Off Duty: Frankfurt

From art to funky nightlife, there’s far more to Germany’s great financial metropolis than business, says David Orkin

Monday 09 July 2007 16:26 BST
After a bit of retail therapy, relax at one of Frankfurt's outdoor cafes
After a bit of retail therapy, relax at one of Frankfurt's outdoor cafes


With its location on the River Main together with an ever-increasing number of skyscrapers, perhaps it is no surprise that Germany's financial powerhouse has been nicknamed "Mainhattan".

This may be a city of shiny brash towers housing banks and big businesses, but you'll also find half-timbered medieval houses. Don't be fooled, though. Decimated by bombings in the Second World War, Frankfurt is largely newly built or rebuilt: most of the houses in historic Römerberg in the Altstadt (Old Town), for example, were reconstructed to their original plans relatively recently.

A good place to get the lie of the land is from the 54th-floor Observation Deck of the Main Tower (00 49 69 3650 4740;, and after dark, there are also great skyline views from the Alte Brücke, one of many bridges over the Main. This is a fine city, too, for retail therapy. The main artery for shopaholics is pedestrianised Zeil: try Goethestrasse for designer labels, Schillerstrasse for shoes, and Berger Strasse for funky and second-hand fashion. The Kleinmarkthalle bustles with seekers of fresh German (and Turkish) comestibles.


It is said that Frankfurt spends more money on the arts each year than any other European city. With a wonderful collection including many masterpieces from the 14th century to the present day, the Städel Gallery (00 49 69 60 50 98 186;, deserves its "world-class" label, whilst the Schirn Kunsthalle (00 49 69 29 98 820; hosts a range of top-notch art, architecture and other cultural exhibitions. Goethehaus ( 00 49 69 138 800; is the birthplace and childhood home of Frankfurt's most famous son and perhaps Germany's most celebrated writer, Faust author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. On the south bank of the Main, you'll find Museumsufer ("museum embankment"), a row of a dozen or so fine museums including the Museum of Applied Arts, the German Film Museum and the German Museum of Architecture. Buy a two-day "Museumsufer" card for entry to all these and many more for €12.

For a totally different experience, explore a museum with nothing to see. At the Dialogmuseum (00 49 69 90 43 21 44; blind guides lead you through pitch-black rooms and encourage you to use your "non-sight" senses.


From being something of a gastronomic backwater, the city has recently written itself onto the gourmet's "must visit" list. The range of cuisines on offer continues to become more eclectic, although the old German favourites still deliver. Alt-Sachsenhausen is the place to go for tucked-away taverns and beer gardens dishing up local specialities. For hearty traditional German food and atmosphere to match, Apfelwein Wagner (00 49 69 612 565; is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Expect sausages, sauerkraut, ribs, schnitzel and, of course, pitchers of Frankfurt's celebrated cider, Apfelwein.

Close by, Zum Gemalten Haus (00 49 69 614 559; is also reliable. Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse - better known as "Fressgass" - is packed with delis and all manner of unsophisticated international eateries.

Liebigstrasse offers two excellent French-influenced restaurants, Erno's Bistro (00 49 69 72 19 97; and Gargantua (00 49 69 720 718;, whilst there's a strong Indian flavour and the feel of a Gentlemen's Club at the Ivory Club (00 49 770 677 67; The Ostend area has several old breweries and factories converted into bars - Hanauer Landstrasse (its main artery) is the city's most up-and-coming nightlife district. Don't miss the trendy hi-tech Cocoon Club (00 49 69 900 200;


Thinking of unwinding on a beach with a cool drink? Frankfurt might not be the first place that would come to your mind. However, in the summer, many of the city's venues set up outdoor beach clubs, complete with sand, barbecues and even palm trees. On the northern bank of the Main, try Hafenbar ( ) by the Alte Brücke, or the Galerie Beach Club (00 49 69 40 14 38 42; in Osthafen. In addition, the rooftops of some city-centre buildings are used as open-air bars, for example Long Island Summer Lounge (00 49 69 91 39 61 47; on the roof of the car park of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange with two pools and a capacity of 500, or, opening in the middle of July, City Beach Frankfurt (00 49 69 92 01 44 14; on the roof of a department store's car park, boasting a pool and sand, beach volley ball, open air cinema and salsa evenings.

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