Frankfurt - Mainhattan
Written by Jamie Davies
There is no doubt about it. Frankfurt is the city of skyscrapers, its famous skyline giving it the moniker ‘Mainhattan’. Two of the highest in the EU are located here – the Commerzbank Tower and the Messeturm, or Main Tower.
There is even a Wolkenkratzer Fest featuring base jumping from some of the city’s towering business centres, but you will have to wait until 2013 for the next one. In the meantime, dine among the stars at the Main Tower Restaurant and Bar on the 53rd floor – one of Frankfurt’s top restaurants. Once you are up there, go even higher to the 56th floor to the observation tower for a 360° view of the city. Or, if you are looking for a workout after your flight from Qatar, take the 1,090 steps up!
This city on the river Main (pronounced ‘mine’) is also known as ‘Bankfurt’ because of the more than 300 banks that can be found here. But Frankfurt is more than just skyscrapers and banks. Being at the crossroads of major trade routes across Europe, the city has a history of trade fairs going back to AD 1150 and it now hosts, among others, the world’s largest book fair each autumn, the world’s largest music fair in the spring, and the world’s largest automobile fair in September.
On the cultural side, Frankfurt’s opera house is award winning: it is the most loved opera house in Germany, and was placed second internationally after Basel this year as ‘Opera House of the Year’.
The annual Night of the Museums, when all 48 of the city’s museums are open until 2am, is on May 7. Many of the museums are concentrated on the banks of the Main and include the Städel, where you can currently see 300 of the museum’s paintings arranged in chronological order from the 14th to the 21st centuries accompanied by references to political, social, cultural, and scientific key events. While you are there, visit Holbein’s, a popular, stylish bistro-restaurant. The Frankfurt area is well known for its white asparagus; the season is now, and Holbein’s creates many dishes highlighting what the Germans call ‘edible ivory’.
The Zeil is Frankfurt’s main pedestrian shopping street, and one of the newest malls there will certainly catch your eye. MyZeil is an architectural wonder of swirling glass funnels designed by the Roman architect Massimiliano Fuksas. Millions have marvelled at this natural, light-flooded shopping and entertainment complex from the day it was opened two years ago. From Accessorize to Xenos, there are more than 100 shops and services on eight levels catering for fashion, food, health and beauty, household items, lifestyle, technology, and toys. The 47m-long ExpressWay escalator whisks you straight up to the Gastro Boulevard on the 4th level where you can relax and have a coffee or sample some tasty treats from Italy to Japan or from Mexico to Switzerland.
While MyZeil is more of a typical high-street shopping centre, for luxury shopping you will want to head to the nearby Goethestrasse, a tree-lined street between the Opernplatz and Goetheplatz where 20 of the world’s 50 top labels can be found, including Chanel, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Armani, Versace, Gucci, Bulgari, Cartier, and Tiffany & Co. If you are looking for the classic of the classics – finely tailored Brioni suits or Dior evening gowns – go to Möller & Schaar at Goethestrasse 26–28. The Modehaus August Pfüller, family-run since 1878 and now in its 6th generation, has two shops on the Goethestrasse across the street from each other. One is devoted to designer children’s clothing, accessories, and gifts (they also have a shop at the Frankfurt Airport called Kidskonzept). The other shop is three floors of some of the hottest trends for women, including Marc by Marc Jacobs, Chloé, Lanvin, and La Perla, plus a large choice of designer jeans.
Luxury, made in Germany
What was once an insider’s tip is Frankfurt’s haute couture designer René Storck, who can sometimes even be found behind the counter of his shop at Goethestrasse 27. The young designer became fascinated with fashion through his mother, who dressed in the style of Jil Sander. He taught himself to sew as a child and was making doll clothes by the age of 8. The first coat he designed when he was 16 was sold to a classmate to top up his pocket money. Storck started his label 20 years ago as a one-man band, and for 15 years he didn’t have a shop and never advertised. Everything was sold by word of mouth. Now lovers of his clothes, which are characterised by their functional simplicity and discreet, muted colours in the finest of fabrics, can visit his flagship shop in Frankfurt.
Running parallel to Goethestrasse is the Fressgass, Frankfurt’s culinary mile. So named at the turn of the last century because of the especially high concentration of butchers’ shops, bakeries, delicatessens, and places to eat, today it is lined left and right with one café or restaurant after another, from traditional German restaurants to Starbucks and Häagen Dazs.
If you love French pastries, you may wish to try Zarges, which also has a restaurant open until midnight. A few doors down is the delicatessen and restaurant Meyer where you can dine on fusion food in classic elegance. The Fressgass is also the scene of several festivals each year, one being the Fressgass Fest. This celebration of culinary delights with choice live music is usually held in June, but will run from May 18 to 27 this year due to preparations for the hosting of the FIFA World Women’s Cup 2011 final.
What better place for a cooking school than right in the middle of a street devoted to gourmandise? The Genuss Akademie conducts classic cooking classes with top local chefs, organises back-stage specials where you can watch culinary masters artfully preparing dishes in some of the city’s high-end restaurants, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays offers Cook Lunch Run, where between 12.15 and 12.45pm you learn to cook a three-course meal and get to eat it too. If you are into kitchen alchemy, you won’t want to miss the 3-star Michelin restaurant Amador in a half-timbered house in the nearby town of Langen. Run by chef Juan Amador, who has been called the Heston Blumenthal of Germany, this restaurant serves food based on Catalan, Basque, and French cuisine in ways you never would have dreamed.
Frankfurter Grüne Sosse
Claimed to be Goethe’s favourite food and something you will see on the menus this time of year, the creamy green sauce is a mixture of seven finely chopped herbs – borage, chervil, cress, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel, and chives – and is eaten accompanied by potatoes and hard-boiled eggs.
Wäldchestag, Frankfurt’s national holiday
Celebrated for more than 600 years, this is the day when the whole city closes down by noon on the Tuesday following Pentecost (June 14 this year) and families head out to the Stadtwald (City Forest) for funfair rides, entertainment with live music, food, and drink.
To find a peaceful green oasis away from the hustle and bustle of city life, you won’t have to go far. Germany's fifth largest city is ringed by the Green Belt – a 70km-long path through meadows and woods, over hills and along streams and part of Frankfurt’s medieval city walls. The Stadtwald (where Wäldchestag is celebrated) is the biggest city park in all of Germany.
It is 48 sq km criss-crossed by nature trails and keep-fit paths, dotted with playgrounds and ponds. Majestic old chestnut trees line the path leading to Holzhausen Park, undoubtedly the most romantic of Frankfurt’s 48 parks with its moated Baroque palace.
The Palmengarten is world famous for its collection of tropical plants. There are palms, of course, and orchids and ferns, succulents, and bromelia.
The plants are arranged according to their natural habitat, such as mangrove or rainforest or savannah. Spring is beautiful with all the flowers in the gardens blooming, and at this time of year there will be rhododendrons in full flush. Another beauty near the city centre is the small Bethmannpark with its Chinese Garden based on feng shui principles and featuring a temple, pagoda, and carved jade bridge.