namen (Eschenheimer Tor 3, 069 2575 5388) in the city centre or Plank (Elbestrasse 15, 069 2695 8666) in the Bahnhofsviertel.