A cultural tour of Frankfurt

Is this Germany’s answer to Manhattan? As the EU’s financial capital, the city presents a mountain range of skyscrapers bursting out of a dense cordon of urban trees. Down at street level, Frankfurt’s riverside is lined with internationally renowned museums, Museum Embankment (Museumssufer). Picture

Is Frankfurt, the high-rise city on the river Main, Germany’s answer to Manhattan? It certainly feels like it. As the EU’s financial capital, the city presents a mountain range of skyscrapers bursting out of a dense cordon of urban trees.
Sir Norman Foster’s graceful 900 ft  Commerzbank Tower is one of Europe’s tallest offices. Visitors may ride to the top of another tall building, the Main Tower, for a 600 ft high view deep into the countryside.
Down at street level, where much of the heart of old Frankfurt was destroyed by Allied bombers in the Second World War, they reassembled the old city on the original layout - churches, City Hall, cathedral, Goethe’s House and the Old Opera House.
In this capital of high finance, the cultural attractions are gold standard. Frankfurt’s riverside is lined with internationally renowned museums,
The idea of Frankfurt’s museum embankment was developed in the 1980s, to showcase culture and urban design. Several 19th century buildings were hollowed out, and refitted as exhibition areas. Their grand facades continue to shape the landscape along the southern bank of the Main.
The standout galleries and museums include the Archaeological Museum; the Städel Museum, with its overview of 700 years of art history; and the Museum of Natural History, one of Germany’s oldest and largest museums of natural science. There are exhibitions throughout the year. May and August are the months for festivals and cultural events.
On 04th May 2013, 40 museums and art galleries in Frankfurt and Offenbach come together to stage Museum Night. It’s a rich programme of live music, readings, theatre and dance performances that run late into the night. There’s a full supporting menu (of food) from around the globe.
The emphasis in this year’s Museum Night will be on Frankfurt’s East End, with an exhibition highlighting the centenary of the city’s Osthafen, or Eastern Harbour.
Activities and events take place here and all around the new European Central Bank. The festival ticket (€12.00) lets visitors into participating museums and art galleries.
Free shuttle busses will run between the museums during the festival. A shuttle ship will be ferrying festival visitors from Eiserne Steg footbridge to the Städel Museum and back.
Running at the same time as Museum Night is Vkunst Frankfurt, on 03rd and 04th May in the Fahrgasse, between the Museum of Modern Art and Alte Brücke, the Old Bridge.
The exhibition is dedicated to video and media art. 25 galleries are involved. The motto for 2013 is “Wherever You Are”, a reference to the slow disappearance of international borders and the nomadic nature of today’s societies.
Each year on the last August weekend (23 to 25 August this year) Frankfurt stages the Museum Embankment Festival. Many museums stay open late. There is international cuisine, live music and stage performances all along the riverside.
One attraction is the guided tour of the art collections of selected Frankfurt’s banks. Tickets are free, but it’s best to book them well ahead of time. At € 4.00, the Museum Embankment Festival button offers admission to participating exhibition venues, including the aforementioned banks.

Museum Embankment
Frankfurt’s Museum Embankment (Museumssufer) starts on the western end of the Main’s southern bank with Museum Giersch, which focuses on the work of regional artists.
Next stop is the Liebighaus Sculpture Collection, featuring statues from antiquity and later.
The Städel Museum, one of Germany’s most renowned museums, was founded in 1816 with a bequest from a Frankfurt merchant and banker. Today, the museum offers visitors a comprehensive overview of 700 years of art history. The collection of contemporary art from 1945 to the present was recently moved into a new underground extension.
The nearby Museum of Communication focuses on communication technology, and the social aspects of communication in a series of changing exhibitions.
The German Architecture Museum charts Frankfurt’s urban transformation from huts to high-rises.
The German Film Museum documents the history of moving pictures. It also houses one of Frankfurt’s three communal cinemas.
The Museum of World Cultures looks at the art and artefacts of the world. The Museum of Applied Arts celebrates the design of everyday objects.
The Icon Museum, the easternmost stop on the south bank, displays real examples of the icon, orthodox images of saints. Student and graduates of Frankfurt’s Städel Art School have their works on show at the Portikus, situated on a river islet. Schirn Kunsthalle displays modern and contemporary art.
The Caricatura – Museum of Comical Art – shows the work of the New Frankfurt School, a group of Germany’s premier illustrators of satire.
The Museum of Modern Art is another important collection of contemporary art. The roll-call of important collections continues with the Archaeological Museum, the Jewish Museum and Museum Judengasse.
There are other exhibition houses in the heart of the city. The Senckenberg Museum of Natural History is one of Germany’s oldest and largest museums of natural science.
The Explora Museum in the city’s northeast gives visitors the chance to experiment in physics. The Dialog Museum offers a very unusual experience. They give tours in pitch black darkness, showing those with vision what it is like to live without it.

And so to eat. This is a place I found on an earlier visit.
In the city centre, it’s 2 pm. The Frankfurt bankers are back in their high towers, and I have a long wooden table in a snug booth to myself in Haus Werthey, the only half timber building in the medieval town centre to survive the WW2  bombing. Around me is proud old wood panelling, swords and coat-of-arms. I study the (English) menu. My Sauerbraten (sour roast)  - one of the national dishes - is succulent and tender. As the recipe insists, the roast beef had been marinated for ages in beer, with many spices and raisins, topped with slivered almonds and served  with  potato dumplings (with eggs, flour, nutmeg). And an ample stein of light beer. (German beer is simply outstanding: see CAMRA's Good Beer Guide Germany.)
The city’s gift to world fast food, Frankfurter Würstchen  (“hot dog” sausage) is everywhere. Also pork chops with sauerkraut, and Grüne Sosse - a cream sauce flavoured with seven herbs, with eggs or potatoes. The Sachsenhausen area, south of the river, is packed with Apfelwein (cider) pubs serving hearty food. City restaurants range from Tibetan to Ethiopian.
The one must-buy ticket for any visitor is the 2-day Frankfurt Card. Buy it at the airport to reach the city. 1-Day €9,20
2-Day €13,50. It also gives 50% price reduction on admission to 26 Frankfurt museums and to the Palmengarten (Botanical Gardens) and the Zoological Gardens.

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