The Essential Guide to Frankfurt

Officially named Frankfurt-on-the-Main, this vibrant city is sometimes called “Mainhattan” after the Main River that divides it, as well as for its towering skyscrapers and reputation as a finance and business hub. It’s home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges and the headquarters of the European Central Bank, but it also offers an array of cultural and culinary delights, including the medieval town square of Römerberg, several world-renowned museums, and cozy taverns serving hearty regional food.

Schaumainkai 63, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
With around 3,100 paintings, 660 sculptures, 100,000 drawings, and 5,000 photographs, the Städel is one of the leading art museums in Frankfurt—if not Germany. Established in 1815 by banker and businessman Johann Friedrich Städel, it’s the oldest museum foundation in the country, offering a sweeping overview of the Renaissance, Baroque, and early modern periods that spans nearly 700 years. Collection highlights include works by Cranach, Dürer, Botticelli, Vermeer, Monet, and Picasso, as well as more contemporary artists like Gerhard Richter, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Isa Genken.

A 2012 overhaul refurbished the entire building and added a 32,000-square-foot exhibition space, meaning more art than ever is now on display. When visiting, don’t forget to check out the Städel Garden, with modern and contemporary sculptures by the likes of George Rickey and Adolf Luther.
Schaumainkai 17, 60594 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Located within the excellent Museum of Applied Arts, this sleek restaurant is spacious, bright, and unapologetically modern, with vibrant furniture, white walls and big windows accented by colorful artworks, and strings of dangling lightbulbs—all courtesy of the design firm Uwe Fischer & Partners. The food, mostly a mix of French and German cuisine, is equally beautiful, ranging from spinach risotto with goat cheese to more casual snacks like fennel sausages and fresh sourdough bread, plus delicious homemade cakes for dessert. Drinks are seasonally inspired and include black currant Crémant and natural ciders, both perfect for sipping on the outdoor terrace in nice weather.
Neue Mainzer Str. 52-58, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Frankfurt’s glass-heavy Main Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in town. The sixth-largest skyscraper in the city—and the first ever constructed in Europe, in 1999—it features a restaurant and lounge on the 53rd floor, with high-end cuisine to match its stellar views. Here, set menus (two- or three-course business lunches and three-, four-, or five-course dinners) change every two months to stay seasonal, but always showcase refined takes on classic dishes like Wagyu beef Tafelspitz and yellowfin tuna with pears and ginger. Adjacent to the restaurant is a sleek lounge with cube tables, lots more window seating, and an impressive range of champagne, fine wine, cocktails, and snacks. Reservations are recommended for both venues.
Römerberg 23, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
One of Frankfurt’s most important landmarks, the medieval Römer building is a significant part of the Römerplatz (Römer Square) in the Altstadt (Old Town). Located opposite Old St. Nicholas Church, it’s served as Frankfurt’s city hall for more than 600 years, though it’s naturally undergone some modifications in that time. Comprising several houses and six courtyards from different eras, the three-story complex currently spans some 107,639 square feet. While it once functioned as a trading hub and venue for Frankfurt’s famous book fairs, it’s now more typically used for weddings and official functions. The various rooms, which include a restored Kaisersaal (Emperor Hall), are not normally open to the public, but the building is worth a visit if only to snap a photo of the iconic three-peaked neo-Gothic facade.
Großer Hirschgraben 23-25, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Built in the 18th-century bourgeois style, this house is where famed German author and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born—to Johann Caspar Goethe, a lawyer, and Catharina Elisabeth Textor, daughter of the city mayor—and grew up alongside his sister, Cornelia. Restored as closely as possible to its original condition after being destroyed in World War II, it features period interiors, notable paintings, and original furnishings, including the desk at which Goethe wrote Götz von Berlichingen, The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Faust. A neighboring museum focuses on Goethe’s literary legacy, as well as paintings and sculptures from the 18th and 19th centuries that highlight the writer’s relationship to art.
Domplatz 1, 60311 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Officially named the Emperor’s Cathedral of St. Bartholomew, Frankfurt’s main church is recognizable for its striking 328-foot-tall tower. Dating back to the 13th century, the cathedral is also famous for the fact that its Wahlkapelle (election chapel) served as the location for selecting Holy Roman emperors from the 14th to the 18th centuries. Rebuilt following an 1867 fire and again after World War II, the church features a traditional Romanesque cross-shaped floor plan and high altar decorated with a 15th-century retable depicting the life of Christ. Other highlights include the Maria Schlaf Altar in the Mary Chapel, created in 1434, and the choir stalls, which date all the way back to 1352. Added in the 15th century, the tower holds 328 steps, which visitors can climb for sweeping views of the city. There’s also a small on-site museum with precious liturgical objects, plus organ recitals and other concerts throughout the year.
Gutleutstraße 13, 60329 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
The name of this cheerful—and immensely popular—restaurant translates to “In the Heart of Africa,” giving a pretty good hint at the authentic cuisine found inside. The menu focuses on the food of Eritrea specifically, and mostly consists of stews, soups, and salads, all served on substantial, family-friendly platters designed for sharing. Indeed, scooping up your food with injera (a springy sourdough flatbread) is de rigueur here, though formal cutlery is available. Guests sit either on cushions on the floor or at more traditional tables, surrounded by gorgeous wall paintings, shelves filled with pottery, and unique light fixtures. Whichever location you choose, be sure to save room for the delicious desserts, which range from sweet yogurt with couscous and raisins to bananas served with fresh African banana cream.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks