Rose Dykins explores Germany’s financial capital on foot and finds maze-like art galleries and blind tour guides.
Begin at the 200-metre-tall Main Tower, the only skyscraper in Frankfurt that the public is allowed to climb. If you can, arrive early to avoid long queues. Entry is €5 and there are airport-style security checks, but the view of the city from the 56th floor is an excellent way to get your bearings. Look out for the “green belt” introduced in 1800 by Napoleon Bonaparte, who knocked down the town’s medieval fortifications and replaced them with trees and grassy spaces. If you have time, stop for a coffee at the Main Tower restaurant on the 53rd floor. The tower (maintower.de) is open Sun-Thurs 10am-9pm, Fri and Sat 10am-11pm. (Closes two hours earlier in winter.) After leaving, cross the road and pop into the Frankfurt Sparkasse bank (47-53 Neue Mainzer Strasse). Inside is a scale model of Frankfurt’s Old Town as it was before the Second World War. It will remain here until September 30, before finding a permanent home in Frankfurt’s History Museum when it opens in 2014.
With Main Tower on your right, walk along Neue Mainzer Strasse before turning right on to Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse. Turn left when you reach Borsenstrasse, then take the first right. Here you’ll find Frankfurt Stock Exchange, a beautiful neo-Renaissance building with columns, statues and cherubs peeking down at you from above. The Stock Exchange accounts for 90 per cent of turnover in the German market and, as of May this year, floor trading was abolished and it is now done entirely through electronic securities trading system Xetra. There is a visitor’s centre and gallery inside with interactive displays and information about exchange trading. Outside, you’ll see bronze statues of a bull and a bear – as bears attack downward and bulls upward, +the statues stand as metaphors for share fluctuations – and bustling food stalls that offer beers and snacks every Friday.
Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm. Bookings necessary. Tel +49 692 1111 515; deutsche-boerse.com
Turn right past the bear and bull, then left. Continue past Galeria Kaufhof, taking time to enjoy the vibrant shops. Turning right at the white granite fountain, the towering red sandstone of St Bartholomew’s Cathedral will come into view. Walk 500 metres towards it, then turn right and go past the archeological gardens that contain Roman and medieval remains. Continue on to Romer Square, where the partially thatched buildings were reconstructed in the 1980s to look as they did before the Second World War – note the symbolic phoenix mosaic on the side of City Hall. If you’re hungry, head to Schwarser Stern in the southeast corner and try Frankfurt specialities from €10 – grune sosse is a creamy green sauce made with seven herbs, traditionally served with boiled eggs and potatoes. Apfelwein is Frankfurt’s signature drink – it tastes a lot like a strong cider. Try one here for €4.40. Visit schwarzerstern.de
Museum Fur Moderne Kunst
Leave Romer Square via Braubachstrasse, turn right and continue to Museum Fur Moderne Kunst (MMK). Once inside, it feels a bit like being in an M C Escher drawing – you reach exhibitions by random staircases, forgetting where you started. The museum is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary with a special exhibition called “MMK 1991-2011: 20 Years of Presence”, which displays iconic pieces from the permanent collection until October 9. Visit the third floor for American pop art, with pieces by Warhol and Lichtenstein, and you can’t miss Katharina Fritsch’s Tischgesellschaft (left) on the second floor. This sinister piece has become a trademark of the MMK, and makes a bold statement about uniformity and isolation. On the same floor, Bill Viola’s video installation The Stopping Mind will make you jump out of your skin. Entry is €12 (€5 after October 9).
Open Tues and Thurs-Sun 10am-6pm, Wed?10am-8pm. Visit mmk-frankfurt.de
Walk back down Braubachstrasse and take the number 11 tram from the Romer/Paulskirche stop on Neue Krame. Travel for less than ten minutes, disembark at Ostendstrasse and cross the road to reach Dialogmuseum.?The venue offers fascinating interactive experiences that open your eyes to the importance of communication and understanding others. “Dialogue in the Dark” involves being led through a pitch-black exhibition by a blind guide – whom you never actually see in the light. You must listen to them and follow their instructions about how to travel through the experience with the aid of a cane. Prepare to feel a little frustrated and helpless – it really hits home that if you don’t speak up, it’s as if you don’t exist – but the session is challenging and thought-provoking. The experience costs €14 for one hour.
Open Tues-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat and Sun 11am-7pm. Bookings must be made in advance and are available in English. Tel +49 699 0432 144. Visit dialogmuseum.de
Im Herzen Afrikas
From the Ostendstrasse tram stop directly outside Dialogmuseum, take the number 11 tram in the opposite direction for 15 minutes and disembark at Weser/Munchener Strasse. Cross the road, walk down Wesserstrasse, then cross Gutleutstrasse to find Im Herzen Afrikas at number 13, a fun African restaurant. You can opt for the cushioned area, where you’re asked whether you’d like to “sit or lie”, or next door, where the floor is covered in white sand. The canopied walls and ceiling, the lantern-lit tables and the African high life music all give the place a stimulating atmosphere, and the food is delicious, with good vegetarian options. Try ful – beans with paprika, onions, tomatoes, feta and oil, and a dessert of sweet yoghurt with raisins and couscous. Two courses €10.
Open 6pm until late. Visit im-herzen-afrikas.de
Go to frankfurt-tourismus.de