With winemaking and gastronomic delights aplenty, continental Europe’s financial centre has more to offer than just big banks. Read on for Director’s Frankfurt city guide
Where to stay
With its sleek, shiny skyscrapers and beautiful landmarks, it’s hard to believe that just over 70 years ago Frankfurt was completely razed to the ground. Some of the city’s most historic buildings, including Alte Oper (old opera house), are merely reconstructions, built in the decades following the Second World War. Behind the opera house, just walking distance from the city centre, is the Sofitel Frankfurt Opera, which opened in October last year. Describing itself as “a house not a hotel”, this stylish venue is a mix of French and German inspiration. It has 150 bedrooms, 31 suites, five meeting rooms (all named after various Paris neighbourhoods), a large ballroom for up to 300 people, and a chic cocktail bar. The Sofitel also has a partnership with Fitness First – a short walk from the hotel and connected by a tunnel – where guests can enjoy access to a 25-metre swimming pool, sauna, steam room, climbing wall and, of course, a fully equipped gym.
Where to eat
French cuisine might not be top of the list on a trip to Germany, but it’s worth making an exception for the Schönemann restaurant at the Sofitel. Director enjoyed a mouth-watering, six-course tasting menu including scallops with couscous and dried fruit, and duck breast with Jerusalem artichokes and mango, along with a bottle from the extensive wine list – an excellent Balthasar Ress sparkling riesling (extra dry). For local gastronomy, head to Kleinmarkthalle – a vibrant covered market with 156 stalls of fresh produce and speciality dishes such as Frankfurter grüne sosse, a green sauce made with herbs, sour cream and boiled eggs. A visit to Ilse Schreiber’s sausage stall is also a must – you can’t miss it, it’s the one with the long queue!
What to see
Frankfurt is a small city and it’s easiest to get around on foot. Take a walking tour and visit the house of the iconic German author Johann Wolfgang Goethe (it’s a reconstruction, of course), before heading to the church of St Paul (Paulskirche) and Römerberg, a beautiful historic square in the centre of the old town. There’s plenty to see outside of the city too. Rheingau is a winemaking region, just a short drive from Frankfurt, where vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. Take a tour of Johannisberg castle and the village winery – it has been making wine for more than 900 years – before rounding off the trip with a visit to the Abbey of St Hildegard, a working Benedictine convent, with another winery, café and bookshop.
Etiquette and customs
Good timekeeping is essential in Germany, where being even five minutes late is thought rude. Meetings tend to follow an agenda – and are always strictly business-related. Although most Germans speak immaculate English, great value is placed on cultural awareness so learning a few key German phrases will be greatly appreciated.
For the flight
Pick up a copy of Goethe’s masterpiece, Faust. A tragic drama in two parts, the play is about a man who makes a pact with the devil and is considered among the greatest works of 18th-century literature. The gripping 1986 whodunnit The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery is set in the Kloster Eberbach monastery just outside Frankfurt. Based on the book by Italian author Umberto Eco, it tells of a Franciscan monk who applies his Holmesian detective skills to the suspicious death of one of the brothers.