This is part 3 of what I hope to be a long series of layovers in Frankfurt. Given that the Frankfurt airport is a major international hub, I’m hoping to be there often 😀 This time I was on my way to Scotland and had about 2 hours to spend in the town.
This was my third layover in Frankfurt and the first short one. The first I spent walking about for 5 hours with an aussie couple I’d just met on the train and the second I spent visiting Frankfurts main attractions. This time, I only had a couple of hours to spend so I decided to just have a walk and see if I manage to discover anything new in the old town 🙂 Guess what I found?
I did do a very thorough research before … I read the whole Frankfurt guide on the plane! It was a very short one 😛 So I did have a vague plan of visiting the Dommuseum and having a glass of the local apple wine. I only got to do the latter though..
After taking the train from the airport and getting into Frankfurt, I headed on the crowded Kaiser Straße towards the old town. I’d forgotten what a weird combination Frankfurt is… towers of steel and glass next to half-timbered medieval buildings, people of all nationalities, lots of people on bikes, lively shopping streets, lots of people in suits with mobile phones in hand, traditional pubs and street terraces full of people, stalls selling the weirdest food-things (I’m pretty sure I saw a pigs leg in there … it seemed cooked though …) and of course the dubious people that always seem to hang around main train stations… So many contrasts…
Thanks to Frankfurts site on the river and at the intersection of important trade routes, industry, comerce and banking blossomed here back in the middle ages and still thrive today. Frankfurt is now the largest financial centre in continental Europe and ranks among the world’s leading financial centres. But it is also an old town (first mentioned in 794!) with a nicely preserved (some bits restored) old town part.
I mentioned restored because, during World War II, the old town of Frankfurt, the biggest old Gothic town in Central Europe, was devastated by six bombardments of the Allied Air Forces. That is when more than a thousand buildings of the old town, most of them half-timbered houses, were destroyed. But they have kept the medieval appearance by rebuilding many of them. They are also currently working on rebuilding a whole area between the Romerberg and the Cathedral in the old style. Pretty cool idea. The work is supposed to be completed in 2016, I’m looking forward to checking it out (check for the Dom-Römer Project for more details)!
After walking a bit on Kaiser street and getting accustomed to Frankfurt, I got to the spacious Goetheplatz. I like it how I always end up in new interesting places when I am not following a route on a map. After taking a picture of Goethe’s statue, I headed on to the Hauptwache, one of the most famous … and awesome plazas in the city…
Looking at the picture now I realize I should have been hurrying at that point if I wanted to see the Dommuseum as planned. But I didn’t check the time or the museum’s closing time until later… Whoops!
The two buildings in the picture and the only old ones, the rest of the plaza has modern buildings. The one on the left is the building that gave the plaza its name. Built in 1730, it was the headquarters of the city’s militia when Frankfurt was an independent city state and also contained a prison. It later lost it’s role and later became a police station. In 1904, the building was used as a café and remains one to this day. Heavily burned in World War II bombing, it was reopened in a provisional form with an altered roof in 1954. In 1967, with the building of the U-Bahn tunnel through the city, it was dismantled so it could be moved and rebuilt over the new underground U-Bahn station. And that’s were you can find it today! The building on the right is St. Catherines Church, the largest Lutheran church in Frankfurt, dedicated to the martyred Christian saint, Catherine of Alexandria. The baroque church was build between 1678 and 1681 and stands 54 meters in height. The German writer, artist, and politician Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was baptized in this church in 1749. Similar to many buildings in town, the church was also destroyed in 1944 by the WWII bombings. The city reconstructed its church between 1950 and 1954. The cafe looked for a nice place for a short rest and bite to eat so I decided to return here on my way back to the train station for a short break.
Next I walked to the Römerberg, I think the most famous landmark of Frankfurt. Recognise the picture?
It was late afternoon so it was already crowded with tourists, a wedding and the locals probly heading home after work. I really that they redid the whole thing in their medieval-gothic style after the WWII bombings. I so love those timbered houses!
I took a few pictures and moved on as I also wanted to see the Main river. So I had a short walk on the Eiserner Steg. The Iron Footbridge was erected in 1868-69 by a private company of citizens as a third bridge across the Main. The bridge was for pedestrian use only as there was no space on the Frankfurt side to build access ramps for a road bridge. The Iron Bridge was re-worked in 1911. It is now full of tourists, street singers, locals and of course loads of lockets! I really like the city view from there 🙂
After this I headed on to the Dom (the Frankfurt Cathedral) with the intention of visiting the museum. It is a Roman Catholic Gothic church located in the centre of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew. It is the main church of Frankfurt and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time. The museum is supposed to have some items from those times!
From 1356 onwards, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in this collegiate church as kings in Germany, and from 1562 to 1792, emperors-elect were crowned here. In 1867, St. Bartholomew’s was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in its present style. St. Bartholomew’s suffered severe damage in the WWII bombings; the interior was burned out completely. The building was reconstructed in the 1950s.
But, before reaching the main entrance to the cathedral, I found a small back entrance that led to the tower. Of course I had to see that, so I got the ticket and went up. I didn’t know then, but it was around 5.45… The flyer they gave me at the ticket office mentions 328 stairs to the viewing platform, but they surely seemed a lot more when going up 😛 They were also pretty narrow, but I like how they changed the direction half way so people wouldn’t get dizzy while going up! The view is well worth it!
The contruction of the tower started in 1415. The dome was completed in 1514, but the contruction was interrupted and the remained unfinished. In a fire in 1867 the dome and belfry with bells was destroyed. During 1869-1977, it was reconstructed and, based on the medieval plans, it was completed. The new bells were installed in 1877. It was also damaged in the war in 1944, like the rest of the old town. After that it underwent repairs and extensive renovation work. It was closed for the public in 1997 because of risk of falling parts and the renovation continued. It was finally reopened to the public in 2010.
After all those hundreds of stairs you reach a viewing platform that goes all around the tower. It was almost empty when I got up (not so unusual since they were also closing at 6pm…) so I got to enjoy the awesome views over the city peacefully. I took lots of pictures of course and admired the citys old – and – new blend from above.
After going around the platform twice, I decided to sit for a while and check my schedule. And that’s when I realized that that was not the day I would visit the museum 🙁 . As it was closing in less than 5 minutes and I still had to get down from up there.
So I only got into the huuge cathedral and added the museum on my to-visit list for next time.
The cathedral itself is well worth a visit! It’s well first of all extremely large, it must have looked amazing when they help coronations there! It is very spacious and has nice paintings and various works of art.
On my way back to the train station, I returned to the Hauptwache cafe and made a quick stop as I was starving. Being in Germany, I decided to try the sausage salad, which….surprise! … was not made of sausages! Why?? It was ok…ish to my taste, but I did expect it to have sausages…so I was disappointed… The apple wine was yummy though 🙂 As the cafe is right in the middle of the plaza, it’s also a great place for people-watching. I’ve seen way more people on bikes than last time I was in Frankfurt!
I’ll close this post with another picture of Frankfurt from the tower. The pic I think shows best the old and new mix that is Frankfurt. I am not a big fan of these blends, but Frankfurt is one of the places where I think they actually fit. I’d love to have a bit more time to explore it!
You can see in it the famous Frankfurt skyscrapers, a part of the Romer and St Pauls Church. Also, on the bottom right where the crane is, that’s the place they are rebuilding!
See you next time, Frankfurt!
Have you ever visited Frankfurt? What did you like best?
- the train trip from the airport to the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) takes about 15-20 minutes and there’s usually one train at every 20-30 minutes
- the train ride costs 4.35 eu one way or 8.5 eu roundtrip
- entrance fee to the Dom Tower is 3 euros; opening hours during summer months: 9am till 6pm daily; check their site for more info: domturm-frankfurt.de
- search for great accommodation in Frankfurt
Here’s the map with the places I visited:
trip date: June 2014