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A mini guide to visiting Frankfurt

This is a business visitor’s mini-guide to Frankfurt. A lot of information is available online, especially in the travel guides, but here’s some firsthand experience to tell you what you might have missed when skimming the wiki.

Transportation

You can use the busses, trains, trams or underground to get around Frankfurt. The trams are new, air-conditioned and quiet. The underground is older, but very much functional. You will need a day card (Tageskarte - it’s the most efficient if you plan on making more than one trip) and it’s 6 euros for an adult. Depending on where you come from, you might find this peculiar, but it’s only necessary to carry it on yourself, there’s no need to validate it. Some places require it, Frankfurt does not.

There are other options as far as travel cards go. There is a special card, the Frankfurt Card 1) you can buy at the main train station and in the airport, that gives you free access to all of Frankfurt’s public transportation and can get you discounts in certain stores and attractions (museums and such). It comes in one day, two day and single or group options (up to 5 persons) and is priced accordingly.

If you want to use the public transit system, you’ll need a Tageskarte (day-card). You’ll need to buy these before boarding, and they are available at ticket machines in most stations. The ticket machines are touch-screen enabled, are usable in multiple languages (at least German and English) and take cash or credit cards. There are options available, usually in the form of group cards which are a better option if you travel in a group. You can also buy a day card for another day (say for tomorrow if you know you’ll have to travel). Taxis – an useful option, and you’ll certainly be driven in style, as they are mostly Mercedes Benz, and new ones at that. It costs 2.5 euros to start, and then 1.5 euros / km. At night, the prices change and one kilometer is 1.8 euros. The city is not big, but the tariff is quite steep. As of 2014 when this mini-guide was written, the price for an Airport - Central Station taxi ride is about 30 euros. If you ask the drivers, they’ll give you a receipt that might be useful to take at work to prove the expenses.

Communication

Lots of places have free WIFI which works. Hotels should have it (check beforehand) and public places have them (The Zeil mall has free access WIFI). Cellular roaming within the EU has had some price limits imposed, which makes it better for the foreigner wanting to call out or be called, but so far if you’re going to stay for more than a few days a local prepaid might be a better option. They will require a form of picture ID if you decide to go that way.

Hotels

Go with your popular accommodation website of choice and mind the reviews. The Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway) station zone is good because of connections to the underground, the S line and trams / buses, but it’s a bit busy. Lots of people from all walks of life wander around and there are plenty of restaurants of many sorts, but perhaps there are more beautiful zones in which you might want to stay if you’re on holiday. Hotel prices range from the low tens of euros to the high hundreds per night, and you’ll surely find a price zone you’re comfortable in.

Things to do

The first and foremost place to visit is the center. Go to Google Maps and search for Zeil 2) 3) – it’s on a street that's this part of Europe’s 5th avenue, and make no mistake. It has a lot of high end stores, with items in the window ranging from 100 to 10,000 euros. If you’re not born with a silver spoon in your mouth, at the eastern end of the street there’s a commercial area that has more down to earth stores you might expect to find in any mall the world over. There’s plenty of shade, lots of shops, and some local cuisine if you have the time. Also, the Zeil building 4) ( Google maps link here) has won awards for its architecture, and houses the longest escalator in Europe – it runs 6 floors high. You’ll want to visit that.

And this is what it looks like from the top floor looking down:

Other places of interest that might get lost in the noise on TripAdvisor are the Main tower 5) (Main as in the river Main – that’s its name) ( Google maps link here). For 6.5 euros you can ride an ear-popping elevator 200 meters (600 feet) up to the observation deck where you can see the Frankfurt skyline.

The European Central Bank ( Google maps link here) with its Euro sign out front might be good for some pictures as it’s the seat of all important European financial decisions. It’s not open to the public, but there’s a gift shop. It is found near the Willie-Brandt Platz Underground station, as is the Main tower.

A few tram stops from the Hauptbahnhof (which is, if you’ve paid attention, the Central Train station), there’s an indoor and outdoor water park called Rebstockbad, ( Google maps link here) 6) that houses a swimming pool, a wave pool, a dive pool and a couple of fun water slides. There are also saunas there, and a lot of them – be sure to look it up if you’re an enthusiast. Unfortunately, you need to exit the swimming area before you can go into the saunas, but hey, that’s life. A full ticket (swimming + sauna) including the towel is 15 euros. You’ll need to leave another 15 euros at the main desk for the towel, but they give it back to you when you leave, provided you give them back the receipt and the towel.

Eating

Frankfurt is a cauldron where people of all nations try to make a living. This naturally leads to it being populated by restaurants of many types, from fusion to classic, German, Indian, Persian or Chinese / Japanese cuisine and many more. There are many places to choose from, and you’ll find something to eat whatever you fancy. There is also fast food, from the ubiquitous mega chains to local Middle Eastern joints that serve tasty food. If you fancy German food (which you should try even if you're not sure, especially if you're not sure), one place stands out in memory. This is just a personal opinion, but check out Paulaner 7) ( Google maps link ), right near to the Romer/Dom Underground (U-bahn) station and church.

It is quiet, representative of Bavaria and not Frankfurt per se, but very good German food and white beer in 1 liter containers. Go for it if you’ve never had beer-and-mustard-sauce wurst before. Also, the menu is in both German and English, the waitresses speak English and it’s one of the few places in Europe that I’ve been to that take the American experience to heart - they come and ask you if everything is OK during the meal. Maybe it’s not new, but I haven’t seen it much this side of the Atlantic.

German food tends to center around mashed potatoes, sauerkraut (pickled, sour cabbage) and the ubiquitous wurst. There are many types of wurst and for an encompassing experience you should go for the Paulaner Wurst Simphonie which gives you three kinds of sausage, three kinds of sauce, some sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. It captures the experience quite nicely, especially if you ask them for ein Halbes Weizen - one half of wheat/white - which means you need a half-liter glass of weissbier.

Drinks

In most of Europe you will not be IDed if you look the least bit like you’re out of middle school. The legal drinking age is 18 years old most everywhere, and though many places don’t care as long as you’re obviously not underage, carrying some form of ID with you might be a good idea regardless. That being said, if you go to Germany and don’t try the beer, you might as well not get off the plane in the first place. There are many places with many beers, but since we’re talking about the Paulaner establishment near Romer/Dom, you would do well to try the house beer, Paulaner White.

Also known as Hefe-weissbier or unfiltered, it’s closer to the beer of old with a thicker taste and texture but very good nonetheless. It might come as an acquired taste for some, but after years of trying different beers on different continents, white beer is something I come back to with pleasure every time. It is not the kind you can gobble by the gallon either, as it fills you up quite nicely and being more solid than the regular, tends to saturate thirst in a different way. Where I usually can have five or more regular beers, three unfiltered will do nicely. Definitely something to try if you’ve never had it, and you can have it in pints for the first tasting. They also have the more efficient liter glass for the thirsty connoisseurs.

Good to know: Cheers, or the equivalent “here’s mud in your eye” in German is “Prosit!” 8) and “another one / two” is “noch ein / zwei”. Also, “please take me to <hotel>” is “Bitte bringen Sie mich zu <hotel>”. That should be enough to ensure a good night out, wink wink.

Other

Frankfurt does have an array of nightclubs and other venues that one can look up online easily. The Cocoon Club, designed by Sven Vath, brings a bit of Ibiza glamor back to the DJ’s hometown and is something to look up if you enjoy electronic music. Also, as much as safety is concerned, it is the same as any other big city - keep your wits about you and try to be aware of your surroundings and you should be fine. Though it did not strike me as an inherently unsafe place, I haven’t the experience necessary with the city to tell you about the various neighborhoods and their safety level.

Be safe and travel

This is by no means an exhaustive travel guide but a compendium of information gathered from first hand experience and which was not immediately apparent in other sources. For more information please visit the wiki travel guide 9) and other online sources. Be safe!


Recreation | Travel


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