An Insider Guide to Frankfurt

Germany’s big-business city can also be big fun.

By Rachel Ritchie December 21, 2015 Published in the January 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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With a towering skyline of hypermodern steel and glass, Frankfurt is far from the beer steins and lederhosen of stereotypical Germany. Bisected by the Main River, a tributary of the Rhine, this city of more than 700,000 is the nation’s financial capital, with a distinctly international, multilingual population to match. Not only is Frankfurt’s airport the third-busiest in Europe, with 297 connecting flights to 104 countries, but the city geographically links the enchanting, castles-and-cliffs stretch of the Rhine to the north with the picturesque Romantic Road through the forests and mountains to the south. Indeed, Frankfurt is the place where present-day Europe’s mightiest economy coexists with a deeper, more traditional past. The resulting city is inimitably German but also distinctly modern, pragmatic, and cosmopolitan.

Bombed to smithereens during World War II, Frankfurt rebuilt itself as a robust business center, with a forest of skyscrapers that earned it the nickname of Germany’s “Mainhattan.” Meanwhile, the Altstadt, or old town, sits on the north bank of the Main as a reminder of the city’s long history: a charming maze of cobblestone streets leads to reconstructed medieval churches, plazas, and the town hall. Across the river, the Museumsufer beckons—an embankment consisting of 26 museums hosting everything from German film and architecture to East Asian furniture. Throughout the city, worlds gently collide as apple wine pubs and botanical gardens mix with Michelin-star restaurants, glitzy shopping districts, and shiny banking towers.


Though Lufthansa first launched a direct flight from Portland to Frankfurt in 2003, it suspended its service in 2009. Germany’s national carrier never revived that flight, but Condor Flugdienst, a Frankfurt-based leisure airline founded in 1955, picked it up in June 2015. “We cooperate with various partners to fly our customers also beyond Frankfurt—to Paris, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Munich, London, Venice, and many more,” says Condor’s Wilken Bellmann. Condor’s inaugural service from Portland ran from June 19 through October 6, with two flights each week. The flight carried nearly 15,000 passengers between June and September, and will add a third weekly flight when it returns this summer. 



Conveniently located in Frankfurt’s bustling Station District, 25 Hours by Levi’s is a fashion-themed boutique hotel designed in collaboration with the famed denim brand. Each of its six floors evokes the style of a different decade. From $84

One of Frankfurt’s most luxurious five-star hotels, the Granhotel Hessischer Hof is a time-honored local institution, full of high-end art, antique furniture, and rare Rieslings. If you’re looking to splurge on Frankfurt’s finest, this is the place. From $135

Evoking the varied design traditions of Europe—from the classic elegance of France to the playful retro modernism of the Alps—Hotel Europa Style is a tidy, well-run operation just five minutes from Frankfurt’s central railway station. From $130


At 600 feet above the city, the Main Tower Restaurant & Bar is a great place to combine crucial sightseeing with a meal (or tea). Head to the building’s rooftop platform for more panoramic views of Frankfurt and its surroundings.

With imposing walls of Indian marble and floors of pink concrete, Stanley Diamond is a design statement as much as it is an upscale diner. It’s the newest venture from the group behind the Maxie Eisen Café, a beloved Jewish deli famous for its huge Reubens and tender kreplach.


No trip to Frankfurt is complete without a trip to Old Sachsenhausen, the city’s historic apple wine district. Roam the neighborhood’s streets, popping in to sample the 200-year-old local beverage of choice alongside another culinary legacy: frankfurters. For world-class window-shopping, head to the Zeil, a retail promenade chock-full of department stores, boutique, and chains beneath a wide canopy of sycamore trees. (Don’t miss MyZeil, a futuristic shopping center with undulating walls and pathways.) And just a few blocks off the promenade, take a stroll through the Goethe House, the historic home of Germany’s most famous poet, writer, and statesman, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Finally, you’ll want to explore the city’s two most impressive greenspaces: the Stadtwald Frankfurt City Forest (Germany’s largest forest housed within a city—sound familiar?) and the 50-acre Palmengarten Botanical Gardens.


Flight Time: 10.5 hrs

Average Price: $585

Season: Jun–Oct

Aircraft: Boeing 767-300b

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