One of our favorite places in Frankfurt was the old town or Altstadt and we spent many afternoons there during our time there. Frankfurt has a reputation for being a very modern city and is considered the Manhattan of Germany, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t still have some historic charm. Although many of the historical buildings were not rebuilt after World War II as they were in many other cities in Germany, the old town area still has some wonderful buildings that are hundreds of years old.
Not surprisingly, the heart of the old town area is a courtyard with a wonderful fountain. Just like the hearts of most of old towns, this was a gathering place for everyone in the city and it is certainly still true today. During the festival season, the courtyard gets transformed into a bustling market with plenty of vendors selling food, drinks, and a variety of products.
There are some traditional restaurants around the courtyard where you can certainly get your fill of schnitzel, bratwurst (or other wursts), sauerkraut, beer, and wine. Our favorite little pub called Alten Limpurg was also located in the plaza and we became friends with all of the staff there. Like many places in Europe, people can be found sitting at tables on the patios outside of the restaurant throughout the year, with heat lamps providing warmth during the cold winter months.
The old town in Frankfurt is also just a few steps away from the Main River where you can go for a walk along the river, get a tour on a sightseeing ship, or just sit on one of the benches and people watch. It is hard to believe that is has been two years since we moved to Frankfurt for a while and one of the things that we miss most about living there was our time in the old town plaza. If you want to get away from the historic feel of old town, the heart of the modern shopping area is also within walking distance.
The town hall is also located in the old town plaza and one of our favorite memories was seeing wedding ceremonies take place there. The people would come out of town hall dressed in their wedding attire and celebrate with all of the people in the plaza. One of our favorite weddings concluded with the bride and groom climbing onto an old tractor to be whisked off to their reception. We really felt as if we were one of the locals.
We were fortunate when we were in Frankfurt to live just a couple of blocks from Freßgass (Fressgass), which is a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. Freßgass literally means grazing street and we probably ate at one of the restaurants almost every day. There are also a lot of high end shops on the street as well as some typical malls with department stores. With so many places to eat and shop, it is obviously quite popular and can be very busy at times.
Regardless of the time of year, Freßgass is a great place to take a leisurely walk, window shop, and just generally people watch. All of the restaurants have outdoor seating with umbrellas or tents over top of them as well as heating lamps for the cold winter days. One of the things that we love about Europe is the willingness of people to sit outside regardless of the weather, even sitting outside on a cold and rainy day because of the heat lamps. You can find every type of food from traditional, upscale, carry-out, to street carts with bratwurst and pretzels.
If you are interested in high-end clothing stores from top designers, then you can find anything that you are looking for. We didn’t do any shopping in those types of stores, but did take advantage of the department stores as well as electronic stores while we were there. Also, twice a week, there are outdoor markets with flowers, fruit and vegetables, as well as novelty items. It is also only a couple of blocks from Old Town, so if you have had your fill of modern shops, the historic area is just minutes away. It is also the place to be during the many festivals as well as during the Christmas season to find the largest markets. In other words, you can pretty much find anything you want in this area that is in the heart of downtown Frankfurt.
We, like many of you, spend a lot of our time thinking about and planning our next trip. Unfortunately, here in the United States, it isn’t as easy to get to places as it is in some other parts of the world. It is even worse when you live in the middle of the country as we do because we can’t even jump in a car and head to another state without it taking at least eight hours. It certainly isn’t the same as our time living in Frankfurt when we could decide to go someplace on Wednesday and spend three or four days visiting another country with a short two or three hour train or plane ride. As we finalize arrangement for our next trip, it is likely that we will spend around twenty hours in the air before we reach our destination. Taking that amount of time just to reach a destination makes it hard to explore as much as we would like. Obviously, just being in Europe doesn’t mean that suddenly you can go wherever you want, whenever you want, but it does make it a little easier. We have been reminiscing a lot lately about our time in Frankfurt and there are days when we miss it terribly.