Live large on small sums in Frankfurt
A world financial center packed with investment bankers sounds like a tough place to do on a budget, but even the Manhattan of continental Europe has secrets aplenty for the thrifty.
From beautiful outside gardens to sizzling sausages, many of the city’s pleasures are actually the cheapest.
GETTING AROUND: Frankfurt is so compact that walking is the best way to see it, but for €1.90 ($2.40) you can use the U-Bahn in the city center (€4.60 or $5.90 for a day pass). For €6 ($7.65), tour the city on the “Ebbelwei Express,” an old streetcar named after the drink served free on board, apple wine. If that’s not to your liking, there is juice and of course pretzels, http://www.ebbelwei-express.com.
FAMOUS PLACES: Frankfurt’s skyline is dominated by skyscrapers, which has given rise to the nickname “Mainhattan,” but its historic center is the Roemerberg or “Roman Mountain.” Wander around the square, watch newlyweds leave the historic town hall, and look into some of the churches. The Kaiserdom, or Church of Saint Bartholomew, dates back to 1867 and is one of the few historical buildings not destroyed during World War II bombing raids. Next to the church are Roman ruins discovered in the rubble after the war that you can stroll through for free.
Of course, the best view of the city is from above. Commerzbank offers free tours of its Sir Norman Foster-designed skyscraper at Kaiserplatz with inside gardens and a 49th-floor panorama. Close your eyes in the glass elevator if you need to. The tours are held on the last Saturday of the month and must be reserved far in advance, http://www.commerzbank.de.
Otherwise the view of the city from the Main Tower, Neue Mainzer Strasse 52-58, costs €4.60 ($5.90) and is just as dizzying, some 600 feet above it all, http://www.maintower.de.
Back on the ground, Goethe University, the largest in the city, has its own botanical garden for research, but it is open to the public as well with huge Chinese redwoods, camellias and other exotic flowers, at Siesmayerstrasse 72.
Palms, eucalyptus and unusual trees also grow in the Nizza Garden on the Main near the Untermainbruecke, or Under Main Bridge. When the sun is out, everyone is there promenading on the river bank.
MUSEUMS: On the last Saturday of each month, the Jewish Museum at Untermainkai 14-15, Archaeological Museum at Karmelitergasse 1 and Film Museum at Schaumainkai 41, are all free, as well as the Museum of Modern Art at Domstrasse 10, which also gives out free food and drinks at openings, no invitation necessary, http://www.mmk-frankfurt.de.
Portikus, a tall red building on a tiny island in the river, is free and shows artists with international status such as Olafur Eliasson and Wade Guyton, just off the Alte Bruecke 2 Maininsel.
The Geldmuseum or “Money Museum” at Wilhelm-Epstein-Strasse 14 is always free with exhibits on the history and production of money, and on spotting counterfeit bills.
ENTERTAINMENT: Summer festivals abound from the Opernplatzfest, June 19-28, 2009, in front of the old opera house with international food and dance, to the Museumsuferfest, when all the museums host events on the banks of the river, Aug. 29-31, 2009. In the fall the Rheingauer Weinmarkt brings some 600 different wines and sekts to be sampled along the Fressgass, Sept. 2-11, 2009. The Christmas Market sells gingerbread, toys and all kinds of sweets at more than 240 stands opening later this season, Nov. 26-Dec. 21 at the Roemerberg.
FOOD: Street food is always the cheapest and most local way to go. Frankfurt has markets five days a week in several spots around town. Try the market directly on Kaiserstrasse straight down from the main train station for famed German wurst — five kinds all swinging on a round grill suspended from the top of the stand. Grilled chicken, crepes, coffee and local wines are all for sale here on the street starting at 9 a.m. and running through 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays year round.