Even if you’re an infrequent traveler, there’s an excellent chance that you’ve found yourself in the Frankfurt airport at least once. A major European hub, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve transferred in Frankfurt, and yet it was only recently when I left the airport to learn more about the city itself. Considered by many to be just a large, modern financial hub, I quickly learned that Frankfurt is so much more than that. It has a long and colorful history and traditions that are unique to the city and the people who call it home. There’s a lot to see and do in Frankfurt, but for me these experiences were the perfect way to go beyond the veneer and learn more about the beautiful city that lies just underneath.
Where to Stay
Thanks to its role as one of the world’s great financial centers, there are a number of fantastic luxury hotels throughout the city. For something a little different though, I stayed at the just across the river at Main Plaza. The location was actually fantastic not only for the easy access to both center city and the Sachsenhausen neighborhood, but for the views. Since it is across the river, the skyline views are the best of any hotel in Frankfurt. Add in exceptional service, comfortable rooms and delicious food and this really is a fantastic hotel for any visitor to the city.
Eat all the Food
To help me better understand traditional Frankfurt cuisine, a local food pro took the time to share with me his favorite hotspots, starting with the traditional restaurant Daheim im Lorsbacher Thal. Located in the sometimes rowdy Sachsenhausen neighborhood, the restaurant was so good I returned the next day on my own for another meal. It was also here where I was first introduced to Frankfurt’s most famous food staples. Green sauce, meat salad, special sausages and more are all part of the regional food culture, but the highlight for most is Frankfurt’s famous apple wine. Known locally just as Ebbelwei, they’ve been making this beverage in Frankfurt for centuries, although today there are only a handful left who produce the tart drink. There are a variety of different kinds though, as the enormous apple wine menu (bible) at Lorsbacher Thal proved. We started with the basics though as my guide showed me the proper way to enjoy Ebbelwei. Trying the most traditional version, I was surprised at how light a drink it is, which is probably why it’s also a popular summer beverage. Especially good when paired with food though, I quickly understood why it’s been so popular in Frankfurt for so very long. Apple wine is easy to find when you visit Frankfurt, but be sure to stop by a traditional restaurant like Lorsbacher Thal for the real experience.
Go on a Cruise
The Main River is an important aspect of any visit to Frankfurt. This beautiful river winds its way through the city, and whether you cross one of the many bridges or take a kayak out on the water, there’s no missing it. One of the best ways I think to experience both the river as well as enjoy alternate views of Frankfurt is by taking a short river cruise. I love being out on the water and if possible, I always find a way to experience new cities from this different vantage point. There’s so much more to notice from the water that you would never see on land, the excursions are usually a lot of fun as well. It was a hot summer’s day when I boarded the Primus Line ship heading up the river. The company offers a couple of different routes, providing access to different sections of the city. If you have the time though, I’d suggest just booking both routes so you can see the entire city. Each leg lasts about an hour and for me it was a nice way to see the city while relaxing at the same time.
Just as I enjoy being out on the water to get different views of new cities, I also enjoy heading to the top of the tallest buildings in order to appreciate those panoramic views. In Frankfurt that meant a visit to the Main Tower was in order. The Main Tower is a 56-storey skyscraper in Frankfurt’s downtown core, named after the nearby river of course. It’s the 4th tallest building in Germany and the only one in Frankfurt with a public viewing observatory, so of course I couldn’t resist. I didn’t book anything in advance, I just showed up, bought a ticket and waited to board the next elevator up. Even though it was the weekend and a nice day, the wait was only a few minutes and once I reached the observatory, I was happy to find that it wasn’t too packed with people. Even though a storm seemed to be approaching the city, the views still couldn’t be beat and the perspective of both the city and surrounding region was the best way to fully appreciate Frankfurt.
Join a Walk
I love walking tours, so before my visit I did a little research and found a free walking tour that fit perfectly with my schedule. Similar tours are offered in most touristy cities around the world and are typically led by students who depend on tips from the walks. I was a little surprised by how many people showed up to join the free walking tour, but the guide handled us with ease and soon we were off. For almost three hours, she showed us all around Frankfurt, visiting not only the most famous sites but off the beaten path spots as well. Overall, it was a great way to learn more about Frankfurt, the local culture and what residents love most about their city. It was also nice to experience the city with other tourists and to see what they found the most interesting as well.
There’s a lot to love about Frankfurt once you leave the modern financial district behind. I discovered an old city with a fascinating past and a food culture that is one of the best in Germany. So the next time your plans take you to Frankfurt, do yourself a favor and spend a couple of days getting to know the city just like I did.