Things to Do in Frankfurt
Inaugurated in 1880, Frankfurt’s Old Opera House (Alte Oper) was among Germany’s elite opera houses during its 20th-century heyday. Left in ruins after WWII, it finally reopened in 1981 and is now one of the city’s leading concert venues, hosting around 300 classical and popular music events throughout the year.
That St. Paul's Church (Paulskirche) was one of the first buildings to be rebuilt post WWII says a lot about its importance. The landmark church is not only a center of worship; it also played a significant role in Frankfurt’s history, serving as the seat of the 1848 Frankfurt Parliament, the first freely elected German parliament.
The view along the tree-lined banks of the Main River is Frankfurt’s most famous, looking out across the skyscraper-studded skyline. Running through the heart of Frankfurt, the Main River is the longest within Germany, flowing 327 miles (527 kilometers) from Bamberg to Mainz, and traversing three German states before joining the Rhine River.
One of Germany’s grandest and most important cathedrals, Frankfurter Dom dates back to the 13th century and dominates the city’s skyline. The landmark was once where Holy Roman Emperors were crowned and today exhibits several major artworks, including the Lamentation of Christ by Antonius van Dyck and Job by Emil Schumacher.
The looming steel peaks of the Iron Bridge (Eiserner Steg) have framed Frankfurt’s skyline since 1869; a homage to the city’s industrial age. The only footbridge across the Main River, the Iron Bridge links the Old Town and Römerberg Square on the north bank, with Old Sachsenhausen and the Museum Embankment on the south bank.
The Goethe House & Museum is the site where the great German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in 1749. Goethe’s former house is a fantastic and tangible example of the living style of the 18th century Frankfurt's gentry. The house was technically Goethe's parents', and he lived here until moving to Weimar where he died in 1765.
Main features include Goethe's original writing desk and the library on the fourth floor, where Goethe composed his famous epistolary,The Sorrows of Young Werther, and where he began writingFaust. The rooms are decorated with a charming mix of reproduction and original furnishing. The museum is a picture gallery dedicated to the Age of Goethe. The Goethe House & Museum offer an intriguing a peek into 18th century lifestyles and Goethe’s early years.
For many visitors, the first introduction to Germany’s fast-expanding business and financial center is its main railway station, a building of classical elegance and proportion. Frankfurt’s iron-and-glass Hauptbahnhof was designed by Johann Wilhelm Schwedler and Hermann Eggert and opened for business in 1888; the roof of the Neo-Renaissance central hall is topped with a vast statue of Atlas bearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. Since then, the station has been consistently updated, with two further passenger halls being constructed on either side of the main terminal in 1924. Although the Hauptbahnhof was damaged in World War II, expansion continued and now it has 24 mainline tracks; it is also a terminus for the S-Bahn (rapid transit commuter trains), U-Bahn (metro line) and tram services into the city. Serving up to 450,000 passengers each day commuting into Frankfurt from across the Rhine-Main region, it is the busiest railway station in the country, with high-speed links to major cities throughout Germany and Europe as well as a direct connection to Frankfurt am Main airport.
Standing proud on the western edge of Frankfurt’s central Römerberg square, Frankfurt City Hall (Romer) is both the city’s administrative headquarters and one of its most memorable landmarks. Characterized by its pink three-peaked façade, stepped gables and domed bell tower; it’s a regal feat of medieval architecture.
At 660 feet (200 meters), the Frankfurt Main Tower is only the fourth tallest building in Frankfurt, but it’s the still the city’s highest observation deck. Standing at the heart of Frankfurt’s central business district, the tower’s rooftop observation deck affords spectacular views over the city and the Main River.
With a string of world-class museums lining the banks of the Main River; Frankfurt’s Museum Embankment (Museumsufer) is one of Germany’s most important cultural hubs. Over a dozen museums call the Museumsufer home, housed in a series of beautifully restored 18th-century villas.
More Things to Do in Frankfurt
With its cobblestone lanes, half-timbered buildings, and historic taverns serving up Frankfurt’s beloved Apple Wine (Apfelwein); the old quarter of Sachsenhausen has no shortage of charm. Stretching along the south bank of the Main River, it’s an atmospheric spot for a walking tour and one of Frankfurt’s liveliest nightlife districts.
The Naturmuseum Senckenberg in Frankfurt is the second largest natural history museum in all of Germany. Senckenberg contains the most comprehensive exhibition of large dinosaurs in Europe. Outside, you are greeted by enormous life-size representations of dinosaurs. Inside, you can trace the tracks of a Titanosaurus towards its skeleton on a covered patio. One particularly fascinating attraction is a dinosaur fossil with its scaled skin preserved. These dinosaur exhibits are exceptionally popular with children.
Although its dinosaurs are the major attraction, the Senckenberg Museum also has an expansive collection of animal exhibits from every era. The museum boasts the world's most expansive collection of stuffed birds, featuring over 2,000 species. Another remarkable exhibit is a cast of the famous Lucy, a skeleton of an Australopithecus afarensis, a hominid from 3.2 million years ago.
The Botanical Garden Frankfurt (Palmengarten) is the largest garden of its kind in Germany. The botanical exhibitions are organized according to their geographic origin in open air or climate-controlled greenhouses. The Palm Garden is famous worldwide for its ample collection of native, tropical, and subtropic flora. In addition to the plants, it offers a variety of activities including guided tours, summer concerts, evening festivals and exhibitions.
The Frankfurt Palmengarten is a public site, financed and implemented by the architect Heinrich Siesmayer. The garden was completed in 1871 and subsequently opened to the public. The Palm Garden was revamped in the 1960s when a major reconstruction effort was begun to develop and expand the existing structures.
Although the Black Forest is located in one of the sunniest areas of Germany, its name dates back to a time when thick trees shielded the forest floor from light. While there are more clearings now, the country's largest and most renowned forest remains a real-life Grimm fairy tale dotted with gingerbread villages and serene wood-fringed lakes.
Formed by glaciers some 10,000 years ago, Lake Titisee is nestled in the heart of Black Forest National Park. The ancient alpine waters of this popular vacation destination draw outdoor sports enthusiasts year-round, from hiking and boating in summer to ice skating and skiing in the mountains when temperatures drop.
Shoppers browsing the boutiques along Frankfurt’s main shopping streets, the Zeil and Goethestrasse, often spill over into the Hauptwache; one of the city’s busiest squares. A transport hub at the heart of downtown Frankfurt, the Hauptwache is known for its Baroque Guard-House, now a popular café.
In what is possibly one of the world’s most interesting subway entrances, a streetcar appears to burst through the sidewalk from underground at the Bockenheimer Warte. Bockenheimer Warte is a part of the neighborhood of Bockenheim, which is a residential area that is worth visiting to get an impression of where locals go for grocery shopping, haircuts, and the like. Bockenheimer Warte is a five-minute walk from the Palmengarten, one of Frankfurt’s two large botanical gardens, and the Senckenberg Museum (Germany’s second-largest natural history museum) is quite close as well.
The lively Leipziger Straße, full of shops and places to eat, also begins at the Bockenheimer Warte. This creative metro entrance is one of the best photo opportunities in Frankfurt and is certainly worth stopping by if you have a few minutes to spare, especially if you are already in the area to visit the natural history museum or the botanical garden.
Set in the Black Forest region near the border between France and Germany, Baden-Baden offers a charming blend of cultures with grand Art Nouveau villas, modern boutiques, and chic cafés. The town’s thermal waters and ancient Roman baths are its main attractions, including the famous Friedrichsbad spring and Trinkhalle pump room.
The Frankfurt Zoo opened in 1858 and is the second oldest in Germany. The zoo contains over 4,500 animals of more than 400 species. If want to experience crocodiles, gorillas, lions and rhinos while in Germany, the zoo is great place to visit. Animal aficionados will find many many exotic animals to observe, from mouse lemurs and galagos over tamanduas to aardvarks, fossas and kiwis.
The zoo has taken great care to construct different climate and socially controlled habitats suited to each of the animals. It contains an Exotarium, a Crocodile Hall, an Insectarium, a Nocturnal Animals House, a Bird Hall, and more. In true German style, you can enjoy a drink or a meal in the beer garden after touring the zoo.
The Main River’s south bank is lined with museums, the most impressive being the Städel Museum. The Städel was founded in 1815 by the Frankfurt banker and merchant Johann Friedrich Städel and has grown to contain one of Europe’s finest collections of art. It is also an important historical site; in 1937, many of the museum’s paintings and prints were confiscated after being classified as degenerate art. Nowadays, the Städel’s collection is so extensive that it can only display 600 of the 2,700 paintings it owns.
The museum has a broad and exceptional collection of art, featuring European paintings from seven centuries. The span of artwork begins at the early 14th century, moving into Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque periods and ending in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some notable artists include Botticelli, Dürer, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens, Vermeer and Cézanne.
With a history dating back to the 12th century, Greifenstein Castle (Burg Greifenstein) is one of Germany’s oldest fortresses and is protected as a national landmark. Perched on a hilltop in the Dill Valley, the castle’s dark stone facade and twin towers can be seen for miles around, keeping watch over the forested slopes below.
Set in the forested foothills of the Spessart Mountains along the banks of the Main River, Aschaffenburg is one of northern Bavaria’s most picturesque towns. Less than an hour from Frankfurt, but still largely off the tourist trail; it’s known for its verdant parks, notable art galleries, and storybook architecture, including a Renaissance castle, medieval Old Town, and Roman-inspired Pompejanum.
Counting architectural wonders, a medieval castle, and a UNESCO World Heritage-listed archaeological site among its eclectic attractions, Darmstadt appeals to those willing to wander off the beaten track. Just a short hop from Frankfurt, the city is best known for its impressively preserved Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) architecture.
As the birthplace of fairy-tale maestros the Brothers Grimm and the start of the German Fairy-Tale Road; Hanau is every bit the storybook town. With its half-timbered buildings, Baroque palaces and parks, and backdrop of forested hills—it’s easy to see where the Grimms’ sourced their inspiration.
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