In search of... Faust in Frankfurt

A child murder in the city where Goethe was born inspired his most famous work. Ian McCurrach hunts for other devilish connections

I thought Frankfurt was a cutting-edge city all full of space-age towers. What's it got to do with pacts with the devil?

Well, dumbo, like me, you might be surprised to find out that Goethe, aka the Prince of German Poets and author, of course, of Faust, was born here in 1749 and spent his young adult life in the city.

Oh really? Goethe was more than just a poet, though, wasn't he?

Yes. He was also a noted lawyer, scholar, philosopher, playwright and natural scientist. Most Frankfurters pride themselves on being able to come up with a couple of quotes from the master, such as "On the 28th August 1749, as the midday bell struck twelve, I was born into Frankfurt by the Main", which is how he described his birth in Poetry and Truth.

Did the city provide much inspiration for Faust then?

You bet. As a young man he experienced the court case of the infant murderer Susanna Brandt, whose fate moved him deeply. Years later he paid tribute to Brandt with the figure of Gretchen in Faust (Marguerite in the operatic version), in which a disillusioned academic sells his soul to the devil in return for love. In fact, Goethe's memory lives long here, as the city is littered with statues and buildings associated with him.

So where should I start?

Prime destination is the poet's birthplace, The Goethe House, Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25 (00 49 69 13 88 00;, which is a wonderful example of how the well-to-do lived in the 18th century. See where little Goethe got to be such a brainbox. Goethe senior wanted the best-educated children in town and there are rooms dedicated to each of the arts. The library was dubbed the torture room by young Goethe, because it was here that he and his sister Cornelia were made to read and write in five languages. Goethe's study on the third floor is where he wrote the works that were first claim to fame: Goetz of Berlichingen and The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Any more devilishly clever connections?

Right next door, in fact, to The Goethe Museum, which has a fascinating collection of art and artefacts connected to Goethe, along with a vast library of his works. For example, in the Arcadian Room is a painting of Maddalena Riggi, from Milan, the girl to whom Goethe is thought to have lost his virginity when he was 35 years old. The master was terrified of contracting syphilis, which might explain why he left it quite late in life to begin sexual relationships. What this does indicate is that his early love poems may have been the manifestation of his unconsummated physical desires.

I'm getting quite interested - where can I find out more?

Just a hop, skip and a jump away. Cross the road to the excellent local bookshop. At Büchergilde, Grosser Hirschgraben 20-26, you can stock up on loads of works by Goethe, translated into English.

Anything else I should see?

No visit is complete without taking in the Gerbermühle, Deutschherrnufer 105. This former mill on the banks of the Main was once the summer residence of the banker, Johann Jakob von Willemer, whom Goethe visited for a month in 1815. It was here that the poet, aged 65, met young Marianne von Willemer and fell in love with her. Their love letters were immortalised in Goethe's West-Eastern Divan. Today, it houses a small hotel with large gardens overlooking the river where you can contemplate the master's work.

I'm getting hungry?

There's nowhere finer than the terrace of the Alte Oper, Am Opernplatz, which comes complete with a statue of Goethe. Tuck into a delicious salad and a refreshing glass of apple wine in this beautifully renovated space in the old opera house.

Where else should I visit?

Goethe frequently sailed to the nearby town of Hochst, which is now a suburb of Frankfurt. The old town hasn't changed much, so expect tradition-steeped inns around the main square, a 16th-century castle and the famous porcelain factory. Goethe was a great admirer of the Hochst work, and was so close to Melchior, the modelling master, that he became the godfather of Melchior's son. You can tour the factory, which still produces the Goethe portrait first made by Melchior. Höchster Porzellan-Manufaktur, Bolongarostrasse 186 (00 49 69 30 09 02 0).

At the risk of sounding a bit shallow , are there any Goethe connections that are a little less worthy?

Sure. After such heady stuff, why not indulge in retail therapy. Goethestrasse is the city's most exclusive shopping street where you will find names like Prada, Hermès, Armani and Jil Sander.

OK, I'm convinced. How do I get there?

There really is only one way to go. BA (0870 850 9 850, flies from London City to Frankfurt with return fares from £81. The best place to stay is The Hotel Hessischer Hof (00 49-69 7540-0, 00800 2888 8882;, from £229 per night. A one-day Frankfurt Card from tourist information offices costs €7.50 (£5.20) and covers travel on S-Bahn and U-Bahn train, trams and night buses, along gives half-price admission to 17 museums. German National Tourist Office (020-7317 0908;

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam