Earlier this fall I had a conference to attend in Frankfurt and, as I am wont to do, I arrived a few days early to do some exploring. Similar to last year’s trip to Brussels, Frankfurt is not the most exciting city to visit in Germany. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth a few days of wandering. Extra beer and bratwursts never hurt anyone.
So if you go, what should you do?
Take a tour
I did a great walking tour with Frankfurt on Foot (12 euros). We were a small group of 10, which interestingly enough consisted of 4 tourists and 6 recent expats to Frankfurt who wanted to get a introduction to their new home. As I said earlier, Frankfurt doesn’t have to historical uumph of some other German cities, but the tour covered all the basics such as the Roemerplatz (city square), Atle Oper (Opera House), and Goethe’s house (don’t know who he was? yeah neither did I…).
We also made an impromptu stop at a delish bakery and had time to wander through the market hall. And as always, the tour was good to get a feel of the layout of the city (it gives you a good sense of direction for future wanderings).
I even learned something relevant to Trondheim as well. “Stumble stones” (as seen below) can be found all over Frankfurt, Trondheim, and Europe, to commemorate victims of the Holocaust. They mark the last known residence of the victims. There are 3 stumble stones on a corner which I pass by several times a week. It wasn’t until after I returned from Frankfurt that I took the time to actually look closer at them and understand what they signify.
Drink some wine
Frankfurt is close to the wine growing region along the Rhine River. It was a beautiful day so we took an easy train trip out there to walk along the vineyards (travel trip: you can by a group ticket for the train for just 14 euros that lets up to 5 people take the train – including hop on-hop off – all day). We first stopped in Eltville (a suggestion from my tour guide). It was a cute town with several wine bars along the river as well as a castle-like building with a pretty garden.
There were people strolling around on a late Sunday morning, but the town was rather quiet – so we decided to move on. To Ruddesheim, which is basically the opposite of quite (it was a manageable tourist trap in the off-season, but in peak season it might be a bit too much). We took a walk up to the vineyards (we were too cheap to take the cable car and too lazy hungry to walk all the way to the top). On the way we saw a tour guide with a group of people – all about my parents’ age and North American-looking. I joked that was probably the kind of tour my parents would take when they visit Germany next summer. Then I saw a cruise boat on the river and sent a quick text to my mom. Yes – this will be my parents next June!
I wanted weinersneitzel. Don’t go to this restaurant (Mom, are you paying attention?). The food was marginal, and the service was unbelievably slow (not just from an American perspective – had we not already eaten our salads, we probably would have just gotten up and left).
We then wandered around the narrow streets until we wandered into this wine garden were we enjoyed reislings, roses, and onion cake (a traditional German fall dish – savory cake, not sweet). It wasn’t a bad way to spend a sunny September Sunday.
Try the appelvin too
Frankfurt is famous for it’s appelvin (apple wine). Or maybe that should be infamous. My first day in town corresponded with the final day of the Harvest Festival. There were stalls of bratwurst, farm cheese, and apples. With brat in hand, I headed for the appelvin. It was… um ok?!? It tastes like a sour, dry cider. It was drinkable for the experience, but throughout the rest of the weekend I stuck with beer.
Random fact (that I learned on my tour) – back in the olden days the striations on the glass helped you keep a grip on your appelvin when you had greasy fingers from the fatty meats you were inevitable consuming along with it.
Take in the views at (Europe’s only actual skyline)
Frankfurt is sometimes referred to as Mainhatten due to its location on the Main River and being Europe’s closest rival to a Manhattan skyline. I was shocked when a friend of mine commented that she saw a skyscraper for the first time while in Frankfurt (when she was in her late 20s). Oh yeah, I guess there aren’t that many around in Europe…
I’m a sucker for views and decided to head to the observation deck of the Main Tower. It was a big cloudy, but in a cool foggy-like way, but from 200m (656 feet), I got to take in the city of Frankfurt. Not too shabby.
Get your Mexican on at Chipotle
OK, you will probably only find this interesting/exciting if you are an expat living in a country without an appreciation of burritos. But if that is the case – eat up! While not intentional, Chipotle was a mere 5 minute walk from my hotel. Best 9 euro ($11) burrito I’ve ever had. I had to wash it down with a Corona too (which is likely sacrilegious in Germany).
And Chipotle is an easy 30 minute train trip from the airport – so if you ever find yourself with a long layover in Frankfurt…
And there was some shopping, kebab-eating, and of course a haircut to round out the trip. All in all, a successful travel adventure – what more can you ask for.
A shout-out to my friend’s sister for all her advice on what to do while in Frankfurt (she lived there for a few years). And my haircut was awesome – thanks for the rec!