It might not get as much attention as Berlin, but Frankfurt has a lot to offer the discerning tourist. What can sometimes be mistaken for a very modern concrete jungle is actually a deceptively charming city filled with ancient churches, historic cemeteries, fascinating museums, and bustling markets. The combination of the old and the new is tantalizing, and one that’s guaranteed to please almost every taste. If you’re planning a trip, make it as memorable as possible with the help of our guide to the 20 best things to do in Frankfurt, Germany.
20. Visit the Robert Johnson Club
Recommended as one of the best places to visit in Frankfurt by Time Out, the Robert Johnson Club is not, as the name suggests, dedicated to the blues of legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, but rather to techno and electronic music. It’s small, unfussy, and with zero airs and graces. This isn’t the kind of place that worries about what you’re wearing on your feet or how much money you’re likely to spend at the bar. All it cares about is music. Its sound system is one of the best in Europe and the DJs it attracts are some of the biggest names in the world. If it could fit more than 100 people in at any one time, there’d be no shortage of takers. As it is, it’s a deliciously intimate, superbly chilled place that leaves absolutely nothing to be desired.
19. Shop till you drop at Erzeugermarkt Konstablerwache
If you want to sample some local delicacies, head for Erzeugermarkt Konstablerwache, a huge farmer’s market (the largest in the state, in fact) that offers an almost infinite assortment of cured meats, brown bread, cheeses, wines, ciders, and other regional foods to try. Boasting stalls from over 50 of the area’s farm collectives, it prides itself on promoting traditional food production techniques and local produce, with the result that it’s the perfect place to try some authentic, top quality goods like Grüne Soße (a tangy sour cream that gets its slightly startling green hue from a delicate blend of herbs) and Handkäse mit Musik, an incredibly pungent cheese made with chopped onions and caraway that, fortunately, tastes a lot better than it smells.
18. Visit the cathedral
Work on Frankfurt Cathedral began in the 1300s. The first time around, it made it all the way to 1867 before the builders had to move back in to repair it after a fire. After World War II, they made a return visit to repair the damage caused by Allied bombing. Today, the cathedral is as breathtakingly inspiring as it ever was. Somehow, some original features have managed to stay intact the entire time – keep your eyes peeled for the 4th-century choir stalls and the 15th-century fresco of the life of the Virgin Mary in particular.
17. Hunt for treasures at Schaumainkai flea market
Who doesn’t love a flea market? If your attic isn’t already growing under the weight of a bunch of old toys and vintage vinyl, stock up on both (and a whole lot more besides) at the Schaumainkai flea market. Considered the best of its kind in the city, it’s the perfect place to pick up the kind of thing you don’t really need, but really, really want anyway. Art, antiques, old bikes, vintage clothes, handicrafts, retro board games, car parts, rare records…. you name it, it’s here. Best of all, it’s usually at a price to suit even the tightest of budgets.
16. Explore Frankfurt City Forest
If the hustle and bustle of the city are starting to wear thin, head 15 minutes outside the center to Frankfurt City Forest, a vast 450-kilometer network of hiking, running and cycling trails that’s one of the very last surviving traces of Germany’s Imperial Forest. Peaceful, perfect for outdoor recreation, and with plenty of spots to enjoy some alfresco dining, it’s the ideal place to revive your spirits before heading back into the city.
15. Explore the cafes of Upper Berger Straße
Frankfurt’s cafe culture is best discovered on the gorgeous Upper Berger Straße. Packed with charming little cafes hidden away behind 17th-century half-timbered buildings, it’s a great place to enjoy a slice or two of apple strudel and a coffee. There’s also an amazing selection of ice cream parlors to take for a test drive – the traditional Spaghetti-Eis (a soft vanilla ice cream encased in noodles and served with strawberry sauce) comes highly recommended.
14. Take a trip on the Ebbelwei-Express
If walking the city’s cobblestone streets has left your feet sore and your legs aching, give them a rest by hopping aboard the Ebbelwei-Express. Described as a must-do by The Frankfurt Edit, this vintage tram takes you on a whistlestop tour of all 29 major landmarks in the city. The ride lasts an hour in total, but as the ticket lasts all day, you’re free to hop on and off whenever you reach anywhere of interest. There’s no onboard guide, but if you want to learn a little more about the attractions you’ll trundle past, you can download the accompanying podcast. The best thing of all? Each ticket (or at least the ones intended for adult passengers) comes with a bag of pretzels and a bottle of Apfelwein included in the price.
13. Take a boat tour
If you want to experience Frankfurt in the most relaxing way possible, forget walking. Forget biking. Forget the tram even. Instead, take a boat tour along the river. You’ll glide past castles, historical landmarks, and parks… without having to move a single muscle the entire time. What could be better?
12. Discover new music at Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Jahrhunderthalle
If you like discovering new music, you’re going to love the concert series Music Sneak at Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Jahrhunderthalle (try saying that after one too many glasses of Apfelwein). It’s a bit like the blind date equivalent to music – each month, performers turn up to perform three 30 minutes sets; until they hit the stage, no one has any idea who they’ll be. You might hear folk, rock, punk or even slam poetry – whatever it turns out to be, you’re guaranteed a sensational night.
11. Enjoy a performance at the Old Opera House
Like many of Frankfurt’s most famous buildings, the original Opera House was destroyed during World War II. Fortunately, it’s since been lovingly restored to its former glory. It’s also gained a new addition – a super modern concert hall that hosts over 300 performances from symphony orchestras, chamber philharmonics, jazz artists, pianists, and cellists each year. If you want to enjoy a concert while admiring some of the finest architecture Frankfurt has to offer, this is where to do it.
10. Get on your Byke
If you’ve been hitting the sausages and dumplings a bit too hard, burn off the calories with the help of Frankfurt’s bike share scheme, Byke. The snazzy yellow and blue bikes are available at a cost of just 50 cents for 30 minutes or 3 euros for a day. There’s no need to return to your collection point either – there are no fixed local points, so you can simply leave the bike wherever you land up. The website is only available in German but the app is in English, so you shouldn’t have any problems in getting signed up and started. If you want to make the most of your two-wheeled freedom, hit the 50-mile GrünGürtel-Radweg that rings the entire city. If just the thought of 50 miles leaves you breathless, the much more manageable six-mile bike trails around the Höchst industrial park are just as charming.
9. Admire the beauty of Palmengarten
Recommended as one of the top attractions in Frankfurt by Trip Savvy, the Palmengarten is a must-visit for anyone who’s in need of some respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. Founded in 1868, the Botanical Garden takes you on a horticultural tour of the world, with exotic blooms from the rain forests sitting side by side with desert cacti and English roses. Occupying 50 acres of grounds and greenhouses and boasting over 6000 botanical species, it’s heaven for nature lovers.
8. Enjoy a glass of cider in Sachsenhausen
As Germany Travel Guide notes, indulging in a glass of Apfelwein is an obligatory part of the Frankfurt experience. A type of crisp, alcoholic apple cider that’s produced locally in the regions surrounding the city, it’s best sampled at one of the old apple cider taverns in the historic Sachsenhausen district. Just be warned… one glass is rarely enough.
7. Tour the Goethe House
Frankfurt’s most famous son is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, author of the first German epistolary novel “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” Goethe, who was just 24 years old at the time of writing the novel, finished the whole thing in five-and-a-half weeks. If you want to see the very desk he wrote at, you can. While Goethe’s childhood home was razed to the ground during World War II, it’s since been painstakingly restored and turned into a museum. All of the books, paintings, and furniture you see in the house, which is located at Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25, near Römerberg, are the original articles.
6. Browse the shops on the Fifth Avenue of Germany
Fancy getting in some retail therapy while you’re in Frankfurt? Then take the advice of travellens.co and head for Zeil, a pedestrianized shopping area that’s widely regarded as the Fifth Avenue of Germany. There’s pretty much every type of shop imaginable, from department chains to chic boutiques, discount stores to designer fashion houses. There’s also a very contemporary 10-floor shopping center named the “Zeil Galerie.” Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s a great place to indulge in a bit of people-watching.
5. Admire the replicas at DomRömer Quarter
Frankfurt wasn’t the only German (or indeed, European) city that got badly damaged during World War II, but it’s the only one to have gone to the bother of re-building an entire district to look exactly as it did at the turn of the 20th century. Spread over 7000 meters between Cathedral Square and the Römer building, the DomRömer Quarter is utterly fascinating. There’s shops, cafes, and museums scattered around, but the real joy here is to simply stroll the streets and admire the incredible replicas.
4. Pick up some produce at Kleinmarkthalle
If your hotel mini-fridge is looking a little bare, head to Kleinmarkthalle to stock up on some amazing local produce. This vast, 1,500-square-metre produce market boasts over 160 vendors hawking everything from dried fruits to dried meats, pasta to cheese. Whatever you’re craving, you’re going to find it here -and if on the off chance you don’t, you’ll find something that fills the hole just as nicely. While you’re there, be sure to pop by the Marktstubb café for a big plate of something warming, regional, and very, very tasty.
3. Tour the Old Jewish Cemeteries
Frankfurt’s Old Jewish Cemeteries sprang up in the Middle Ages, with the oldest surviving gravestone dating back to 1272. Much of the site got destroyed by both the Nazis and the Allied Forces during the war, with the result that only 200 tombstones are still in good shape. Since the war, one of the cemetery’s walls has been turned into a memorial to the 10,000 Frankfurter Jews that were murdered during the Holocaust. Another area is dedicated exclusively to the graves of the hundreds of Jews who committed suicide after Hitler’s rise to power. Despite the unbearable tragedies of the past, the quiet solemnity of the graveyards is remarkably peaceful.
2. Enjoy the view from the Main Tower
Recommended as one of the best things to do in Frankfurt by uniquethingstodo.com, a trip to the Main Tower is unquestionably a highlight of any visit to the city. Pretty though Frankfurt is from the ground, its beauty takes on a very different dimension when seen from the top of Frankfurt’s only publicly accessible skyscraper. If you hate heights, you might want to skip it. If you don’t, grab the elevator up to the 650-feet high viewing platform and prepare to be awestruck. While you’re up there, pop by the Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge for a cocktail- if you can, visit during the evening to enjoy dinner and a sunset.
1. Tour the museums
Frankfurt has around 60 museums in total, and while there’s very little chance most vacationers will manage to visit them all, the best way to squeeze as many in as possible is by heading to Museumsufer (Museum Embankment). The embarkment boasts 13 of the city’s finest cultural institutions, from the Städel with its humongous and supremely impressive art collection to the movie-obsessed Deutsches Filmmuseu. Along with the big names, there are also several lesser-known but no less rewarding museums to check out, not least the Caricatura museum and the slightly weird but highly enjoyable Bible experience museum.