Sitting on the beautiful Main river in central Germany, Frankfurt’s city center is a destination filled with incredible sights worth exploring for any curious traveler. Often neglected for other cities in Germany’s northern and southern regions, Frankfurt is so much more than a hub of international finance and aviation. True, the city is home to the European Central Bank, which is now housed in a stunning glass tower designed by Vienna-based architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, and Frankfurt’s international airport is Europe’s third busiest; but beyond these two popular calling cards, the city is yearning to be discovered.
To orient yourself, Frankfurt is really just a large town of just over 700,000 people, not the massive urban sprawl one might imagine it to be. With a well-planned central downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, it’s easy to explore Frankfurt’s attractions by foot. Below are a few of our must-see sights in the city center.
The Römerberg: Frankfurt’s original central square, which is a representation of the area’s beautiful half-timbered houses and intricately gabled buildings, is a “must”. The square was bombed in World War II and much of it was destroyed. There is only one building standing from the original construction but the city has lovingly reconstructed what used to be, helping reclaim the square’s original glory. At the center of the area is the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, the “Fountain of Justice”, as well as the old town hall, known as Römer.
St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral: Dom St. Bartholomäus was built of red sandstone between the 13th and 15th centuries and, to this day, stands tall and proud even amongst Frankfurt’s skyscrapers. The cathedral has hosted coronations of various emperors and is home to the headstone of King Günter von Schwarzburg, who died in Frankfurt in 1349. It also features carved altars dating from the 15th and 16th centuries.
The Museum District: The Museumsufer is a collection of 12 separate museums which include a fabulous array of diverse museums that house priceless works of classic and modern art, as well as a look into niche areas of interest like film and ethnology. Such museums include: The Film Museum (Deutsches Filminstitut), The Museum of World Cultures (Museum der Weltkulturen) and The Museum of Ancient Sculpture (Städtische Galerie Liebieghau). Each museum has done an incredible job of curating worthwhile and important exhibitions to pour through during a visit.
The Eschenheimer Tower: Built in the early 1400s, the tower remains the most complete artifact from Frankfurt’s old town walls. The tower is impressive and looms above the Eschenheimer Gate district. Today, it houses a café and meeting rooms used by historical societies and other groups.
The Zeil: This is Frankfurt’s “Fifth Avenue” which offers shoppers a selection of local and international designers (i.e. Louis Vuitton, Bally, etc.). Here, you can wander the pedestrian areas, peeking into boutiques to find something special for yourself.
Apple Wine Taverns of Sachsenhausen: Apple wine, or apfelwein, is the local drink of Frankfurt and it is made from apples, not grapes. What a surprise. The apple cider-like beverage is not sweet, but refreshing, and goes very well with sausage, salads and other local culinary specialties. The delicate flavor comes from the peel and “must” of the apple which is fermented with yeast. It is typically served cold in a “bembel” – which is a decorated ceramic pitcher. You can head down to the Sachsenhausen district and sit outside on a picnic table with friends to sip this local delight well into the evening.