‘A megacity on a smaller scale’: An insiders’ guide to Frankfurt

Our readers in Frankfurt shared their insights into what life in the city and surroundings is really like, and revealed their top tips.

White peonies glow in the sunshine against the Frankfurt skyline. The photo was taken in the Taunus town of Bad Soden.
White peonies glow in the sunshine against the Frankfurt skyline. The photo was taken in the Taunus town of Bad Soden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Hannes P. Albert

Known as Mainhattan thanks to its impressive skyscraper skyline, and with a bustling jobs scene, it’s no wonder that Frankfurt am Main is a city that many foreigners consider moving to. 

But aside from business, we wanted to find out what else makes Frankfurt – and the area around it – tick. And who better to ask than The Local readers who live there?

International feel, good connections and great nature

Maybe it has something to do with the many flight connections to the rest of the world from the airport, or perhaps it’s the thriving jobs scene. Whatever the case, readers said something special about Frankfurt is that it’s an international city with a small-town feel. 

“Frankfurt really offers the best aspects of a large megacity like NYC, London or Paris on a much smaller scale – so it offers world-class shopping, cuisine and amenities without overwhelming crowds,” said Michael Schacht, 31. “It’s super multinational as a result.”

Richard Davison, 45, who lives in the Sachsenhausen area of Frankfurt, said: “In my opinion Frankfurt is a special city as it is very international. As people come for work, it seems that it is very welcoming as many people are new, or have not lived in the city for a long time.

“There is a wide variety of affordable cuisine, bars and hospitality. It is a big city feel in a small city. What makes it special is the green spaces and surrounding nature: Taunus, Spessart, Odenwald and the Rhine and vineyards. Trains and flights are also so easy from Frankfurt.”

A boat sails across the Main river in Frankfurt.

A boat sails across the Main river in Frankfurt. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

READ ALSO: 10 facts you probably didn’t know about Frankfurt (even if you live there)

Tom Boon, 26, who lives in central Frankfurt, said “the diversity” is the best part of life in the Hesse city that’s home to about 753,000 people. 

“It’s also a great place for English speakers to feel comfortable as you can always bump into somebody you can talk to,” he added. 

Laura, 42, from Sweden, said the best thing about Frankfurt is the “diversity” and that it “feels like a village in some parts”.

Angeeka Biswas, 34, said Frankfurt’s positive points include it being “accessible by public transport in almost all parts of the town” as well as the different cuisine available, and the large expat population. 

“Frankfurt has lots to offer and is full of many different shops, restaurants and bars,” said Frankfurt resident Cara Schaeffer.

“Frankfurt is also surrounded by the Taunus mountain range,” said Schaeffer. “However the most special thing about Frankfurt are the people that live there.

“You’ll meet people from all over the world from different cultures, regions and backgrounds. It’s an extremely international city, where more than 25 percent of the residents don’t have a German passport.”

People at Frankfurt's main station on June 1st, the start of Germany's €9 monthly travel ticket offer.

People at Frankfurt’s main station on June 1st, the start of Germany’s €9 monthly travel ticket offer. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Lots of people said the surrounding nature was a real draw of Frankfurt.

Nichola, 64, said the “proximity to the Main River, access to the Großer Feldberg region with the possibility of cycling in the summer and skiing in the winter,” were some of the best things about Frankfurt.

She also said the airport is “one of the hubs for Lufthansa so it’s easy to fly almost anywhere”.

Where are the best places to go?

Lots of people talked about the food and drink offering in the Hesse city, as well as the landscape. 

Natalie, who lives in Taunus, said: “Explore the Taunus, walk the river, shop on the Zeil (street), eat in Saschenhausen or in Bornheim or Nordend.” 

“Go for brunch,” said Angeeka Biswas. “Bike beside the Main river, exercise or just sit beside the river. It feels so calm inside the chaos of the city.”

READ ALSO: Hesse – 7 maps that explain the home of Germany’s financial hub

Smruthi Panyam said his top tip is to grab a steak at M Steakhouse in Feuerbachstraße.

Simon Slade, 70, in Wehrheim, recommends “the English Theatre, walking or cycling along the river Main” as well renting a car and driving north west to “the Hintertaunus and the river Lahn – you will find stunningly beautiful countryside”.

Slade also said Frankfurt has “numerous organic veggie and vegan restaurants, especially along the Bergerstrasse”.

“If you want real authentic high quality traditional German inexpensive food at half the price of Frankfurt, try the Taunus restaurant in Obernhain.” he added.

READ ALSO: Three German cities ranked in the top 10 places to live

Cara Schaefer’s top tips include going to the top of the Main Tower to view the city, taking a boat tour, and enjoying the nightlife “especially at 22nd lounge, a cocktail bar on the 22nd floor of a sky scraper”.

Schaefer’s top restaurant tips are Saravanaa Bhavan, a vegetarian Indian restaurant near the main station and Ristorante Arte – an Italian in the Bockenheim district.

People toast an Apfelwein on the banks of the river Main.

People toast an Apfelwein on the banks of the river Main. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Tom Boon recommends that visitors “take the Ebbelwei Expreß, a tourist tram that loops around the city every half hour or so”.

“The ticket includes a drink and pretzels,” he added. Meanwhile, Boon says the best pizza in Frankfurt “can be found at Giulio’s on Wittelsbacherallee”.

Lots of our readers said Apfelwein – known colloquially as Ebbelwoi, is the drink to try out in Frankfurt. 

Boon said: “Apfelwein arguably trumps beer in Frankfurt. I prefer to drink it mixed with cola (it’s much better than it sounds, and popular enough that it is sold premixed in cans), though some traditional Apfelwein pubs will refuse to serve this combination based on tradition.

“I would recommend avoiding the big chain-eque bars in favour of the smaller pubs and beer gardens dotted around the city.”

Others flagged up the architecture and buildings. 

I really love going to the Dom Romer district to see the old city hall and rebuilt square which is really eye-catching,” said Michael Schacht.

“The New Altstadt is also really beautiful. I also like walking along the river bank when the weather is nice, visiting Old Sachsenhausen and Bornheim for a cozier small town vibe. Though a bit on the outskirts, Hochst has a traditional medieval Altstadt that’s worth a stop to see.”

Keep a lookout for our second feature on Frankfurt coming soon.

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Five European cities you can reach in under five hours from Frankfurt

Frankfurt's not just a bustling international city - it's also a great location from which to explore Europe. Here's our guide to the best cities you can visit in under five hours simply by hopping on a train from Germany's banking capital.

Five European cities you can reach in under five hours from Frankfurt

With nine diverse nations sharing a border with Germany, it’s not hard to get out and explore new parts of Europe – even if it’s just for a couple of days. And there’s no better way to do this than by taking advantage of the fast and extensive train network in and around the country. 

Though train fares may not be quite as a cheap as a budget airline ticket, opting for train travel is generally a quicker and much more pleasant way to travel. 

For one, you can avoid the luggage chaos and endless queues that have been plaguing Europe’s airports over the past few months.

Secondly, you can often get a much more comfy and spacious seat on a long-distance train, and even surf the internet and work on your journey (if the Wifi works). And, let’s be honest, who doesn’t enjoy whiling away an hour or so in the dining car, sipping coffee and watching the world go by? 

If you’re lucky enough to live in Frankfurt, you’re in a prime location to access a number of Germany’s neighbouring countries by train. From the central station, you can even reach some famous destinations in well under five hours, which is ideal for a short break or weekend away. 

To help you plan your trip, we’ve picked five unmissable locations that are closer to Frankfurt than you may think. Here are some reasons to visit each of them, and how you can get there.

READ ALSO: UPDATED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel


Zurich city centre

Zurich city centre. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/KEYSTONE | Ennio Leanza

For residents of Frankfurt – the financial capital of Germany – visiting another big banking city may seem counter-intuitive. Nevertheless, there are plenty of reasons to plan a trip to Zurich beyond its business credentials.

Nestled above sweeping Lake Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city has all the cultural attractions you’d expect from a major European hub. But with just over 400,000 residents, it also has something of a small-town feel. 

For art fans, the Kunsthaus Zurich is well worth a visit, and anyone who wants to learn about Switzerland’s fascinating history should also take a trip to the National Museum. Of course, no visit to Switzerland would be complete without chocolate, so be sure to stop by the magnificent Lindt Home of Chocolate, which houses the largest Lindt shop in the world. 

If you go to Zurich in winter, there are also countless ski resorts nearby, making it the ideal place to spend a night or two before hitting the slopes.

You can get there in just under four hours on the IC73 or IC77, or by taking an ICE train to Basel and switching to an IC or ICE train in Switzerland. If you book well in advance, it’s possible to get one-way tickets for around €20, while last-minute tickets are likely to cost around €40-60.  


Paris skyline

The Paris skyline. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Ute Müller

If you’re looking for a romantic weekend away, there’s no better destination than the so-called City of Love. With its famous chalkstone buildings, wrought-iron balcony and leafy boulevards, Paris exudes a romantic atmosphere that’s a joy to soak up, even on a cold autumnal day. 

No visit to the French capital would be complete without seeing famous sights like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, but it’s also worth rubbing shoulders with the local in its bustling bistros and candlelit wine bars. 

Literary lovers should also stop by Shakespeare and Company: an iconic English-language bookshop located on the bohemian Left Bank. Alternatively, see some of the greatest artistic masterpieces in the world at the Louvre or Musée de l’Orangerie

You can get from Frankfurt to Paris in just 3 hours and 45 minutes by taking a TGV train to Gare de L’Est, a train station in the east of Paris. You can find single tickets for around €45 if you book in advance, but €80 is more realistic for last-minute bookings. 

READ ALSO: ‘Deutschlandticket’: What you need to know about Germany’s new €49 ticket


Brussels City Hall and Grand Place

Brussels City Hall and Grand Place lit up in rainbow colours. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Olivier Hoslet

As the home of the European Parliament, Brussels needs no introduction – but there’s much more to the capital of Belgium than EU politics. 

If you pay a visit, be sure to spend some time on foot soaking up the stunning gothic architecture in the city, from the breathtaking Grand Place to the imposing Palace of Justice. If you’ve never been to Paris, you can also visit another famous church by the name of Notre Dame, which was built way back in the 15th century and extended with two new chapels in the 17th century. 

For a more modern – and even futuristic – attraction, a visit to the Atomium is also a must. This mindboggling feat of architecture is by the far the most popular attraction in Belgium. Part building, part sculpture, the enormous structure is shaped like an iron unit cell, or nine iron atoms. Visitors can peruse exhibitions inside it, eat in the restaurant and take in the best views in the city. 

Of course, a tour of the EU parliament should be on your to-do list, and don’t forget to enjoy a tipple (or two) at the aptly-named Delirium Cafe, which has over 2,000 beers on the menu.

To reach Brussels from Frankfurt, you can hop on the direct IC14, which will take you to the Belgian capital in just three hours. Book several weeks in advance to snap up one-way tickets for around €20. Closer to your travel date, a single will set you back between €50 and €80 on average. 


Amsterdam canal bridge

The UNESCO protected canals of Amsterdam. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Andrea Warnecke

With its winding canal ways and buzzing nightlife, a weekend trip to Amsterdam should be on everyone’s bucket list – and for people in Frankfurt, it takes less time than it would to get to Berlin.

When they think of the Dutch capital, foreigners often think of the city’s famous “coffee shops” – special licensed cafes where weed is sold. But Amsterdam is much more than just a stoner’s paradise: it’s home to world-famous music venues, quirky breweries and even the largest flea market in Europe.

Anyone there for a couple of days would do well to hire a bicycle and head out to some of Amsterdam’s must-see attractions, from the Van Gogh Museum to the Royal Palace. A boat tour along the city’s UNESCO-protected canals is also a great way to explore the city: learning about Amsterdam’s history while soaking up the lively atmosphere along the waterfront at sunset is a truly special experience. And if it’s local art and trendy cafes you’re looking for, head to the Bohemian district of Jordaan or Westergas, a former industrial complex that is now a thriving cultural hub.

To get from Frankfurt to Amsterdam, just hop on the direct ICE126, which will bring you door to door in just four hours. You can snap up one-way tickets for around €28 if you book at least a month in advance, while last-minute single tickets will be around €50-80. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany’s long-distance train services will change from December

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City

Luxembourg City. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | Bernd F. Meier

The capital of Luxembourg may be much smaller than other European capitals, but it more than makes up for it in history and charm.

This quaint medieval city is built along deep gorges and surrounded by rivers and hills, making it arguably one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. Public transport in Luxembourg is entirely free for both visitors and residents, but the size of the city means that it’s perfectly possible to explore on foot.

While you’re there, don’t forgot to take an obligatory photo or ten while walking along the Chemin de la Corniche (or the path of Corniche), which has been described as Europe’s most beautiful balcony. You can also learn all about Luxembourg’s fascinating history and culture at one of the seven museums that make up the “Museums Mile”, and peruse local shops and galleries at the historic Fëschmaart (or fish market). 

Though it may have a distinctly small-town feel to it, Luxembourg is also a hugely international and cosmopolitan place, so you’re sure to meet people from all over the world while enjoying some traditional Luxembourgish fare at a local bar or eatery. (In case you’re wondering, it’s kind of a hodgepodge of French, Belgian, German and Italian food…). 

The quickest route to Luxembourg from Frankfurt takes just 3.5 hours. Simply hop on the TGV train to Paris Est and change to the L40 train at Saarbrücken. It’s not hard to find one-way tickets for a bargain price of €22, even if you forget to book in advance. 

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Frankfurt with the €9 ticket