Port of Frankfurt
Frankfurt am Main ("Frankfurt on the Main," the city's full name) is Germany's banking and financial powerhouse. It's home to banks from around the world, as well as the European Central Bank. Many are housed in the sleek, modern skyscrapers that define Frankfurt's skyline. (These buildings have even spawned nicknames for the city, including "Main-hattan" and "Bankfurt.") As an international business center, Frankfurt attracts expats from around the world, so it's a very cosmopolitan place. It ranks as Germany's fifth-largest city, with a population of 717,000.
Behind the modern gloss, Frankfurt's roots run deep. Charlemagne is celebrated as the city's founder, although the ancient Romans were here, too. Unfortunately, much of the city was destroyed in World War II, by fires that resulted from Allied bombing. Some historic buildings and monuments have been rebuilt or restored, but most of Frankfurt's old half-timbered houses were lost. The city is still in the process of restoring some districts with a mix of modern and old-style architecture.
Frankfurt straddles the Main (pronounced "mine") River, with the Old Town and performing arts venues located on the north side, and many museums lining the south bank. Museum buffs are definitely in for a treat, and can enjoy several art museums, plus others focused on history, film, architecture, Jewish culture, porcelain, applied arts, archaeology and more. You'll also find parks and botanical gardens, a wide variety of restaurants, and plenty of shopping.
If you've flown to Europe much, you've no doubt passed through Frankfurt's airport -- one of the busiest in the world. Its huge train station is also a major European hub, with more than 350,000 passengers using it every day. As a transportation center, Frankfurt provides easy access to and from the rest of Germany and beyond.
This city is one of Germany's largest, and there's no shortage of historic sights, shops and museums to explore
Jaywalking is illegal here, and police are quick to enforce the law, so be aware of where and when you cross
Frankfurt is a modern, cosmopolitan city with a rich history and plenty of diversions to pass the time
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Where You're Docked
Ships usually dock on the north side of the Main River, around the Untermainbrucke bridge, right in the heart of the city. There's no terminal of any sort, but many of Frankfurt's attractions are within a 15-minute walk.
The quay is next to the Nizza, a narrow park that lines the Main River. There's a walking path along the river; due to the microclimate, you'll find some surprising Mediterranean plants, including palm, fig and lemon trees. Just west of Untermainbrucke bridge is the popular MainNizza restaurant, which serves an international menu and offers terrace-side tables with a nice view over the river.
Also west of Untermainbrucke bridge, on the first street parallel to the river, is the Jewish Museum (Judisches Museum). The block behind that is home to several performing arts venues, including the opera house (Oper Frankfurt). Beyond that, around Friedensstrasse street, you'll find a number of restaurants.
The tourism office and city hall are in Romerberg Square in the city's Old Town (Altstadt), about a 10-minute walk from the dock. You might want to take a slight detour on the way to catch the views from Eisener Steg, a pedestrian bridge across the river.
Good to Know
Public restrooms (those not located inside a business establishment) usually charge you to use them; cost is typically 50 euro-cents. In many cases they only take coins, but will usually return change.
Jaywalking is against the law here, so resist the temptation -- the police take it seriously.
Frankfurt is generally very safe, but as in any big city, be aware of your surroundings and stay alert for pickpockets or scams.
On Foot: Many of the city's attractions are within easy walking distance and the terrain is relatively flat.
By Public Transportation: Frankfurt has an integrated public transportation system that includes buses, trams, regional trains (S-Bahn) and subway lines (U-Bahn). It operates on a zone system; regular tickets are good for one hour, including transfers. All-day tickets are also available. You can buy them from machines (push the Tageskarte button) in subway stations, at tram stops or from bus drivers. It's worth buying a day pass if you're planning to take at least three trips on public transportation. Another option is the one- or two-day Frankfurt Card, which gives you unlimited travel on public transportation in the city and airport zone, plus a slew of discounts on museums, attractions, performances and tours. You can buy the Frankfurt Card at tourism offices, including at the main train station and Romerberg Square.
By Taxi: You'll find taxis at designated stands, or you can hail them -- the light is on when they're available.
Getting to the Dock: It's about a 20-minute taxi ride from Frankfurt Airport to the docking area. You can also take the S-Bahn or a bus from the airport into the city's main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and take a cab the additional half-mile to the river.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
Germany's currency is the euro. For current currency conversion figures, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. A Euronet ATM (geldautomat) and a currency exchange can both be found in Romerberg Square, a major tourist destination in Frankfurt's Old Town. Other ATMs are available at banks around the city. Credit cards are generally accepted, but there may be a minimum purchase to use one so it's best to ask in advance. If you are given a choice of charging your card in euros or your home currency, always choose euros; otherwise, you may be socked with a fee and a poor exchange rate.
The local language is German, but in this very international city you'll likely hear numerous languages on the street. Many Germans speak at least some English, so you shouldn't find it difficult to communicate.
Food and Drink
Where would the frankfurter be without Frankfurt? Yes, the local sausage here inspired that American favorite, the hotdog. So by all means, pay homage. Here, they're all-pork, a bit longer and lightly smoked; they're usually served with brown bread and mustard, so don't expect a bun. Other typical dishes include grune sosse (green sauce), made from seven different herbs, oil, vinegar, sour cream and yogurt, and served with hard-boiled eggs and boiled potatoes; handkas mit music (cheese marinated in oil, vinegar, onions and caraway seeds) and rippchen (pork chops cooked with sauerkraut).
For something sweet, keep an eye out for Bethmannchen, little marzipan balls with three almonds pressed into them. They're named after a Frankfurt banking family that first served them in the 1800s. Each almond represented one of the family's sons. There were originally four almonds, but sadly, after one son's death, the number was reduced to three.
Want to take a break from German food? Frankfurt's international community means there are ethnic restaurants here of all sorts. You'll find Italian, Japanese, Thai, French, Middle Eastern, African, Greek and just about any other cuisine you can name.
Here are our picks for lunching in Frankfurt:
Kleinmarkthalle: This local market hall, not far from Romerberg Square, is the perfect place to graze your way through lunch. You'll find all the favorite Frankfurt dishes and ingredients here. Some of the butchers sell hot sausages and sandwiches, while others offer grune sosse. There are numerous tempting bakery stands and cheese displays. Head upstairs for an oyster bar, an Italian deli and a traditional, full-service restaurant. (5 Hasengasse; 49 (0) 69 212 33696; open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
Lafleur: Offering something a bit more upscale, Lafleur -- located in the Palmengarten botanical park -- holds two Michelin stars and serves an international gastronomic menu. It's also known for offering an outstanding vegan alternative menu. The prix-fixe business lunch is an excellent value in this expensive city -- and, like the evening menu, includes a full vegan option. (11 Palmengartenstrasse; 49 (0) 69 900 29100; open Tuesday 6:30 p.m. to midnight, Wednesday to Friday noon to 3:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to midnight, and Saturday from 6:30 p.m. to midnight)
Atschel: In the Sachsenhausen district (known for its apple wine restaurants), one of the best is Atschel. Founded in 1849, this pub serves big portions of traditional German food -- we're talking huge portions of schnitzel or pork knuckle (and they also serve steak) -- washed down with pitchers of apfelwein. In the summer, you can dine in an outdoor garden. (7 Wallstrasse; 49 (0) 69 619201; open daily noon to 11 p.m.)
Fujiwara: If you want to go 180 degrees from German food, there are plenty of Asian restaurants in the city. Try Fujiwara, on the south side of the river not far from the museum district. It offers lunch combos that include sushi, sashimi, tempura, fried chicken karaage and more, served with soup and sala, all at reasonable prices for Frankfurt. (1 Cranachstrasse; 49 (0) 69 663 71816; open Wednesday through Saturday noon to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.)
A classic Frankfurt souvenir would be a bembel, one of the painted pitchers used for apple wine. Stores selling them typically also feature other ceramics painted in the typical blue-on-gray motifs. Carved wooden items -- particularly toys -- make excellent gifts, too. Or you could pick up a messenger bag decorated with a city map, or a pair of slippers that say "Frank" and "Furt."
Aha! You thought we were going to suggest you quaff the local beer, right? Well, there are definitely breweries in Frankfurt, but the iconic local drink is actually apple wine (apfelwein). It's typically poured from a blue-painted earthenware jug into small glasses decorated with a diamond-shaped pattern. Don't expect it to be sweet like cider; the taste is tart and a bit sour, and some locals like to mix it with sparkling water. You'll find pubs specializing in apple wine in the riverside Sachsenhausen district, where less-traditional spots may even shake it up in cocktails.