The Best Things to Do in Frankfurt

Best Things to Do in Frankfurt

With the consequences of the Brexit looming and the ripple effects of America’s changing political face, its certain that the European Union will evolve. Frankfurt, with its international airport and big-bank headquarters, which already serves as a hub for commercial and financial interests, will increase its importance in the EU. Yet, everything about this German city feels so far removed from big business and the market.
 

The Best Things to Do in Frankfurt

 

Situated along the river Main, Frankfurt is a completely walkable city. From the Schachsenhausen District on one side of the river up to the seedy, but up-and-coming Bahnhofsviertel on the other, looping through these two districts is the best way to see the highlights of the city.

 

The essence of Frankfurt begins at the river. Paths on both sides of the Main are smooth and far-reaching, perfect for cyclists, joggers, and longboard skateboarders. In warmer months, the river is a flume of kayakers and stand-up paddleboards. For those less eager to sweat, dozens of art and history museums border the river, too. And in the summer, a weekend-long festival, Museumsufer Festival, brings thousands to the riverbank until past the midnight hour. (While the idea is to attract visitors to the museums, most come for the free party that stretches for a kilometer on each side of the river.)

 

Best Things to Do in Frankfurt

The Museum Judengasse

 

The most interesting museum in Frankfurt, however, is a few blocks from the river. The Museum Judengasse is situated where the former Jewish ghetto in the city once stood. The history of the Jews in Frankfurt is as depressing as the history of the Jews in most German cities. It began with centuries of murderous pogroms and forceful ghettoization, common across the country and continent. But when Napoleon conquered Frankfurt at the start of the 1800s, the Jews were liberated from the ghetto; by the end of that century, that Jewish quarter was demolished.

 

The Judengasse Frankfurt

 

A few years later, on the same site of the ghetto, the Jews had built the short-lived Borneplatz synagogue. The Nazis would go on to destroy the building on November 9, 1938, just as they had done to more than one thousand synagogues during Kristallnacht. (The Nazis would also remove most of the headstones in the neighboring Jewish cemetery to use for the construction of roads.)

 

The Judengasse Museum in Frankfurt

 

Today, however, this entire square, now named the Borneplatz, reminds Germans and visitors of the pogroms, ghettoization, and genocide forever tied to this city and nation. Outside the museum, memorial plaques, trees, and a line on the plaza floor that demarcates the lost synagogue’s footprint, captures much of the loss. While the mostly empty cemetery still has some of its Jewish gravestones, more interesting are the thousands of metal blocks bulging from the cemetery wall. Each one lists the name, date, and place where a Frankfurt Jews had been murdered during the Holocaust.

 

Holocaust Memorial Frankfurt

 

As for the museum itself, about half a century after the synagogue was leveled, when the city was constructing a public utilities building, they discovered a number of cellars that had once belonged to the residences in the Judengasse. It sparked massive debate. After much gridlock, the museum was born. Inside, visitors can see artifacts from the period, including Jewish books that gentile neighbors had stolen and repurposed, using these destroyed tomes as book bindings for their Christian and secular texts. Below all of the artifacts are the actual cellars. Visitors can descend into mikvahs and pantries of the infamous Judengasse.

 

The Judengasse Museum in Frankfurt

 

Across the River

 

After the museum, head across the river to Sachsenhausen. If it’s a Saturday and the weather is warm, there’s a great market on Wallestrasse called Markt Im Hof. Small-scale brewers and bakers serve their yeasty creations in the courtyard, while coffee roasters grind and top chefs cook up Ethiopian and Korean cuisines, to name a few, in a barn-like structure. If it’s after 5:00 pm, another courtyard worth a visit is Lorsbucher Thal’s. For more than a century, locals have been gathering here for a drink synonymous with Frankfurt: apple wine. Lorsbucher Thal serves their limited and wonderfully tart wine. But they also have one of the most diverse collections of apple wine in the world, stored underground in their cellar. From ones that taste like impressive sauvignon blancs to others that rival premium dessert wines, tipplers are certain to find something preferable to pair with their Happchen: Germany’s take on tapas. Best on the Happchen menu are the bratwurst with mashed potatoes and onion marmalade, and the Frankfurt green sauce, a fresh amalgam of herbs and cream.

 

Best Things to do in Frankfurt: Drink Apple Wine

 

If revel you must, then this district turns into a fraternity party late at night. Otherwise, abandon Sachsenhausen when dark settles in.

 

Best Things to do in Frankfurt: Drink Apple Wine

 

Like most cities, the most touristy places are often worth a miss, or at least deserve nothing more than a quick glance. The old town of Frankfurt, known as the Romerburg, is pretty, but crowded to no end, and the restaurants are pricey, too. What’s more is that all of the charming buildings, as a consequence of war, only date back to the 20th Century. Also worth skipping are the name brand stores on Zeil. If you are dragged up that way, check out the great food market near Kurt-Schumacherstrasse, instead. Though keep in mind it’s not a daily affair.

 

Best Things to do in Frankfurt

 

In the Bahnhofsviertel

 

Quite different from the Sachsenhausen district is the Bahnhofsviertel near the city’s main train station. Like all city neighborhoods surrounding a main station, there is certainly an element of sleaze. Contained in what was once an affluent sixteen square blocks of Frankfurt are all the things a city hopes to contain in a castoff district, from drug addicts who visit the distribution center for free needles to johns who walk the few blocks of the red-light district. But the combination of low real estate prices and entrepreneurs with an artistic vision have brought intriguing culture and incredible cuisine to the Bahnhofsviertel (and it’s easy to avoid the less virtuous streets).

 

Best Things to do in Frankfurt

 

To begin, start on Munchenstrasse. The street is a bazaar of culinary delights, cheap barbershops, and even the quintessential soccer hooligan pub–Gastatte Moseleck–the choice spot for film crews whenever they need to shoot a scene that conjures shady happenings. At day time, on the corner of Munchen and Elbestrasse, sit alongside the exterior of the Plank, sip a coffee or tea, and watch the commotion of the neighborhood. By night, the Plank converts into a bar, where the hip, young crowd spills onto the street. Since drinking is permissible outdoors, consider heading next door to the Yok Yok City Kiosk to save a euro or two on your beers. Yok Yok-goers can still mingle with the Plank crowd or just join the gathering outside the kiosk. While the man at Yok Yok’s counter is about as charming as a toothache gone gangrenous, the small shop reports to have a selection of three-hundred beers.

 

best food in frankfurt and the bahnhofsviertel

 

One of the best restaurants in the Bahnhofsviertel is on Gutleutstrasse. Not only does the East African restaurant Im Herzen Afrikas, which translates to ‘in the heart of Africa,’ brew their own beer, but their menu is inexpensive and delicious. For ten euros, diners can enjoy five different curries and stews with traditional bread, either in modern or less European settings. While there are seats outside and at Western-style tables, Im Herzen Afrikas also offers in-treehouse, under-tent, or on-sand dining.

 

best food in frankfurt and the bahnhofsviertel

 

For eats on Munchenstrasse, Hamsilos serves fresh fish and Maxie Eisen, which helped to popularize pastrami in this sausage town, is the spot for a quality sandwich. Through doorway number twelve, upstairs from a courtyard with a cool little organic shop, is the restaurant Clubmichel. The restaurant has communal tables and an open kitchen, where, on Thursdays, guest chefs cook for the crowd. The kitchen is also preparing foods on Fridays, when Clubmichel hosts a pasta and pizza night, and Saturdays, when they feature a vegetarian menu. If you happen to be in town on a Friday night and like the guest-chef-concept dinner, one place that’s worth a visit is Freitagaskueche, just outside of the Bahnhofsviertel. Every Friday, this restaurant on Mainzer Landstrasse, just across from the derelict police headquarters, pairs individuals who have great recipes with a team of cooks. Together they prepare food for the evening’s diners. The night attracts an artsy crowd that hangs out in the courtyard among the tall bamboo and climbing ivy. After dinner, the restaurant hosts a party in the basement. (If you have a great recipe that you’d like to cook, you can email them for the chance to serve the masses.)

 

Artsy Beds in Frankfurt

 

When looking for a place to rest your head, there are two concept hotels in Frankfurt that are completely unique, yet oddly similar. If you’d like to stay in Sachsenhausen, where nightly parties upturn the neighborhood by morning, you can visit stay in the laid-back, uber-artsy Libertine. Downstairs, the walls are decorated with local artwork. There’s also a recording studio in the back rooms. The bar operates sans bartender, employing the honesty system instead. Upstairs, guests can cook independently or join the on-site chefs for the Thursday night dinner party. The Libertine collaborates with ADIDAS and guests can find running shoes to meet their jogging needs.

 

If you prefer the vibe of the Bahnhofsviertel, on Niddestrasse, where huge, eccentric murals and webs of graffiti span the block, 25 Hours Hotel by Levi’s operates. In another collaboration between a boutique hotel and a clothing brand, 25 Hours follows the clothing theme a bit more closely. Not only does the crew wear the Levi’s brand, but the denim is part of the hotel’s interior design–room numbers are painted on jean pockets and a pair of jeans hangs like artwork in each room. Floors are also paired up with a decade, featuring musical and pop culture icons for each ten-year span. While there’s no cooking with the chef, the downstairs restaurant, Chez Ima, is one of the few great restaurants in town. It’s owned by the same brothers who run Maxie Eisen. There’s a great outdoor courtyard at 25 Hours and a rooftop, where pop-up parties pop up.

 

While the city will certainly change with recent global events, keep your eyes open for the best things to do in Frankfurt: the secrets off the beaten path.

 

***

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Europe, Somewhere

One Response to The Best Things to Do in Frankfurt

  1. Rozy Levine

    Excellent review NoahYour writing makes one feel. As if they are in Frankfurt !

Add a comment

CommentLuv badge