A day out at the Frankfurt zoo(s)

Frankfurt has two zoos which are open every day of the year. Even in winter they offer a great day out with plenty of indoor exhibits as well as the outdoor pens where the animals roam.

The City Zoo

Located just 1 km east of the city centre the city zoo has it own U-bahn stop, "Zoo" on the number 6 and 7 lines and tram number 14 also stops right outside.

The zoo houses 450 species of animals and birds, including Kumar and Vanni, the lion and lioness. There's a monkey house, an exotic bird house and even peacocks strut freely around the grounds. A bonus for those with young children is the opportunity to hire a pull-along cart (3€), which is ideal for carrying backpacks and even tired children and there is a special petting area with goats and sheep. The zoo has various pit-stops offering snacks and drinks along the way and an indoor cafe.

The "animal of the month" feature showcases an animal each month and has special events such as supervised feeding times and information sessions by the keeper. Regular daily feeding times for the other animals is detailed on-line, http://www.zoo-frankfurt.de/ihr-zoo-besuch/fuetterungszeiten/ 

The zoo website offers some basic details in English, such as entrance fees and visiting times. Late night opening until 8pm is available on the last Friday of every month (except December). During the late night opening you can wander round at your leisure or join a tour (in German) which is themed each month. All this with a special 2€ price reduction on the regular entrance fee.  

Opel Zoo

Opel Zoo is located in Kronberg, a 15 minute drive outside of Frankfurt. Easily accessed by car, it can also be reached by taking the S4 train from Frankfurt to Kronberg Bahnhof and then either the bus lines 261, X26 and X27 to the bus stop "Opel-Zoo".

The zoo is set out in a large park, which is perfect for a gentle stroll through all the themed areas. A highlight at the Opel Zoo is feeding the animals. The zoo sells small packs of food and actively encourages the feeding of various animals. At the elephant house you might be lucky to see the elephant holding his trunk straight up in the air, as a sign he wants another carrot!

There is a lot to see here, the elephant house, the giraffe house, a petting zoo with sheep, goats, ponies and donkeys, and lots of other species. For young children there is even the opportunity for a pony or camel ride. Throughout the park are kiosks offering refreshment. The Sambesi cafe has great views across the park, or you can even bring your own food and make use of the picnic facilities provided.  

Frankfurt Carnival (Karneval) Parade - February 10th & 11th 2018

Karneval History

"Frankfurt Helau!" at the Karveval Parade

In Germany carnival is associated with the predominantly Roman Catholic states. Frankfurt maintains it carnival tradition because of it's historical ties to the Holy Roman Empire as both the election and coronation city of the Emperors. Today in Frankfurt the celebration mainly takes place in the form of parades and is a fun event for adults and children alike. For a full on carnival experience head to the Rhineland cities of Köln, Düsseldorf and Mainz, the extensive festivities developed in these cities as a way of being subversive towards the occupying forces, e.g. the Prussians and the French, during the early 1800's. It was an opportunity to parody the occupiers and the military and, still today, parades march by with people dressed up in military costumes.   

Carnival officially commences on 11th November at 11:11, but the key celebrations start on the Thursday before the beginning of Lent and end by Shrove Tuesday. The main event is the street parade. Highly decorated floats pass by throwing sweets for the children and marching bands, some dressed up in military uniforms others in garish costume, provide musical entertainment. The crowd joins in by dressing up too.

Frankfurt Karneval 2018

In Frankfurt the main parade during 2018 takes place on Sunday 11th February. Starting at 12:11pm, the parade commences at Untermainkai/Untermainbrücke and takes the following route to the Römerberg:

Untermainkai/Untermainbrücke - Neue Mainzer Straße - Friedensstraße - Kaiserstraße - Roßmarkt - Goetheplatz - Rathenauplatz - Biebergasse - Hauptwache -Katharienenpforte - Bleidenstraße - Liebfrauenberg - Töngesgasse - Fahrgasse - Battonnstraße - Kurt-Schumacher-Straße - Fahrgasse - Braubachstraße - Römerberg - Mainkai

Childrens Karneval Parade

The Children's Karneval Parade will be on Saturday February 10th, starting at 12.11pm. The parade starts at Konstablerwache and walks through to Römerberg. 

Why do parades start at 12:11pm?

Why start a parade at 12:11pm and not 12 o'clock? One theory is the the number eleven, pronounced "elf" in German is an acronym of the French revolution cry of egalité, liberté, fraternité and the number 11 was a reference to the struggle of the German states, in the early 1800's, demanding democracy and liberty from the ruling classes.

Happy Karneval everyone! PS: Listen out for the traditional Frankfurt carnival cry of "Frankfurt Helau!"

Future Karneval dates

2018: February 11th - 13th. Ash Wednesday falls on Feb 14th
2019: March 3rd - 5th. Ash Wednesday falls on March 6th
2020: February 25th - 27th. Ash Wednesday falls on Feb 26th
2021: February 14th - 16th. Ash Wednesday falls on Feb 17th

That's right, just trundle your canon across the town square, why don't you!

International Holocaust Remembrance Day - January 27th

Eleven million victims

"By 1945, Germany had murdered over eleven million people in Europe: political prisoners, Roma, homosexuals, the disabled but in numerical terms, overwhelmingly - around six million - Jews." (MacGregor, 2014, p509)

I hope Neil MacGregor doesn't mind me opening a blog page with a quote from his excellent book, Germany: Memories of a Nation. 

During my work as a tour guide the majority of people I meet, from all over the World, earnestly believe that 6 million people where murdered during the holocaust. It shocks them to discover the number was closer to 11 million and that there were other groups who were actively victimised with the ultimate aim of annihilation. Frankfurt commemorates all. Memorials have been erected by the local council, by artists, companies, societies and by families of the victims, which exist around the streets of the city and exhibits are regularly put on public display as timely reminders. 

Stolperstein - Stumbling stones

By simply looking down on the ground you will sooner or later stumble upon a stumbling stone. Stumbling stones are an art initiative by Gunter Demnig, "...that commemorates the victims of National Socialism, keeping alive the memory of all Jews, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, dissidents and Jehovah's Witnesses and victims of euthanasia who were deported and exterminated." The commemorative brass stones are placed in the ground outside the last chosen residence of the victim with the opening words, "Here lived...", followed by a short narrative of the victim's fate. Frankfurt has it's share of the 61,000 stumbling stones which can be found across Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Norway and Ukraine.

 Katharina Schmid's stumbling Stone (Stolperstein) murdered for being a Jehovah's Witness.

Katharina Schmid's stumbling Stone (Stolperstein) murdered for being a Jehovah's Witness.

Adlerwerke "Katzbach" - the concentration camp in Frankfurt

During World War Two a concentration camp existed the centre of Frankfurt, KZ-Katzbach at the Adlerwerke. Up to 1,600 victims were worked to death and by March 1945, as the defeat of the Nazis became a reality, the workers who had survived the atrocious working conditions were sent on a death march to Buchenwald and thereafter onto Dachau. Amongst them were Polish people arrested after the Warsaw uprising and German objectors to the National Socialist government. On the Adlerwerke building today hangs a memorial plaque to those victims so they are not forgotten. More information about the camp, albeit in German, can be found on the official KZ-Alderwerke website.

Roma memorial

On Braubachstrasse, hanging on the wall by number 20, is a memorial dedicated to the Roma people of Frankfurt who fell victim to the racial policies of the Nazis. It's a simple memorial but, nevertheless, it is there detailing the murder and sterilisation of the Roma. Last summer I also had the privilege to meet a man tending a grave in the Frankfurt cemetery. As I paused to look he called me over and explained the grave, he was so lovingly caring for, was that of his grandmother, a Roma, incarcerated at a concentration camp and who had survived the holocaust.

The Grey Buses

Another poignant memorial is that to the physically and mentally disabled victims of the holocaust. The image of a grey bus symbolises the collection and deportation of disabled people, deemed unworthy by the National Socialists, to one of six killing centres in Germany. One of these killing centres was located 80km north of Frankfurt, in Hadamar. The organised euthanasia program, named Action T4, systematically murdered 70,000 people. However, it is believed institutions practised localised euthanasia and, in total, between 1939 and 1945 approximately 300,00 mentally and physically disabled people were murdered. The Grey Buses exhibit is temporarily located in Frankfurt on Rathenauplatz/Goetheplatz until the end of May 2018.

Jewish memorial at Neue Börneplatz

Since 1996 Neue Börneplatz, Frankfurt has been a dedicated memorial to the Jewish citizens who were murdered during the holocaust. The area was formerly the site of the Jewish market and the Börneplatz synagogue which was razed to the ground during Kristallnacht (11th November 1938).  The wall around the old Jewish cemetery, also at this site, displays 11,915 steel plaques which individually name each and every Jewish citizen of Frankfurt who was exterminated.

Further out of the city centre are other Jewish memorials. The most recent is the at the European Central Bank (ECB). Part of the building structure makes use of a former warehouse which used as a collection point from where the local Jewish people were forced to board trains and deported to their deaths. The signal box and railway lines outside the building, on public land, have been left as a reminder of the deportations. Within the ECB building a stark concrete ramp leads to the basement of the building, the former the collection point, with inscriptions from the victims and observers.

Details of the other Jewish memorials can be found using this link to Jewish Sites in Frankfurt.      

From Frankfurt (FRA) airport into Frankfurt city

Frankfurt is the ideal airport for a layover. It only takes 20 minutes, by train, to travel from Frankfurt airport into the heart of Frankfurt and spend the day sight-seeing, shopping and grabbing a bite to eat before heading back to the airport for your connecting flight.

The video shows you how to buy a ticket, and the same tickets are valid for travel to any city centre venue including the the Frankfurt Messe (trade fair). Further useful information is given, below the video, about ticket types and central stations. There's also this print friendly PDF version: From Frankfurt airport into Frankfurt city


Which train to catch?

S-bahn trains, S8 & S9, run every 15 minutes from Platform 1 and travel directly to Hauptwache and Konstablerwache, the two most central stations in Frankfurt. There are two railway hubs at the airport, you will need to find the regional station (platforms 1-3) which is downstairs in Terminal 1 under Hall B.Once downstairs, the first thing to do is buy a ticket from one of the ticket machines. You have several choices:

  • single journey tickets which cost 4,90€ (a return = 9,80€).
  • a day travel card which costs 9,55€ (cheaper than buying a return ticket) and permits you to travel on all the city transport for the day.
  • a group travel card which costs 16,60€ and permits up to 5 people to travel together on all the city transport for the day, and is excellent value if there are two or more of you. 

You will need cash, or a credit/debit card with a PIN to purchase tickets from the ticket machines.

After you have bought your ticket, head to Platform 1 and wait for an S8 or S9. Frankfurt has a barrier-free transport system so you just show your ticket to the inspector on the train during your journey. It's five stops and 20 minutes to the centre of town. The stops on the way are: Stadion, Niederrad, Hauptbahnhof, Taunusanlage, Hauptwache and Konstablerwache. Alight at Hauptwache or Konstablerwache for the centre Frankfurt. Local travel maps can be found on the RMV local transport pages.

In Frankfurt city

Once in Frankfurt there is plenty to see and do. The old town is down by the river near the cathedral, museums are centrally located and there are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bakeries selling food and drinks. On a fine day you can take a local river cruise which only takes 110 minutes, or head up to the top of the Main Tower and enjoy the views across the whole of the Frankfurt and beyond. Click on this link indexing various blog pages offering detailed information and more ideas. Over the summer months there is usually an outdoor festival being hosted in the city centre and whatever the theme of the festival you can be sure to find bratwurst, beer and local wine. If you're lucky enough to be in town on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday then a real treat is to catch one of the fabulous Farmers' markets (details listed here).  

Returning to the airport

For your return journey to the airport go to either Hauptwache or Konstablerwache station and follow signs for the S-bahn. Wait on platform 3 for the S8 or S9 train which run every 15 minutes.



Making the most of Frankfurt's Christmas market

Printer friendly PDF file -> Making the most of Frankfurt's Christmas market

Starting on November 27th 2017, the heart of the Frankfurt Christmas market is on the Römerberg in the old town. Here you will find the town hall, the 33 meter Christmas tree and plenty of stalls to browse. Glühwein is available at just about every other stall, but read on for a few tips on the best places to try this warming, hot mulled wine. The map below details the different areas where the Christmas market is hosted.  This link will take you to the interactive map

 Map of Christmas market areas around central Frankfurt

Map of Christmas market areas around central Frankfurt

Frankfurt Christmas market on the Römerberg

On the map above, the main hub of the Christmas market, on the Römerberg, is indicated by the pinkish/red area at the southern tip. It's the traditional site of the market, going all the back to the 14th century. Prior to browsing the stalls and commencing with the drinking, peak behind the huge Christmas tree to find the entrance to the town hall and step inside to for the annual Christmas arts fair (8th - 22nd December). Local artists sell their wares directly to the public and there is a lovely mix of jewellery, pottery, sculpture as well as framed pictures and photographs.

 Frankfurt town hall and Christmas tree

Frankfurt town hall and Christmas tree

A highlight of the Christmas market on the Römerberg is the carousel. It's not just for children so you should definitely have a quick ride before moving on. From the carousel, if you head toward the Schirn Art Gallery you'll pass a few stalls on your right. One stall sells hand-made wooden decorations which can easy be packed into luggage if your travelling this Christmas, and make great mementoes.  Beyond the wooden decoration stall and to the left is a row of small sheds. This is where you'll find some of the best home-made Glühwein in Frankfurt. The locals hang out here, sipping a cup of hot wine after work and it gets busy! At the other end of the row of sheds is the Bethmännchen stall selling baked marzipan treats, only to be found in Frankfurt.

 Glühwein stand at the back of the Römerberg - popular with the locals!

Glühwein stand at the back of the Römerberg - popular with the locals!

Frankfurt Christmas market on Paulsplatz

Another area of the Christmas market to explore is on Paulsplatz. (the area marked in purple on the map). Next to the St. Paul's church is Wagner's honey house. It's a traditional timber-framed (fachwerk) house converted especially for the Christmas market. Upstairs is a variety of honey based drinks and liqueurs to buy whilst downstairs has an amazing variety of honey. St.Paul's church also hosts a Christmas arts fair in it's cellar, which is worth a browse (29th Nov - 21st Dec). Back outside the church, follow the church walls round into the Christmas market stalls. Here you will find one of my favourite hot chestnut sellers and directly opposite is the Lion's Club Glühwein stall selling a good quality Glühwein. There is also a traditional Tiroler wood carver stall, Bachmann selling hand crafted nativity scenes and figures. 

Frankfurt Christmas market on Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz

From Paulsplatz head over to Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz (marked on the map in solid pink), it has outdoor seating and a great selection of things to eat from vegan specialities to traditional Reibekuchen (potato cakes with apple sauce). At this "Platz" you will also find the best Feuerzangenbowle, a potent Glühwein containing caramelised sugar and rum.  Every time someone leaves a tip, the bell is rung and more rum is poured over the caramelising sugar. Like I say, it's potent!

 Potato cakes with apple sauce and a cup of Feuerzangenbowle

Potato cakes with apple sauce and a cup of Feuerzangenbowle

Frankfurt Christmas market on Hauptwache

From Friedrich Stoltze Platz, head to Hauptwache (outlined in Blue on the map) for more Christmas cheer. Close to the children's Christmas train is a lovely stall selling traditional wood toys. Head towards the Zeil and you will find another "Wagner's Honey House". The novelty in this location is how the house contains a large statue of David and Goliath within it - go inside and take a look!

Frankfurt Christmas market on at the Thurn und Taxis Palace

The markets close by 9pm but if you are still hankering for one last Glühwein before you head home, go to the Weihnachtsmarkt at the Thurn und Taxis Palais (top of the map outlined in green. Opening dates: 29th Nov - 23rd Dec 2017) Thursday to Saturday the market stays open until 11pm (10pm on other evenings) and offers yet more food and drink for the late night party lovers.

After a night out at the Frankfurt Weihnachtsmarkt it's sure to be a Merry Christmas!

(This link highlights special events, by date, at the 2017 Frankfurt Christmas Market)

Federweisser - a special wine available after the grape harvest

What is Federweisser?

(A printer-friendly pdf file, with written content but no pictures -> What is Federweisser?)

Federweisser suddenly appears at the end of September in towns and cities within the German wine regions. Some towns host a Federweisser Fest whilst in cities like Frankfurt Federweisser appears at the local farmer's markets. The season is short, so enjoy it while you can. 

Federweisser is known as "new" wine. After the juice has been extracted from the harvested grapes, yeast is added to the must (juice) and fermentation begins. As fermentation progresses, the alcohol levels are monitored and once they reach 4%, the juice can be drunk in the form of Federweisser. The wine is still actively fermenting, so expect a glass of cloudy, refreshingly prickly wine which has a natural sweetness to it. The name means "feather white" and derives from the white'ish appearance of small yeast particles floating in the glass which, some say, looks like small white feathers. Don't be fooled by it's sweet taste though, Federweisser can achieve an alcohol content of up to 10%.

 Federweisser - cloudy in appearance and naturally sweet

Federweisser - cloudy in appearance and naturally sweet

In the Rhineland you'll see Federweisser written Federweißer. In other regions it is also known as Süßer, Sauser and Neue Wein. Roterweisser is the same product but made from red grapes hence it has a deep pink appearance. Because the wine is still fermenting and releasing carbon dioxide, bottles cannot be fully sealed and are left partially open to let the gas escape. As a result transportation of Federweisser is a delicate business and this is why it is rarely available outside of the wine regions. Occasionally you can find a bottle in local supermarkets, but be warned - if the bottle is unsealed (a sign of good quality) you'll have to carry your precious cargo upright all the way home!

Traditionally Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) is eaten with Federweisser and it's a heavenly combination. The Rhineland version of Zwiebelkuchen is a thin base of bread like dough topped with a good depth of soft, sweet onions, sautéed with speck and a sprinkling of caraway seeds. This recipe http://mybestgermanrecipes.com/german-onion-tart/ is the most authentic I have found.

Where to find Federweisser in Frankfurt

In Frankfurt the Liebfrauenberg is hosting a 10 day Federweisser Fest starting on September 29th 2017. Federweisser is also available at the Rollanderhof wine outlets at the Kleinmarkthalle, the Thursday and Saturday farmer's market on Konstablerwacher and the weekly market on Schillerstraße (details about market days can be found here). In addition, Weinschirn, Römerberg 8 (an excellent wine bar close to the cathedral), stocks Federweisser so there is plenty of opportunity to try the new wine before the season finishes!

 Rollanderhof, above the back exit of the Kleinmarkthalle, serving Federweisser!

Rollanderhof, above the back exit of the Kleinmarkthalle, serving Federweisser!

Museumsuferfest August 25th 2017

The annual Museums Embankment festival is in the heart of Frankfurt and not to be missed. It is the largest outdoor festival in the region with stalls and booths on both sides of the River Main offering a huge variety of gastronomic delights plus beer, wine and bands who play into the early hours, and its free! This year the festival runs from Friday 25th August through to Sunday 27th. The festival is in walking distance from most hotels in the city centre, if you're staying/living further out, this link offers a map of tram, bus and U-bahn stops nearby.

For a printer friendly (less images) version of this post -> Frankfurt-Museums-Fest

 Along the river bank by the städel at the Museumsfest, in Frankfurt.

Along the river bank by the städel at the Museumsfest, in Frankfurt.

The Museumsuferfest Button

A major highlight of the festival is the 7€ badge - this gives you free access to 23 museums in Frankfurt the whole weekend, starting from 3pm on Friday 25th until closing time on Sunday 27th. You can buy the badge, or 'button' as the locals call it, from any participating museum or from the Tourist Information Office. This link lists all the museums taking part and also has the extended opening times during the festival weekend.

 the Museumsuferfest 'button' For free Museum Entry

the Museumsuferfest 'button' For free Museum Entry

What to do and see at Museumsuferfest Events and Stalls

During the day, visit the many stalls along the south side of the river bank. Up at street level, starting from the Friedensbrücke, walk through the many stalls selling second hand books, vintage vinyl and local art and crafts. Down at the waters edge, close to the Holbeinsteg, local artists also display art and sculptures.

As you progress eastwards, at the street level, the stalls change to booths offering food and drink. Down on the riverbank itself, there is more food and drink and live music too.

By the evening the festival turns into a party atmosphere. Live bands, and DJ's playing sets from techno to rock,  there is something to suit everyone's musical taste. All events are listed in this link, select the date or the type of event you are interested in.

Along the northern bank of the River Main are more stalls offering food and drink and live bands. This side can sometimes be less busy than the southern side of the river, but it still gets busy!

Museum Gardens

Many of the museums, Städel, Liebieghaus, the Museum of Applied Arts (Museum Angewandte Kunst) open up their gardens offering more chances to eat and drink and listen to live music. It's an opportunity to escape the hectic pace of the festival and the crowds on the river bank itself.

Another major highlight is the fireworks display which rounds off the celebrations at 10:30pm on Sunday night. A handy hint for novices - if you want to be on the riverside for the display, then head down to the bank about an hour before the fireworks start, grab some food and drink and find a good viewing spot. As 10:30pm approaches the police sometimes stop people descending onto the river bank to prevent overcrowding.

The weather is forecast to be warm and pleasant for the whole weekend - so come along to the festival and enjoy having a party with the locals.

Apple wine - a speciality of Frankfurt

The 2017 Apfelweinfest, Frankfurt

The 2017 Apfelweinfest is being hosted on the Hauptwache in Frankfurt until August 20th. If you are coming to Frankfurt then you should definitely try a glass or two of this beverage famed as the local drink of Hessen and commonly called Äppler. The name however is misleading being more like a cider than a wine with an average alcohol content of 4%. Also be aware it has a sour flavour which is why you often see the locals ordering a bottle of sparkling water, along side their bembel (jug) of apple wine, which they use to top up the drink and soften the sourness.

How to order your apple wine

When ordering by the glass,  apple wine 'pur' means it is pure apple wine. If you want your glass topped with a little water, then order an apple wine 'sauer' and if you need a little sweetness, then order an apple wine 'suss', in this case the glass is topped with a little lemonade.

Bembels (jugs) of apple wine always come 'pur' and you order by the number of glasses. E.g if you are with a group of 6 friends you might order a '6er' bembel which holds six glasses of apple wine. Don't forget to order a bottle of sparkling water for those in your group who want to soften down the flavour. Better still go to Kelterei Heil, a known and respected brand in Frankfurt, and they'll include a bottle of water with your bembel.

 Kelterei Heil offering a 6er Bembel and bottle of water for 12€

Kelterei Heil offering a 6er Bembel and bottle of water for 12€

One joy of the Apfelweinfest is trying apple wine from a variety of producers. Each brand has it's own flavour. Some producers offer unfilterred apple wine which is cloudy and labelled 'naturtrüb' whilst the more regular applewine is clear. Two producers offering naturtrüb at this years festival are Hofmann's and Trageser. My favourite regular apple wines offering a fresh taste are by Nöll, Walther and Stier This year Nöll, Walther and Stier have their stalls side by side, so not too far to wander to sample from all three!  Rosé apple wine is another variety worth a try and has a less sour taste. Nöll offer an Apfel-Secco which is milder and naturally sweet. 

Apple wine is always served in a 'gerippte' glass. The pretty diamond shape etching serves a practical purpose - it's to stop the glass from slipping through your greasy fingers, which is a very likely peril after a bratwurst or two. This year the Apfelweinfest is hosting a variety of foods, including vegetarian and vegan, fish and chips, traditional green sauce and the ever present Schwenkgrill (swinging grill over an open fire) for the meat eaters. 

If you've missed the festival but still want to try apple wine, try visiting one of the famous apple wine taverns in Sachsenhausen - a few of my favourites are on my web page, click on the link and scroll down to Applewine taverns in Sachsenhausen to see a list.

 A traditional 'Gerippte' glass containing a sample of Hofmann's naturtrüb Äppler - Zum Wohl!

A traditional 'Gerippte' glass containing a sample of Hofmann's naturtrüb Äppler - Zum Wohl!

A printer-friendly pdf format file, with written content but no pictures -> Apple-Wine-Frankfurt