I won’t lie. When I first got to Frankfurt I thought it was a little sterile and lifeless, but by the end of the 7 weeks or so I spent there, I found myself with a soft spot for the city. Whilst it’s most commonly known for its financial market (the Frankfurt Stock Exchange is the 12th largest stock exchange) and a certain cleanliness that comes with that, Frankfurt has a relaxing atmosphere and traditional beauty interwoven amongst the modern architecture. It’s a nice contradiction—especially when you compare the high-rise buildings in the financial quarter, against the history in the old quarter with the beauty of the Main river.
Because of this juxtaposition, Frankfurt has an interesting atmosphere. You have the finance crowd, where in early mornings you’ll see people riding to work on electric scooters wearing expensive suits. You’ve got your tourists wandering through excitedly in search of Frankfurters, Apfelwein, Schnitzel and Grüne Soße and then you have the people who live there, going about their daily lives, working, shopping for groceries, relaxing by the river and trying to avoid the Jesus preacher who shouts at you as you walk past GALERIA Frankfurt an der Hauptwache.
I’ve already covered all of my favourite places to eat in Frankfurt—but here are my favourite things to do in Frankfurt.
Visit Alte Oper
Built in 1880 following the plans of Richard Lucae, a Berlin architect, Alte Oper is an old opera house in the inner city of Frankfurt am Main. It managed to escape too much damage in the First World War, with just a tiny bit of bomb damage, but sadly in the Second World War, it completely burned out and sections of the roof collapsed. It took almost four decades until it was rebuilt and in doing so it was called “Germany’s most beautiful ruin”, using reliefs, medallions, tiles, mosaics and frescoes that had been preserved or restored inside the building. In August of 1981, thousands of residents gathered to watch as they lowered the Pegasus statue onto the roof—the final step in the work on the façade. It’s an important venue and a popular meeting spot, and at night it’s adorable—as people gather to dance outside the steps as music plays against the sound of the fountain.
Walk Through Römerberg, Frankfurt’s Old Town
In 1945 the city of Frankfurt was almost destroyed by bombs, and Frankfurt’s old town was one of the worst hit. But since then there’s been a lot of restoration and redevelopment and now the area is one of Frankfurt’s most charming. The historical square features the fountain of justice and is home to lots of places to explore and fun things to do—including the Apfelwein (apple wine) festival and Frankfurt’ Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market). It’s picturesque and popular and with the Neue Altstadt (a quarter that’s been recently reconstructed in line with the original plans) it’s a great place to take a walk through and stop for a drink and some nibbles.
Tour The City Via Electric Scooter
Feels weird to start my things to do in Frankfurt list with riding a scooter. But honestly, it’s one of my favourite things to do in the city. Electric scooters are everywhere around Frankfurt, and because the city is so well equipped for cyclists, getting around via scooter is SO easy—meaning you can whizz around the city (almost) carefree!
Pro tip: There are numerous different brands such as Tier, Lime and Bolt, but not all scooters are made equal. My friends laugh at me for being so particular about the scooters I ride, but as it was my main means of transport when I didn’t want to walk, I learnt the differences. For example, tier scooters feel like they lag when you accelerate to go which is inconvenient at traffic lights. Whereas lime (especially the big chunky ones) feels sturdier, accelerates quickly and is just generally a smoother ride.
Visit One Of Frankfurt’s Many Museums
No matter what your interests, Frankfurt has plenty of museums for you to choose from. There’s the Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (DFF) which is a German film museum, the Museum für Moderne Kunst (MMK) if you like to peruse modern art, Staedel Museum if you prefer fine art and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DA) museum which displays German architecture complete with scale models which have helped shape the world’s skylines.
Alternatively, if you prefer your museums nature-based, there’s also Naturmuseum Senckenberg, the natural history museum, which houses dinosaur fossils that are millions of years old and the museum includes many that were dug up nearby, just 22 miles away in Frankfurt’s Messel Pit, an area described by UNESCO as “the single best fossil site which contributes to the understanding of evolution and past environments during the Palaeogene, a period which saw the emergence of the first modern mammals”.
Enjoy A Sunset Drink Along The Main
The river is long, so there are a lot of places you can do this. But my personal favourite was between the bridges. The grass is plush and you’ll find numerous people sitting there chilling with friends. It’s one of my favourite memories from my time there, watching the sunset and listening to a man and his daughter sitting on a blanket, just completely vibing to jazz after their bike ride.
Go To The Top Of Maintower
Completed in 1999 the 56-story skyscraper has an open-air observatory and viewing platform perfect to take in the view of Frankfurt from. I went during the evening, and it was great seeing the city lit up below. It’s worth noting that the queues can get quite long (I made four attempts to go but couldn’t commit to the queue before deciding to suck it up and wait it out). There’s also a restaurant and lounge on the 53rd floor, which, at 187m tall, offers some pretty epic views of the city to enjoy your dinner from!
Visit Kaiserdom St. Bartholomäus
Built with red sandstone, Frankfurt’s Cathedral stands out amongst its surroundings. It was built between the 13th and 15 centuries and managed to survive the bombings in the 1940s. It’s one of just a handful of churches in Germany to be designated as an imperial cathedral and it was here, between 1562-1792 that the emperors-elect were crowned kings of Germany.
Grab a Bite At One of Many Restaurants
On the 22nd floor inside the Eurotheum, there’s Lounge & Bar 22, a lounge and bar that has beautiful views of the city. Apart from a few bar snacks, I haven’t tried the food there, but it makes for a great spot to have pre-dinner drinks. There’s also Weinschirn, and in the colder months is super cute, with outdoor fires, blankets and delicious wines. And when you’re ready, the city has an abundance of places for you to choose from. I wrote about my favourite ones, here!
Shop At Kleinmarkthalle
From high-end department stores and grocery stores to markets. Frankfurt is great for shopping—especially if you like your luxury. But there is also a great selection of local spots too. Kleinmarkethalle is a local market hall built in 1954 and has 150 stalls dedicated to selling local goods and produce.
Explore Local Parks
Frankfurt has no shortage of green spaces to walk—and some of the parks should be on your list. There’s the Palmergarten, a 54-acre botanical garden that opened in 1871 and is full of beautiful landscapes and greenhouses with tropical and subtropical plants. Then you’ve also got Bethmann Park, Rothschildpark and the one I spent the most time in—Grüneburg Park. (Pro tip: grab some pastries and a coffee from Brixia and head there for a little solo picnic to watch as the world goes by!)
Take An Early Morning Walk
Getting up early can be a chore, but there’s something about starting your day before everyone else is awake. There’s no rush of people dotting about as they go to work so you can just enjoy the city at your own pace. My advice is to start before sunrise and walk towards the river, timing it so you can walk past the Eschenheim tower, past the Euro sculpture, the gorgeous architecture, past the Iron Bridge and arrive along the river as the sun rises. It’s beautiful—and if you keep walking you’ll eventually hit Oosten (about a 30-minute walk from the Euro Sculpture)—a beautiful cafe along the river where you can grab a plate of Austrian pancakes (Kaiserschmarrn) and a coffee. A perfect way to start the day!