48 Hours in Frankfurt: The Ultimate Itinerary

Aerial view on Frankfurt Roemer, Paulskirche and Main
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Many people fly into Frankfurt's international airport and immediately board a train or rent a car, intent on reaching their main destination in Germany. But those travelers are missing out on all that Frankfurt has to offer.

As a major German city, and the financial and business motor of Germany, Frankfurt is always buzzing with activity. It has become a popular place to live and visit for the international community with more to do than just work. Infinitely walkable, with great public transport, you can easily visit the major sites and museums over a weekend, even making time to sit down with a glass of the local apfelwein (apple wine) and sausage.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Bull & Bear at Frankfurt Stock Exchange
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9:30 a.m.: Exit the busiest airport in Germany to find smooth and efficient public transport that easily whisks you into the city. The German stereotype of efficiency is strong here as a journey from the airport to the city center only takes 25 minutes.

9:45 a.m.: Get off at the central train station (Hauptbahnhof) and take the U-Bahn to a hotel in the Innenstadt, like the elegant Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof. Take a short detour to the "Euro-Skulptur" at Willy-Brandt-Platz or the "Bull and Bear" statues outside the Frankfurt stock exchange (Börse Frankfurt) to appreciate how money really makes this town go round.

10:30 a.m.: After this, you can start to explore the city the best way possible—through your stomach. Kleinmarkthalle is the food hall for locals, filled with cheese, baked goods, fresh fish, and a wide variety of sausages. Stands like Schreiber have been a mainstay of the market since 1979.

11:30 a.m.: Explore the Altstadt (old town) and be transported to how Frankfurt used to look ... minus the skyscrapers towering overhead. About 90 percent of the city was destroyed during Allied bombing in 1944 and Frankfurt eventually emerged shiny and new except for a few choice areas. The Römerberg is the most picturesque of these squares with neat, half-timbered buildings. During the holiday season, a lovely Christmas market takes place here.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Frankfurt Main Tower

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11:30 a.m.: Transition to modern Frankfurt by walking past Paulskirche and Goethe House to Main Tower. Fans of the legendary German writer should budget time to enter the museum. Others may be satisfied with a quick snap of the building before boarding the elevator of Frankfurt's tallest skyscraper open to the public. From 52 floors up, visitors can admire the skyline of "Mainhatten," Frankfurt's central business district.

12:30 p.m.: After enjoying the view from Main Tower, walk across the river to Museumsufer, a line of Frankfurt's finest museums. If you have time for only one museum among the specialties of film, fine arts, and antique sculptures, chose the world-class Stadel Museum. Or if you are lucky enough to be in town when the Flohmarkt (flea market) is on, spend some time there. Held every other week on the Sachsenhausen riverbank, this is a bargain-hunter's dream of antiques, strange finds, and lovely memorabilia. A perfect memento of your time in Frankfurt is a bembel, the cute white-and-blue pitcher for the local drink of apfelwein.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

frankfurt bahnhofvietel

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4 p.m.: Delve deeper into the neighborhood of Sachsenhausen. It lies just across the river from the modern Innenstadt, but is a world apart. This sleepy old-school neighborhood has cobblestone streets. The busy Schweizerstraße is perfect for exploring with its plentiful shopping for bits and bobs.

5 p.m.: After touring the museums and/or flea market and doing a bit of shopping, you are probably ravenous and parched. Luckily, you are in the perfect place. Sachsenhausen is famous for its apple wine (apfelwein or ebbelwoi) and has many Apfelweinlokal. Start with a drink at Adolf Wagner or Dauth Schneider along with a classic meal of handkäse mit musik (fragrant cheese) or schnitzel with Frankfurter grüne sosse (Frankfurt green sauce). It is easy to get a seat at this time, but if your wandering takes you here later in the evening, try to make a reservation.

8 p.m.: It is time to move the party elsewhere. Take a 25-minute walk or board the S-Bahn for the Bahnhofsviertel (quarter around the train station). Once quite seedy with its main offerings of prostitution and drugs, the neighborhood is now a hip gathering spot. Grab a drink at Plank, Yok-Yok, Kinly, Walon & Rosetti or any of the other dark, sleek, innovative bars in the area. While away the hours at one or more of these top nightlife destinations before ramping up your evening with the next stop.

11:30 pm: As this day rolls into the next, the clubs are just opening. Robert Johnson, in neighboring Offenbach, is touted as one of the best techno clubs in the world. You can also go underground at O25 or stay local at Club Oye.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

Nordend Frankfurt

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10:30 a.m.: If you have done the night before properly, there is no point in getting up early today; you will need the time to recover. Lucille Kaffeehaus, in the tranquil Nordend-Ost quarter, is the perfect place to do so . Everything is made fresh and they offer reviving drinks like elderberry mint lemonade. You will feel better just sitting in this bright environment where the service is easy, never rushed.

11:45 a.m.: Adjoining the cafe is a vinyl record shop, Memphis Records. Ask the helpful staff if you are looking for something specific or continue your leisurely morning casually perusing their offerings with the fashionable clientele.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

People on the Zeil, the main shopping street
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Noon: Walk to the south, stopping at peaceful Bethmannpark. This little secret park is guarded by wooden gates and the perfect place to relax if the weather cooperates. Nearby Grosse Eschenheimer strasse is a showcase for street art, or you can consult the Vagabundler website for murals around the city.

12:30 p.m.: Step up your style along the pedestrian only Zeil, the most impressive shopping street in Frankfurt, or possibly in all of Germany. This stretch of elegant street has all the major fashion brands.

1:30 p.m.: After your retail therapy, connect with nature at the Palmengarten. This botanical garden dates back to 1868 and includes 50 acres of pristine gardens. After exulting in the glory of the gardens, treat yourself to lunch at the 2-Michelin star Lafleur (or if you want to keep to a budget, there is a more casual cafe on-site).

4 p.m.: The city of Frankfurt is wrapped around the Main River, so there are few better ways to appreciate the city than from the water. Sightseeing boats leave nearly every hour from the north bank offering everything from 50-minute city tours to excursions to nearby towns to evening cruises.

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

Alte Oper, Frankfurt, Germany at dusk

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5:30 p.m.: Continue your day of elegance with a trip to Restaurant Sèvres. Located within the fine hotel Hessischer Hof, it is stuffed full of French Feuillet porcelain, a gift from Napoleon. The dishes are inspired by Asian, South American, and classic European cuisine, paired with an extensive wine collection.

7 p.m.: Depending on what is happening that evening, get tickets for the Frankfurt Opera or make your way over to the Alte Oper. The first is the current opera house with a full schedule of performances, while the "Old Opera," inaugurated by Emperor Wilhelm I of Germany in 1880, is now a concert venue. Highbrow or lowbrow, you are bound to have an eventful night. Or if you prefer to admire the venue from outside, an ice rink opens in front of the opera during the winter.

8:30 p.m.: After the performance, walk a few step to the Fressgasse (grazing street) to fill your stomach after your soul. The many bars and cafes are the perfect place to have an aperitif before moving on to the next delicious destination. In June, the street is the focus of an annual gastronomy extravaganza, Fressgass’ Festival.

10 p.m.: End your visit to Frankfurt at the Jazzkeller, legendary jazz club that was once frequented by greats like Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, and Dizzy Gillespie. If you just can't get enough of this corner of Germany, extend your visit for a few more days by taking day trips from Frankfurt to explore the rest of the region.

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