Things to Do
Enjoying your Visit to Frankfurt am Main
By Mark Kolakowski Copyright © 2008
Excellent Public Transit
Frankfurt am Main (hereafter "Frankfurt") has an excellent public transit system, called the RMV, consisting of buses, trams (streetcars or trolleys), subways (the U-Bahn) and suburban commuter rail (the S-Bahn). One-way tickets, available from vending machines, cost 2.10 Euros. If you plan to take 3 or more rides in a day, consider buying a day pass (Tageskarte) that costs 5.60 Euros.
If you are going to stay for 4 or more days, get a weekly pass (Wochenkarte) for 20.60 Euros. The weekly pass can only be obtained from an RMV service center, such as the one at the Hauptwache station in central Frankfurt, at which many U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines cross. If you are in a group of 2-5 people, you can get a group pass that costs less than two individual passes. The daily group passes are available through the vending machines, but the weekly version only can be obtained at RMV service centers.
Frankfurt has many excellent museums. My favorite were these four:
- Staedel (the main art museum),
- Liebieghaus (sculpture, though this turreted mansion itself may be the real star)
- Seckenberg (natural history, with a great local fossil collection)
- Archaeological museum (with Roman artifacts from the area, in an old Carmelite cloister).
There are two museum discount cards worth considering. The Frankfurt Card is available either for one or two days, for one person or for a group of up to five. It combines unlimited transit rides with discounts at museums, tours, river cruises, the zoo, the botanic gardens, stores and restaurants. You can purchase it at the airport, the RMV service center at Hauptwache, the main train station (Hauptbahnhof), the tourist information office in the center of the old town (the Roemer), or in select hotels. For an individual, the Frankfurt Card costs 8.70 Euros for one day and 12.50 Euros for two days. For a group (of up to 5 people), it costs 15 Euros for one day and 24 Euros for two days. This is an unbeatable bargain.
There also is a Museumsufer card that costs 12 Euros, giving discounted admission to most museums around town for two people for two days. It is available at all the participating museums.
Destinations near Frankfurt
Overlooked in many guidebooks is the nearby western suburb of Hoechst, reachable by the S1 and S2 S-Bahn lines, and in the same RMV fare zone 50 as central Frankfurt. I found it in the handsomely illustrated Frankfurt City Guide. This was a most worthwhile half-day outing.
Wiesbaden, the noted spa town, is at the end of S-Bahn lines 1, 8 and 9. It’s in a different fare zone than central Frankfurt, so expect to pay a higher price than for close-in trips on these lines.
26 kilometers north of Frankfurt, the S-6 terminates at Friedberg, which has an interesting fortress at the north end of town.
The vineyards along the Rhine, west of town, are picturesque. Go during the week in the warmer months, to avoid the weekend crowds. The town of Ruedesheim is a worthwhile stop. Consider taking the cable car up to the monument above town, to get a panoramic view of the vineyards. The Herbert Bretz winery, across the Rhine from Ruedesheim in Bingen (accessible via car ferry), is also worth a visit. [A family owned and operated business, Bretz’ proprietor Andre Syre is personable, knowledgeable and fluent in English. His enthusiasm for wine is infectious. Their website www.weingut-bretz.com is in German, but you can contact them via e-mail if you are interested in paying a visit. Among other things, they sell a product called Federweise, immature low-alcohol wine that is very effervescent. It is only available on draft in local wine bars, not bottles, and only during the harvest season.]
The university town of Heidelberg makes for a wonderful day trip. Hourly trains depart Frankfurt’s main train station (Hauptbahnhof) and take about 80 minutes. Besides seeing the famous Schloss, or castle, take the Bergbahn railway to the top of the mountain behind the Schloss, for an outstanding panoramic view. Bus 33 takes you from the main rail station to the Bergbahn station. Be sure to visit the tourist info office just outside the main rail station for maps and directions. While in Heidelberg, consider eating at Kulturbrauerei Heidelberg on Leyergasse 6 (www.heidelberger-kulturbrauerei.de). It’s a warm and inviting beer hall with reasonably-priced local cuisine and excellent beers brewed on site.
Food and Drink
Besides beer and wine, Frankfurt is noted for Apfelwein, or apple wine. Also colloquially called Ebbelwei, this is a low-alcohol, very drinkable type of hard cider. Many drinkers like to mix it in their glass with up to 20% sparkling mineral water. Apfelwein bars sell it by the glass or by the jug (usually 1 liter), or Bembel. It’s cheap, at only about 1.30-1.60 Euros per 20cl glass in most places.
Adolf Wagner, at Schweitzer Strasse 69 (www.apfelwein-wagner.com), is a classic place to enjoy this tipple, plus regional dishes like Frankfurter Gruener Sosse (Frankfurt green sauce) and roast pork shoulder. The latter dish is quite large, enough for (in the words of a local man sitting next to me at one of the long tables) two people and a dog. The green sauce is a refreshing blend of parsley, sorrel, dill, chives and other green herbs, with some dairy binder (yogurt, mayonnaise or sour cream) and served over potatoes with sliced hard boiled eggs or beef. It’s a popular light summer dish, great all year. Boiled potatoes are the standard, but Adolf Wagner goes one better with roast potatoes.
Gerbermuehle (www.gerbermuehle.com) is a renowned inn and restaurant south of the Main and east of the central city. It has a scenic location on the river. For an appetizer, try the Handkaese mit Musik (hand cheese with music). What’s this? A moderately pungent cheese marinated with onions. This is another renowned local dish. The quaint name points to the fact that it’s liable to produce a bit of intestinal gas. Gerbermuehle also has particularly good Sauerbraten (German pot roast). The dessert pancakes are excellent, as is the chocolate mousse.
The Cafe im Literaturhaus on Bockenheimer Strasse 102 is in a old villa that is the headquarters of a literary society. It has a good wine and beer list, and the beef Rouladen, rolled, braised beef simmered in gravy, is especially tasty.
The Klienmarkthalle (Little Market Hall) off Hasengasse has vendors of fresh produce, cheese, bread, meats, seafood and sweets. It’s a great place to grab a quick lunch or snack, such as at one of the hot sausage vendors.
Throughout Frankfurt are several bakery chains that offer solid value in baked goods of all types, from pretzels to chocolate croissants. These include Back-Factory (good chocolate croissants) Weiner Feinbacker (Vienna Fine Baker), Eifel and Brotbacker (Bread Baker, my favorite for pretzels, featured at 3 for 0.99 Euros).
The Nordsee (North Sea) seafood shops are also surprisingly good, especially for their Matjes herring sandwiches.