Away from Frankfurt’s financial core, there’s plenty of fun to be had, says Marisa Cannon.

While Frankfurt’s high-rolling hedge-funders and FTSE financiers keep the markets ticking over, its reputation as a commercial powerhouse may not tempt those looking for a weekend away. Still, the city’s entrepreneurial spirit has begun to take root outside of the financial district in the form of edgy bars and restaurants, while those after more cultural nourishment can wander the banks of the Main River, home to some of Germany’s best museums. If you have some time between meetings or fancy extending your trip by a day or two, Frankfurt has a host of creative districts worth exploring.


The area around the central station, Bahnhofsviertel is one of the city’s grittier parts, where scantily clad mannequins in shop windows signal the (red-light) district’s main industry. Not unlike the gentrification in London’s King’s Cross, however (see our Four-Hour Guide online), the area has undergone a renaissance, with new businesses breathing life into its dingier quarters, cleverly capitalising on the cheaper rents.

Directly in front of the station is Kaiserstrasse, and the best thoroughfare on which to orient yourself if you’re walking into the CBD from the station. Peppered with nail parlours, falafel takeaways and adult shops, the cobbled avenue leads on to Elbestrasse, where the atmosphere lifts to reveal a cluster of hipster bars and minimalist cafés.

Plank ( is one of these – black-painted walls loom over a large wooden bar, creating a sleek, understated setting for people-watching over a local craft beer (Tegernsee, brewed near Munich, comes highly recommended). The elusive Kinly Bar ( is tucked away on the same street. Patrons ring a doorbell to gain entry, before descending into a Gothic-styled speakeasy decked out with mounted deer skulls, vintage oil lamps and huge silver cauldrons for sharing cocktails.

Further down Elbestrasse is the charming fifties-styled Hotel Nizza (, which serves the area’s bohemian locals as well as in-the-know tourists, offering a haven away from the gaudier bars in the city centre. High-backed dining booths, rattan chairs and potted ferns welcome guests into the lobby, where a stylish, antique bicycle is lodged next to reception. But Nizza’s real selling point is its fifth-floor roof terrace, a secluded, foliage-filled enclave open-year round, offering views that graze the middle floors of the skyscrapers nearby.


Continuing eastward on Kaiserstrasse will lead you to the home of the city’s lively operatic scene – Oper Frankfurt (, housed in a modern building on the fringes of Altstadt, the historic centre. It will host Verdi’s Falstaff and Wagner’s Lohengrin in the autumn.

More beautiful to look at is Alte Opera (,
the old opera house in nearby Opernplatz. Built in 1880, its commanding façade remains one of the city’s architectural highlights. Wartime destruction forced performances into the new building in 1951 while the old one underwent repairs, reopening in 1981 as a concert hall.

Heading east on Munzgasse from Oper Frankfurt will take you to the historic centre of Romerberg, where a quaint row of half-timbered gabled houses overlooks a buzzing piazza. Plastered across the city’s postcards, this is Frankfurt’s most photographed location, where tourists snack on pretzels and ice cream while newlyweds perch in front of the city hall for photos. A municipal building since 1405, it has been the site of historic moments such as the Nazi book burnings of 1933 and John F Kennedy’s address during his 1963 presidential visit.


On the southern bank of the Main River is Sachsenhausen, a leafy precinct where the city’s stern exterior falls away to embrace a more relaxed pace of life. Here, traditional apfelwein (apple wine) taverns reside a few blocks from the main embankment on Klein Rittergasse and Paradiesgasse. This cul-de-sac of cider houses is one of Frankfurt’s prime destinations for locals looking to blow off steam, so be prepared for crowds in the evenings, especially when there’s a match on.

There’s a much more suburban feel to this side of the river, and when the weather’s behaving, families picnic on the grassy bank while paddle boarders and rowers dodge the waterway’s tourist-clogged cruises. The embankment is a destination for art and design lovers – named the Museumsufer (Museum Riverbank), after the ten museums lined along the river.

One not to miss is the Staedel Museum (, established in 1815. An underground wing showcases works from 1945 onwards, including Andy Warhol’s 1982 silkscreen of Goethe – a fitting addition given Frankfurt was the German writer’s birthplace. Monet, Chagall, Van Gogh and Beckmann are some of the other esteemed names you’ll find here.

Elsewhere on the Museumsufer, the Museum of Communication ( has an exhibit by Cologne-based artist Joachim Romans, who spent 18 years collecting messages in bottles found on the banks of the Rhine (until October 16). Along from the Staedel, the Liebieghaus Museum of Ancient Sculpture ( has an impressive collection of sculptures dating from Ancient Egypt to the Neoclassical era.


Breeze by Lebua

This pan-Asian restaurant arrived in Frankfurt last year, courtesy of the Bangkok-based Lebua hotel. A dimly lit stairwell leads down to a series of darkened chambers, where sultry lighting, golden booths and Asian ornaments set the tone for the meal to follow. Highlights on the menu include signature roast duck, hakka noodles and wasabi prawns. These can be accompanied by a Passion Fruit Volcano cocktail, which is served fizzing with dry ice in a beaker.

  • Open Tues-Sun 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm. Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof; tel +49 699 288 6656;

Max On One Jumeirah

The Jumeirah Frankfurt’s Max On One is a stylish grill restaurant ideal for business lunches and dinners. Stacks of white crockery and a wall-to-wall bookcase give the sense of a comfortable, lived-in space. Dishes include the surf’n’turf of beef tenderloin with wild prawns, and prime-boiled veal with creamed spinach and rosti. Request a table to the left of reception to see your food being prepared in the open kitchen.

  • Open Mon-Fri 12pm-2.30pm, Mon-Sat 7pm-10.30pm. Thurn-und-Taxis-Platz 2; tel +49 697 1712 1200;

Gusto atVilla Kennedy

Housed in the former home of a Frankfurt banking family, Rocco Forte Hotels’ elegant Villa Kennedy pits itself as a tranquil city resort – at a remove, but still within walking distance of the CBD. Gusto offers an Italian menu alongside local specialties, and has a courtyard complete with bubbling water features and cushioned loungers, open spring to autumn. The JFK bar has live music Thursdays to Saturdays.