What to see in Frankfurt, Germany
Römerberg, Römerberg 27 (North of Eiserner Steg bridge and city center). Römerberg is the old centre of Frankfurt, with a number of historic buildings dating to the 14th and 15th century (many of which, unfortunately, were destroyed during World War II and rebuilt afterwards). The Römer itself is the town hall of Frankfurt. At the Römer, you can also visit the Alte Nikolaikirche (built in 1290, taking its current form in the 15th century). Several restaurants, cafés and smaller shops can be found at the square itself and in the vicinity. Walking towards the Main river, you approach the Eiserne Steg, a 19th century bridge leading to Sachsenhausen, as well as the Rententurm (Customs Tower), a 15th century fortified tower in late Gothic style, connected to the Saalhof, an old 12th century castle building that was later modernized but never completely destroyed.
Dom (Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral). The main cathedral, built in Gothic style in the 14th century on the foundations of earlier churches. Beginning in 1356, 30 elections were held here for the Holy Roman Emperor. From 1562 to 1792, 10 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were crowned in the cathedral. It is possible to ascend the spiral stairs of the 95 meter church tower.
Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge). Frankfurt’s most well-known pedestrian bridge, built in 1869. It is just a minute away from the Römer, and provides great views of the skyline and the Main River. On the other side, you will reach Sachsenhausen, a district known for its museums and historic pubs.
Hauptwache. A public area that is often considered the central hub of Frankfurt’s modern city centre area due to its importance as a public transportation station as well as its central location, right between the main shopping street (Zeil), the Rossmarkt (another public square), and the Eschenheimer Tor. The place is named after a Baroque building (“Hauptwache”) located more or less in its centre. The building was constructed in 1730 to house the local city militia, as Frankfurt was an independent city at the time. When Frankfurt became part of Prussia, the building gradually lost its original function. Since 1905, it has instead been serving as a café (“Café Hauptwache”). Other attractions include the Katharinenkirche (built in 1680), and the Palais Thurn-und-Taxis (an 18th century palace completely rebuilt 2004-2009).
Alte Oper (Old Opera), Opernplatz 1. Renaissance Opera Building in the center of the city, on a busy square with fountains and cafés. Originally opened in 1880, it is not used for operas any more since the rebuilding after the war, but for concerts, congresses, and similar “fancy” events.
Börse (Frankfurt Stock Exchange). The Frankfurt stock exchange building, this is still in use. See the bull and bear statues just outside. You cannot enter the building unless you have registered for a guided tour in advance.
Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church), (Located just north of the Römer place). This was the seat of the first democratically elected parliament in Germany in 1848. Like most historic buildings in the city centre, it was gutted during World War II, but was also among the first buildings to be rebuilt after 1945 (with different interior). Today the building is used as a memorial site and an event centre, hosting e.g. the awarding of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.
Sachsenhausen. By crossing one of the bridges from the city centre you reach the Sachsenhausen part of the city south of the Main River. The old town part, Alt-Sachsenhausen, at Affentorplatz is famous for its old cider bars. You can also walk along the river bank or visit the Schweizer Straße.
Museums in Germany are generally closed on Mondays (there are exceptions); the exact opening hours on other days depend on the museum. If you want to visit a museum on a public holiday, check with them before to be sure they open on that day.
The museums in Frankfurt offer a wide range of exhibits. Many museums are clustered on both banks of the Main in a district called Museumsufer. There are enough museums in Museumsufer to keep you occupied for a while, and it is especially suitable if you are staying in Frankfurt only for a short time.
The Museumsufer Ticket valid for admission to all municipal museums on two consecutive days and is available at all Frankfurt museums:
Architektur Museum (German Architecture Museum), Schaumainkai 43. The Architecture Museum displays various types of exhibits about buildings and architecture. Their tagline is “From Primordial Hut to Skyscraper”. There’s also a small cafe in the DAM. Mon closed, Tu, Th-Su 10AM-5PM, We 10AM-8PM.
Deutsches Filmmuseum (German Film Museum), Schaumainkai 41 (German only). The German Movie Museum displays—as the name implies—the art and history of film making. Mon closed, Tu,Th,F,Su 10AM-5PM, We+Sa 10AM-8PM.
Städel-Museum, Schaumainkai 63. Fully named the “Städelsches Kunstinstitut” (named after Johann Friedrich Städel), the museum displays various works of arts, both modern and old. There are also varying exhibitions at any time. Behind the museum is the Städelschule, an art school with a cheap cafeteria. Mon closed, Tue, Fri, Su 10AM – 6PM, Wed + Th 10AM – 9PM.
Museum Giersch (Museum of Regional Historic Art and Culture), Schaumainkai 83. The broad exhibition range covers all types of art – painting, photography, sculpture, graphic art, architecture and applied arts. Usually the exhibitions focus on artist that have some sort of connection to Frankfurt or the Frankfurt region. It presents works on loan from public and private owners, which are often stored in depots or private collections and therefore not otherwise accessible to the general public. There are also varying exhibitions at any time. Public guided tours for groups such as pupils or adults by arrangement. Tu-Fr 12-7PM, Sa + Su 11AM-5PM, Monday closed.
Museum für Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Arts), Schaumainkai 17. The museum for applied arts and design hosts just that in a beautiful Richard Meier designed building. The small park around it is a popular hangout in summer and there is a small posh restaurant on the ground floor. Open: Tue, Th-Su 10AM – 6PM, We 10AM-8PM.
Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung (Liebieg House), Schaumainkai 71. Large collection of sculptures and statues from all over the world. Very nice cafe in the garden. Open: Tuesday, Wed., Friday to Sunday 10.00am – 6.00pm, Thu. 10.00am – 9.00pm.
Museum für Kommunikation (Museum of Communication), Schaumainkai 53. Formerly known as the postal museum, it explains the history of communication with a strong focus on postal services and telecommunication. A lot of old telegraphs, phones, fax machines etc. can be tried out so it is fun for not too young kids. Don’t miss the small but impressive art collection, hosting works with communication themes from the early 19th century up until today. Mon closed, Tu-F 9AM – 5PM; Sa-Su 11AM – 7PM.
Ikonen Museum (Icon Museum), Brückenstraße 3-7 (Eastern End Schaumainkai). Tu-Su 10AM-5PM, Wed until 8PM. Founded in 1990 through a donation of 800 icons from the 16th-19th century this museum today has about 1’000 icons and today also has special exhibitions for modern icons. Every last Saturday in the month free entrance.
Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum), Untermainkai 14/15. This is not on the actual Museumsufer but on the other bank of the river. The Jewish community in Frankfurt has over 850 years of history in Frankfurt and is the second oldest community in Germany. The well-funded museum in the old Rothschild (they originate from Frankfurt) palace pays reference to this history with a strong focus on the Holocaust. Mon closed, Tu-Su 10AM – 5PM, W 10AM – 8PM.
Naturmuseum Senckenberg (Nature Museum Seckenberg), Senckenberganlage 25. Open: Mo-Tu and Th-Fr 09:00-17:00, We 09:00-20:00, Sa-Su 09:00-18:00. Commonly just called Senckenberg museum it is one of the most famous museums of Frankfurt with various natural history exhibits: plants, animals, minerals, etc. Biggest attractions are the dinosaur skeletons and the collection of preserved animals that were hunted and stuffed in a less enlightened age. Highly recommended and also suitable for children, who can touch some of the exhibits (eg replicas of Dinosaur skeletons).
Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art), Domstraße 10. Mon closed; Tue, Th-Su 10:00-18:00, W 10:00-20:00. The building was designed by Hans Hollein to resemble a boat, which is most notable when approaching it from the back (east). Apart from well-known artists in the permanent collection, e.g. Roy Liechtenstein and Andy Warhol, the museum has changing exhibits that often include very recent work.
Museum Judengasse is part of the Jewish Museum, but at a differing address (not anywhere near the Museumsufer), Kurt Schumacher-Straße 10. Here are exhibited the foundations from the Jewish Ghetto dating back to 1462, as well as information about life as a Jewish person in this ghetto during the Middle Ages. Info is in English & German. Outside of this museum is the “Holocaust Memorial Wall” with over 12,000 names of Frankfurt’s’ murdered Jewish citizens on it. It surrounds the medieval Jewish cemetery dating back to 1272. There is another outpost of the Jewish museum nearby, which hosts exhibitions on a regular basis. It is housed in a 4 story world war II overground bunker. Mon closed, Tu-Su 10AM – 5PM, W 10AM – 8PM.
Geldmuseum der Deutschen Bundesbank (Money Museum of the German Central Bank). Wilhelm-Epstein-Strasse 14. Mon, Th-Su 10AM – 5PM, W 1PM – 9PM. A museum about money and its history.
Archäologisches Museum (Archaeological Museum), Karmelitergasse 1. Mon closed; Tu-Su 10AM – 5PM; W 10AM – 8PM. Located in a building which formerly housed a Carmelite monastery.
Kunsthalle Schirn is a museum specializing in contemporary art. It’s located just off the Römerplatz. There are two exhibition spaces that rotate every month or two.
Portikus exhibition hall located in the Leinwandhaus building, Weckmarkt 17. M closed, Tu-Su 11AM – 6PM, W 11AM – 8PM, also closed when there is no current exhibition and on some public holidays. Admission free.
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Steinernes Haus am Römerberg, Markt 44 (Römerberg). Constantly changing contempory art expositions.
Goethe Haus und Museum, Großer Hirschgraben 23-25. 10AM – 6.00PM, Sunday until 5:30PM. Birthplace of Germany‘s most famous author and poet. It’s a museum and picture gallery devoted to Goethe.
Historisches Museum, Saalgasse 19. Historic museum of the city of Frankfurt and its citizens. Today it offers a wide collection of the history of the city. Open Tuesday to Sunday and on all holidays 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesday 10 am to 9 pm.
Three special events are associated with Frankfurt’s museums.
Every other Saturday morning there’s a flea market until 16:00 at the Museumsufer. Other Sat. it is on Lindley Str near the Osthafen.
Once a year (during the last weekend in August), a festival called Museumsuferfest 26-28 August 2016 is organized at the Museumsufer with food, music and various other activities. It is quite popular locally and offers a good chance to mingle with the locals. You can buy a badge that will give you unlimited access to all the museums during the festival weekend. Many closed collections open to the public on this weekend. Sign up for tours at the Römer tourist office. A dragon boat race also takes place on the river during the festival weekend and can be watched from both sides of the river.
Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) One night a year, most Frankfurt museums are open to the public until the early morning of the next day. Special bus lines will take visitors from one to the next. Various special events are organized; for example dances, music performances, special exhibits, games, and so on. It is very crowded but also highly recommended; be prepared for very long lines. Buy a ticket in advance so you do not have to waste time during the night of the event on this, and do not forget to pick up a schedule of the events and map of the bus routes. Similar events are organized in other German cities as well.
Frankfurt has some of the tallest buildings in Europe (the Commerzbank tower is the 2nd highest office building of Europe). Its skyline is unique for the country as the high-rises are concentrated in a relatively small city centre, giving Frankfurt the looks of a metropolis. The skyline is the reason why Frankfurt is sometimes called by the nickname Manhattan.
For a view of the skyline try the Main river bridges. The eastern bridges offer the best view. Also, when you approach the city from the airport via the subway, stay to the right side of the train. Just before the train approaches the Frankfurt central station it enters a big curve, and from here you will have a nice first glance of the skyline.
Take a walk from Schweizer Platz northwards for another good view of the skyscrapers.
The Main Tower building is special as it is the only Frankfurt high-rise that is open to the public. You can take the elevator to the viewing platform at a height of 200 meters. From here, you will have a good view of Frankfurt and the surrounding area. Make sure to go on a clear day, and if you’re in Frankfurt in Fall or Spring you might wish to try to go up a short while before sunset. That way, you can witness how the city changes from day to nightlife. The Main Tower is something that you should not miss during your stay. The viewing platform will be closed during severe weather.
The old European Central Bank in central Frankfurt is easily recognized by its hexagonal layout and the big neon color € statue in front of the entrance – might be of some special interest as this is the seat of European financial power and decisions. It’s not open to the public.
There are various fireworks displays throughout the year. Many major events – like the Museumsufer festival are ended with very well done fireworks. Check your local event schedule; if you are in the city these are always worth your time. The exception is the New Year fireworks, which are unorganized and less than spectacular. Good vantage points are the Main bridges, or the river banks.
Palmengarten (“palm garden”): Botanic gardens. Siesmayerstraße 61. Nov-Jan: Daily 9AM-4PM; Feb-Oct: Daily 9AM-6PM. The Palmengarten is Frankfurt’s botanic garden. There are special exhibitions and events throughout the much of the year.
Botanic Garden, Siesmayerstr. 72 between Palmengarten and Grüneburgpark open: 23 Feb. – 31. Oct.. Entrance free.
Grüneburgpark: This is Frankfurt’s largest public park. Even though there are many parks in Frankfurt, the Grüneburgpark is probably the most liked. Located close to two campuses of the university, many young people meet there, and many business people jog there after work.
Campus Westend: architecturally interesting campus of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University. Includes the IG Farben building, the former corporate headquarters of IG Farben and largest office building in Europe from 1930 until the 1950s. Just east of the Grüneburgpark.
The RMV offers a tour of the city in the so-called Ebbelwei Express, a special tram that offers music, apple wine, and pretzels. Probably very stereotypical and more suited for people who do not mind “tacky” tourist traps. Weekends and holidays only
St. Leonhardskirche (St. Leonhard’s Church): old late Romanic church built in 1219 and later transformed in accordance with the Gothic style in the 15th century. English-language Catholic Mass on Saturdays and Sundays.
Bornheim: A nice residential quarter with a lively market and beautiful medieval houses which survived the war intact (unlike the city centre). The most important and lively street is the Berger Straße, which runs from the city center to the oldest parts of Bornheim. The more central part of the Berger Straße (actually in the Nordend district) features a variety of small and often trendy little stores, cafés, and restaurants, whereas the older parts of Bornheim are famous for its historic Ebbelwoi (a local cider) taverns.
Goetheturm (Goethe Tower). daily 10:00-18:00 from April through September. An old 43 meter wooden tower offering nice views of the skyline. Located in Sachsenhausen.
Staufenmauer: remains of the old city wall (1138–1254) and once part of the Jewish Ghetto Wall beginning in 1462 can be seen in the Fahrgasse. More prominent examples of the city fortification built in later years include the Eschenheimer Turm (1428) near Hauptwache and the Friedberger Warte (1478, rebuilt 1637), which is on the Friedberger Landstraße a bit outside the main city centre. Also Sachsenhausen Warte, Gallus Warte, and Bockenheimer Warte
Palais Thurn und Taxis: 18th century palace of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis. In the 19th century, it served as the parliament of the German Confederation. Unfortunately, apart from the front facade, all of it is reconstructed. The reconstruction has a smaller scale than the building’s original 18th century size.
Hauptfriedhof: main cemetery, where you can find several mausoleums, over 150 year old tombstones, as well as the final resting places of philosophers Arthur Schopenhauer and Theodor W. Adorno.
Katharinenkirche: (St. Catherine’s Church): Baroque style Lutheran church at Hauptwache. Constructed 1678 bis 1681 at the site of a former monastery, destroyed during World War II, and restored 1950 to 1954. The tower stands at 54m.
Liebfrauenkirche: 14th century Roman-Catholic church and monastery located at Liebfrauengasse/Neue Kräme near the Zeil
Alte Stadtbibliothek: former public library building, constructed 1820-1825 in neo-classical style.
About once a month, an old steam engine train rides along tracks on the northern riverbank of the Main.
Zoo: Alfred-Brehm-Platz 16. Winter: Daily 9AM – 5PM, Summer: Daily 9AM – 7PM.