With one of the busiest airports in Europe, Frankfurt is a jumping off point to travels far and wide. But the city is an intriguing destination in its own right. Bold architecture, laid-back cafes, tranquil green spaces and vibrant nightlife delight visitors. Some of the tallest buildings in Europe make up Frankfurt’s dazzling skyline—in stark contrast to historic sites that dot the city.
Frankfurt is a banking powerhouse. It’s home to the European Central Bank and Frankfurt Stock Exchange, as well as the headquarters of major German banks. Due to its central location in the heart of Europe, the city also is a major transport hub for air, rail and trucking.
Getting to and from the airport
Frankfurt Airport lies 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) southwest of central Frankfurt. The airport is well connected to the surrounding city by public transport. The best option is to take the S-Bahn, a high-speed commuter train. The journey to Frankfurt’s central station takes 14 minutes. Purchase a ticket at vending machines in the train station before boarding the train. Taxis are available at both terminals. A trip to the city center takes 20 to 30 minutes, depending on traffic.
Getting around Frankfurt
The most efficient way to travel within Frankfurt is the U-Bahn public transportation network using a single, all-day or weekly ticket. Ticket prices vary depending on zone and distance traveled. The Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund site offers schedule and fare information. If you’re visiting attractions, consider purchasing a Frankfurt Card—it offers unlimited transport and discounts in many of the city’s museums, restaurants and entertainment venues. A one-day ticket is €9.90 (US$11.23 using the exchange rate US$1 to €0.88) and a 2-day ticket is €14.50 (US$16.45)
It’s easy to get a taxi at one of the city’s many taxi stands or outside hotels and train stations. Fares can be expensive; they start at €2.80 (US$3.18) and increase by €1.75 (US$1.98) per kilometer. For shorter distances, try a velotaxi—a covered tricycle with seating for two passengers. The charge is €2.50 (US$2.84) per kilometer.
Where to stay
For luxury and upscale accommodation, try Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof (Am Kaiserplatz, Frankfurt 60311; Ph: +49-69-21502), Hilton Frankfurt Hotel (Hochstrasse 4, Frankfurt 60313; Ph: +49-69-133800), Marriott Frankfurt (Hamburger Allee 2, Frankfurt 60486; Ph: +49-69-79550) Radisson Blu Hotel Frankfurt (Franklinstrasse 65, Frankfurt 60486; Ph: +49-69-770-1550), NH Frankfurt City Center (Vilbeler Strasse 2, Fankfurt 60313; Ph: +49-69-928-8590), Wyndham Grand Frankfurt (Wilhelm-Leuschner-Strasse 32/34, Frankfurt 60329; Ph: +49-69-907-4590).
Midscale and economy options include Intercity Hotel Frankfurt (Poststrasse 8, Frankfurt 60329; Ph: +49-69-273910), Mercure Frankfurt City Messe (Dusseldorfer Strasse 20, Frankfurt 60329; Ph: +49-69-272120), and Ibis Styles Frankfurt City (Moselstrasse 12, Frankfurt 60329; Ph: +49-69-256110).
Things to see and do
Get acquainted with the city by exploring Altstadt (Old Town). The historical district sits on the banks of the Main River and is crowned by Romerberg square. Originally developed in 1405, the square was destroyed in World War II. The buildings that line the eastern side are reconstructions and give you an idea of the beautiful medieval architecture that was once commonplace. Frankfurt’s impressive city hall also borders the square. A visit here is especially lovely in December when a charming Christmas market sets up shop.
The Palm Garden is a botanical oasis in the heart of the city. Exhibits are organized according to geographic origin, and you’ll see plants from all corners of the globe. Take in the subtropical flora in the Palm House, and compare it to plants in the cool, temperate areas of the Southern Hemisphere in the Sub-Antarctic House. The garden is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. February to October and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. November to January. Admission is €7 (US$7.94).
The south bank of the Main River is referred to as Museumsufer, or Museum embankment, because of its concentration of museums. The most popular is the Schirn Kunsthalle. The art gallery exhibits modern and contemporary art. It’s often the site of touring exhibitions; in recent years it has showcased retrospectives of Frida Kahlo, Marc Chagall and Wassily Kandinsky. It’s open Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Wednesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Admission prices vary depending on the exhibition.
Attending a concert at the Alte Opera (Old Opera) is a great way to spend an evening. The building was heavily damaged during World War II. When it was rebuilt, the magnificent façade and mosaic-lined lobby were faithfully restored to resemble the original structure.
You won’t find a better view of the striking Frankfurt skyline than from the top of the Main Tower. Take the elevator to the viewing platform that sits 56 stories above the city. Stop in at the Main Tower Restaurant on the 53rd floor and enjoy the sea of skyscrapers with a drink in hand. The viewing platform is open in the summer Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. In the winter, it’s open Sunday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. The lift fee is €6.50 (US$7.37).
Where to eat
Christina Kenzler, a BCD Travel executive assistant based in Frankfurt, recommends Restaurant Druckwasserwerk for an elegant business lunch. The former waterworks building has been reborn as a cozy restaurant overlooking the banks of the Main River. The inventive dishes add excitement to a workday meal. Find it at Rotfeder-Ring, Frankfurt 60327; Ph: +49 69 256287700.
For traditional German fare, Christina suggests Apfelwein Wagner. Hearty favorites like schnitzel, bratwurst and grilled pork shoulder are on the menu. Tourists and locals favor its reasonable prices and festive atmosphere. Find it at Schweizer Straße 71, Frankfurt 60594; Ph: +49 69 612565.
Look no further than A Casa di Tomilaia for superb Italian cuisine. The fresh breads and pastas are prepared onsite daily. The wine list is extensive, and friendly servers are happy to suggest wine pairings for your chosen dishes. Be sure to reserve a table a few days in advance. It’s at Walther-von-Cronberg-Platz 9, Frankfurt 60594; Ph: +49 69 68977625.
Der Grieche is a stylish Greek restaurant downtown. Ouzo runs like water, and it’s likely your server will offer you a complimentary shot of the Greek aperitif. You may want to linger after you’ve finished your meal—the party atmosphere kicks into high gear after 9 p.m. Find it at Kaiserhofstraße 12, Frankfurt 60313; Ph: +49 69 91396146.