In Frankfurt during festival time

By | Category: Travel destinations
Frankfurt's Old Opera House - Opernplatz Square

The Old Opera House in Frankfurt

Frankfurt is widely seen as one of the great financial centres of the world but that belies the attraction to the leisure visitor. We were in the city to discover what else Frankfurt offers and to find out the city’s highlights and landmarks.

We began our tour in Opernplatz Square in front of the Old Opera House, a treasure of the city built in 1880 but which was largely destroyed during WWII. The building was reconstructed and re-opened in 1981 with the same exterior design as the original but, this time, it was fully equipped with modern technology and a sound system.

Main Tower view

a view over the city from Main Tower

Near the luxury shopping streets of Goethestrasse & Neue Rothofstrasse which are full of boutiques and well-known high street names is Bankenviertel, the name that is given to the financial district of the city. Here, in Neue Mainzer Strasse you will find the 200 metre, 56-storey skyscraper of the Main Tower, not the tallest building in Frankfurt, but the tallest which is open to the public to look down over this ever-evolving city.

The observation deck was an excellent location from which to get a 360 degree, panoramic view of the city. I could see all the skyscrapers, streets, churches and the River Main, flowing through a mixture of green landscapes and urban developments that reach to the far horizon. The Main Tower ticket price is €7.50 euros, but you can get discounts using the Frankfurt Card. You can buy this card in the tourist office for €10.50 for one day and €15.50 for two days.  Although the observation deck gives you an idea of the layout of the city, you lose this once you return to the ground!

red stoned Seufzerbrücke

Seufzerbrücke – Frankfurt’s Bridge of Sighs

Back at street level we headed to the old town and Domplatz where the cathedral stands. This Roman Catholic, Gothic church dedicated to St Bartholomew was constructed in the sixteenth century although recent excavations show that the original structure goes back to the seventh. Severely damaged during the war, it was  reconstructed in the 1950’s to return it to its original glory.

The great complex of Altes Rathaus (the old town hall) was our next stop. Through a courtyard, which has been decorated with paintings on two sides we entered this political and commercial centre. Over the centuries it has been expanded so it dates from more than one age. A red-stone bridge connects two further extensions. This bridge, just located opposite St. Paul’s Church, is called the Seufzerbrücke or Bridge of Sighs, inspired like the building in Cambridge by the well-known landmark in Venice.

The oval-shaped St. Paul’s Church was built as a Protestant Church in 1789 and, in1848, the church was the seat of the Frankfurt Parliament. Now it is no longer used as a church but for events and ceremonies such as the Peace Prize given out annually during the Frankfurt Book Fair, the most important publishing trade event of the year.

Römerberg square where the Frankurt Christmas Market is held

Römerberg at night

The large square, Römerberg, is the place where the Frankfurt Christmas Market – one of the biggest in Germany and linked to the Christmas  market in Birmingham – is surrounded by many monuments and landmarks of Altstadt. The Römer complex, the oldest part of the town hall, is one of the most important buildings in the Römerberg.

The Römer consists of three stepped gable buildings built originally in the fifteenth century Gothic style. The magnificent exterior of these buildings, a combination of bright colours and medieval designs reflect Germany’s historical elements. In the south of the square are the twelfth century Old St Nicolas Church, and the Frankfurt Historical Museum.

To the east of the square, there were building signs about Dom-Römer project to restore other parts of Altstadt, which were damaged during WW II.  Ayear has passed since my trip to Frankfurt and this project is complete and visitors can enjoy this revived part of the old city. The grand opening will take place on 28th September 2018 and be one of the most spectacular inaugurations in Europe.

crowds attending last year’s Embankent Festival

Whilst this square attracts tourists by the thousand how many realise that not all buildings are as old as they seem?

After our long walking tour, a boat tour allowed us to relax and enjoy different views of the city and landscapes of the Rhine Valley. Like boat trips through cities the world over, a river journey gives an entirely different view from that gained by just walking around.

The city of Frankfurt was preparing for the Museum Embankment Festival. I saw the stalls were getting ready along the Main River. The annual event on this coming weekend celebrates and showcases the city’s art and culture using the banks of the Main River as its gallery.

At last year’s festival along the waterway, the area was packed with festival-goers. Some people were dining and others, shopping but all were enjoying the music from the performers. There were all kinds of stalls and pavilions along the river from handicrafts, artworks, jewellery, paintings, toys, textiles, lights, to a great variety of sweets and pastries. Gastronomic delights from China, India, Africa, Vietnam and Arabia were on offer  not forgetting the bratwurst sellers. Added to this were burgers, falafels and other European fast foods. There were many music stages and jazz gardens next to the museums and historical monuments. They call it the festival of all festivals in Europe. I really felt the energy that was floating in the air.

the Big Apple in Frankfurt. At the  MainAppelHaus

Although the city is large, it takes only a short time to delve through the suburbs and meet the countryside.  To the north you will find mountainous countryside in Lohrberg, from which you can look back over the city. Here you will find MainÄppelHaus, (website only in German) surrounded by apple trees and a rare city vineyard. You can see apples growing (as well as huge bunches of redcurrents)and see the processes of making the apple wine, a very traditional drink of the locals.

But we were here to see Frankfurt and returned after a leisurely lunch to the Sachsenhausen area. This cobbled street area with its market place full of restaurants, cafes and bars is another big tourist draw there are sellers of apple wine as well as all sorts of locally produced items. Throughout the day you will also find a farmers market called “Markt im Hof” which is normally opened between 10 AM and 6 PM. You find a variety of local products and stalls selling sweets and foods.

Museum of Cooking and Tableware

The Sachsenhausen district is a key museum and gallery area and well worth an afternoon meander. One of the newer museums (it only opened in 2015) is the German Museum of Cooking and Tableware. This new, innovative museum exhibits a large selection of menus, table settings and culinary objects. It is a remarkable museum for those who are interested in culinary history.

In the evening, I joined a different tour of the city, by sitting in a Velo Taxi. There were six Velo taxis which double as a bicycle tour of the city as well as a sightseeing commentary. The taxis stop at several points in the city entering areas that few cars can go. As a leisurely way to see the city it is hard to beat and after so much walking during the day I was relieved to be transported.

Goete's home is in the middle of the city

Goethe’s family home and were he was born

The next day, I spent more time walking in Altstadt and the modern part of the city.  I had a chance to visit Goethe House, the family residence of the Goethe family and then I headed over to the Embankment Festival using my special festival button to enter museums for free. You can buy the button for €7 provides good value provided you visit more than a couple of museums. I managed to spend enough time to explore the exhibits in the Architecture Museum and the German Film Museum in Schaumainkai Street along the Main River before a huge firework display brought the festival to a close.

Much of Frankfurt is new and modern. The bombed buildings have long since been rebuilt but you can still find the city’s authenticity if you look for it. For those lucky enough to be there this weekend for the Embankment Festival, I guarantee that you will enjoy yourselves.

Images and story © Mohammed Reza Amirinia

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