Making the most of Frankfurt's Christmas market

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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

Wetzlar, World of Leica and Braunfels

A must for all camera enthusiasts - World of Leica at Leitz Park nestled on the outskirts of Wetzlar, a pretty little town in it's own right so, first, let me tell you a little more about Wetzlar.

Wetzlar

Wetzlar is a 60 minute train ride from Frankfurt (travel details at the bottom of this page). Formerly an imperial free city, and the seat of the imperial chamber court, Wetzlar held status during the medieval period. Today, that imperial legacy leaves behind an old town, medieval layout of streets, timber-framed houses and a green belt of parkland around the old city walls.  Situated on the river Lahn, Wetzlar has it's charms and makes for a great day-trip especially if you tack on a trip to the Leitz Park. 

Map from the Wetzlar tourist information brochure, linked here.

Map from the Wetzlar tourist information brochure, linked here.

First port of call should be the Tourist Information, Domplatz 9. They have a wonderful, free leaflet, in English, detailing the beautiful buildings of Wetzlar and suggested walks through the town and around the old wall and parks. Wetzlar is particularly proud of it's connections with Germany's literary giant, Goethe, and his novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. I won't repeat the information the tourist office has already put together, but add that from the cathedral, through Fischmarkt, Kornmarkt and onto the old bridge there are medieval sights galore.

There are plenty of places to stop and eat or grab a coffee. With so little traffic in the old town, sitting outdoors in the summer is a joy. Around the cathedral, on Domplatz, the eateries have a good reputation and plenty of outdoor seating. On Fischmarkt 2, the Ratsschänke serves traditional cuisine out of a beautiful old timer-framed house. Another iconic building is Conny's Binding, Eisenmarkt 7, a bar come cafe, serving small plates into the early hours and it's located at a central point where street artists often perform and entertain. Head towards the old bridge and there are few riverside cafes. On the way to the bridge Eiscafe Rialto, Lahnstraße 27,  renown for making their own ice cream. Bröker's cafe, on the bridge itself, offers breakfast until 12 noon and a daily lunch menu.  On the opposite side of the bridge is the Paulaner Wirtschaft, with a large garden terrace along the river, offering regional and Bavarian specialities.

World of Leica at Leitz Park

This amazing, new, complex offers free photographic exhibitions, exhibits of Leica products and for a small fee, a guided tours of the Leica factory. However, if you do not have time for a tour, it is possible to view the assembly and manufacturing rooms through panoramic windows. The site itself is architecturally stunning both inside and out. There is a Leica store and a cafe on-site. The only difficulty at the moment is getting to Leitz Park without a car. It's a 3km walk from the town centre or a bus ride from Wetzlar station on Bus 11. My advice, if you have no car, is to take the bus toworld of Leica (because it's uphill all the way) and wander downhill back into town. For full local transportation details, check the RMV web site.

Travel to Wetzlar

There are regular trains from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof to Wetzlar (RB40 & RB99) running approximately every 30 minutes throughout the week. Travelling by car is the easiest option of you wish to visit World of Leica which is 75km north of Frankfurt. By train or car the journey time is 60 minutes.

Add on a trip to Braunfels

An additional trip, you might be interested in, is to Braunfels. Accessible by bus from Wetzlar, or a 15 minute trip by car, Braunfels has a quaint castle with a small, almost fairy-tale like village at it base. Even their own tourist information calls the village "enchantingly beautiful". Schloss Braunfels (the castle) offers tours at set times and down in the village, Kleines Cafe am Markt opens at 9am for breakfast and has a reputation for great cakes in the afternoon. There is a Tourist Information office on Marktplatz (at the foot of the castle) and of course an ice-cream parlour, Eiscafe Chintemi.

Frankfurt Höchst

Sometimes written Hoechst, this little town in the western suburbs of Frankfurt has beautiful, timber-framed, medieval housing, an old town square, a delightful castle (the former residence of the Archbishop of Mainz), and a beautiful riverside along the Main.

Höchst is just 15 minutes by train from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and can be reached using the S1 or S2 trains. It is within the Frankfurt travel zone area and the trip is covered by daily, weekly and yearly travel cards. To find the old town, alight at Frankfurt Höchst, exit the station to the south and head along Justinuskirchstraße.

It is also a very pleasant cycle ride to Höchst travelling west, out of Frankfurt, along the south bank of the river Main towards Schwanheim. As you draw level with Höchst, on the opposite riverbank, there is a small ferry boat which shuttles passengers to and fro, across the river, for just 1€. Once on the Höchst riverbank, you are directly in front of the old city gate and walls. Walk through the gate and you enter the old town. Alternatively, you can take refreshment at the Alteschiffsmeldestelle, an open air cafe 100m to the west of where the shuttle boat docks.

Höchst castle has some lovely grounds to explore and is in the heart of the old town. The small square as you approach the castle has plenty of quaint places to eat and relax. From the square it is possible to walk down, through the gate of the old town walls and to the river bank.

Close to the castle is Justinus Church, one of the few, almost complete, early medieval churches in Hessen. Open to the public from 2pm- 5pm, Tues - Sun during the summer months, it also has a pretty flower and herb garden worth visiting too. 

Just taking a walk through the streets of old Höchst will provide the quaint sight of beautifully restored medieval, timber houses. Streets of note are: Burggraben, Antoniterstraße, Kronengasse, and Alt-Höchst. At Alt-Höchst 7, stands a quaint, traditional weinstube (wine bar) Alte Münze , serving light bites and local wines. It's open daily (except Tuesday) from 4pm. On Bolongarostraße 152, is the Kronberger Haus which hosts the Höchst Porcelain Museum. The museum is small but it's a must for anyone interested in porcelain and pottery manufacture, open Sat & Sun from 11am - 6pm. 

On Tuesday, Friday and Saturday morning a market is held at Höchster Markt, lots of fruit and vegetable stalls and a flower market outdoors. In the indoor market is a good variety of diary, meat and delicatessen stalls. The coffee stand is particularly popular.  Outside, on the north-eastern corner of the market place is Cafe Piccolo, serving delicious ice-creams. At the eastern side of the market place is a large, ugly, pink building which is an old air-raid shelter built during World War 2. However, it is the former site of the local synagogue which was destroyed to make way for the shelter. Take a look through the binoculars stationed outside the bunker to see image of the former synagogue as it previously stood.

Whilst in Höchst, take some time to visit the church of St. Josef, on the corner of Hostatostraße and Justinuskirchstraße. Plain on the outside but a treasure of early 1900's architecture on the inside.

Enjoying German wines at the 2017 Rheingau Wine Festival (30th August - 8th September)

The 2017 Rheingau Weinfest, hosted on the Freßgass' in Frankfurt,  is a great opportunity to familiarise yourself with classic German wines. Put any preconception of sweet wine out of your mind. Good German wine is a whole new World waiting to be appreciated, however the German wine classification can feel complicated to novices so, to get the most out of the wine festival, below are some hints and tips to launch you into your voyage of wine discovery.

Dry or Sweet

Trocken is the word to look for if you want a dry, crisp wine. If you find the wine too crisp and minerally you might want to try a halbtrocken or feinherb wine which contains a small amount of residual sweetness, but are not sweet wines! Lusciously sweet wines, the ones you associated with dessert wines, carry the labels Auslese, Beerenauslese, Eiswein or Trockenbeerenauslese.

Trocken and feinherb labels. Photograph © Anne Noble

Trocken and feinherb labels. Photograph © Anne Noble

Grape Varieties

The Rheingau is renown for it's riesling, the king of grape varieties. Many people underestimate riesling however Masters of Wine highly rate it for it's complexity and amazing ageing qualities. Gently sniff the bouquet of your riesling and you'll be amazed at the variety of scents ranging from floral, fruit, honey, herbs and the very distinct 'petrol' nose of an aged riesling. The Rheingau offers some other grape varieties which might be more familiar once you recognise their English names: Grauburgunder = Pinot Gris and Weissburgunder = Pinot Blanc. If you have the chance also try a Scheurebe a truely unique German grape created in 1916 by Dr. Scheu. He combined two grape varieties, riesling and bukettraube (of silvaner heritage) resulting in a wine which is dry with gentle fruit overtones.

Spätburgunder, aka Pinot Noir, dominates red wine production in the Rheingau. The style produced varies from a light finesse, which reflects the cool climes of the Rheingau area, to a richer, darker wine from grapes nurtured in the vineyards using select harvests. The difference is easy to spot in the glass, a light transparent red wine of the old style and a rich deep red of the new style.   

VDP

Some producers belong to the elite VDP association. VDP (Verband deutscher Prädikatsweingüter) started in 1910 and serves to promote quality viticulture focussed on regional grape designation, quality production and vineyard management working in harmony with nature. Wine producers have to meet with strict requirements before they can carry the VDP eagle on their bottles. There are a few VDP producers at the Rheingau Weinfest. One repeat visitor is F. B Schönleber and Weingut Hamm is another renown producer which has also achieved the organic certification.

VDP Eagle. Photograph © Anne Noble

VDP Eagle. Photograph © Anne Noble

Wine Stands

This is a list of this years participants, and all offer great quality wines. All along the Freßgass will be the wine stands interspersed with food stalls making it a great place to head for an evening out with friends.

A day out in Bad Homburg

Bad Homburg, spa town to royalty and Russian nobility during the 19th century, is a short train ride from Frankfurt (train details details below). It's a great place to spend the day enjoying the beautiful Kurpark, the Schloss Homburg gardens, the great variety of architecture, and the numerous cafes and restaurants for refreshment.

Bad Homburg Kurpark

In the 19th century, the Russian nobility flocked to Bad Homburg to enjoy the spa baths and casino located in the Kurpark, a beautiful park landscaped by Peter Joseph Lenné and lovingly maintained to this day. The park has a Russian orthodox church and two Siamese temples. The first Buddhist temple, inaugurated in 1914, was sent as a gift by King Chulalongkorn of Siam. Later in 2007 the Thai royal family sent another temple to commemorate the long standing ties between the town and Thailand. Back in the 1800's the German royal family constructed a spa house in the park. The Kur Royal Day Spa, is still open to the public and and there is also the more modern Taunus Therme baths. After the Kurpark wander along the streets nearby e.g. Landgrafenstraße towards the high street, which are filled with fine examples of art nouveau architecture.

Bad Homburg High Street

Bad Homburg high street (starting at the southern end of Louisenstraße) is pedestrianised, which makes for a pleasant, traffic free stroll up toward Schloss Homburg. There are plenty of places to grab a coffee and have a break, of particular note is Eiscafe De Pellegrin, Louisenstraße 9, serving excellent ice-creams. Don't forget to check the side streets for some 'off the beaten track' restaurants (Audenstraße has quite a few).

Schloss Homburg

At the northern end of the high street is the Schloss Homburg, the summer residence of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Today, the gardens are open to visitors and the main entrance is on Dorotheenstraße. Beside the main entrance is the Erlöserkirche, commissioned by the Kaiser, with a lavish interior presenting a mix of byzantine and art nouveau styles.

Edward VII was a regular guest at the Schloss and is credited with making famous the Homburg hat, which is still produced in Bad Homburg today. The original Homburger Hutsalon (hatters shop),  is on Rathausstraße 8, in a beautiful 16th century building, surrounded by other beautifully restored timber-framed houses. 

If you enjoy architecture, on returning back to the station, instead of walking along the high street, take the route along Dorotheenstraße, starting at the Schloss, and enjoy the lovely examples of 18th century Baroque housing. Along the way is the beautiful church of St. Marien.

Trains to Bad Homburg and map

Bad Homburg can be reached in 21 minutes by taking the S5 from Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (or directly from Frankfurt city centre at Hauptwache and Konstablerwache) Trains run every 15 minutes on weekdays and every 30 minutes at weekends. A single ticket costs 4,80€, a day card costs 9,35€ or, if there is between two to five people travelling, a group card is only 16,40€ (prices correct as from June 2017) If you have a Frankfurt travel-card, you will need to pay a 2,95€ supplement each way. The Bad Homburg tourist information web page has lots of additional information.

Bad Homburg - click on map will enlarge it and this link is the searchable web version.