After arriving in Frankfurt early yesterday and wandering around the city we were wondering what to do today. With a full day to spend in Frankfurt, we decided to do a river cruise and a walking tour. Frankfurt is a little bit underrated as a city. Nobody ever says they’re going to Frankfurt. Usually most with people are passing through its airport on their way somewhere else. For many who arrive in Frankfurt just see it as just another city. However, after our day out we discovered there’s a lot to like about Frankfurt.
When we arrived in the city this morning, we discovered the streets around the heart of the Frankfurt Aldstadt were blocked in preparation for tomorrow’s Frankfurt Ironman event. The road closures forced us to park the bike and walk.
Main River Cruise
Along the river we soon found a tour company Primus-Linie, which had a range of tours including sunset, dinner, 50 and 100 minute river cruises. The 100 minute cruise fitted in nicely with our plans for after the river cruise we had 30 minutes to reach the tourist bureau for the walking tour.
Whilst waiting for the cruise boat to leave we took a break at the nearby cafe. Situated on the wharf and right beside the Eiserner Steg, the public foot bridge, it was in the perfect location overlooking the river Main.
The river cruise is separated into two fifty minute tours with the Eiserner Steg as the separating line between the two tours. The Eiserner Steg is the old footbridge built in 1868. These days like lots of bridges across Europe it’s a place for lovers to pledge their undying love by placing a lock on the bridge and then tossing the key into the river.
As the cruise boat left the wharf we got a great view of the Church Of The Three Kings (Dreikönigskirche). The Lutheran parish church was originally built as a hospital and chapel in 1340. Later in 1881 it was rebuilt as a gothic style church. Set on the far bank of the river with parkland surrounding it the church is quite serene.
As we headed down the River Main the commentary pointed out the various highlights of the city. There were stories of local history and the escapades of local residents.
Towering above the old section of the city is the spire of the red brick Gothic cathedral. Frankfurt Cathedral is not actually a proper cathedral as it’s not the seat of a bishop. Rather its importance lies in the fact that Holy Roman Emperors have been crowned here and hence it’s known also as the Kaiserdom (Kaisers Church).
The green domed roof of St Paul’s Church also stands out amongst the buildings of the Aldstadt. St Paul’s Church dates from 1789 and is built in a circular shape to allow everybody to be able to hear clearly. It became the home of the Frankfurt parliament, the first freely elected parliament in the German confederation. It was here that the first German constitution was drafted in 1849. St Paul’s reverted to being a Lutheran church in 1852. Like most of the city the church was bombed in 1944. After the war St Paul’s reopened in 1948 as a monument to peace so now no longer a church.
Cruising along the River Main river barges slowly glided past. Heavily laden they rode low in the water with water slapping at the gunwales. The waterways of Germany are still a major transport route for canal barges transporting building materials.
The first part of the cruise took us down the Ostend area of the city, passing the European Central Bank. The glass bank building is a stark contrast to the redbrick art deco high rise Lindner Hotel on the opposite side of the river. From the cruise boat there were great panoramic views across the high rise section of the city. The 14 high rises in the financial district of Frankfurt is where it gets its nickname of Main hatten. The cruise took a look around the port before heading back up to the wharf for the second half of the tour.
After dropping off the short tour passengers the boat headed into the western reach of the River Main. Above the Eiserner Steg on the far side of the river is the location for most of Frankfurt’s museums. It’s an area known as “Museumsufer” or “museum row”.
One of the favourite drinks of people of the Frankfurt region is apfelwein, (apple wine). The nearby Westhafen Building with its modern cut glass triangular windows has earned a nickname associated with their favourite drink. Locals call it the Apple wine glass.
The western reach of the river main was a formerly industrial area with abandoned warehouses. With the development of the city the west harbour area has been transformed from an eyesore into a really beautiful area. the old factories were demolished and replaced by stylish new waterfront developments with the West Harbour apartments.
Much of the River Main has had a huge transformation in recent years. After many years of pollution due to industrialisation the fish stocks are now back on the rise. With water quality high it’s now safe to catch fish in the river.
After leaving the Museum row and West Harbour Apartment area of western reach of the River Main the river wasn’t that nice. There was a lot of abandoned and run down industrial buildings. It’ll be interesting to see how Frankfurt council redevelop the area. As the cruise boat reached the Autobahn it was time to reverse course and head back to the wharf.
Tours leave from near the footbridge (Mainkai, Eiserner Steg) and cost € 11,95 for the 100 minute tour.
It was a really nice tour and we arrived back with minutes to spare before our walking tour at the tourist information office so we had to hurry.
Franfurt Walking Tour
Our Walking tour started at the Tourist Bureau and headed towards the Römersquare. Once we arrived our guide gave us a rundown of over two thousand years of Frankfurt’s history. The Romans developed a few settlements in the area back in the 1st century and it was also home to germanic tribes. It became part of the Frankish Empire and the Franks made their home here, hence the name of the city, Frankfurt. It was a major. Trading area due to the river and its location on the roses roads of many trade routes. He told us about the city’s dark history of WW2 and how the city was almost completely destroyed during the bombings.
These days Frankfurt is the continental Europe’s main trading centre and home to some of Europe’s biggest banks.
The highlight of Römerberg Square is Römer, a beautiful 15th century building . The Römer building was the town hall for 600 years. It gained its name from its former owner who was from Rome. Back before house numbers buildings were known for their location or residents.
Around the Römer square small discs mark where back during the middle ages the square was transformed during coronations. To gain support from the local people the Holy Roman Emperor would provide free feasting and drinking for the common people. Huge marquees were set up roasting all sorts of meat and the city fountain was filled with ale. Stories of people being killed in the rush to get to the beer filled fountain really amazed us. It must’ve descended into pandemonium as the day progressed with alcohol fuelled fights breaking out in the square.
During World War Two Frankfurt was extensively bombed and up to 90% of the city centre was destroyed. Much of the old city was medieval fachwerk houses. Being timber houses fires quickly spread from one to another. One building remained, many people say because it was a tavern frequented by firefighters.
The tour took us past all of the main city buildings such as St Paul’s, the Kaiserdom, where the guide gave us a pretty extensive history of the city. We even got to have a look around inside and our guide pointed out different features. We passed the Old Opera House which dates from 1880 and held many of the original performances of opera. The building was mostly destroyed during the war however the citizens of Frankfurt started a donation fund to restore it. The eventual cost was 160 million Deutsche Marks a quite sizeable sum.
The most fascinating thing about walking around Frankfurt is the realisation that prior to the war Frankfurt had one of the most extensive and well preserved medieval city centres in the whole of Germany. Much of the restoration which is evident today has been in the last 40 or so years. The current city council is ensuring that new buildings within the old city centre are built so that they look old. Some under construction will look absolutely fabulous when they are finished.
It was a real treat to end our tour at Main Tower, the 4th highest building in the city. On top of the building is a viewing platform with a magnificent view across the city and the surrounding countryside.
The two tours really gave us a great overview of Frankfurt. It really is a great place to visit.
Late in the afternoon we headed back to the hotel to grab our gear.
The hotel was brilliant as they let us store our tank bag and another bag for the day, even though we’d effectively checked out. After we’d returned to pick up the bags we decided to visit the same Vietnamese restaurant that we’d visited last night. As it was just around the corner from the hotel we packed the bike before heading over. Once again the meal was excellent and took us back to our visit to Vietnam at the beginning of our trip in 2014.
About five we headed out of Frankfurt bound for tonight’s couchsurf. One of our former couchsurfers had organised for us to stay with a friend at Langsdorf, not far from Frankfurt. We headed out to Geissen, where we caught up with our friend Barbara who guided us out to her friends house. After meeting her friend , we were shown to our room a Chinese pavilion on a lake surrounded by beds of lavender. It was unlike anywhere we’ve ever stayed. We spent a nice night with Barbara and Otto trying his homemade schnapps. He named it A16 after the month and year he bottled it but we think it stands for the road. It’s pretty rough going down and a few of these and you’re flat out.
For the next few days we’re chilling out in Langsdorf and maybe visiting a few places around the area.