Frankfurt am Main: The Financial Center of Europe


Frankfurt am Main, or simply Frankfurt, is not only a major city in Germany, but the main financial center in all of Europe. Its skyline is dominated by global banking institutions such as Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, and the German Federal Bank. It also houses the European Central Bank, which controls the monetary policy of the entire Eurozone.

It wasn't always this way. Frankfurt is prime example of a booming metropolis rising from the ashes of war, quite literally. Many of its historic buildings were completely destroyed by the bombings of Allied forces during World War 2. Some of those buildings have been fully restored, and some are still undergoing restoration.

Despite its war-torn past, Frankfurt is still a very picturesque city, with a blend of old-style architecture and modern urban design.

Day One

Our train ride from Lucerne to Frankfurt was long, but pleasant. There were several stops while we were in Switzerland, but once we crossed into Germany, the trains moved along faster.

Finally, we arrived in the main train station in Frankurt: Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof.

We could have walked to our hotel, but we decided to take the underground metro up to the Hauptwache station and walk from there. It wasn't the most efficient, but we were able to see some of the main parts of town on the way.

The Hotel Miramar was where we were staying while in Frankfurt. Right in the middle of the Altstadt (old town) district, we were walking-distance from all of the sights on our list! While the 80s decor wasn't exactly the most beautiful, its location made it an excellent bargain for our stay.

The train ride left us a bit hungry and tired. On our way to the Frankfurt Cathedral, we stopped at a small, French-Japanese fusion cafe named IIMORI Patisserie. The interior was really pretty, with classic furniture and fancy light fixtures.

We sat and enjoyed espresso and apple cream pastries out alongside the street! The pastries were light and fluffy, with a strong buttery flavor.

After leaving the cafe, we continued south towards the first attraction on our list: the Frankfurt Cathedral. The red-sandstone, Roman-Catholic cathedral is one of the earliest religious structures in the city. Its 312-foot Gothic tower is quite a thing of beauty, towering high above the city.

The inside of the cathedral has several different sculptures, including a beautiful and somber depiction of Pieta.

The organ was a grand sight!

As we were wrapping up our visit, it looked as if there was some kind of event just getting started. We gave a small offering and continued on our way.

The tower of the Cathedral is open to the public. So, keeping in the tradition of our trip, we decided to climb up the 324 steps to the top of the tower for views of the city!

It seemed like we had the narrow, winding stairway to ourselves! There were only one or two others we encountered on our way up.

Near the top of the tower, there are tall windows right alongside the winding stairs. It was a bit dizzying to look down and see the tops of buildings down below.

At the top, we were greeted with a panoramic view of the entire city of Frankfurt!

Yes, the views were amazing!

After enjoying our moment of solitude on top of the entire city, we made our way back down the dizzying stairway to the bottom of the tower.

After we made it down, we walked west towards the Römerberg. During the Middle Ages, this plaza was the central square of Frankfurt. City hall, or the Römer, is still located here.

The ornate half-timber structures from the middle ages still surround the plaza, restored to their former glory after they were destroyed by bombings during World War 2.

Located along the outside of the square is a small sausage restaurant named Alten Limpurg. After our climb up the tower, we were due a quick snack. We ordered up some rindwurst, a local beef sausage that originated in Frankfurt.

Rindswurst has the taste and texture much like a Polish sausage from Costco. I absolutely loved it!

Just south of the Römerberg is the Eiserner Steg, a pedestrian bridge over the Main River connecting the center of Frankfurt to the district of Sachsenhausen.

Also bombed during World War 2, the bridge was rebuilt in 1946 and completely renovated in 1993.

The large ferry boats taking passengers up and down the Main River just barely make it underneath the bridge. It felt like you could just jump right on top of them!

After enjoying the views of the city skyline from the bridge, we made our way back up north towards the Römerberg. We stopped for some beer at a bar named Binding Schirn. With views of the entire plaza, we enjoyed our drinks and watched as tourists wandered about.

The weather started getting a bit colder, so we went back to the hotel to pick up my jacket. After a couple minutes of resting, we went back out to have an apertif before grabbing some dinner. We had beer and coffee at a restaurant named Cafe Libretto.

Our dinner reservations were at a small restaurant named Römer Pils Brunnen. In our research, it came up as one of the better, fairly-priced restaurants serving up traditional German dishes. It was rather empty, with only a couple of locals sipping beer and watching soccer on the TV at the bar.

It wouldn't be a traditional German meal without beer. More and more beer!

Before our meal arrived, we were treated to some olive oil and bread. Unlike the Italian appetizer, we did not use balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Rather, we used salt and pepper.

When our dinner finally arrived, it was massive! I ordered a platter with an array of German meats including pork steak, bratwurst, rindswurst, and schnitzel. My wife ordered the pork knuckle, a nice hunk of fatty meat with a sweet honey glaze.

If that wasn't enough, we also shared a side of golden roasted potatoes.

The reviews were right, for what we paid, this was an enormous and delicious meal!

Day Two

A room at the Hotel Miramar included complimentary breakfast in the dining hall downstairs. It was a pretty standard breakfast of eggs, toast, and sausage. It wasn't anything spectacular, but got the job done.

After eating breakfast, we wandered up towards the Kleinmarkthalle, a large indoor market hall with all kinds of artisanal foods. The market has everything from meat to seafood to produce, all beautifully laid out for locals and tourists to buy.

The produce stands were very photogenic!

Not only were there vendors selling goods, there were also small restaurants, cafes, and wine bars.

Up along the terrace of the market, there were more shops and views of the stalls down below.

We didn't end up buying much meat or produce, but I took the opportunity to buy one of my favorite German snacks: pretzel bread!

We left the market and continued west along the Zeil, a major walking path through central Frankfurt. Historically, the Zeil is a shopping row, with many modern stores lining the walkway.

The entrance to MyZeil, a large shopping mall, looks like something out of a sci-fi film. The building was designed by a Roman architect named Massimiliano Fuksas.

We also caught glimpse of the Hauptwache House, St. Katharinen Kirche, and the Hauptwache station shopping arcade.

Eventually, we found ourselves at a coffee shop named Wacker's Kaffee Geschäft. Now, we've visited tons of cafes all over Europe, but this one truly felt like the "third wave" coffee shops we're used to in Seattle.

Not only did they sell coffee drinks, but they also roasted and sold many different kinds of coffee beans!

It was quite busy, but we managed to get two seats outside to enjoy freshly ground and brewed espresso.

When we were done with our espresso, we walked down towards the historic Paulskirche. Built originally as a Lutheran church in 1789, it eventually became the meeting place for the Frankfurt Parliament during the German revolutions in 1848.

Further west, we ended up leaving the old town and wandering into the modern city of Frankfurt. The busy streets and tall skyscrapers in this area are what gave Frankfurt the nickname, "Mainhattan".

We walked north through the Wallanlagen, a narrow park with 3 miles of walking and biking trails throughout. It was a really nice day for a walk! We stopped occasionally to gaze at the many sculptures and gardens along the way.

Eventually, we made it to another one of Frankfurt's historic buildings: the Alte Oper. Formerly a Renaissance-style opera house, it now serves as modern concert hall.

We continued walking around the banking district of Innenstadt towards the Eschenheimer Turm. In 1426, the large tower was built as part of medieval fortifications surrounding the original border of Frankfurt's old town. It now stands tall as one of the oldest structures in the city.

As we walked south along Schillerstraße, we ended up finding a bit of a street-food fair. Tents and food-trucks lined the street, serving up all kinds of take-and-go dishes. We stopped at one of the sausage carts and ordered some bratwurst!

We ate and walked, exploring all the different vendors along the street.

A little tired from walking, we sat and sipped on coffee at a fancy-looking restaurant named Urban Kitchen. We took our time, sitting out under the trees and reading on our phones.

Itching to catch up on some writing, we ended up spending some time at a nearby Starbucks. Even abroad, our hometown coffee shop provides a wonderful place to set up shop and work!

We walked back to the hotel to rest awhile once we were done at Starbucks. At this point, it had been quite a long day of walking around!

After a quick nap, we ventured back out across the Main River towards the southern district of Sachsenhausen. The neighborhood seemed to have a more local feel, with smaller shops and restaurants surrounded by rows of apartment buildings.

Craving a bit of food, we made our way to a restaurant and bar named Apfelwein Dax. Since the weather was fairly decent, we sat in the garden area in the back of the restaurant.

Now, I should mention that while beer is very popular in all of Germany, apfelwein is actually the signature drink in Frankfurt. It's essentially an apple cider, but with a little more bite. I enjoyed a sip of the traditional drink, but didn't enjoy it. So, I ended up getting a beer instead!

We also ordered some obazda, a traditional Bavarian spread made of cheese, butter, paprika and onions served with bread. It had an interesting texture, but was packed with flavor.

When we finished our appetizer and drinks, we made our way to a small strip of road named Neuer Wall. Several apfelwein breweries lined this little street. Out in front of all them was a small plaza with covered seating where guests could enjoy their beer and wine.

We sat and ordered beer and apfelwein from a bar named Dauth Schneider. The bar has a long history of serving its special apfelwein, dating all the way back to 1849!

A little drunk, and very hungry, we finally decided to seek out a full meal. We walked back across the Main River back towards the Frankfurt Cathedral. In true Bavarian fashion, we picked Paulaner am Dom for our final dinner in Frankfurt.

It was quite busy, but we were fortunate enough to get a nice, spacious table in the corner of the restaurant!

And of course, more German beer and apfelwein!

For dinner, we shared an order of the Paulaner Oktoberfestplatte.  It's a platter with a variety of German meats and side-dishes, including weisswurst, kartoffelknödel, sauerkraut, etc. We even had a small pork knuckle each!

 It was quite a feast! The perfect way to end our adventure in Germany!

When we finished our meal and left the restaurant, we made our way back to the hotel room. It was a beautiful night, and the bright lights of the old buildings in the Römerberg convinced me to grab one last beer before turning in.

A Final "Prost!" to Germany

Frankfurt isn't usually on many "must-see" lists of Euro-trips, but I certainly feel it's worth at least a quick visit. In my short time in the city, I enjoyed some of the best food, drank some of the best beer, and enjoyed some of the best views in all of Europe!

I don't know if I'll ever feel the need to return, but I know I wouldn't be disappointed if I ever found myself in Frankfurt again.

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