Frankfurt is the business and financial center of Germany, and has one of the busiest airports in Europe. The city sits on the River Main, and has an easy-to-use public transportation system of buses and trains. Frankfurt is also home to some of the world’s largest trade shows like the Frankfurt Auto Show and the Frankfurt Book Fair, meaning there is also a lot of options for convention-style hotels, if that’s your thing. Whatever your reason for visiting, we’ve got a ton of ideas for things to do in Frankfurt.
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This is Frankfurt’s Old Town Center and main square, surrounded by half-timbered houses, although not original as they were rebuilt in the 1980’s. Like many central squares in Europe, Romerberg has many cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and bars. While it may be touristy, it’s a great place to grab a schnitzel. The River Main is very close, and you can explore the riverside parks as well.
Hauptwache is another of Frankfurt’s central plazas, and gets it’s name (Main Guardroom) from an 18th century Baroque building that once housed the city’s militia, which now houses a cafe. The square is also anchored by the Kaufhof department store, and is a major transportation hub, with eight S-Bahn lines and six U-Bahn lines serving the Hauptwache station. The square now sits above an underground pedestrian area with shops and the train station. Most of the buildings in this area are newer, as the previous versions were heavily destroyed in the war.
Another important hub in Frankfurt is Berger Strasse, a popular shopping street running through Frankfurt. Lower Berger Strasse offers cafes, bars and boutiqes, while Middle Strasse has more errand-type stores. Upper Berger Strasse has a variety of restaurants and bars where you can re-fuel after a day of shopping.
On the left bank of the River Main is Frankfurt’s Museum District, home to 12 excellent museums. The Museum of World Cultures, formerly the Museum of Ethnology, holds over 65,000 artifacts from indigenous cultures all over the world. The Museum of Ancient Sculpture, or Liebieghaus, has more than 3,000 sculptures from ancient Egypt to Neoclassicism, and is also surrounded by beautiful gardens. The German Architectural Museum displays the history of architectural development in Germany. The Film Museum showcases the history of film and the present, with artifacts and interactive displays. The Museum of Applied Art, or Angewandte Kunst, has an emphasis on design, fashion and performance through alternating exhibits. There is also the Stadel Art Museum, the Jewish Museum, Museum Giersch and the Icon Museum. In other words, if you enjoy museums, you’ll be spending a lot of time in the Museum District!
Old Sachsenhausen is the district adjacent the Museum District, known for lively apfelwine pubs and cobblestone streets. It has a quiet, quaint and historic feel compared to many modern areas of Frankfurt, and is a great place to sip a pint of apfelwine after a day of touring museums. In nice weather, beer gardens line the narrow streets.
Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art
The Museum fur Moderne Kunst is less than 30 years old, but has amassed a collection of over 5,000 pieces of international art from the 1960’s to today. English guided tours of the museum are given every Saturday at 4pm. The MMK has a great calendar full of interesting events, including tours for children and workshops.
Senckenberg Natural History Museum
Another museum! This one is one of Europes’s largest natural history museums, and is located across the river and about 3 kilometers from the Museum District. Inside, exhibits display the evolution of life and biodiversity of plants, animals and humans on our planet. Guided tours and lectures are available for visitors.
Schirn Kunsthalle is an exhibition center that shows modern and contemporary art. Over 200 exhibitions have shown here, including those of Munch, Matisse, Frida Kahlo and Women Impressionists. Schirn Kunsthalle collaborates with art museums all over the world, such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Hermitage Museum or the Museum of Modern Art, to bring the best exhibits to Frankfurt. The center is closed on Mondays, and ticket prices will vary based on which exhibits you want to visit, so it’s best to research ahead of time to determine what you’d like to see.
Goethe House and Museum
Visit the house of Germany’s most famous writer and poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The home is 18th century bourgeois, and decorated with period furniture and paintings showing how Goethe lived as a child. The Goethe Museum contains paintings, graphics and busts from the 18th and 19th centuries, depicting Goethe’s relationship to other art forms.
Not far from the Natural History Museum, Palmengarten is one of two botanical gardens in Frankfurt. There are many different exhibits within the Palm Garden, such as the cactus garden, a rookery, Sub-Antarctic house, the tropicarium and an aqarium you can pass under to view the underwater world. There are also regular exhibits and events such as flower shows, tours, lectures, and the Rose and Light Festival held every June.
Cathedral of St Bartholomew
This 14th century Gothic cathedral has a 95 meter spire that you can climb for excellent views of Frankfurt. For 300 years, the cathedral served as the coronation site for Holy Roman Emperors. The inside was destroyed by fire several times, most recently in WWII, but was restored in the 1950’s. While a visit to the cathedral is free, there is a small admission charge to visit the museum in the cloister.
St Paul’s Church
St Paul’s Protestant Church is a 19th century church that has an important political history as the symbol of German democracy. In 1849, the church became the seat of the first freely elected German legislature. A more recent (1991) mural depicts the march of the assemblymen. The neighborhood surrounding St Pauls Church is Paulsplatz, another great Frankfurt destination with numerous pubs, bars, restaurants and a Christmas market in the winter time.
Foodie visitors to Frankfurt will definitely want to check out the Kleine Markthalle. Over 150 market stalls offering fresh food, produce and flowers to buyers wandering the 1500 square meter space. This is a great place to try some of Frankfurt’s regional specialties, such as Green Sauce, a cold sauce made of seven fresh herbs and usually served with boiled eggs. Another Frankfurt specialty to sample is Apfelwein, an alcoholic apple cider that is Frankfurt’s signature drink. Beyond German cuisine, you can find a wide variety of international offerings.
Named for a green castle that stood here in the 14th century, Grüneburgpark is now a park designed in the English garden style. From 1837 to 1935, this was the land of the Rothschild family, who built a palace here that was destroyed in the War. The park has many large lawns, with landscaped shrubbery and kids play areas. Combined with the adjacent Palm Garden and the Botanical Garden, it forms the largest green space in Frankfurt, making it popular with runners and walkers. Don’t miss the Korean garden, a 2005 gift to the city of Frankfurt from South Korea.
A rare surviving medieval tower, Eschenheimer Turm was one of 42 watchtowers in the old city walls, most of which have been destroyed over the years. The 15th century tower stands in start contrast to the modern skyscrapers built up around it over the years, making it an interesting spot to photograph. Today, the tower sits on a traffic island in a bustling intersection, with a cafe in the base.
Heidelberg Day Trip
The fairytale city of Heidelberg is just 90 km from Frankfurt and makes a great day trip for those looking to explore outside of the city. Heidelberg is home of the oldest university in Germany, not to mention the imposing Heidelberg Castle ruins perched on a hillside overlooking the town. Parts of the castle date back to 1300. Heidelberg is a photographer’s dream with the Old Bridge spanning the Neckar River. With 30,000 students at the college, there’s also a good nightlife scene with bars and cheap eats.
Rhine Valley Day Trip
Another very popular day trip from Frankfurt is to visit the Rhine Valley. Plenty of guided tours are available to take you from Frankfurt to the Rhine Valley and back, or you can make your own itinerary, as it’s just 120 km distance. Of course, a visit to the Rhine Valley should include a river cruise, even a short one if you’re just on a day trip. The fastest connection to the Middle Rhone is the direct train to Rudesheim, where you can catch a Rhine River cruise, visit some castles along the way, and find a town with a connecting train back to Frankfurt. Of course, multi-day visits and cruises are always an option if you’d like to escape Frankfurt for a few days.
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