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Cities In The Spotlight: Frankfurt, Germany

Updated: Mar 11

In today's installment of Cities in the Spotlight we are taking a look at Frankfurt am Main, Germany.


Frankfurt am Main City Information

Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main, is the most populous city in the German state of Hesse. Its 763,380 inhabitants as of 31 December 2019 make it the fifth-most populous city in Germany. On the river Main (a tributary of the Rhine), it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighboring city of Offenbach am Main and its urban area has a population of 2.3 million. The city is the heart of the larger Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, which has a population of 5.5 million and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr Region. Frankfurt's central business district lies about 90 km (56 mi) northwest of the geographic center of the EU at Gadheim, Lower Franconia. Like France and Franconia, the city is named after the Franks. Frankfurt is the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area.


Frankfurt am Main Historical Significance

Frankfurt was a city state, the Free City of Frankfurt, for nearly five centuries, and was one of the most important cities of the Holy Roman Empire, as a site of imperial coronations; it lost its sovereignty upon the collapse of the empire in 1806, regained it in 1815 and then lost it again in 1866, when it was annexed (though neutral) by the Kingdom of Prussia. It has been part of the state of Hesse since 1945. Frankfurt is culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse, with half of its population, and a majority of its young people, having a migrant background. A quarter of the population consists of foreign nationals, including many expatriates.

Frankfurt is a global hub for commerce, culture, education, tourism and transportation, and rated as an "alpha world city" according to GaWC. It is the site of many global and European corporate headquarters. In addition, Frankfurt Airport is the busiest in Germany, one of the busiest in both Europe and the world, the airport with the most direct routes in the world, and the primary hub for Lufthansa, the national airline of Germany. Frankfurt is one of the major financial centers of the European continent, with the headquarters of the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt Stock Exchange, Deutsche Bank, DZ Bank, KfW, Commerzbank, several cloud and fintech startups and other institutes. Automotive, technology and research, services, consulting, media and creative industries complement the economic base. Frankfurt's DE-CIX is the world's largest internet exchange point. Messe Frankfurt is one of the world's largest trade fairs. Major fairs include the Music Fair and the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest book fair.

Frankfurt is home to influential educational institutions, including the Goethe University, the UAS, the FUMPA and graduate schools like the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. Its renowned cultural venues include the concert hall Alte Oper, continental Europe's largest English theatre and many museums (e.g. the Museumsufer ensemble with Städel and Liebieghaus, Senckenberg Natural Museum, Goethe House and the Schirn art venue at the old town). Frankfurt's skyline is shaped by some of Europe's tallest skyscrapers. The city is also characterised by various green areas and parks, including the central Wallanlagen, the City Forest, two major botanical gardens (the Palmengarten and the University's Botanical Garden) and the Frankfurt Zoo. In sports, the city is known as the home of the top-tier football club Eintracht Frankfurt, the Löwen Frankfurt ice hockey team, the basketball club Frankfurt Skyliners, the Frankfurt Marathon and the venue of Ironman Germany. It was also one of the host cities of the 1974 and 2006 FIFA World Cups.


Travel to Frankfurt am Main

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Glinting with glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers, Frankfurt-on-the-Main (pronounced ‘mine’) is unlike any other German city. The focal point of a conurbation of 5.5 million inhabitants, ‘Mainhattan’ is a high-powered finance and business hub, home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges and the gleaming headquarters of the European Central Bank, and famously hosts some of the world's most important trade fairs, attracting thousands of business travellers. Yet at its heart, Frankfurt is an unexpectedly traditional and charming city, with half-timbered buildings huddled in its quaint medieval Altstadt (old town), cosy apple-wine taverns serving hearty regional food, village-like neighbourhoods filled with outdoor cafes, boutiques and street art, and beautiful parks, gardens and riverside paths. The city's cache of museums is second in Germany only to Berlin’s, and its nightlife and entertainment scenes are bolstered by a spirited student population.


Must See Sites

Städel Museum; Founded in 1815, this world-renowned art gallery has an outstanding collection of European art from masters including Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Renoir, Picasso and Cézanne, dating from the Middle Ages to today. More contemporary works by artists including Francis Bacon and Gerhard Richter are showcased in a subterranean extension lit by circular skylights. Admission prices can vary according to temporary exhibitions. Queues can be lengthy, so save time by pre-booking tickets online. Two cafes are located on site, as well as an outstanding shop stocking art books, prints and gifts.

Kaiserdom; Frankfurt’s red-sandstone cathedral is dominated by a 95m-high Gothic tower, which can be climbed via 328 steps. Construction began in the 13th century; from 1356 to 1792, the Holy Roman Emperors were elected (and, after 1562, consecrated and crowned) in the Wahlkapelle at the end of the right aisle (look for the 'skull' altar). The cathedral was rebuilt both after an 1867 fire and after the bombings of 1944, which left it a burnt-out shell. It's dedicated to the apostle St Bartholomew, hence its official name, Kaiserdom St Bartholomäus. The on-site Dommuseum has a small collection of precious liturgical objects. Frequent concerts, including organ recitals take place here; schedules are listed on the Dom’s website.

Senckenberg Museum; Life-size dinosaur mock-ups guard the front of Frankfurt’s natural history museum. Inside the early 1900s neo-baroque building, exhibits cover palaeontology (including fossils from the Grube Messel site), biology and geology. Most have English signs. The museum is free to visitors from Frankfurt's twin cities, which include Birmingham, Budapest, Cairo, Dubai, Guangzhou, Krakow, Lyon, Milan, Prague, Tel Aviv and Toronto.

Römerberg; The Römerberg is Frankfurt’s old central square. Ornately gabled half-timbered buildings, reconstructed after WWII, give an idea of how beautiful the city’s medieval core once was. In the square's centre is the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen. The Römerberg is especially lovely as a backdrop for the Christmas market in December.

Riverfront Promenade; Beautiful parkland runs along both banks of the Main River – perfect for strolling, running, cycling or a picnic. The most popular section is between the two pedestrian bridges, Holbeinsteg and Eiserner Steg.

Frankfurt Zoo; Dating from 1874, Frankfurt's 11-hectare zoo is home to some 4500 animals, with houses for primates, nocturnal creatures, birds and amphibians. There's a petting zoo for kids, along with playgrounds, a picnic area, and a handful of family-friendly dining options.


Must Try Food & Drink

Bethmännchen; Bethmännchen have been a Christmas staple in Germany for over 200 years. Hailing from Frankfurt, these cookies are made from marzipan dough that is infused with rose water. Before they are glazed and baked, each cookie is decorated with three almond halves. Bethmännchen are closely associated with the once influential Bethmann family. The legend says that the family’s pastry chef, who was inspired by a similar dessert known as Frankfurter Brenten, invented the cookies in 1838 and decorated them to honor Bethmann's four sons. Although disputed, it is said that one of the almonds was subsequently removed after one of the sons passed away. The cookies are now popular across the country, but Bethmännchen are still strongly linked with Frankfurt, and they are usually prepared during the festive Christmas season.

Jägerschnitzel; Jägerschnitzel is a traditional German version of schnitzel that is topped with a gravy called Jägersoße, meaning hunter's sauce. Originally made with venison or wild boar, nowadays the most common types of meat used for this dish are pork or veal. In some regions of Germany, the meat cutlets are not breaded, but simply pounded until thin, then seasoned, and cooked. The delicious gravy that accompanies the schnitzel is made with mushrooms, bacon, onions, a splash of wine, and spices such as thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Spätzle or various potato dishes and salads are most commonly served alongside this dish.

Kartoffelsuppe; Kartoffelsuppe is a popular German soup made with potatoes as its key ingredient. The soup is usually cooked with the addition of onions, celery, butter, and milk. It is characterized by a very thick consistency. This soup is a specialty of the Baden region, traditionally served at harvest time, when it is often accompanied by plum cake. In other German regions, Kartoffelsuppe is often consumed with steamed dumplings. In some varieties of the soup, such as the Berlin Kartoffelsuppe, it is recommended to garnish the dish with croutons and parsley.

Handkäse mit Musik; Handkäse mit Musik is a German dish originating from Hesse. It consists of hand-formed handkäse (sour milk cheese) that's topped with raw onion vinaigrette. The onion marinade stands for music (Musik) from the name, which comes in the form of flatulence caused by consuming raw onions. However, the real reason why it has music in its name is because in the past, the onions were served on the side, while vinegar and oil were served in tiny jars that made music while the servers carried them on a plate. The dish is often served only with a knife, and it's typically accompanied by bread, caraway seeds, and apfelwein (apple cider) on the side.

Hessischer Apfelwein; This German apple cider is made by heating and fermenting the juice of locally-grown apples from the Granny Smith or Bramley cultivars. The cider has an alcohol content of 4.8%–7% and a very tart flavor. To produce this refreshing, sour beverage, apple juice is fermented with yeast. Apfelwein is produced in the German region of Hesse, mainly in Frankfurt and Odenwald. Some of the regions even host cider competitions and fairs for local cider producers. In Germany, cider is traditionally served in a so-called 'geripptes' glass that refracts light and improves grip. Mulled Apfelwein is also used as a folk cold remedy, or can be simply enjoyed as a warming beverage during winter, cooked and served with a cinnamon stick, some cloves, and a slice of lemon.

Stollen; Stollen is one of German Christmas classics. This rich fruit bread is prepared with a buttery and sweet yeast dough that is usually spiced, lemon-flavored, and enriched with various dried fruits and marzipan. Though it may appear in different forms, it is usually oblong and covered with generous amounts of melted butter and powdered sugar. Among the different varieties, Dresdner stollen is considered as the oldest and the most popular version, whose origins date back to the 15th century. Originally, stollen was plain and prepared only with flour, yeast, and oil, and it was only in 1490, when the Pope Innocent VIII lifted the ban on baking with butter during Advent, that the stollen started to develop into a dense and rich cake that is known today.

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte; Black Forest cherry cake is a popular German dessert consisting of chocolate sponges that are coated in whipped cream and dotted with kirschwasser-infused cherries. Some varieties use the kirschwasser brandy to soak the chocolate layers or to lightly flavor the whipped cream. When assembled, the cake is lavishly decorated with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and cherries. Among the numerous theories about its invention, it is still debated whether the cake was created by confectioner Josef Keller or pastry chef Erwin Hildenbrand. What is certain is that Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte originated in the Black Forest area and was in all likelihood modeled on the colors of the regional folk dresses. Since its first appearance in written form in 1934, it has become a well-known German dessert that is enjoyed throughout the country.

Käsespätzle; Käsespätzle is a simple pasta dish that combines spätzle pasta with a creamy mixture of melted cheese. The pasta or noodles are also called knöpfle, meaning little buttons, and are made with eggs, flour, milk or water, and seasonings such as salt, pepper and (sometimes) nutmeg, while käse refers to the melted cheese mixture, which is usually a combination of two or more types of cheese such as Edam, Gouda, Fontina, Gruyère, Appenzeller, or Emmental cheese. The noodle mixture is typically pressed through a specially designed spoon or colander directly into boiling salted water and cooked until done before it is mixed with the melted cheese. Also referred to as käsknöpfle, the dish is typically enjoyed with additional grated cheese and caramelized onions on top, and typical accompaniments include applesauce, potato salad, and fresh green salads. Versions of this dish are traditionally consumed in Southern Germany, Swabia, Austria, and Liechtenstein, and it's also a typical dish in Switzerland, Hungary, Alsace, Moselle, and South Tyrol.


Travel Guide Books

Lonely Planet

Rick Steves

Rough Guide


Here is another video from Rick Steves. Covering Frankfurt & Nurnberg.


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