Difference between revisions of "Frankfurt"
Revision as of 16:52, 31 March 2008
Located on the river Main, Frankfurt is the financial capital of Europe and the transportation centre of Germany. Frankfurt is the place of residence of the European Central Bank and the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Furthermore, it hosts some of the world's most important trade shows, such as the Frankfurt Auto Show and the Frankfurt Book Fair. It is also birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Frankfurt is a city of contrasts. Wealthy bankers, students, and granola drop-outs coexist in a city that has some of the highest, most avant-garde skyscrapers of Europe next to well maintained old buildings. The downtown area, especially Römer square and the museums at the River Main, draw millions of tourists every year. On the other hand, many off the beaten track neighborhoods, such as Bockenheim, Bornheim, Nordend and Sachsenhausen, with their intact beautiful 19th century streets and parks, are mostly neglected by tourism and lesser visited by tourists.
Frankfurt is the largest traffic hub & banking capital in Germany. This is the place where Germany's major Autobahns and railway-connections intersect. About 650,000 people commute to the city each day, not counting the 660,000 people who really live here. With a huge airport — the second-largest in Europe — it is the gateway to Germany and for many people also the first point of arrival in Europe. Further, it is a prime hub for interconnections within Europe and for intercontinental flights.
These prime traffic connections have made Frankfurt the city with the highest percentage of immigrants in Germany: about 25% of Frankfurt's 660,000 people have no German passport and another 10% are naturalized German citizens. With about 35% immigrants, Frankfurt is the most diverse of German cities.
Frankfurt is home to many museums, theatres (among them the first-class "English Theatre"), and a world-class opera. While Frankfurt is not the size of London, it will not keep you wanting in terms of cultural activities.
When to visit
The best times for Frankfurt are late spring to early autumn. The summers tend to be sunny and warm around 25 degrees celsius. Be prepared, however, for very hot summer days around 35 degrees as well as for light rain. The winters can be cold and rainy (usually not lower than -10° C), but there is hardly any snow inside Frankfurt itself.
If you plan to stay overnight, you may wish to avoid times when trade fairs are held, as this will make finding affordable accommodations a challenging task.
Frankfurt is the heart of central Germany and as such, it is the national transportation hub. It has excellent connectivity between railways, airlines and highways. Reaching and leaving Frankfurt is easy.
Frankfurt Airport (IATA: FRA) is among the busiest in Europe — second in passenger traffic after London Heathrow (LHR) — and one of the busiest airports in the world. Frankfurt is the banking center of Germany and hosts numerous international trade fairs. Therefore all major airlines and all airline alliances fly frequently to Frankfurt and connects it to every continent and major city in the world. The German flagcarrier Lufthansa is the main airline in Frankfurt and offers the best connections.
The airport has today two terminals (Terminal 3 is under construction). Terminal 1 is the home of Lufthansa and the Star Alliance airlines. Terminal 1 is separated into Concourses A, B and C. All other airlines depart from Terminal 2. Terminal 1 is a multi-level maze with poor signage that inexplicably sends passengers through numerous security checkpoints. The restrooms near the gates are perhaps the worst-designed facilities in Europe, accommodating only one to three users at a time, so go early or hold it until you're on your plane. However, the departure gates themselves have some of the most innovative seating around, with bench seats facing many directions and cafe-style tables and chairs for those who wish to whip out their laptops (sans coffee, alas). Passengers requiring special assistance should be advised that they might have to descend several flights of stairs to get to a bus that takes them to the plane, rather than disability-friendly ramps, so talk to the gate agent early if stairs are a problem.
The airport is connected to downtown Frankfurt by taxi, bus (Line 61 to Frankfurt Südbahnhof (Frankfurt South Station), and most easily by S-Bahn (fast commuter trains). To get to the city, take lines S8 or S9 direction Offenbach Ost or Hanau at the Regionalbahnhof (regional train station) in Terminal 1 (entrances in section A and B): interactive route planner. The lines S1-6/8/9 travel through the cornerstone of the system, an underground tunnel (the Citytunnel) through central Frankfurt. If you want to change to long-distance trains get off at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof(Frankfurt Central Station) or Frankfurt Südbahnhof (Frankfurt South Station), if you want to go downtown, get off at Frankfurt Taunusanlage, Frankfurt Hauptwache or Frankfurt Konstablerwache, which are in the heart of the city. The ride from the airport to the central station takes 14 minutes. Be sure to purchase a ticket at the vending machines in the train station before boarding the train.
If you want to go to the airport via S-Bahn, take the S8 or S9 direction Wiesbaden. Don't take the S1 - while it has the same general direction and leaves the central station at the same platform, it will go along the wrong side of the river Main. The line S1 does not stop at the airport.
The Frankfurt airport also has connections for inter-city trains. Regional trains to Mainz, Wiesbaden, and Hanau stop at the same place as the S-Bahn to Frankfurt. Connections outside the Frankfurt region have a separate train station, the Fernbahnhof ("long-distance train station"). Here, you can board high-speed trains to Cologne, Munich and other destinations.
Frankfurt has just one airport but the smaller airport called Frankfurt/Hahn (IATA: HHN), mostly used by no-frills airlines, advertise with the proximity to Frankfurt. However, Hahn is far away from Frankfurt and it actually takes about 2 hours to drive from downtown, so allow for that airport more time into your travel plans and budget. A Bus from Frankfurt/Hahn to Frankfurt main airport and on to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Frankfurt Central Station) costs about 13 euro and leaves roughly every hour.
Frankfurt has three major train stations, the main station (Hauptbahnhof), the South Station (Südbahnhof) and the Airport (Flughafen Fernbahnhof); however, inter-city trains that stop at the airport will usually (not always!) also stop at Hauptbahnhof. The Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof is one of the biggest and busiest train stations in Europe, so it's definitely worth a visit. Frankfurt has connections to most German cities - and some international destinations - via InterCity and high-speed InterCity Express trains. There is no problem to get a connection to any train destination from Frankfurt.
Be aware that Frankfurt train stations (other than at the airport) are very large, confusing, labyrinth-like places for newcomers. Allow plenty of extra time to locate the boarding area of your train. It's likely you'll have to ask someone for help the first time. There is a large departures signboard above the main exit/entrance with destination and platform information. You can also get information from the railway travel office in the station.
From the main ticket office at Frankfurt you can buy 5 and 10 day rail travel cards which allow you to travel around Germany using all train services, including the Intercity ones. The 5 day ticket costs 189 euros and the 10 day ticket 289 euros. You cannot buy the ticket from regional train stations. These are a significant saving on individual train fares.
Frankfurt is connected to several autobahns and can be easily reached by car. Try to avoid rush-hour and especially snowy days, as car traffic can easily break down. Parking is definitely a problem in most areas. Especially during big conventions—such the Internationale Automobilausstellung (International Automobile Exhibition) in September, or the Frankfurter Buchmesse (The Frankfurt Book Fair) in mid-October—you should consider using the well designed park-and-ride system.
Frankfurt is serviced by various trans-European buslines like Eurolines. The main terminus is the central station (Hauptbahnhof). If you are on a tight budget, this will be a good way to reach Frankfurt.
Subway (U-Bahn), S-Bahn, Tram, Bus
The best way to travel around Frankfurt is the subway system (U-Bahn), tram and bus. For connections to the suburbs use the S-Bahn. You can get individual, group, day and week tickets. The metro stations are signed with a white capital "U" on a blue background. To go to the suburbs or airport use the S-Bahn, signed with a white "S" on green background. All lines come together in a tunnel (Citytunnel) in central Frankfurt (beside line S7, which ends at Central Station).
Fares tend to be average— 5.4 euros for a ticket for one day for one adult. You don't want to get caught without a ticket, as the conductors will charge you 40 Euro and you can get into considerable trouble, especially if you have no ID card or passport on you. Subway trains and trams are checked quite seldom, the S-Bahn trains quite often. It is not possible to buy tickets in an S-Bahn, tram or subway. The ticket machines can be a little confusing if you do not know how to use them. Basically, you have to press Einzelfahrt Frankfurt for a single trip in the city and Tageskarte Frankfurt for a day ticket in the city. If you want to drive to airport, you have to press Einzelfahrt Frankfurt Flughafen or Tageskarte Frankfurt Flughafen. If your destination is outside Frankfurt, you have to look up your destination on the list provided at the machine, enter this number with the numeric keypad, then press the button for the type of ticket you want (Einzelfahrt - single trip; Tageskarte - day ticket). Also, every station has some stations listed as "short distance" destinations (Kurzstrecke, code "97"); tickets to those are cheaper.
If you have the opportunity, ask a bystander to explain the vending machines to you the first time you want to buy a ticket.
The RMV site has basic information and timetable information available in English and other languages.
The S-Bahn, run by the German train company, is notorious for its delays. If you need to get somewhere on time, allow for some buffer time. In the morning rush-hour, delays of 10-15 minutes are common. If you are catching a plane or have another similar time-critical appointment, allow an extra 30 minutes to be on the safe side.
Other services (subway, tram and bus) are usually more punctual.
Frankfurt has plentiful taxi drivers to service the many business travellers. The city is not too big, so fares tend to be reasonable. Watch out for taxi drivers that take detours if they notice that you do not know the city. Still, for door-to-door transportation, taxis are a way to go. Most taxi drivers love to drive to the airport because it's longer than inner-city fares, but not all taxi drivers are actually licensed to go there. They tend to drive very fast because most German business travellers expect them to do this. If you feel uncomfortable just let the driver know and he will slow down.
In the main tourist areas downtown there are also »bike taxis« that convey one or two passengers. For those not too keen on walking this may be a convenient way of seeing the sights.
You should avoid using your car in the city, or esp. in the tourist "hot spots" like Sachsenhausen (especially on a Saturday) because of parking space. It's very limited, and people tend to park in places they're not supposed to. This ends up costing a fair bit if your car gets towed, which it often will. If you want to enter the city, your best bet is to use a Parkhaus (parking garage) (which charges a fee of 1€ per hour or 8€ for the whole day) and then either walk, or take public transportation.
You should be aware that many areas are reserved for local residents, in and outside the city. You will see the areas marked by parking signs that indicate a local permit is needed during certain hours during the day. The wording to be aware of is "Parkausweis Nr.X" (where X is a number). If you park in these spaces you risk a fine.
Also remember that Germany has strict DUI (driving under the influence - alcohol) driving laws, only allowing 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood. That is just about one beer or glass of wine. And even if there are Autobahnen without speed limits, when there are speed limits, these are implemented rigorously. Radar traps are frequent. Heavy on-the-spot fines can be levied. Recently the laws (and fines) pertaining to tailgating have been sharpened, and the fines have gotten bigger.
Frankfurt is bike-friendly, featuring an expansive network of bike lanes. While there are various rental-bike companies in Frankfurt, they are relatively rare and situated in inconvenient areas of the city for travellers. A more convenient source of rental bikes may be Deutsche Bahn. Look out for their rental bikes, marked in the colors red and white and the letters "DB."
These bikes are available from April to December and can be found pretty much anywhere in the city - especially at street corners, which are the major pick-up and drop-off points. You can rent these bikes 24/7 just using your cell-phone and your credit card. German citizens can also sign-up for direct debit from their checking account. For instructions on how to use this service, call the number on the bike or go their website.
Museums in Germany are generally closed on Mondays (there are exceptions); the exact opening hours on other days depend on the museum. If you want to visit a museum on a public holiday, check with them before to be sure they open on that day.
The museums in Frankfurt offer a wide range of exhibits. Many museums are clustered on both banks of the Main in a district called Museumsufer. To get there, take the subway to Schweizer Platz (southern bank) or Willy-Brandt-Platz (northern bank), then walk towards the Main river. You can see the downtown skyscrapers when you leave the station Schweizer Platz, that's the direction you have to take. There are enough museums in Museumsufer to keep you occupied for a while, and it is especially suitable if you are staying in Frankfurt only for a short time.
At the Museumsufer
The museum for applied arts and design hosts just that in a beautiful Richard Meier designed building. The small park around it is a popular hangout in summer and there is a small posh restaurant on the ground floor.
Due to a lack of space and funding currently doesn't display it's permanent ethnographic collection but rather shows well made exibitions.
Formerly known as the postal museum, it explains the history of communication with a strong focus on postal services and telecommunication. A lot of old telegraphs, phones, fax mashines etc. can be tried out so it is fun for not too young kids. Don't miss the small but impressive art collection, hosting works with communication themes from the early 19th century up until today.
Here mostly excavations from the old ghetto are shown. There is another outpost of the jewish museum near by, which hosts exibitions on a regular basis. It is housed in a 4 story world war II overground bunker.
There are many other museums in Frankfurt:
Three special events are associated with Frankfurt's museums.
Frankfurt has some of the tallest buildings in Europe (the Commerzbank tower is the highest office building of Europe), and the tallest in Germany. Its skyline is unique for the country as the high-rises are concentrated in a relatively small downtown area, giving Frankfurt the looks of a metropolis. The skyline is the reason why Frankfurt is sometimes called by the nickname Mainhattan.
Watch the skies
Frankfurt can have quite beautiful sunsets. Caused by the air pollution gathered in the valley it is situated in, they are a good photo opportunity, especially with Frankfurt's skyline. Good vantage points are the bridges, or of course the Maintower high-rise.
There are various fireworks displays throughout the year. Many major events - like the Museumsufer festival are ended with very well done fireworks. Check your local event schedule; if you are in the city these are always worth your time. The exception are the New Year fireworks, which are unorganized and less than spectacular. Good vantage points are the Main bridges, or the river banks.
Finding work is difficult if you do not speak German. Frankfurt is one of the better locations to start looking if you want to find a job. Not only it is a center of national and international finance, but there are also many high tech companies in the area. All of these may be more willing to accept people with no or less than adequate German skills. Jobs at the European Central Bank requires EU citizenship.
Last but not least the airport and companies working for trade fairs always has need for people who speak English and other (seldom spoken) languages. Especially low skilled and very high skilled jobs are available. Make sure you have the proper permits and papers; working illegally can get you into a lot of trouble.
The Zeil is the main shopping area of Frankfurt and one of the most frequented in Europe. Various large department stores compete for customers here. You can spend a lot of money here on perfumes, clothes, jewelry, or really anything else you desire. While the Zeil itself is mostly populated by generic shops, nearby streets also house more exclusive - and much more expensive - stores of all kinds. To reach the Zeil, take the subway or S-Bahn to Hauptwache or Konstablerwache, but you can easily walk from the central station (about one mile).
Another shopping street is the Berger Straße, which can be reached by subway stations Merianplatz, Höhenstraße and Bornheim Mitte on line U4.
If you like shopping centres, take the subway U1 direction Ginnheim and get off at the station Nordwestzentrum. It is one of the biggest malls in Germany. Not the biggest but one of the oldest (1971) Mall is Hessencenter which resides at the U7 towards Bergen-Enkheim station Hessencenter
West of the Zeil is the Goethestrasse (Goethe Street), which covers the exclusive and designer shops. If you are a foreign visitor, remember to ask for tax free shopping and ensure that you receive a "tax free" envelope for the customs officer. You will get your value added tax money back when you leave the country (19% as of 2007). Often the store staff can speak English, other languages may be available.
There are of course restaurants all over Frankfurt. One notable area for dining may be what is locally known as the Fressgass (a "nice" translation would be "eating road"). The correct name of this street is Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse. As the nickname implies, the Fressgass features many cafes, restaurant, and delicatessen food stores. It's a popular area to dine after the daily shopping. Take the subway to station Hauptwache or Alte Oper. In late May to early June (exact dates vary each year), the Fressgass Fest takes place with food stands, cheap beer and live music.
If you are looking for an in-depth paper-based restaurant guide, a popular publication is Frankfurt Geht Aus (Frankfurt is going out), a magazine style dining guide of the city. It can be bought for €4.80 at many kiosks and book stores, or at the Tourism Information at the central station.
Alt-Sachsenhausen, a part of the suburb Sachsenhausen south of the Main river, is famous for its bars and Kneipen (a German type of Bar, really) serving the "national drink" Ebbelwoi (local dialect for "apple wine", sometimes spelled Ebbelwei). However, these days it's mostly for tourists. A better option in Sachsenhausen is along Textorstrasse, a two minute walk south, where you can still find a row of authentic places catering to locals.
Not so famous like "Alt-Sachs", but also well known, is Bornheim (located in the north) which has also some biergarden-like applewine establishments at 'Berger Straße' and the surrounding area.
There are *many* clubs in Frankfurt. A good place to get a listing is http://www.rhein-main.net
Along the Hanauer Landstrasse and around central station there are a lot of clubs.
There are numerous trade fairs in Frankfurt throughout the year therefore you should do your planning and hotel bookings better upfront. During a trade fair, prices at even the cheapest hotels will suddenly skyrocket - and charges of over 300 Euros / night are quite common. Official online hotel operators HRS usually has even the most sold out nights some rooms.
Frankfurt is the banking capital of Germany so most people are business travellers with an expense account. If you intend to stay regular or longer always ask for coporate rates.
The PTT mutli-media store situated just outside Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (central station) 65 Baseler Strasse, on the same row as the Eurolines office; offers 2 euros per hour. The tricky thing is navigating the German keyboards.
Various other hotels offer Internet access; most are still a little backward and provide dialup access only.
There are a number of Internet cafes in Frankfurt of varying prices and quality. Sunday (sonntag) is the best day to surf.
Besides public pay phones and mobile phone services, a large number of stores sell prepaid telephone cards. This is especially useful for international calls. The PTT multi-media store - 65 Baseler Strasse, offers competitive rates for international calls (10 cents per min to the UK) Some other stores also offer in house phone services. Another easy to reach store that seems reliable is in the Hauptwache subway station. You may also visit one of the plenty internet cafés, since they almost all offer cheap phone calls via internet.
The postal service in Germany is Deutsche Post .
The three easiest-to-reach full-service postal offices are easy to locate:-
Warning - Posting a card (birthday card) to CANADA costs FOUR (4) Euro vs 84 cents in the USA, a real rip off!
Frankfurt has one of Germany's highest crime rates (however, this also includes smuggling and similar offences at the airport, as well as anything concerning credit card fraud anywhere in Germany, since the main credit card clearing company is based in Frankfurt). Crime is mainly concentrated in the red light district at the central train station, which also is the hangout of the drug dealers/junkies. Nevertheless Frankfurt is still very safe compared to large cities in many other countries —e.g. capital crime such as armed crime is very unlikely —it is still a smart idea to take the usual precautions. If you have a problem or are being harassed, don't be afraid to ask the police for help. The German police is not corrupt, they are competent and generally helpful. Germany is a very bureaucratic and structured country, so as long as you behave in a respectful attitude to the police you will have no problem.
Note that the possession of small amounts of pot/marihuana for self consumption (while technically illegal) will usually not be prosecuted in Germany. However, the decision whether to prosecute a case or not is in the discretion of the state attorney and judge (e.g. in Frankfurt, an amount of less than 5 grams will usually be considered as "small" - if you are lucky.) and being caught even with small amounts of cannabis can get you into trouble. Buying and smuggling drugs is still a major offence and will have dire consequences.
There are two offices for tourism information. The easiest one to get to is inside the Central Station. Look for the signs: it is near the main exit, next to the German Rail (DB) service area.
The official contact data is:
Drugs and beggars
The central station area (Hauptbahnhof) is known for being a center for homeless and drug users. It has improved much in recent years, but you will still occasionally witness drug users stabbing syringes into their arms and be bothered by beggars. The drug addicts generally don't bother people, and the beggars will ask for Kleingeld (small change), which by their definition is anything between 1-2 Euros.
It can be very useful to know one or two sentences in the frankfurter dialekt to mime locals, as tourists are often regarded as confused/scared and therefore willing to give away money. Some of these phrases would be "hoer uff" (stop it), "lass misch in ruh, isch sachs dir!" (leave me alone, i tell you) or "mach disch ab!" (go away). A polite "Nein, danke" (no thanks) will also do.
If you're keen on hiking, head out to the nearby Taunus mountains or the Vogelsberg (an extinct volcano).