Today is our last full day in Frankfurt. We’ve only spent a couple of months here, but I find myself a bit sad to be leaving the city already. Tomorrow we head back to Toulouse where we thought we’d be waiting out the last couple months of my pregnancy. As is the story of our current life, however, that would’ve been too easy. Some major changes may be afoot. I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, I promised I’d share details about the attractions we’ve visited over the past couple of weeks. If you ever find yourself in Frankfurt, these are definitely worth checking out.
Goethe House and Museum-“A man sees in the world what he carries in his heart.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust: First Part
I first discovered Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in high school while performing a selection from his book, “Faust” with my best friend and speech partner, Brian. The story of our speech season that year was nearly as tragic as the book, but the fun we had stuck through with me to today. So, when I learned that Goethe was from Frankfurt and that we could visit the house in which he was born, I immediately added that to our “to-do” list.
Now, whether or not you’re a fan or even familiar with Goethe, the Goethe House and Museum are a fascinating way to see what life was like for families in 1700s Germany. Though purchased in 1733 by Goethe’s grandmother, the original structure dates back to the 1600s. It was remodeled in the mid-1700s by Goethe’s father, but later pretty much destroyed during the Allied bombing of Frankfurt in 1944. After the war, it was restored as closely as possible to the condition and furnishings from Goethe’s lifetime.
The house features some really cool pieces, like the original water pump which was linked to a well in the cellar (they were wealthy enough to have in-home water where most people had to go to a public well). The second floor (there are four floors total) includes a stunning astronomical clock that was built in 1746 and still works today. The “Poet’s Room” on the third floor (where all the magic happened) includes Goethe’s standing desk and his own framed drawings.
Once you’ve toured the house, take a peek into the Goethe Museum which houses 14 rooms of art from the Goethe period. Goethe, who was quite the art enthusiast, would probably be quite proud of the collection.
The Goethe House and Museum are open from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on Sundays. Admission ranges from free for kids under six to €5 for adults.
The Frankfurt Zoo is a little gem right in the middle of the city. It is home to more than 4,500 animals and approximately 450 different species—some of which we’d never even seen or heard of before! We went early in the day and it was still a bit chilly out, so unfortunately some of the animals in the first exhibits we passed weren’t out yet (lions, tigers and bears—well, actually the lions were out). As the day warmed up, though, we saw our fill of exotic and familiar animals.
Being early spring, some of the animals were up to frisky business, which had both of us laughing—but, hey, animals will do what animals do! It seemed as though the exhibits allowed guests to get a little more up close and personal with the animals than I’ve experienced in the U.S. Not in an unsafe way, but in a way that says respect the barriers (and make sure your children do to) and we’ll all get along just grand.
A couple of tips if you decide to visit: get there early as the ticket line will start building quickly and bring cash! We learned the hard way they don’t accept most credit cards and had to go in search of an ATM.
The Frankfurt Zoo is open 9:00-7:00 every day during the summer and 9:00-5:00 every day in the winter. Tickets range from free for children under five to €10 for adults. Family tickets are also available for €25. It really is a fun way to spend the day as a family or even a couple.
The Frankfurt Palmengarten is one of two botanical gardens in the middle of the city. It first opened to the public in 1871. Apparently Buffalo Bill, the American entertainer, brought his Western show to the gardens in 1890. It was transferred to the American occupation authorities after WWII, but was returned to the city in the sixties.
Today there are dozens of exhibits featuring everything from tropical and desert plants to Alpine flowers and roses. Several of the exhibits are in gorgeous, old buildings that are just as pretty as the plants they house. In addition to the flowers, there are a couple of sweet, little ponds, a small lake (on which you can rent paddle boats) and a waterfall cascading from the rock garden. Just watch out for the giant, hungry fish!
As with the zoo, we discovered many plants we’d never seen before. It really was a lovely day out. If you take the kids, there is a playground and a train that choo-choo’s through the gardens. There are also plenty of bathrooms for you pregnant mamas (a must in my book these days).
The Palmengarten is open 9:00 a.m-6:00 p.m. February-October and 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. November-January. Tickets range from €2 for kids up to 13 years and €7 for adults (groups of 20+ people are €6 per person).
Don’t go here hungry or pregnant. Scratch that—do! The Kleinmarkthalle is an indoor market featuring stall after stall (approximately 60 vendors and 156 stalls) of local and homemade goods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, pastas, flowers and incredible looking baked treats. Unfortunately we didn’t make it out to this market until our last day in Frankfurt, so the only thing we bought was a fruit cup (which I had to have because it included dragon fruit! Seriously, what fresh-cut fruit cups usually have dragon fruit in them?).
The market is a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Food can be a bit pricier than say the local grocery store, but walking through and seeing the quality might make you willing to spend that extra euro or two.
The Kleinmarkthalle is open Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m-4:00 p.m. Entrance is free, but be sure to bring money for all the yummy treats you’ll want to buy.
You can’t get much more touristy than the Römer. Many of Frankfurt’s historic buildings were destroyed in bombings during WWII, but you can still see what some of them would have looked like thanks to the reconstructed buildings near the Römer. This medieval building, opposite Old. St. Nicholas church, has been the city hall of Frankfurt for over 600 years. Today it is used by the city for various purposes, including for civil weddings.
Head down to the area for a look around and bite at one of the restaurants in the plaza offering traditional Frankfurt and German food. Take a peek into the St. Nicholas Church or the Cathedral of St. Bartholomew (the Döm in Döm/Römer), then go for a stroll (or even river boat cruise) along the Main River.
On a busy day, you’ll certainly get throngs of tourists, but it’s kind of one of those “must do” things if you are visiting Frankfurt. It’s free to walk around the area, but fees for the river boat cruise and/or the cost of dinner will vary as will hours.
If you get through these five attractions, I also recommend checking out the English Theatre (with, you guessed it, plays performed in English), Zeil (a mile or two long stretch of pedestrian shopping with stores ranging from the very high-end Gucci down to H&M) and Bockenheimer Warte (nothing to go out of your way for, but worth checking out if you’re headed to the Palmengarten).
Have you been to Frankfurt before? If there are other sites people should check out, please leave your recommendations in the comments below.