Frankfurt am Main – Historic vs. Modern Germany

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Crossing the border into Germany following our adventure around Switzerland using our Eurail Pass, we immediately started contemplating the German stereotypes we all associate with this nation. The train journey from Zurich to Dusseldorf meant that we would be able to spend a few hours in Frankfurt before heading north to our final destination.

Beer drinking and sampling the German delicacy ‘Bratwurst’ or any sausage for that matter, were both top of our list of things to try on German soil. However, the moment we disembarked the train at the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, our thoughts changed from German cuisine to exploring the beautiful city that is Frankfurt am Main.

frankfurt train station

Innenstadt

Much of Germany is typified in the city of Frankfurt with a gorgeous blend of historic architecture and culture maintained throughout the city combined with a rapid development of modernization in terms of its infrastructure. Home of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt is clearly a financial European hub and this is represented by the high-rise buildings and corporate lifestyle that you can see as you stroll around the modern-day Bankenviertel (banking district). This is part of the Innenstadt or central city district that makes up a large part of Frankfurt’s current day to day business development.

frankfurt

Leaving the main train station in Frankfurt, we decided to take a stroll and see what this beautiful city had to offer. Walking along the Kaiserstraße, we were able to pass by the European Central Bank tower and headed towards some of the tallest structures in Frankfurt including the Commerzbank Tower which stands at almost 850ft tall.

If you are a skyscraper aficionado like I am, you will be impressed by the architectural design of the modern day buildings throughout the city.

frankfurt bankenviertel

We headed back to the Willy Brandt Plaza that houses both the European Central Bank and one of the iconic attractions throughout Frankfurt – the Euro Sculpture. However, the interesting aspect is how you move through the various districts and in a short distance you transition from modern design to historic grandeur.

This has maintained a prevalent iconography throughout the years in Frankfurt, proving how important this is to such a proud nation. This was especially true as we made our way from the popular tourist spot beside the Euro attraction to the Altstadt (old town).

Frankfurt euro tower

Römerberg

Heading to the historic Altstadt area of Frankfurt, in particular the beautiful square known as Römerberg was a poignant but extremely rewarding moment for us. Heather recalled many stories her grandfather had shared when she was younger of his time spent in Frankfurt during World War II. His claim to fame however was residing in Frankfurt during the same time that Elvis Presley did, so this was definitely a worthwhile trip for us to reminisce.

Frankfurt Altstadt

One of the main attractions in Römerberg is the Römer, the historic town hall. We passed under the Bridge of Sighs which is perfect connection to the newly renovated wing across the street from the original Römer wings.

frankfurt bridge of sighs

As you turn the corner and walk on to the famous square, you are surrounded by architectural beauty that continues to flourish in this city. At the heart of the square is the fountain of justice and of course the stereotypical cobblestones are everywhere in this part of the city.

frankfurt romerberg

The beautiful frameworks on the houses that surround this courtyard are an integral part of Frankfurt’s history. Many of these buildings have intriguing names such as ‘The Great Angel’ which references where Frankfurt’s first bank was established in the 17th century.

Imagine standing in the Römerberg square contemplating the many festivals, markets, imperialistic elections and even executions that have taken place over recent centuries in this very spot.

frankfurt romerberg

As I mentioned, a very poignant location with a deep historical background yet this seems to provide a more intriguing attraction for the thousands of visitors that flock here every year. Restaurants and gift shops are nowadays a key component of this square and provide a perfect spot to reminisce stories of years gone by especially if you can grab a local German to share some of their fondest memories with you.

frankfurt

I referred earlier to some of the stereotypes that we associate with the German nation and well, the direct attitude that Germans have is actually a very positive aspect when it comes to sharing some of the stories passed through their generations.

Banks of the Main River

After passing through Römerberg, we headed to the banks of the Main River which provided some gorgeous views across the river. I can imagine that this part of Frankfurt is swarming with people when the weather is a little more forgiving than what we encountered. However, despite the dark and dreary conditions I think this added to the experience. One of our friends noted that these conditions inspired some of the most famous painters around the world!

Frankfurt am main river

Walking along the banks of the Main River, we were passed by a variety of runners, roller-skaters and cyclists who clearly find solitude in this party of the city. Our visit was marred slightly by the amount of rubbish and litter that was scattered along the banks, clearly many of the New Year’s Eve celebrations were located here.

Regardless of this, we were able to view both sides of the river which is famous for the ‘cultural mile’ with a variety of museums on offer. The bridges emphasize the fine architecture we all associate with Germans. In fact, the precise stereotype related to Mercedes-Benz vehicles is unequivocally presented here in the design of the Eiserner Steg and Friedensbrücke infrastructure.

Frankfurt Cuisine

I’m sure many of you reading this post are waiting for our experience of German cuisine. Well don’t worry, we didn’t disappoint though we did have to wait until we returned to the Hauptbahnhof to sample a German delicacy before boarding our train onwards to Dusseldorf.

With so many awesome alternatives to choose from, where do you even start? Do you opt for the Bratwurst or perhaps Sauerkraut? Nope, instead we went for a Geflügelrolle! It is a poultry sausage baked fresh and crisp and available in most German supermarkets. Perhaps classifying this as a delicacy is stretching the truth a little but it was extremely tasty so I’m pretty happy with our experience sampling German cuisine given our lack of time to find other options.

Summary

The beauty of Frankfurt lies in the distinctive historic vs. modern vibe you feel as you wander around exploring this city. Whether you are a history buff or skyscraper connoisseur, there is something in Frankfurt that will likely spark your interest. Römerberg Square is certainly a key component of Frankfurt’s history and the Römer has been the city hall of Frankfurt am Main for 600 years. Walking around these grounds makes it easy to reflect on Germany’s treasured history imagining everything that has taken place in this location in years gone by.

Although we only had time to spend a few hours walking around the Bankenviertel and Alstadt districts, this provided enough time to make us realize that a return trip is definitely worthwhile. For our first impression on German soil, thanks to Frankfurt we are definitely ready for a return trip!

If you are interested in viewing more of our pictures from our escapades wandering around Frankfurt, check out our gallery here: Frankfurt 2015

14 COMMENTS

  1. it’s been years since I last visited Frankfurt, but my mum went there this summer and her photos brought back memories. Most people think that Frankfurt is just a financial city, when indeed it has some charming neighborhoods like Romer. And ah, I just love German cuisine!
    Anna recently posted…The Style Digest – Reading LatelyMy Profile

  2. This is a city we have often debated about, more with me worrying that it would be too corporate. You have dispelled this myth with the mix of the old and the new through your amazing photographs. I laughed when you said that you were a ‘skyscraper aficionado’ as I could visualise Gordon standing for hours working out the structural and engineering side of everything. It seems that Frankfurt could satisfy both of our wants and needs and they will feed me, and that is always a good thing 🙂
    Paula McInerney recently posted…eOasia – Find the Best Things to Do in AsiaMy Profile

  3. Hi Chris, it’s been a while and it’s lovely to read your post about Frankfurt. There certainly is a very dramatic modern meets historic going on. I am not, like yourself, a fan of skyscrapers, but did enjoy the stark differences in the lovely photos you’ve included. I particular like the one of Römerberg square.
    Jackie De Burca recently posted…Lloret de Mar Travel GuideMy Profile

  4. I haven’t really visited Germany at all which is bad given how close it is to home! I love European cities though, there is such a mix of architecture and art and they are always great to explore for a day or so and as you found, plenty to discover!
    anna parker recently posted…The Chedi MuscatMy Profile

  5. Hey Chris,

    I love to read travel reports from foreigners about Frankfurt. It’s quiet interesting what perception people from other countries have of that city. I’ve been living here for years, so sometimes I don’t even recognize all these beautiful places anymore because I’m used to it. As soon as I have some couchsurfers or visitors from somewhere else staying in Frankfurt at my house, I realize how beautiful Frankfurt actually is. People from outside see the city with different eyes and most of them like the clash between the historic and modern site a lot.
    Next time you come, you should definitely visit “Sachsenhausen” at night. It’s a beautiful bar district with a lot of restaurants – and “Äppelwein Bars”. Typical for Frankfurt as well.
    And Best Worscht! That sausages snack bar only exists in Frankfurt. Just let me know when you’re here the next time. I could show you around a little! 😉

    I’m glad that you enjoyed your time here.
    Cheers,
    Mimi

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