Frankfurt certainly does not enjoy the reputation of a city of art. Here, in fact, there are no large flows of visitors like other German cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Dresden, Regensburg, Nuremberg, etc.
This is because Frankfurt has become over the years the European financial capital, it hosts, in fact, the headquarters of the biggest German banks, and of the European Central Bank. It is no coincidence that the city is nicknamed Bankfurt.
Yet this city has some pros:
- It has a huge airport, one of the largest in Europe, and is therefore reachable from quite any other city.
- The historic center is pretty small, is located near the railway station, and can be visited comfortably on foot in one day.
- It probably has one of the most beautiful skylines in Europe.
- It has developed the so-called banks of museums. About fifteen museums all arranged almost in a row on the two banks of the river Main. You only have to go there and choose according to your interests.
Frankfurt in a nutshell
The following is an interactive map. The main points of interest are marked with blue pins, while churches and other places of worship are marked with red pins. The parks are marked with green pins and finally, the museums with gray pins.
Whether you start your tour from the railway station or from your hotel, Frankfurt can be easily visited on foot. The typical route goes through the inner city up to the museum area, passing from one attraction to the next one along an almost standard path. It is a mix of skyscrapers, half-timbered houses, and places of worship. In the end, you can visit the Sachsenhausen district (I put a brown pin on it in the map above), the “youngest” of the city, with clubs, bars, restaurants, etc.
It is the central and most famous square in Frankfurt, with the Römer (the City Hall), the half-timbered houses (rebuilt around 1980 according to the original plans), and the Old St Nicholas Church. In this square took place the election ceremony of the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Frankfurt Cathedral (Kaiserdom)
Frankfurt Cathedral, officially Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, has never been a real cathedral (it has never been the bishop’s seat). But its historical and architectural importance cannot be overlooked.
From the historical point of view, where the Cathedral stands today, there is a trace of at least 4 different religious buildings that have followed one another over the centuries.
It was also the election and coronation church of the Holy Roman Empire.
From an architectural point of view, it is a single tower hall church, built in Gothic style.
Its red color makes it quite unmistakable and unique.
The small Frankfurt inner city hosts a good number of churches, each one different in style and confession (Catholic, Evangelical, and Lutheran). You will come across them by random walking through the city streets.
- St. Paul’s Church. Its oval shape makes it very easy to recognize. The building has actually no religious function anymore (the church has been deconsecrated), it is now a venue for exhibitions and events.
- Church of the Three Kings (Dreikönigskirche). It is an evangelical church located on the south bank of the Main river and built in the neo-Gothic style.
- St. Catherine’s Church. It is a Lutheran church built in the Baroque style. It was destroyed during World War II and rebuilt around 1950.
- St. Leonhard’s Church. This church miraculously survived World War II almost undamaged. It is a Catholic church first built in the Romanesque style and then modified in the Gothic style. Like many other churches in Frankfurt, it is a hall church with a square plan.
- Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche). It is a Gothic-style Catholic church. Take some time to admire the amazing traceries of the Gothic windows.
Skyscrapers and skyline
Unfortunately, I have been not enough time in Frankfurt to see its skyline at night. This is a city highlight if you think that, already during the day, you can spend hours walking around the skyscrapers trying to catch some original perspectives.
For those who have enough time and want to photograph Frankfurt from above, this is possible from the 200 meters of the Main Tower.
Other points of interest
- Old Opera (Alte Oper). It is a neo-Renaissance building almost completely destroyed during World War II and rebuilt according to the original plans. Today it acts as a concert hall, while the Frankfurt Opera is a new modern building not far away from it.
- Eschenheim Tower (Eschenheimer Turm). It is one of the oldest architectures in Frankfurt, which survived World War II. It is an ancient city gate, part of the medieval city walls built around the city.
- Market Hall (Kleinmarkthalle). It is Frankfurt covered market.
- Railway Station. Among the biggest and busiest of Germany, it is known for its distinctive neo-Renaissance façade.
Frankfurt city center does not really offer some green spaces. If you want to visit the Zoo, the Botanical Garden or the Grüneburgpark (Green Castle Park) you need to take the subway:
- Frankfurt Zoo. It is the second oldest Zoo in Germany, after Berlin Zoo, and can be reached from the center with a couple of stops on the underground.
- Botanical Garden (Palmengarten). Located on the west side of the city, can be reached from the center with a couple of stops on the underground.
The Museumsufer (bank of museums) is Frankfurt’s original solution to arrange an impressive number of museums in a relatively small area. We are talking about 15 museums located in historic villas or palaces, or in brand new buildings, all along the banks of the Main river.
Unquestionably, the most famous one is the Städel Museum. Built at the behest of the homonymous and wealthy banker, it has extended its collection over time, ranging from ancient to contemporary painting. It hosts works by world-renowned artists such as Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Tintoretto, Picasso, and many others.
But for those who are not fond of painting, it is impossible not to find in this area at least one other museum of their interest. From the Museum of Applied Arts to the German Film Museum, from the Archaeological Museum to the Historical Museum.
I have been to the German Architecture Museum because during my visit there was a temporary exhibition of the best European buildings of the year.
Finally, a mention for Goethe’s house. The writer was born in Frankfurt, and his home has now become a house-museum.
The Zeil is one of the most popular shopping streets in Frankfurt. Over 1 km of shops await you, on a large pedestrian area surrounded by ancient and modern architecture
Ok, it’s true, Frankfurt is not a destination for everyone. Anyway, I hope that this post has awakened some curiosity and motivation in you for giving this city a chance!