Despite Frankfurt’s varied history as a medieval merchant city and a hotspot of the 1968 revolution, as the financial centre of Europe it’s never quite shaken off its reputation as a boring city full of soulless bankers. But today, Frankfurt is finally starting to realise its potential as a dynamic international city. In 48 hours, you’ll discover a vibrant arts and culture scene, beautiful green spaces, traditional taverns and Michelin-starred restaurants, and an ever-increasing number of hip bars and nightclubs—all set against a striking juxtaposition of medieval buildings and towering skyscrapers. It’s not an obvious choice for a weekend getaway, but give it a chance and Frankfurt may well win your heart.
48 hours in Frankfurt
Frequented by local hipsters and the after-work crowd, Walon & Rosetti is cosy, stylish and as popular for its cocktail list as its regularly changing menu of generously portioned salads and grills. Reserve a table, but if you arrive early, head for the bar to sip on a Frankfurt Sour whilst you wait.
A café by day, Plank Cafe-Bar-Studio attracts a mixed crowd of locals at night, who come to enjoy a warm-up drink before heading elsewhere, or to settle down for the night in the dark, minimalist bar. Stand outside in the summer to enjoy the evening sun with a beer and some relaxed beats.
Römerberg is the historical focal point of the city, a cobbled plaza lined with original and reconstructed half-timber medieval buildings including the Römer (Frankfurt’s town hall) and the Alte Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas’ Church), which you can visit if there are no meetings or events on. There’s a striking contrast with the shiny skyscrapers behind. Frankfurt’s Christmas market sprawls across the square - and beyond - during the four weeks of Advent.
Frankfurt's beloved, purpose-built indoor market, Kleinmarkthalle, has been running in the same spot since the late-nineteenth century. It had to be rebuilt after bombing in World War II, but continues to attract thousands of visitors every week (Mon-Sat) with its exemplary bounty. More than 60 traders sell everything from pretty blooms to secondhand books via fresh produce, dairy delights and wine. Pull up a chair at once of the small terrace tables to enjoy some of your purchases and do a bit of people watching.
Cross the love lock-covered pedestrian bridge (Eisener Steg) and walk up-river to Germany’s oldest museum, the Städel, which offers an extraordinary exhibition of art spanning the last 700 years, including Renaissance paintings and Early Modern art. The museum’s permanent collection includes artwork from Picasso, Francis Bacon, Albrecht Dürer and Gerhard Richter.
You can’t visit Frankfurt without sampling its famous Apfelwein (or Ebbelwoi, apple wine), available by the glass or Bembel (jug), pure or mixed with lemonade or soda water. Have a glass with dinner at one of Frankfurt’s oldest apple wine taverns, Zum Gemalten Haus; if you’re feeling hungry and adventurous, try a mixed platter of local sausages, meats and Sauerkraut. If you’re vegetarian, choose the eggs with green sauce.
If you can move after all that food and apple wine and fancy catching some live music, head to the Ponyhof. It’s neither big nor glitzy, but if you enjoy seeing obscure bands or dancing till the wee hours, this Frankfurt institution is a fun spot to do so.
Shake off your apple wine hangover with a visit to Frankfurt’s Palmengarten, which opened in 1871. The palm house, conservatories and extensive botanical gardens feature over 13,000 tropical and subtropical plants. Sunday tours on a variety of topics are included in the entry free.
What Da Cimino lacks in style and atmosphere, it makes up for with excellent pizza. This small, casual Italian spot is legendary amongst locals, meaning you’ll almost certainly have to queue, but your pizza will be served straight out of a traditional wood oven, and if the weather’s good, you can sit out and eat it on the patio.
While away the afternoon at Naturmuseum Senckenberg, Germany’s second largest natural history museum, which houses a huge collection of fossils and Europe’s biggest collection of large dinosaurs, including the continent’s only diplodocus. There are also animal exhibits spanning 50 million years of life on Earth. A brilliant option for families and a great way to round out your trip.