Frank­furt on a roll

A lo­cal’s guide to Europe’s new Brexit boom town

The Guardian - Travel - - Front Page - Botan­i­cal gar­dens

As some­one who grew up in this city, I’m fa­mil­iar with what you think you know about it: it’s dull, it’s cold, ev­ery­body talks about money, there is no sub­cul­ture, no real nightlife, and why aren’t you in Ber­lin al­ready?

Let me stop you there. First, we are a good-hu­moured, friendly bunch, who are in­ter­ested in get­ting things done with­out be­ing pre­ten­tious about it. That’s why there are al­ways new places pop­ping up. The Mu­seum of Ro­man­ti­cism is be­ing built right next to the poet Goethe’s birth­place and is due to open in early 2020. The Alt­stadt, the old town de­stroyed in the sec­ond world war, is be­ing re­con­structed – not as a Dis­ney fan­tasy but as a mod­ern ver­sion of its for­mer self.

Neigh­bour­hoods are chang­ing fast. Most fa­mously, the once seedy Bahn­hofsvier­tel area around the train sta­tion has ce­mented its rep­u­ta­tion as one of the city’s most in­ter­est­ing places, with new restau­rants, gal­leries and clubs.

But the city re­ally comes into its own in sum­mer, when ev­ery­one chills on the banks of the river Main, drink­ing

Ebbel­woi (ap­ple wine), cy­cling, skat­ing and look­ing up at the one no­table city sky­line in Ger­many. A few more sky­scrapers will be added in the near fu­ture, thanks to Brexit. But this city has al­ways been open and friendly to out­siders. So, wel­come to Frank­furt.

Mu­se­ums and gal­leries

Frank­furt has a lot of mu­se­ums and ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces for a city of just 730,000 peo­ple. There’s the Städel

(art span­ning seven cen­turies), the

MMK (mod­ern art), the Liebighaus (sculp­ture), the Schirn (mod­ern and con­tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions), the Fo­tografie-Fo­rum, the MFK com­mu­ni­ca­tion mu­seum, the MAK for de­sign, and so on. But for a primer on Frank­furt his­tory, head to the

His­torisches Mu­seum, which re­cently re­opened in an el­e­gant new build­ing in Römer­berg square, next to the his­toric town­houses in the heart of the city. The mu­seum gives an over­view of Frank­furt’s his­tory and its peo­ple through house­hold items, toys, tex­tiles, fur­ni­ture and paint­ings, and has a gi­ant in­ter­ac­tive snow­dome. • En­try €8, un­der-18s free, his­torisches-mu­seum-frank­furt.de

When lo­cal monarch Adolphe, Duke of Nassau, lost his throne in the Aus­troPrus­sian War of 1866, Frank­furt bought up his beloved col­lec­tion of trop­i­cal plants. The Pal­men­garten opened in 1871 span­ning 22 hectares (54 acres) with for­mal gar­dens and a palm house, dis­play­ing plants from cli­mate zones such as the mon­soon for­est, sub-arc­tic and desert. On sum­mer evenings, the gar­den serves as a con­cert venue with a fo­cus on jazz and world mu­sic. The Pal­men­garten also hosts a two-star Miche­lin res­tau­rant, the Lafleur (three­course lunch from €52, restau­rant­lafleur.de), in the club­house. • En­try €7, pal­men­garten.de

Take a tram tour

The Ebbel­wei Ex­press is charm­ingly old-fash­ioned and a lot of fun. It’s a psychedel­i­cally painted 1970s tram that cir­cles the city on an hour-long loop ev­ery week­end, tak­ing in sights such as the city zoo, the his­toric Römer­berg and Willy-Brandt-Platz in the bank­ing district. Ebbel­woi is the lo­cal cider and you take the tour with a bot­tle in hand, munch­ing on pret­zels (both in­cluded with ticket) and lis­ten­ing to strange Ger­man pub mu­sic.

€8/€3.50, Sat and Sun from 1.30pm, ev­ery 30mins be­tween Zoo and Messe, ebbel­wei-ex­press.de

Qual­ity mar­ket hall

In the heart of the city is the

Klein­mark­thalle, where Frank­furters come to shop. It’s not the pret­ti­est build­ing but the qual­ity is first rate – ev­ery­thing from lo­cal sausages and bread to hand­made ravi­oli and ex­cel­lent sushi. The best hot wurst in a bun is served by mar­ket vet­eran Ilse Schreiber, fol­low­ing an old fam­ily recipe – you’ll know it’s her from the long queue lead­ing to her stall. 5-7 Hasen­gasse, Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, Sat 8am-4pm, klein­mark­thalle.de

Great for shop­ping

For young de­sign­ers and quirky gifts, head to Brück­en­straße (on Face­book) and Wall­straße in Sach­sen­hausen, where you’ll find fash­ion bou­tiques for small and lo­cal brands such as women’s knitwear spe­cial­ists MARIA and high-end bou­tique Freud, vinyl records at Num­ber Two, spe­cial­ist ap­ple wine shops, small cafes and restau­rants and one of the best ice­cream shops in the city in Bizzi­ice. The street food Markt im Hof, with lo­cal cheeses and craft beers, is open ev­ery Satur­day on Wall­straße (mark­timhof.de). Druck­wasser­w­erk This res­tau­rant is set in a huge 19th­cen­tury ma­chine hall that once housed the steam en­gines needed to op­er­ate the el­e­va­tors and cranes in the nearby port. The menu is up­scale with a good se­lec­tion of Euro­pean dishes from a Wiener Sch­nitzel to pasta dumplings with truf­fle fill­ing and a va­ri­ety of steaks. But what makes it spe­cial is the in­dus­trial-scale am­bi­ence. Mains from €10.90, 16 Rotfeder Ring, restau­rant­druck­wasser­w­erk.de

The Hen­scheid Frank­furt had its own satir­i­cal move­ment in the 70s and 80s, called the New Frank­furt School. The Hen­scheid is a pub named af­ter one of its nov­el­ists, Eck­hard Hen­scheid. There’s a large col­lec­tion of satir­i­cal car­toons on the walls and it serves high qual­ity dishes

The best sausages are served by Ilse Schreiber. You’ll know her stall from the long queue lead­ing to it

with a twist, like the fab­u­lous pig roast with vanilla, chanterelles and French horn mush­rooms. It also has the largest se­lec­tion of schnapps in town. Mains from €14, 27 Mainkurstraße, hen­scheid-frank­furt.de

Döner­boot

Strolling along the river Main, if you no­tice a crowd queue­ing in front of a small red and white boat, you’ve ar­rived at the Döner­boot. Here, Meral serves Turk­ish kebabs, a va­ri­ety of grilled fish and home­made le­mon­ade, called Omilade af­ter his grand­mother, who gave him the recipe. From the other side of the boat, he serves barge­men, who grab their lunch over the gun­wales. Kebabs from €5, 35 Schau­mainkai, meral-event.de

Café Laumer

Kaf­fee und kuchen cul­ture still holds its head up in this al­pha world city at old-school cof­fee houses such as Café Laumer, in the Wes­tend business district. In­tel­lec­tu­als used to meet here in the 1920s, and in the 60s the cafe was nick­named Café Marx. The in­house patis­serie bakes fine cakes and pies, such as ap­ple streusel, cham­pagne torte, and pflau­menkuchen (plum cake). Laumer also serves break­fast and lunch.

Lunch from €15, 67 Bock­en­heimer Land­straße, cafe­laumer.de

Pubs and cider

Frank­furt is fa­mous for its Ebbel­woi cider – but if you just or­der “ap­ple wine” ev­ery­one will un­der­stand you. You can or­der it plain or with a splash of min­eral wa­ter, in a sin­gle glass or in the earth­en­ware jug we call the be­m­bel. There are lots of spe­cial­ist tra­di­tional pubs ded­i­cated to it, where bankers and bus driv­ers, tourists and lo­cals sit to­gether at large ta­bles. It al­most doesn’t mat­ter which pub you choose, they are all good and don’t vary a lot in pric­ing, but start with Kanon­estep­pel

(20 Tex­torstraße, on Face­book) or

Ge­maltes Haus (67 Sch­weizer Strasse, zumge­mal­tenhaus.de), both in the Sach­sen­hausen quar­ter – old tav­erns with wooden panelling and sim­ple fur­ni­ture. Both pubs also serve good food (mains from around €8). Try the frank­furter sch­nitzel, a sch­nitzel with Grüne Sosse (green sauce), a salsa of fresh herbs and yo­ghurt with pota­toes and boiled eggs that’s a mod­ern clas­sic of lo­cal cui­sine, and per­fect for soak­ing up the cider.

Cock­tails at Die Rote Bar

Lo­cated on Mainkai street by the river, and not ex­actly easy to find, is speakeasy-style Die Rote Bar. Just look out for the red light at num­ber seven and ring the bell. It has low-lit ta­ble lamps and bar stools, spe­cial­is­ing in cock­tails (from €8). I’d rec­om­mend the sig­na­ture Hoff­mann (rum, lime and gin­ger), named af­ter a lo­cal doc­tor and psy­chi­a­trist, Heinrich Hoff­mann, who in the 19th cen­tury wrote the gris­li­est chil­dren’s book ever, Shock­headed Peter, which was later trans­lated into English by Mark Twain. 7 Mainkai, rote­bar.com

Sum­mer evenings at the Yachtk­lub

In sum­mer, the prom­e­nades and parks by the river are over­flow­ing. The Yachtk­lub is a float­ing bar on the south bank of the river, close to the main youth hos­tel, that opens in April and serves rea­son­ably priced cold beers and gin and ton­ics. Some­times there’s a bar­be­cue, some­times live mu­sic, but you’ll al­ways have a great time. 12 Deutschher­rnufer, yachtk­lub.org

Drink­ing at farm­ers’ mar­kets

It’s a pe­cu­liar­ity of the city, but Frank­furters go to farm­ers’ mar­kets for af­ter-work drink­ing. You can buy a riesling from win­ery Rol­lan­der­hof, at Klein­mark­thalle (ev­ery day ex­cept Sun), Kon­sta­blerwache (Thurs and Sats), and Fried­berger Platz (Fri­days). Stalls also sell lo­cally made ap­ple wine, beer and fruit schnapps. Other ex­cel­lent mar­kets for sam­pling drinks in­clude Erzeuger­markt Kon­sta­blerwache (Tues and Sat) and Schiller­straße (Fri). Guide to Frank­furt mar­kets: frank­furt.de

Best for cof­fee

In Frank­furt, the best cof­fee isn’t nec­es­sar­ily served by bearded hip­sters. There are two tra­di­tional cof­fee roast­ers, Wiss­müller’s Stern Kaf­fee

(39 Leipziger Str, kaf­feeroesterei­wiss­mueller.de) in Bock­en­heim and

Wacker’s (9 Korn­markt and other lo­ca­tions, wack­er­skaf­fee.de) in the city cen­tre be­tween Hauptwache and St Paul’s Church. The lat­ter is a small fam­ily business dat­ing back to 1914 when Luise Wacker first opened her gro­cery shop just around the cor­ner from where it is to­day. Now, the fourth gen­er­a­tion is keep­ing the business alive, sell­ing cho­co­late and serv­ing fresh cof­fee to shop­pers and work­ers. As soon as the sun comes out in spring, you will find peo­ple crowded at the ta­bles and sit­ting on the stairs in front of the shop.

Ho­tel Nizza

Lo­cals call the small prom­e­nade along the river Nizza (Nice) be­cause of the mild cli­mate and the ex­otic plants like camel­lias that grow here. Right next to the river lies Ho­tel Nizza, built in 1993 for host­ing ac­tors and artists per­form­ing in the city. The style is some­where be­tween min­i­mal­ist and ec­cen­tric, with some great an­tique fur­ni­ture de­tails, a pool and bil­liard room and a roof gar­den to re­lax. It may not be in the qui­etest part of town, but is in walk­ing dis­tance of the train sta­tion and the im­por­tant mu­se­ums.

Dou­bles from €113 (room only), spe­cial week­end rates avail­able, hotel­nizza.de

The Pure

The Pure is, as the name sug­gests, a min­i­mal­ist de­sign ho­tel not far from the Bahn­hofsvier­tel, the train sta­tion quar­ter with its some­times seedy, some­times chic bars and night­clubs. The Ger­man artist Ste­fan Strum­bel, who deals with top­ics such as lo­cal folk­lore and kitsch, has given the ho­tel a few pieces to add to its al­lure. Dou­bles from €100 B&B, the-pure.de

Ho­tel Ger­ber­mühle

This small, el­e­gant bou­tique ho­tel was orig­i­nally a tan­nery be­fore, in the 18th cen­tury, be­com­ing a sum­mer house for banker Jo­hann Jakob Wille­mer, a close friend of the poet Jo­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe. Among its sell­ing points is its fine din­ing res­tau­rant (mains from €19.50) that com­bines lo­cal food (beef tartare, wiener sch­nitzel with cran­ber­ries) with international clas­sics (chicken in cal­va­dos sauce). It is on the river and has great views of the city sky­line. It’s in Sach­sen­hausen, 3km from the cen­tre, but easy to reach on a tram from the main sta­tion. Dou­bles from €130 (room only), ger­ber­muehle.de

Pen­sion Aller

Frau Kraus, the host­ess who was born at th­ese premises six decades ago, has re­designed a floor of her par­ent’s town­house, adding sev­eral light­flooded guest rooms. It’s around the cor­ner from the main sta­tion and has a kitchen and a lit­tle gar­den for guests. Dou­bles from €75 B&B, pen­sion-aller.de

An­drea Diener is the ed­i­tor of cul­ture and travel at the Ger­man news­pa­per FAZ and au­thor of Un­ter­wegs in der Frank­furter Apfel­weinkul­tur (On the Road in the Frank­furt Cider Cul­ture)

To be Frank … (clock­wise from above) ‘the one no­table city sky­line in Ger­many’; ap­ple wine pubs; the Ebbel­wei Ex­press tram tour; the Main river­bank in sum­mer

Ap­ple wine, Frank­furt’s favourite tip­ple

Grüne Sosse, made from fresh herbs, is served with sch­nitzel

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