What’s Doing In Frankfurt

By Ben Rossi on 1 July 2011
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Like Germany itself, Frankfurt’s story is one of postwar redemption.  Bombed nearly to oblivion in 1944, this thousand-year-old city on the banks of the River Main, once a jewel of the Holy Roman Empire, is today one of the great centers of finance, transportation, and culture in Europe.

In the last thirty years, Frankfurt’s skyline has been transformed by skyscrapers, and its riverbanks have been turned into a vast cultural thoroughfare.  The eighties and nineties saw the construction of the third and fourth tallest skyscrapers in Europe, the Commerzbank Tower and Messeturm, making Frankfurt one of the few European cities with significant skyscrapers.  Many other tall buildings have joined them in intervening years.

Construction of the Museumsufer, or museum embankment, began in 1984.  Today, some 20 museums are packed into a stretch of the Main in the city center, including museums of film, ethnology, architecture, communications, and a Jewish museum. For three nights in late August, the Museumsufer turns into one of the largest cultural festivals in the world with live music, theatre, and dance on both banks of the Main.

While only the fifth biggest city in Germany, Frankfurt looms large in the economic life of Europe, second only to London in importance as a financial center. More than 300 national and international banks are represented here, helping Frankfurt earn its nickname, Mainhattan. The city is the headquarters of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, one of the world’s biggest, as well as the European Central Bank. It is also a major transportation hub, with the largest train terminal in Europe.

Frankfurt also hosts from the biggest trade fairs in the world. The Internationale Automobil-Ausstellung, a biennial fair that will be held this September, is the world’s largest auto show, while the world’s largest book and music equipment trade fairs also call Frankfurt home. All are open to the general public for at least part of their runs.

One of the most diverse cities in Europe, Frankfurt has much to offer the traveler, from ethnic enclaves to vast pedestrian thoroughfares. Frankfurt has the largest Korea town in Europe. Sachsenhausen, on the south bank of the Main, offers acres of gourmet restaurants, bars, live music clubs, and more; in the summer it’s basically a huge outdoor party. The Zeil, Frankfurt’s preeminent pedestrian shopping street, hosts one of the largest and oldest markets in Germany.  While much of Frankfurt’s medieval architecture was destroyed in the war, the Kaiserdom (Emperor’s Cathedral), St. Bartholomew’s, a 14th century cathedral, still survives as the main church of Frankfurt.  The view of the city from atop the Kaiserdom is magnificent (see slide show below).

Getting around Frankfurt is easy thanks to the city’s excellent transportation system. Its four main components are the S-Bahn (suburban railway), U-Bahn (subway), Straßenbahn (streetcar), and buses.  Fares for the entire system are uniform, based on a complicated zone system.

There are numerous hotels in and around the city, and choices range from the city’s only privately-managed luxury hotel, the Hessischer Hof, to the elegant Schloß Reinhartshausen, a castle set on a vineyard, roughly 30 minutes from the city center.  Many of the city’s larger and centrally located hotels are often fully booked well in advance and can be expensive, but smaller hotels on the city’s outskirts are easily accessible using the S-Bahn.

With two airports, one the third busiest in Europe, Frankfurt is easy to get to. The city is served by most major U.S. airlines, including United Airlines, Delta, and American Airlines, as well as Lufthansa. EuroCity, InterCity, and InterCity Express trains connect Frankfurt to all major German cities and many major European cities.




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