When you discover your freedom in life, you discover something else – the world is indeed your oyster. There are old friends to be visited and new friends to be made along the roads of new and unfamiliar countries.
When I won and paid for my freedom, I decided I was stuck in one place long enough. I made my travel plans, and one of the first destinations on my mind was Frankfurt. My ex-flatmate is living there, so I had a free accommodation already. Besides on my research, I was going to depend on her knowledge of the city as well.
Frankfurt international airport is the biggest cargo airport in Europe. The transportation bus from the air plane to the actual airport took almost as long as the flight! On the positive side, the train from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 (where all major links to Frankfurt are) takes only 5 min. My heavily pregnant, German-speaking friend and her adorable 2.5 year-old toddler were waiting for me at the gate, ready to take me to the heart of the city. We took the S-bahn – S9 – directly to Hauptwache station.
We came out of the station and I was immediately fascinated by the mixture of old and new buildings. There’s an ancient church in the midst of new buildings and skyscrapers. The square next to Hauptwache station has few very well positioned and interestingly designed shopping centres . As my journey had started at 5am, and my friend – Mimi – was heavily pregnant, we were both starving and ready for lunch.
The place I chose – solely for the view – was Galeria Kaufhof. At the top floor of the said Galeria, there is a buffet restaurant, with terrace, with an amazing, heart-stopping view. I would strongly recommend to stop and grab a drink, sit and enjoy the view.
However, I wouldn’t recommend eating there. Food was ok, but nothing exceptional, and the price was way too high for what they had on offer. Although I would suggest eating, perhaps with a cup of coffee, one of the traditional German desserts on offer. There were many different types of cakes – all delicious and authentic.
Römerberg and the Eiserner Steg
Or in plain English – the town square and the Iron bridge. Römerberg is a short walking distance in a straight line from Galeria Kaufhof. The town square is something worth seeing. Despite the whole town being bombed to the ground during WWII, Germans managed to rebuild it in a very authentic and beautiful way.
The town hall stands tall and quite impressive, accessorised with three flags – Frankfurt’s, Germany’s and EU’s ones.
Next stop is the Iron Bridge. It’s a pedestrian bridge and crosses right over Main. Countless couples have proclaimed their undying love for each other with a padlock, hitched to the bridge. Most were heart shaped, inscribed and in numerous languages – from Russian to Korean!
Sadly, too much love can be a bad thing – large number of the lockets were cut off, as the bridge became unstable under their weight. The view from the bridge however, has stayed timeless. You can see, admire and enjoy the beautiful and all-so-familiar skyline of Frankfurt from the bridge.
My next recommendation for you would be to get on board of one of the tourist boats, and do choose the longer journey. The tickets booth and the pier are right next to the Iron Bridge. Unlike most boats on Themes, this one has waiting service, which was a nice touch. And unlike Thames, Main is a very calm, easy-going river, so the trip along Frankfurt’s shores was as smooth as you can imagine.
There many interesting facts you can learn on the boat, and the setting is quite enjoyable. The skyscrapers viewed from the river, look majestic and breath-taking. You would be able to view the Mediterranean garden and its calm scenery, as well as the ex-European Bank and its cold exterior. The boat trip was our last stop for the day. Visiting a friend – and a pregnant one at that – I had to slow down my normal stride and enjoy the city at a locals’ pace.
Sunday and Goethe House
One of the main things you should know about Germany is that shops do not open on Sunday. And I do mean all kinds of shops – groceries, clothes, knick-knacks – everything is closed. On the bright side, cafes and restaurants are open, as well as museums. This was well timed for me – I could visit the Goethe House Museum. If you are travelling with a small child, please note they will not let you in with a buggy – and quite frankly, it is not plausible, as the house is old, three-storey and has no elevators.
Even if you haven’t brushed up on “Faust” of late, you would be able to enjoy Goethe’s House. Goethe was born in the house, in 1749, and even the birth room has been preserved. There is plenty of furniture, dating from the 18th century, as well as separate rooms for Goethe, his sister, Cornelia, and his parents, as well as the staff.
The most impressive room for me was the library of the house – three walls – floor to ceiling – filled with books, most probably older than Goethe himself.
The other room I loved was dedicated to Goethe’s shadow theatre – and the wooden stage he built himself. It is an impressive building in itself, but the spirit of Goethe’s childhood and his genius make this experience that much more special.
Hop-on, hop-off Bus
A good idea in any city you visit is to get a ticket to the hop-on, hop-off bus. In that way you would be able to experience the entire city in one go, and then decide which stops and sights would be the most interesting to you.
Frankfurt’s bus took us all over the city. The trip concentrated predominantly on the skyscrapers, giving some interesting and amusing information – like the twin towers of Deutsche bank are called ‘credit’ and ‘debit’, or that there’s a bar on the 22 floor of Eurotheum tower.
From the bus you would be able to travel along the river shore, cross Main via couple of bridges and enjoy that remarkable skyline. After an hour on the bus, we had our adorable toddler asleep in my friend’s arms. So we decided to go for a little treat at the Haagen-Dazs coffee shop at Römerberg, and I have to say – it was absolutely worth it!
Third day and change of scenery – Heidelberg
On the third day of my Frankfurt trip, I decided I wanted to visit Heidelberg. It’s a nice little town, with beautiful sights, a medieval feeling and a castle ruin on the highest hill. We got tickets the previous day, and it turn out, for 25 euro you can get a return ticket to anywhere in Germany! Boy, did my mind wonder!
Nonetheless, we decided to go to Heidelberg, as it seemed a close by, nice and pleasant destination. The train trip took about hour and a half, but with pleasant company – and an entertaining toddler – the time flew by. We arrived just before noon at Heidelberg station. We got on bus 20 (or 33) to the “Schloss” (“Castle”) bus stop. From there you can either walk to the castle, or you can wait for the free bus, which will take you all the way to the castle. In summer, there is an option for a train, which takes few minutes from the “Schloss” bus stop to the castle.
The Heidelberg castle was built in 1200s and nowadays it is mostly a ruin. However, it has beautiful gardens, and stunning view. We spent most of our time on a huge terrace, overlooking the river. The view was truly breath-taking – you can see the whole town, the surrounding hills, the river and the old bridge. If you ever do visit Heidelberg and you can only do one thing – do this! That view will stay with you for a lifetime.
The town of Heidelberg
After spending a good hour at the castle, we decided to head back. We got the same free bus back to “Schloss” bus stop. From there we walked less than 2 min and we found ourselves at the market square, filled with cafes and restaurants, and – to my delight – a Lindt shop! I turned into the embodiment of the expression “child in a candy shop”!
After my mad shopping spree within the walls of the Lindt shop, we went for a walk along the paved, narrow streets of Heidelberg’s old town. The feeling you get is one of being in a Grimms’ fairy-tale. I was looking around the whole time for Rumpelstiltskin to come out of a corner and demand my firstborn or for the shoemaker to drag me off to his shop and get the elves to make me new shoes!
Frankfurt Skyscrapers and Bar 22
The way back to Frankfurt was not eventful, so I will cut straight to the part where we were in a hurry to get ready for our booking at Bar 22 at the Eurotheum tower. If you would like to visit it – which I would strongly recommend – go online and book a table. The bar gets packed very quickly and you won’t be admitted otherwise. I like to be prepared, so we had booked, and they were expecting us.
What I wasn’t expecting was the view! The bar is located on the 22nd floor of the skyscraper, and I would not recommend it for people with heights fright. But the skyline of Frankfurt, full of lights and magic will fill you with delight, enjoyment and happiness. And if that is not enough – do have a cocktail! They know how to mix them there.
Back to London
That evening was an amazing end of a friendly, cheerful and interesting trip to Germany. I would definitely recommend to anyone to visit Frankfurt. The city is small and compact. My 3-day travel can be fit into one, as long as you start in the morning. The city can be explored in a layover between flights, as well as on a weekend city trip. Don’t forget to dedicate a day to Heidelberg as well, if you have the chance. The lovely, friendly town is a jewel from a time, filled with kings, and elves and fairy-tales.
I hope your next visit to Germany leave you with as big a smile as it left me!
**Some practical information
Public transport is easy to navigate in Frankfurt – but do make sure you purchase a ticket. People check for tickets, and if you don’t have a valid one, the fine of 65 Euro will be given to you, regardless of where you are from. A daily card is around 8 Euro, and one-way ticket is 2.75, so depending on your travelling needs, chose what would suit you best.
Travelling from the airport to central Frankfurt will cost you 4.95 Euro, one-way. Another handy thing to have is Frankfurt card. I purchased mine in advance, and printed it off. It costs around £10 (12 Euro) for one day, but it gives you discounts on tourist buses, boats and some museums.
The ticket allows you to travel on the public transport as well, without purchasing a ticket. It is valid from the airport to the city, and within the network of trains and buses in Frankfurt.
Last, but not least, keep in mind Frankfurt airport is a bit odd. Well, to be fair, it is the oddest airport I have ever flown from. The security check – bag and liquids – is just before the gate. Duty Free shop purchases are made before security checks, rather than after.
But, not to worry, you can still buy alcohol and perfumes from Duty Free and not have them confiscated at the checks. However, at the gates there are no restaurants, coffee shops, or even vending machines. So if you want a bite, do get it before heading for your gate.