Surprising Frankfurt – more than simply a business city

by Jeff.Mills

With its high-rise buildings and business buzz, it would be easy to dismiss Frankfurt as boring. But that would be wrong: take time to explore properly and you may even fall in love with the place

At first you may well wonder whatever made you chose to visit Frankfurt. Major German metropolis it may be, but first impressions do little to change your initial view that this is hardly the most exciting place you have ever visited. But give the city time and before long you will see just why Frankfurt rightly continues to stake its claim as one of the major centres, if not the major centre, on the European continent. Indeed, if it were not for London, it could probably lay claim to being the number one business city in Europe. And the better you get to know it, the more surprising it becomes.
Certainly the area around the Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and towards the Borse (Stock Exchange), just a short walk away, is given over largely to tower blocks - but look beyond them and prepare to be surprised. Although much of the old town was destroyed during the Second World War (hence all the new buildings), small pockets remain and it is very pleasant to stroll along the River Main to the cathedral and the cobbled square of Romerberg.
Just round the corner, the shopping area of the Zeil is where you will find the usual city array of designer boutiques and just across a hump-backed bridge there is the old quarter of Sachsenhausen, which comes alive at night with some decent restaurants and bars, of which there is no shortage. Look out for the Silk & Micro Restaurant at the super-cool Cocoon Club in the landmark UFO Building at Carl-Benz Strasse 21, perfect for either a quick drink or dinner with Frankfurt’s rich and famous.
For something more traditional, try the Restaurant Brückenkeller, housed in a 300-plus-year-old cellar at Schützenstrasse 6 which, it is said, was a favourite haunt of Goethe, amongst others. Don’t expect a rough and ready beer hall, though: this is a highly sophisticated restaurant with service to match.
Or, for something a bit different, head for the Tigerpalast Variete Theatre, part restaurant, part classic music hall, complete with acrobats. There’s no compromise, though, on the food in this downtown establishment, which is consistently gourmet.
Save money on taxis by using Frankfurt’s very efficient and well-integrated underground railway system (the U-Bahn), as well as suburban railways (S-Bahn), and the network of Strassenbahn or streetcars.
And when it comes to sightseeing, you simply must make time for Römer and Römerberg Square; the City Hall (with its gabled Gothic façade, widely recognised as the city’s emblem, where banquets were held to celebrate the coronations of the Holy Roman Emperors); The Goethe Haus and Museum (the birthplace of Germany’s most famous poet); and the Alte Oper, the Old Opera House, built between 1873 and 1880 and carefully rebuilt in the same fabulous style after it was destroyed during World War Two.
Where to stay
There is no shortage of excellent hotels in Frankfurt. Among those worth checking into are:
Villa Kennedy
Rocco Forte’s luxury five-star hotel, without doubt one of the best business hotels in the centre of Frankfurt, is located just off the south bank of the Main River. A splendid combination of tradition and modernity, the hotel’s three new buildings are set around the traditional 1904 Villa Speyer. Close to the hotel is Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen area, with its bustling bars and restaurants. 
Radisson SAS
You can hardly miss the super-cool Radisson SAS Hotel. It is one of the most eye-catching sights on the Frankfurt skyline -- a 19-storey glass cube, which appears to be held in place by a shining blue disc. As you would expect, the guest facilities match the high-tech building. Stay here for the experience alone.
Kempinski Hotel Falkenstein
This rather grand and imposing hotel is made up of one main neoclassical-style building and six others designed in an English manor-house style, built originally in 1909 by the German Emperor Wilhelm II as a convalescent home for higher ranking officers. In spite of it being slightly out of town, it’s worth considering if you like a bit of peace and quite after all the sightseeing.


Jeff Mills has been reporting on the business and leisure travel and lifestyle sectors for more than 30 years, during which time he has visited most countries of the world at least once. A previous editor of the leading travel industry newspaper, Travel Weekly, and travel editor of Sunday Business, London-based Mills now has a business travel column in the Spectator Business and writes on travel regularly for a number of national newspapers, glossy consumer magazines and travel websites.