People are beginning to realize that Frankfurt has left its boring reputation behind. While the traditional cultural heritage of Germany’s financial capital is still going strong, this city is increasingly culturally and ethnically mixed due to the steady influx of big business, with foreign nationals comprising 25 percent of its population. This international flavor, combined with a global understanding of what makes a great night out, translates into a lively and diverse bar scene meeting just about any drinking desire. You’ll find your drink here, whether in a cocktail bar that’s firmly bitten on to the speakeasy trend, a back-to-basics pub or a hard-to find wine bar with an inviting, roaring fireplace.
The best Frankfurt bars
Too lazy to leave the comfort of your seat? No worries; at Honky Dory bar, just dial up your drink. In this cocktail bar crammed with flea market finds from the 1930s and 1940s, seven wooden booths have black vintage rotary phones on speed dial to the bartender, who will deliver signature cocktails such as the Break Point (hibiscus vodka, apricot brandy, agave syrup, lime and pickled chili) or Penicilin (Dewar's 12 scotch, honey, lemon, ginger and Laphroaig 10 scotch whiskey served in a syringe) directly to your table. You can also sit at the bar, which seats up to 22 people, or on the rooftop for views of Frankfurt skyline. For a small bite, tapas-style dishes range from salmon and tuna tartare to Flammkuchen (pizza with creme fraiche, chopped onions and smoky bacon). While the name Hunky Dory is homage to David Bowie—it’s the title of the English musician’s fourth album—you won’t find any rock and roll memorabilia among the model sailboats, medicine bottles, badminton rackets and other tchotchkes inside.
Located in a Baroque building in the hip Alt-Sachsenhausen neighborhood, Bonchina is more high-class house party than bar—you’re even expected to pour your own drinks. The minds behind it say the experimental concept is “a meditation on bars,” and you won’t find a bar counter or bartender in the monochrome interior of custom grey ceramic wall tiles. Serving as a sculptural meeting point, a grey porcelain elephant with origami-like folds is perched on a pedestal, with homemade tonic water flowing out of its mouth. While chilled bottles contain premixed infusions (waiting for the house-made flavored ice cube of your choice), the rest of the fixings for your order are set out for you. The host that takes your order can make it, but most guests prefer to do the job themselves. Just 12 people can fit in the small space, which doesn’t serve food and is only open Tuesday through Thursday. Speakeasy style, you’ll need to ring the bell to enter.
Located in the Bockenheim district, Bockenheimer Weinkontor was once a blacksmith's workshop—you’ll need to cross under an arched cast-iron gate and descend down a stairway to reach it. This hidden gem of a wine bar draws wine enthusiasts during both summer and winter with a cobblestone courtyard either blooming with green foliage or glowing from the log-fire fireplace. Space for around 150 people consists of booth seating and bar stools topped with colorful pillows; simple wooden planks form the bar, at which a section of 50 German and European wines from mostly family-run wineries start at just 4 euros a glass. Flammkuchen (German pizza) and small plates of cheese, salami, and vegetables with humus stave off hunger.
Named after legendary sound engineer Conny Plank, Plank Cafe-Bar-Studio is just an eight-minute walk from Frankfurt Central Station, and is a popular place to spend the hours before your train leaves. Drinks are offered from 6pm (it’s a cafe by day) and in warmer months, you can join the people milling around outside. See the chalkboard for specialty cocktails such as the Russian spring punch—a blend of Koskenkorva vodka, Crème de Cassis de Dijon, Crémant de Loire, lemon juice, simple syrup, and black current—or Vesper X-tra Strong, which adds a splash of Lillet Blanc to a mix of Elephant gin and Koskenkorva vodka and finishes it off with a lemon twist.
A bit out of the way in the Eschersheim district, the Tom Hagen Bar makes the case that you can only drink so many Moscow Mules. You’ll only find highly innovative cocktails here, which change on a monthly basis and are often theatrically served. Take the gin, fresh lemon and orange juice, and thyme-honey syrup Thyme Bee’s Knees: It’s served under a glass dome filled with aromatic herbal smoke which disperses once the dome is removed. Every Tuesday and Sunday is movie night; popcorn is served and a big screen shows cult favorites you’ve likely already seen—meaning you can still focus on your conversation, and the cocktails. Football fans will also be able to catch some of the big matches projected here. The casual interior seats around 35 people on vintage upholstered furnishings. With a pre-reservation and a minimum charge for two people, the bar offers round-trip transport, but there is some criteria: this taxi does not pick up the visibly drunk.
Bohemian meets business at the Chinaski Bar, a restaurant-by-day, bar-by-night spot in the heart of the financial district, founded to toast the underdogs, anti-heroes and others that remain true to themselves (or so they say). While its website proclaims, “no bar, no disco,” Chinaski is the perfect blend of both. An extensive drink menu has classics and signature cocktails—When a Man Loves a Woman (champagne, quince gin, lemon, almond and plum bitters) goes down silky smooth. Background beats to get you on the dance floor range from RnB and hip hop to house music. The 30-foot long mural by famed graffiti duo Herakut also attracts regular visitors. On Wednesday nights, a live band plays covers and dance classics, and free sushi comes with every drink ordered. Reservations are possible for four or more, with a minimum consumption of 30 euros per person on Thursdays; Fridays and Saturdays reservations can be made for up to six people for a flat rate of 300 euros. While entrance with no reservation is free, you may have to wait in line and there’s a strict door policy—dress sharp.
Don’t expect a beach at Sandbar—sand and shells are encased underneath glass as you walk in the door, while revolving images of exotic locations are projected on the wall. Often jam-packed, the 40-foot long tiled bar is curved, so there’s a good chance you’ll soon be chatting with the person next to you. Cocktails are consistently on point; you’ll find all the classics here. In warmer months, sit under a canopy on bench seating outside. Don’t miss the little glass bowls filled with mysterious German chips which the bartender will serve with your drink. Reminiscent of Cheese Doodles in texture and crunch, these are Erdnussflips, and they taste like peanut butter.
Fans of gin, look no further than Logenhaus. In a historic villa in the Nordend district bursting with vintage furnishings and accessories, this bar boasts 80 gin varieties. The smartly dressed staff match the stylish interior—with mostly living room-style sofa and armchair seating—and classic cocktails and the resident mixologist’s monthly changing creations round out the menu. Try the Last Word, an infusion of gin, chartreuse verte, maraschino and lime. This spicy drink was first concocted during the prohibition period in the U.S., but forgotten for decades until Logenhaus brought it back to the German drinker’s palate. The bar’s accompanying Night Saloon (a smoking lounge) connects to a winding terrace area with English tea house-style tables and chairs. Interesting fact: The villa—which is surprisingly unremarkable on the outside—is also a Freemason lodge.
From wheat and honey lager to pale ale hailing from Hawaii and Noway, Naïv is a beer lover’s dream. In this bar and restaurant, you’ll find up to 50 craft beers from around the world, in addition to three house brews. In the style of a Berlin wheat beer, Sour Suzy is in fact from Norway. Gurken Goose demonstrates a rediscovered German sour beer style of brewing with salt, coriander and lactic acid. Warm red brick walls, solid wood tables and concrete set the perfect industrial-chic backdrop for a solid night of swilling, especially paired with shrimpskewers, flatbreads and meaty pulled pork sandwiches. Check the website for beer, gin and whisky tasting events; beer-brewing courses and private tastings for two are another way to spend an evening here. Really into your beer? You can buy it to go in Naïv’s adjacent store.
Based on the principle that good beer, good schnapps and good atmosphere are all you need, Normalkneipe (normal bar) in the Gallus district was opened by two brothers in 2016, in an effort to revive Frankfurt’s pub culture. The interior is intended to attract both young and old regardless of social status, with bar stools pulling up to a typical counter flowing with draught beer, schnapps and a limited selection of mixed drinks. You can also sit at sturdy wood tables and chairs in the dining area. Slot machines, a dartboard, two TVs showing uninterrupted sports matches, an eclectic mix of prints on walls (a nude Donald Duck, for example), and rock-bottom prices bring the pub concept home.
Have something to eat
Grub in Germany varies depending on which federal state you’re in; since Frankfurt sits in traditional-minded Hesse, restaurants tend to serve heavy meats and sausages and the region’s famous green sauce with boiled potatoes and eggs—and Apfelwein (apple wine), of course!