Many Americans know Frankfurt as Germany s financial center and as a transportation hub for Western Europe.
But viewing Frankfurt am Main (its official name, indicating its position on the Main River) as just a place for business meetings or changing planes shortchanges one of Europe s cultural and historic gems. Touring Frankfurt s museums, churches, parks and shopping districts, or just walking along its green river banks, can make you forget that Frankfurt is best known as a city for business, jocularly called Main-hattan by bankers.
Frankfurt s history as a trading center started from its location at a shallow crossing of the Main River. The ford of the Franks became one of Europe s most important cities during the time of the Frankish king, Charlemagne, who was crowned Holy Roman Emperor. Its traditional role as Europe s center for trade fairs dates from the thirteenth century. It was considered a free city for the next five hundred years, till it was annexed by Prussia in 1866. Frankfurt emerged as an industrial center in the 1900 s
but was almost completely destroyed in World War II. Following the war, however, Frankfurt experienced a rebirth as a financial center, and today it houses the headquarters of the European Central Bank. Its financial district contains Europe s tallest building and the largest concentration of skyscrapers on the continent.
Visitors, however, will have a different feel for Frankfurt in the rebuilt old town area, where you can marvel at the soaring Bartholomew Cathedral, a site where emperors were crowned in the Middle Ages; the Romer, or City Hall, with its teeming public square; St. Paul s Church, the seat of Germany s first national assembly; Goethe House, home of Germany s most famous literary figure; and Frankfurt s own museum row, alongside the Main River, where museums of film, architecture, fine arts and history are convenient
to one another.
To give Frankfurt's modern reputation its due, the financial center offers plenty to see as well, including the observation deck of the Maintower skyscraper and the headquarters of the European Central Bank.
In a cosmopolitan city like Frankfurt, shopping is, as expected, a favorite pastime. The city s Fifth Avenue district for trendy and elegant shopping is the Zeil, where you ll find all the big designer names. Frankfurt also has one of Germany s largest Christmas fairs, where the possibilities for filling your list are endless.
Accommodations of at many different levels are available in Frankfurt, from the most luxurious hotels to apartments and hostels. A special place to stay is the inelegantly named Frankfurter Hof, a Steigenberger luxury hotel that makes my list as one of the best in the world.
For further information on this surprisingly charming city, go online to www.frankfurt-tourismus.de.