The 10 best attractions in Frankfurt
What are the attractions in Frankfurt that you simply cannot miss? Well, read on and find out, intrepid explorer. Much of this marvellous city was obliterated during the Second World War, meaning many of its magnificent constructions aren’t quite as old as they look, but the modern side of Frankfurt offers spectacular architecture too. Germany’s financial capital is home to a great restaurant scene and a museum quarter that demands attention, and fabulous embellishments to the many attractions here that take centre stage. Frankfurt is, quite frankly, fabulous. This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click here.
The 11 best Frankfurt restaurants
You can’t make money on an empty stomach, right? Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany, but it also happens to be making a confident dash for the role of foodie capital. This overlooked metropolis in the belly of Germany is full of great things to do, and filling the tummy is right up there with the museums, bars and the rest. Traditional restaurants dominate the landscape, but the immense diversity of the city has made its way onto the menus of Frankfurt. Innovation is never far away in this buzzing city. Enjoy the best restaurants in Frankfurt, the foodie haven you didn’t realise you needed until now. RECOMMENDED:📍 The best things to do in Frankfurt🛏 The ultimate guide to where to stay in Frankfurt🚃 How to use public transportation in Frankfurt
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IG Farben Building
This building, covered in yellow-ish brown Travertine marble, glistens when hit by sunshine. Finished in 1931, it’s known as an architectural masterpiece of architect Hans Poelzig; but the history of the building is heinous. It was once the headquarters of chemical giant IG Farben, which produced the poison gas used by Germany’s Nazis on concentration camp prisoners. Today it’s part of the Goethe University campus, used by the arts and humanities department. During your visit, check out the paternoster elevators inside—those slow, ever-looping, never-stopping lifts without doors. Then look for this building in the city model at the Historisches Museum.
Frankfurt takes pride in ranking high on lists of the world’s most sustainable cities, and you can find an example of its energy efficiency at the Main Tower. Standing 200 meters (or 650 feet) tall, the building has 2,550 windows that can be opened outwards to circulate air and avoid the installation of a complete air-conditioning system. In 2011, the building received a LEED Gold certification for sustainability, the first existing German high-rise to receive the award that year. Other attractions in the building include a restaurant, lounge and Europe’s highest fitness club. In less than a minute, the building’s elevator takes visitors up to the observation deck for panoramic views of Frankfurt from the 56th floor—or one can walk up the nearly 1,100 steps, if a little exercise is in order.
Old Opera House
The original Opera House building was finished in 1880, but the grand structure you see today was reconstructed and inaugurated in 1981, after the old building was destroyed in the war. The new structure boasts a modern music hall known for its mahogany paneling, where you can catch one of the 300 concerts performed in a year. The space no longer stages entire operas, but operatic arias and duets are performed regularly, and other concerts include performances by jazz musicians, symphony orchestras, chamber philharmonics, pianists and cellists, to name a few. The Alte Oper, as it’s called in German, is part of a plaza with a large fountain and ornate lamp posts, nearby to the Rothschild Park. This plaza makes for a perfect spot for a break or a meeting point; from here, walk down the Große Bockenheimer Straße, a pedestrian shopping street with a number of high-end shops and cafés.
Frankfurt has some 60 museums of varying sizes and collections, and 13 of them are by the Main River in what’s called Museumsufer, or museum embankment. Here you’ll find the Städel, with a vast art collection housed in a stunning building and new extension. This is Germany’s oldest museum foundation, boasting a collection spanning roughly 700 years of European art. Works date from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the Baroque periods to the present. The contemporary works are housed in the white, spacious underground extension (which cost 52 million Euros) beneath the gardens, where you can check out Andy Warhol’s 1982 silkscreen of German literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who was born in Frankfurt. Consider downloading the free app, which has information on roughly 100 artworks. After your art tour, stop for a bite at the museum’s acclaimed restaurant, Holbein’s. If you’re in town on the month’s last Thursday and Friday, the museum is open until 9 p.m.
When you get to this bustling cobblestoned main square, you lose sight for a few minutes of Frankfurt’s sleek skyscrapers. Here you’re surrounded only by the reconstructed, timber-framed buildings—with steeply sloped gable roofs and vertical windows—that resemble the original Gothic old town destroyed by bombing in 1944. On a sunny day, the colors of these gingerbread-looking houses—shades of pink, yellow, gray, blue, orange and red—come to life, as does the Fountain of Justice in the center. If you’re facing the City Hall, or Römer, you can head left to the Alte Nikolaikirche, or old Nikolai Church. Don’t miss the modern Schirn Kunsthalle musem, which feels like a best-kept secret in the most well-known part of the city. Internationally acclaimed artists are regularly exhibited here, including Basquiat and René Magritte.
Old Jewish Cemetery
Frankfurt’s Jewish cemeteries date back to the Middle Ages—the oldest surviving gravestone is from 1272. You’ll find tombstones leaning in different angles; at least, those that remain, since both the Nazis and the bombing destroyed many graves during World War II. Today fewer than 200 tombstones are in good condition, but the sites are still worth a visit. One cemetery wall was turned into a memorial in 1996 as a tribute to the city’s Jewish history. Inscribed are the names of Frankfurt Jews murdered during the Holocaust—more than 10,000 victims. Another Jewish cemetery, on Rat-Beil-Straße 10, contains hundreds of graves of Frankfurt Jews who committed suicide between 1938 and 1943. Despite the tragic history laid to rest in these graveyards, they’re now peaceful places of contemplation, with tombstones covered in moss and tall trees offering shade and places to rest.
There’s no better place to learn about Frankfurt than at this historical museum. It has hours’ worth of interactive information and exhibits about the city’s past, including a model showing how much of the city center was flattened during World War II and what Jewish Frankfurt used to look like. Visitors can also learn about the Main River (which explains the city’s official name, Frankfurt am Main), or check out a city model based on input from regular people, not curators. The museum interviewed 1,166 Frankfurters about their city (think favorite and least favorite places, the diversity of districts, etc.) and incorporated all the input into a dense city model. If you’re in town on a Saturday, take note: Admission is free every last Saturday of the month, except in August and December.
Half-way across the Alte Brucke, or Old Bridge, sits Portikus, a tall, narrow, red structure that’s impossible to miss. Founded in 1987, this free, contemporary art space has exhibited major established artists like Dan Graham and John Baldessari, as well as emerging ones. It’s the exhibition space of the Städelschule, the state academy of art in Frankfurt, whose name comes from businessman and banker Johann Friedrich Städel, also of the Städel Museum. Check out artist Olafur Eliasson’s light installation in the exhibition space of the roof gallery. In the daytime, enjoy the sight of swans convening near the building. At night, the lights from Eliasson’s work create a beautiful reflection on the water.
Frankfurt Stock Exchange
After the Nazi regime’s collapse, the stock exchange closed for six months, reopening in September 1945. Today it’s one of the biggest stock exchanges in the world. You can see the trading floor on tours running from Monday to Friday; included is a view from the visitors’ gallery onto the trading floor pits below. For 125 Euros, you’ll get a presentation that includes the history of the stock exchange—be sure to request English if you need it. Outside the beautiful colonnaded building, see the two bronze figures, the Bull and Bear (by Reinhard Dachlauer in 1985), which represent the ups and downs of the world’s stock markets.