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.

Ernst May architecture and a lovely day out

The ernst-may-haus

Within the Frankfurt travel zone a little north of Frankfurt is an area known as Römerstadt (take U-bahn U1 or U9 to Römerstadt). Today, it is known as a 1920's housing project conceived and planned by Ernst May. Centuries ago, it was a an area of Roman activity. With an original 'ernst-may-haus' to visit and offering some beautiful countryside along the path of the river Nidda, the Römerstadt makes for a great day out. It's also accessible via several cycle routes. (I've added notes below)

First port of call is the ernst-may-haus (Im Burgfeld 136), run and maintained by the Ernst May Society. Directions to the house are well signposted from the Römerstadt U-bahn station. The ernst-may-haus is a sample house which re-creates the original interior and features of Ernst May's concepts and has a very informative video, in English, about his ideas and planning for the New Frankfurt, as it was called. Other exhibits are in German however, one can still enjoy the aesthetics and ideas which went into creating this 1920's home. In the house is an original kitchen, designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, a bathroom, a cellar and bedrooms. Rooms are decorated in the original colours from 1928 to give authenticity to Ernst May's vision.

Once you leave the ernst-may-haus, you'll notice how the housing on every street conforms to the Ernst May principles, front lawns, back gardens, flat roofs and long terraces of identical buildings. Next you'll notice the amazing amount of greenery and nature incorporated into this residential project.

Nearby walks

My recommendation is that after you have visited the mayhaus, you walk back along the street, Im Burgfeld, towards the U-bahn, but instead of going into the station keep walking down the street (Hadrianstraße). Eventually, on the left you'll reach a road called "An der Ringmauer", walk beyond this street and take the next left which is a pathway leading you around the back of the housing and along the Schrebergartens. (Schrebergartens are small allotment gardens) The individuality of the Schrebergartens themselves are are pretty sight in the summer and the other unavoidable view are the imposing boundary walls, to the left as you walk, jutting out like battlements. Walk up upon one and capture some great Frankfurt skyline views.Find a path that takes you through the Schrebergartens and to the banks of the river Nidda. Suddenly you are transported away from housing and into the heart of the country-side with large green vistas and nature all around. Head toward the small bridge signposted as, "Am Bubeloch" and enjoy the views. For a pleasant walk, cross the bridge and walk down stream, in under 2km you reach another bridge where you can cross over, explore Steinbech (a small water inlet) and then walk back up towards Römerstadt. An alternative walk from "Am Bubeloch" is not to cross the bridge but to follow the bank of the river Nidda upstream for 3.5km and you will reach the old Bonames airfield which is today a nature reserve and has the excellent Tower Cafe, serving lunches and home-made cakes. (From The Tower Cafe it is possible to walk into town and catch the U2 or U9 trains at the Kalbach station.)

To incorporate a walk along the river, on route back to Frankfurt, turn left at Am Bubeloch and follow the river path upstream. The path will eventually take you up onto a road bridge. Turn right onto the bridge and cross the Nidda river. Turn right onto Niedwiesenstraße and then left onto Am Brückengarten. Turn left at the T-junction, at the end of Am Brückengarten, and you'll see some steps leading up. Follow the steps up and you'll find yourself on a busy road (Am Weißen Stein). Turn left and you'll see the S-bahn station Eschersheim. Turn right and follow the road down toward the U-bahn stop called Weißer Stein. This stop is served by the U1, U2, U3 and U8 trams. For a treat head to the Lido ice cream cafe, just behind the U-bahn stop. They make the ice cream on-site and the quality is top notch.

For cyclists

The cycle along the Nidda river, from Frankfurt heading north east is lovely. There is a small bridge at Am Bubeloch allowing you to cross over into Römerstadt where upon the Schrebergartens and Ernst May housing is directly ahead of you. Turn left at Am Bubeloch and follow the Nidda downstream and under the road bridge. The ernst-may-haus is across the fields heading north away from the river. After visiting Römerstadt head back to the river turn left and follow the Nidda upstream to Bonames and it's old airfield to rest and grab a bite to eat at the fabulous Tower Cafe.

Vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free restaurants in Frankfurt

It can be difficult to find vegetarian, vegan and gluten free restaurants in the centre of Frankfurt so I've listed some of the places that I like, which offer something for alternative appetites.
I've used the following markers at the beginning of each restaurant for easy identification:
V = Vegetarian
VG = Vegan
GF = Gluten free

Near the main station (Hauptbahnhof) and Willy-Brandt-Platz

V -  Saravanaa Bhavan (Kaiserstr. 66) is 100% vegetarian and serves the best Indian food in town. Try the dosa, it's a good as any in India! Close the main station in the Bahnhofsviertal.

V - Urban Kitchen (Kaiserstr 53 & Börsenplatz 14) with two centrally located restaurants in the city, Urban Kitchen is a little formulaic but offers a choice of dishes, e.g. pizza, noodles, salads and it clearly identifies vegetarian options on the menu.

V, VG & other allergens - Kaiserzeit (Kaiserstr. 59) close to the main station is an organic bakery which opens early (7am) to cater for the breakfast crowd. It identifies all manner of options and allergens including wheat-free and lactose-free (no GF though!)

V, VG, GF - Im Herzen Afrikas (Gutleutstr. 13) The concept is simple, the food tasty and gluten-free flat breads are available.

V, VG, GF - Vevay (Neue Mainzer Str. 20) Vegetarian restaurant and predominantly vegan too. The menu clearly denotes other allergens. Very close to the New Opera house and city theatre on Willy-Brandt-Platz.

V, GF - Pizzeria Scicilia (Niedenau 9) on request this tiny, basic pizza place serves up excellent, gluten-free, pizza. Close to the Bahnhofsviertal however it is slightly off the beaten track. 

A map of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free restaurants in Frankfurt -  use this link for the interactive map

A map of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free restaurants in Frankfurt - use this link for the interactive map

In the city centre and old town

V, VG, GF- Mainkai (Mainkai 15) is just south of the Cathedral in the old town. It's known for it's breakfasts and offers plenty of choice for vegetarians and also some gluten-free and vegan options. At the weekend reserving a table for breakfast is advised!

V, VG, GF -  Metropol Cafe (Weckmarkt 13-15) is right behind the Cathedral. Plenty of seating inside and on a sunny day it has a lovely garden to relax in. Metropol is popular with the locals at the weekend and has the option of a vegan breakfast. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available at other times of the day.

V, GF - Baltique (Heiligkreuzgasse 31 ) is a pancake cafe offering gluten free buckwheat pancakes in both savoury and sweet varieties. It's close to Konstablerwache and has a late kitchen (22:30).

V, VG, GF - Viapiano (Goetheplatz 1-3)  in the heart of the city centre, this might be a chain restaurant but it clearly identifies vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options on it's menu. 

V - Leib & Seele (Kornmarkt 11) this is the staple "go to" restaurant if you want to try traditional German fair but need to cater for vegetarians in the group too.

V, VG - Lebegesund (Kleinmarkthalle) A market stall perfect for lunch tucked away at the back of the Kleinmarkthalle. Lebegesund offers a variety of vegan dishes to take away.

V, VG - Langosch am Main (Fahrgasse 3) Lots of vegan options in this laid back, kinda restaurant come bar. Nice area of outdoor seating too.

Frankfurt: from Konstablerwache to Sachsenhausen

January, February and March are cold months in Frankfurt. Even so it's still possible to explore and, by browsing a shop or two or enjoying a new cafe, you get the chance to intermittently warm up. The walk I'm suggesting for such a Winter's day takes you into what appears to be an unassuming part of town, filled with 1950's post war architecture but delivering some lovely cafes, galleries and views which you might otherwise never notice. The walk is simply a straight line from north to south and over the river.
Starting at Konstablerwache, if it's Thursday or Saturday you have the chance to peruse the farmers market, eat a bratwurst and have a glass of Glühwein from one of the wine stalls. From Konstablerwache head south, down Fahrgasse.

Fahrgasse, starting at Konstablerwache in the heart of Frankfurt

Fahrgasse, starting at Konstablerwache in the heart of Frankfurt

Within 100 metres, you'll notice a large wall on the left hand side of the street. It's a fragment of the old medieval wall from the 12th century, the Staufenmauer. It also served as the northern entrance to the Jewish Ghetto, the Judengasse, decreed in 1462 and the first Jewish ghetto in Europe. Destroyed in the late 1800's, nothing remains of the ghetto today.

An der Staufenmauer, at the junction of Fahrgasse and Töngesgasse

An der Staufenmauer, at the junction of Fahrgasse and Töngesgasse

Carry on heading south and the first half of Fahrgasse has a variety of Asian stores and if it's lunch time you might want to stop by one of the authentic restaurants, e.g. Mikuni, and have a bite to eat. If you prefer a coffee then carry on down Fahrgasse, crossing over Berliner Strasse and towards the river. This half of Fahrgasse has antique shops and galleries on both sides of the street that are worth a browse.

Part way down the street, on the right hand side, is a small street called Weckmarkt. At the very entrance of this street is a modern jewellery store called "feinform" which offers some interesting contemporary pieces and is worth a peek. Back onto Fahrgasse and a little further south is a whiskey shop, Whiskey for Life  which is every whiskey drinkers dream. If you're lucky you might catch a tasting. Opposite on the other side of the street is the Holy Cross Brewing Society, reputedly one of the best coffee stops in town. In fact, you're spoilt for choice for places to relax and eat in this area. Check out Cafe Sugar Mama , Naiv and Langosch.

If you're not quite ready for a stop then walk to the end of Fahrgasse and onto the Alte Brücke. As you step onto the bridge look to your left to see the fine statue of Karl der Grosse, aka Charlemagne. He was the King of the Frankish tribesmen and the first person to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. He's also gave Frankfurt it's name which means, 'the ford of the Franks'. As you cross the bridge, take in the view of the ECB, European Central Bank on the left hand side and get your camera ready for the classic 'Skyline' view of Frankfurt to your right. Once over the river, keep to the left hand side of the bridge and at it's end, cross over the road (Sachsenhäuser Ufer) and head straight down the side street which is the beginning of Brückenstraße. Almost immediately you'll discover the entrance to the Ikonen Museum which has quite the collection of religious artefacts. Next door is the Deutschordenskirche. It's usually open by 12 noon, so step inside and take a look around. If it's January you're in for a special treat because the nativity scene is quite something to behold.

Ikonen Museum, Frankfurt.

Ikonen Museum, Frankfurt.

From the church, continue down Brückenstraße, over the junction. You're now in the heart of Sachsenhausen. Immediately to your left is the Brücke Cafe, serving coffee, home-made cakes, drinks and meals late into the evening. Further down the street are clothing boutiques and plenty of stores for window shopping. One highlight is the Portuguese gourmet shop at number 60 - Casa de Portugal  Here you can buy groceries, port, terracotta pots and freshly baked Portuguese specialities. It's a great little place. Down at this corner of Brückestraße is another great cafe, Schiller Cafe, serving breakfasts and meals all day. 

Wander back up Brückestraße, and turn right (east) along Wallstraße. Again, this street hosts an array of independent shops, restaurants and in particular two classic apple wine taverns, Fichtekranzi and Atschel (Atschel is usually open at lunch time) Next door to Fichte Kranzi is a traditional pottery shop, Töpferei Maurer, selling all things pottery related to Frankfurt's apple wine scene. On Saturdays there is also Markt im Hof, a small venture hosting a couple of food trucks, apple wine tastings and an indoor canteen with innovative choices of food. It's a real favourite with the locals!

By now you've probably seen a few places where you'd like to stop, eat and relax. If you're still in the mood for exploring then look out for my next blog post which will take you across the road and into the heart of Old Sachsenhausen!    

What to do on a winter's day in Frankfurt

Winters can be cold in Frankfurt and, although bright and crisp outside, it's only a matter of time before you hanker for somewhere indoors to keep yourself warm. Here are some ideas for the winter months.

Frankfurt cinemas screening films in English

Some cinemas in Frankfurt screen films in the original language, e.g. a British film in english or a French film in french, with German subtitles. Here are some recommendations for watching films in English.

Metropolis, close to the Eschenheimer Tor. Check their webpage for the up to date programme and look for films with the UK/USA flag and "screening in English" written next to it.

E-Kinos,  at Hauptwache (near the Sparkasse). Original language screenings are usually on a Sunday or Monday. Scroll down the program and look for the screening times. If there is an "Original Version" screening then it will be shown at the bottom of the time list .

Mal Seh'n Kino, in Nordend on Adlerflychtstraße. Check the program; for English language films look directly under the title of the film for"englische OmU" or "amerikanische OmU" .

Harmonie cinema, in Sachsenhausen screens films in the original language on Mondays and, occasionally, on additional days. That means French films are screened in French, American films in English etc. Look out for UK/USA films and the words "Engl. OmU" which means "English with (German) subtitles."

Orfeos on Hamburgerallee occasionally screens films in the original language. An added bonus is the lovely restaurant which serves very good pre-screening dinners. To see which films are in English, check the programme for "engl. mit dt. Ut" meaning "English with German subtitles." 

The English Theatre in Frankfurt

The English Theatre hosts some excellent productions. The theatre bar offers snacks and drinks and pre-ordering for interval drinks too. For post-theatre dining, Fundus on Willy-Brandt Platz stays open until midnight. This January and February 2017 the theatre is showing Spamalot. Check this link for dates, times and tickets. 

Inside the Kaisersaal with it's 52 portraits of the Holy Roman Emperors

Inside the Kaisersaal with it's 52 portraits of the Holy Roman Emperors

Frankfurt museums

Frankfurt's museums have regular visiting exhibits so there is always something new to see. This link offers more in-depth information on the entrance fees, a link to the official museums page and regular museum opening times (e.g. many museums are shut on a Monday). A few of the of the visiting exhibits are listed on my "Monthly events in Frankfurt" page, 

City centre cultural excursions

Paulskirche on Paulsplatz is otherwise known as the "Cradle of German Democracy" it was in this building that the first Parliament was hosted in 1848. Today the church is open and free to the public and hosts a permanent exhibit. At the ground floor level text is offered in English, as well as German, and a mural by Johannes Grützke depicts, "The Path of the Representatives to St. Paul's Church." Upstairs hang the flags of the 16 states of Germany.

Attend an organ recital at the Kaiserdom (cathedral). The organ was installed in 1957 and is a spectacular instrument. Details of up and coming recitals are listed on the WALK-FRANKFURT, "Monthly events in Frankfurt" page.

Visit the Kaisersaal - The Imperial Hall displays 52 portraits of the Holy Roman Emperors from Charlemagne (Karl der Große) to Franz II. The entrance can been found on the southside of the Römer building, on Limpurgergasse. Enter through the iron gates and in the courtyard there is a machine where you pay your 2€ entrance fee. Walk up the spiral steps to enter the building. Once inside go up the next set of stairs into the Imperial Hall.  Open between 10:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00. Occasionally the Kaisersaal is closed due to private events.

Visit the Cloister (free entry) within the Institute for the History of Frankfurt, and hire an audio guide (2€) detailing the medieval frescos of Jörg Ratgeb. The institute also hosts free exhibits about Frankfurt upstairs. At present the exhibit details the development and maintenance of the Frankfurt Greenbelt.

Jörg Ratgeb frescos at the Carmelite Cloister, Institute for the History of Frankfurt

Jörg Ratgeb frescos at the Carmelite Cloister, Institute for the History of Frankfurt

Go to the Zoo - even during the winter the Zoo is open everyday and has indoor houses as well as outdoor enclosures. Check the webpage for opening and closing times. Right now the Zoo is collecting old mobile phones to raise money for the mountain gorillas in the Congo - have a quick clear out and take your old mobile phone along!

Cafes

If you're in town then check out some of these cafes, listed in another blog post, in which to rest your weary legs and warm up with a coffee, tea or better still a hot chocolate.
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Frankfurt café culture

When you arrive in a new town it's hard to avoid the large chain coffee houses and mediocre cafés, so here's a guide to some of the places the locals like. There's nothing fancy about these places, it's more about, "when in Frankfurt, do what the Frankfurters do"

Wacker's (Kornmarkt 9), closed on Sundays! This is top of the list for good coffee served in a way the Germans like it, strong! Wacker's has been roasting coffee since 1914. The shop is basic, with a small seating area indoors and a few tables and chairs outside. At busy periods, when all the seating is taken, locals spill over onto the other side of the street with their coffee cups and sit on the wall to enjoy a few minutes peace and quiet. Wacker's also sell a variety of cakes and individually wrapped chocolates to accompany your coffee.

Wacker's Coffee Shop - it's like stepping back into the 1950's

Wacker's Coffee Shop - it's like stepping back into the 1950's

Stern am Paulsplatz (Neue Krämer 12) is another traditional coffee roaster in Frankfurt. Located close to the Römer and sightseeing in the old town, Stern has plenty of seating both indoors and out. The lounge area upstairs really does feel like someone's front living room! The cakes reportedly come from Konditorei Hollhorst, one of the best bakers in Frankfurt.

Bitter & Zart is also in the old town (Braubachstrasse 14) and offers the air of a 1920's tea and coffee salon. It's famed for it's hot chocolate which is thick, rich and unsweetened (I always laden mine with sugar and order it with whipped cream!) Bitter & Zart offers lunch time snacks as well as home-made cakes, of which one is usually gluten-free. Next door is their chocolate emporium which is also worth a browse.

Bitter & Zart, serving hot chocolate thick enough to stand a teaspoon in.

Bitter & Zart, serving hot chocolate thick enough to stand a teaspoon in.

Naschmarkt am Dom (Domstraße 4) is very close to the cathedral entrance. It's small but offers a good variety of hot and cold drinks and the cakes are baked on the premises. Gluten-free options are also available. 

Metropol Cafe am Dom (Weckmarkt 13) is on the south side of the cathedral.  This laid back, Bohemian cafe, serves great breakfasts and gigantic pieces of home-made cake. It has a lovely garden which is a sun-trap and a great place to hang out in, with a glass of wine, during the in the summer months.  

Tee-haus Ronnefeldt (My Zeil shopping mall, ground floor towards the back entrance) This is the place to go to if you love tea. Ronnefeldt has a long tradition in Frankfurt and has an incredibly large selection of teas to drink on the premises or to buy and take home with you.  

Ronnefeldt Tee-Haus which can be found in the My Zeil Shopping mall

Ronnefeldt Tee-Haus which can be found in the My Zeil Shopping mall

Manufactum brot&butter (Bockenheimer Anlage 49-50) closed on Sundays! This store, come cafe, is located close to the Old Opera House. The cafe is proud of it's artisan foods, freshly baked bread and even offers a glass of unpasteurised milk for those not enjoying a coffee, tea or glass of wine. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating and once you've finished snacking you have the chance to visit the Manufactum shop next door which is full of interesting artefacts to browse.