Willkommen to Frankfurt

This 1,200-year-old city offers more than banking

By: Irene Middleman Thomas

One of the world’s top banking centers, 1,200-year-old Fran-kfurt am Main is also home to Europe’s largest airport and is a booming trade-show hub. As one of the 12 German host cities of the 2006 World Cup soccer tournament, Frankfurt has exploded onto the world’s collective consciousness.

Somehow, this city of 650,000 residents manages to hold on to its small town feel, despite the cluster of teeming glass-and-steel skyscrapers. Nestled on the wide Main River, Frankfurt is the home office for both the massive German Federal Bank and the European Central Bank, as well as to 332 branches and headquarters of various national and international banks. Sadly, many business travelers never set aside time to explore this exciting, cosmopolitan and culturally rich metropolis.

Much of this well-designed city is easily walkable, and there is also speedy, efficient public transportation available. With the Frankfurt Card, available for one or two days, your clients will receive free travel on all RMV public transport lines. The card, valid until Dec. 31, is sold at the Frankfurt Tourist Information Office, the Romer building, Hauptbahnhof train station and all Frankfurt Airport Hotel Reservations offices, and also provides 50 percent discount on admission to 22 museums, the Botanical Gardens (Palmengarten) and the Zoo; 20 percent off on Rhine and Main river cruises; and 25 percent off on regular guided city tours and more.

Your clients might start at the observation platform of the recently built Main Tower, with a clear 656-foot-high view of the lushly landscaped city and the surrounding hills and forests. Next, they can stroll to the beautiful Romer, the former town hall since 1405, now the mayor’s office and heart of Frankfurt’s marketplace area, known as the Romerberg. If visiting during December, be sure to tell clients to visit the Romerberg’s outdoor Christmas market.

Nearby is the impressive St. Paul’s Church, known as the cradle of German democracy. It was the official meeting place of Germany’s first national assembly in the 1800s. A few blocks away, visitors take in the elegant former home and museum of Goethe, Germany’s celebrated poet and author. Continuing on to Frankfurt’s lovely medieval Sachsenhausen district, clients can enjoy old half-timbered taverns with authentic German cuisine and locally made apple wine.

The city has 39 museums, most of which sit along the banks of the Main River within walking distance of each other. Frankfurt has not forgotten the country’s tragic and infamous 20th-century history it has two Jewish Museums, one adjacent to the restored Jewish cemetery, the other housed in the former Rothschild Palace. The city also offers the eye-opening Museum of World Cultures, honoring and providing testimony to different cultures and ways of life.

The nearby 1,000-year-old Rheingau, the world’s finest Riesling wine region, with its magnificent castles and vineyards along the Rhine’s verdant banks, makes for a great outing. The 7,413 acres of vineyards make for a lovely day of wine-tasting. Rhine cruises are popular, or visitors can walk the peaceful footpaths. Another option is to rent a car and drive the 35-mile-long Rheingau-Riesling route. From June to September, clients can take in the Rheingau Music Festival.

Many visitors enjoy the respite of Frankfurt’s outstanding parks. The serene Bethmann Park was once the private garden of the prominent Bethmann family. Now open to the public, the park’s Chinese Garden, landscaped according to feng-shui principles, is a beloved spot with ponds, bridges and dragon-guarded gates. Frankfurt’s Palmengarten (Botanical Garden) was founded in 1868, and offers a splendid tropical plant collection inside an enormous greenhouse.

Just an hour or so from Frankfurt is the small, enchanting city of Wiesbaden, with its historic and luxurious Kaiser Friedrich thermal bath and spa. Wiesbaden’s exquisite villa-lined boulevards, complemented by beautiful gardens, towering trees and a tony set of shops and cafes, are reminiscent of areas of Paris. Try Cafe Maldaner, a decades-old kaffeehaus with elegant furnishings and incredible tortes and coffees.

Whatever your clients choose to do, tell them to leave the office for a while, at least. Frankfurt says ‘willkommen!’


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