Gazing at Goethe in the Städel Städelsches Kunstinstitut/Städische Galerie
You can enjoy Frankfurt’s greatest collection of European paintings at this top-tier art museum, but take a few minutes to seek out Tischbein’s famous portrait of Goethe in the Campagna, showing Germany’s greatest writer in a languid and decidedly elegant pose.
Roaming around Römerplatz
Most of Frankfurt was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in a modern style, but the city’s historical heart beats in a giant square called the Römerplatz, graced by the elaborate, step-gable facades of three conjoined Gothic buildings known as the Römer. Look up at the Römer’s ornate balcony and you’ll see statues of the various Holy Roman emperors who banqueted in the building’s Kaisersaal (Imperial Hall) after their coronations. One of the nicest times to roam around Römerplatz is in December, when the entire square is taken over by the outdoor stalls of Frankfurt’s Christmas Market.
Visiting the hair-raising Struwwelpeter Museum
He’s a memory now, but from 1844 up until World War II, the image of Struwwelpeter, with his enormous shock of hair (in England he was called Shockheaded Peter) and long curling fingernails, was ingrained in the nightmares of children throughout the world. The entertaining (and free) Struwwelpeter-Museum displays original sketches and illustrations of this monstrously bad boy, created by Frankfurt physician Heinrich Hoffman (1809-1894).
Musing in the Museum für Moderne Kunst
Somtimes a building is an experience in itself. That’s the case with Frankfurt’s Museum of Modern Art, a postmodern building designed by Austrian architect Hans Hollein in 1991. The massive triangular structure, with its projecting and receding window openings, looks both at home in and at odds with its Altstadt setting. Inside you’ll find a major collection of works by New York artists from the 1950s, including Roy Liechtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and George Segal.
Admiring “Mainhattan” from the Eiserner Steg
Frankfurt’s skyline of skyscrapers is unique in Germany, and quite a sight to behold. One of the best places to enjoy the vertical skyline of “Mainhattan” is on the old Eiserner Steg, a charming old iron footbridge that harks back to an earlier, more horizontal era.
Visiting the Goethe-Haus
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), Germany’s greatest writer, was born in this spacious, light-filled house in what is now Frankfurt’s City Center, and lived here until 1765, when he moved to Weimar. Reconstructed after wartime damage, the ocher-colored house with its paintings of family and friends still conveys the feeling of a prosperous, tranquil home life. On the second floor, next to the room where Goethe wrote, is a puppet theater that was one of his most cherished childhood possessions.
Shopping the Zeil
If you’re in the mood for some shopping, or just want to feel the pulsating heartbeat of Frankfurt’s busiest street, head over to the Zeil, a pedestrian zone between the Hauptwache and Konstablerwache that is reputedly the busiest shopping street in Germany. The Zeil is loaded with department stores, clothing shops, shoe stores, electronics stores, retail arcades, cafes, fast-food restaurants—in short, just about everything. It’s a great place to people-watch.
Staying up late at the Schirn
Frankfurt is a banking city and bankers are not known for keeping late hours, but there’s always a contingent of night owls at the cafe-restaurant in the Schirn Kunsthalle (Schirn Art Museum), located in the heart of the Altstadt at Römerberg 6A. The cafe is a stylish steel, glass, and granite see-and-be-seen cafe-bar-restaurant designed by Philippe Starck with a bar that’s open until midnight.
Homing in on Home at the Deutsches Architektur Museum
The German Architecture Museum on the banks of the Main displays a collection of 19th- and 20th-century architectural plans that will intrigue anyone interested in architecture or urban planning, but the exhibits on how human dwellings have evolved over time really evoke the idea of home.
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