The best things to see and do in Frankfurt

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With its magnificent skyscrapers and vast urban parks,Frankfurt is unlike any other city in Germany. Affectionately known as‘Mainhattan’, the city lies on the Main river inthe central German state of Hesse. 

A warm and welcoming city, Frankfurt delivers classic German charm in abundance. Explore the half-timbered buildings of the medieval Altstadt, sample the relaxed café culture of Sachsenhausen and Bornheim, pedal along the banks of the Main to reach the Palmengarten – Frankfurt’s extraordinarily beautiful and unexpectedly vast botanic gardens – or discover the Old Masters of the revered Städel Museum. There’s so much to see and do here, you won’t know where to begin.

To help you get the most from your visit to Frankfurt, we’ve put together a guide to the city’s unmissable highlights, hidden gems and best food and drink spots.

Must-see sights

Romërberg

Römerberg lies at the historic heart of Frankfurt. It’s an ancient public square that’s been the seat of the city’s town hall and administrative centre since the 15th century. With its cobblestones and traditional timber-framed buildings, the square is a stark but welcome contrast to the ultra-modern cityscape of Frankfurt’s financial quarter. Römerberg is lined with traditional cafés and eateries, with outdoor terraced-seating providing the perfect setting for an early afternoon lunch in the summer months.

romerberg

Palmengarten

One of two botanic gardens in Frankfurt, Palmengarten is an expansive 19th-century landscaped garden situated in the elegant residential neighbourhood of Westend-Nord, which boasts some of Frankfurt’s most beautiful and expensive homes. The garden comprises landscaped grounds and a series of greenhouses containing rare species of tropical and subtropical plants. For nature lovers and the green-fingered alike, it’s a must-see.

Palmengarten

Goethe House

Wander down the elegant boulevard of Großer Hirschgraben and you’ll stumble upon Goethe House, a handsome, 18th-century building that served as the childhood home of acclaimed German writer and statesman, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Now a museum, the house offers a fascinating insight into the life of this pioneering Frankfurter, as well as Frankfurt’s WWII-era Jewish ghetto, which was located just a couple of streets away.

goethe house

Städel Museum

Founded in 1815, the Städel Museum is Frankfurt’s foremost art gallery, housing an outstanding collection of works from European masters including Rembrandt, Cézanne, Picasso, Rubens, Dürer and Renoir. The Städel collection is considered one of the most important in Germany, with over 2,700 artworks and some 600 sculptures dating from the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum offers two cafés for midday refreshments, as well as a fantastic bookstore and print shop.

Städel Museum

Zeil

If shopping is on your to-do list in Frankfurt, look no further than Zeil, the city’s finest retail promenade. Taking its name from the Germanic word for ‘row’, Zeil features several flagship department stores and a handful of designer brands, making it a mecca for shoppers any day of the week. The street is similar to other famous European retail thoroughfares; think London’s Oxford Street, Berlin’s Kurfürstendemm and the Champs-Élysées of Paris.

zeil

Frankfurt Cathedral

Rivalling Cologne’s world-famous cathedral, the Frankfurter Dom or Kaiserdom is a vast Roman Catholic Church in the centre of the city, dedicated to Saint Bartholomew. Despite its name, Frankfurt Cathedral is actually an ‘imperial great church’ and has never been a true cathedral. That said, it’s still an impressive sight, with its ornate Gothic spire standing at 95 metres in height and offering stunning city views for those with energy enough to climb its 200+ stone steps.

Cathedral St Bartholomaus in Frankfurt

Frankfurt's Hidden Gems

The best of Frankfurt’s food and drink
With a name synonymous with German sausages, it should comeas no surprise that Frankfurt has a fierce reputation for its incrediblecuisine. Here, we look at the city’s must-eats, and where’s best to samplethem.

Frankfurter Würstchen

No visit to Frankfurt would be complete without sampling a traditional Frankfurter, served, of course, in the traditional Frankfurt way. Unlike in other parts of Germany, where bratwursts are grilled over hot coals, the Frankfurter is boiled in water and served with a slice of white bread and a side of mustard and horseradish. It may be simple, but it’s certainly delicious.

Frankfurter Würstchen

Where to find it: The Kleinmarkthalle we mentioned earlier is sure to have traditional offerings of Handkäs mit Musik for you to buy and take home, but if you want to sample it prepared by a professional, make for Struwwelpeter – one of Frankfurt’s most traditional and authentic eateries.

Handkäs mit Musik

Curiously, Handkäs mit Musik translates as ‘hand cheese with music’, which is, we’ll admit, a truly odd name. Don’t be put off, though, because this happens to be Frankfurt’s favourite cheese; a salty, low-fat cow’s milk variety that’s marinated with olive oil, salt, pepper, caraway and onions, and normally served as an appetiser before a main meal in traditional Hesse restaurants.

Frankfurt city guide

Where to find it: The Kleinmarkthalle we mentioned earlier is sure to have traditional offerings of Handkäs mit Musik for you to buy and take home, but if you want to sample it prepared by a professional, make for Struwwelpeter – one of Frankfurt’s most traditional and authentic eateries.

Grüne Soße

You won’t get far in Frankfurt before encountering Grüne Soße, a suspiciously-bright green sauce that appears in restaurants across the city. This herby mixture is an icon of Frankfurt’s culinary scene, and is made from chopped herbs, yoghurt, mayonnaise and quark cheese. Even if it doesn’t look all that appetising, you’ll be hard-pressed not to get some on your plate by the end of your visit.

frankfurt city guide

Where to find it: There’s only one place to go if you want to try authentic Grüne Soße in Frankfurt, and that’s Grüne Soße und Mehr – a restaurant named after this trademark sauce. We’d recommend Grüne Soße und Schnitzel for a truly German lunch.

Frankfurter Rippchen

Frankfurters do traditional German food very well, and you’ll find many restaurants offering Frankfurter Rippchen – a hearty dish comprising slow-cooked pork cutlets, sauerkraut, potato and mustard. It’s often at the top of the menu in traditional Hesse restaurants, and is so satisfying washed down with a light German Pilsner.

Frankfurt city guide

Where to find it: If you’re willing to go a little off the beaten track, restaurant Atschel does a classic take on Frankfurter Rippchen that will satisfy even the largest of appetites. Grüne Soße is also on the menu and makes the perfect accompaniment.

Frankfurter Kranz

Sweet tooth? Indulge it with a slab of Frankfurter Kranz, a ring-shaped cake that’s enduringly popular with locals. The cake comprises multiple layers glued together with rich buttercream and topped with glacé cherries and squirty cream – perfect for afternoon tea.

Frankfurt city guide

Where to find it: You’ll see Frankfurter Kranz in bakeries across the city, but the locals’ favourite is found at Café Laumer, a charming eatery on Bockenheimer Landstraße that’s impossible to enter without trying a slither of this iconic dessert.

Fast Facts

Need the lowdown on Frankfurt before an upcoming visit? Here, we cover the essentials of the city, so you can acquaint yourself before you arrive.

  • The population of Frankfurt is 736,414 (2016 UN data).
  • Frankfurt is officially called Frankfurt am Main, and is the largest city on the Main River.
  • Despite being the largest city in the state of Hesse, Frankfurt isn’t the capital; that honour belongs to Wiesbaden.
  • Acclaimed German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt in 1749.
  • Frankfurt is home to the largest inner-city forest in Germany, the Stadtwald, which covers a 5,000-hectare space to the south of the city centre.
  • The city is home to two of Europe’s tallest skyscrapers, including the Commerzbank, which stands at 259 metres in height.
  • Frankfurt airport is the largest and busiest in Germany, and the third largest in Europe.
  • Frankfurt hosts over 30 industrial fairs and expos a year, more than any other city in Europe.
  • Frankfurt was once home to the tallest beer tank in the world, housed in the famous Henninger Tower. Sadly, in 2013, the tower was demolished.
  • One in three people living in Frankfurt are not German citizens, such is the city’s cosmopolitanism.

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