Cycle along the Nidda river

The Nidda river originates to the east in Vogelsberg and runs downstream to joins the River Main at Frankfurt-Höchst. The river arcs around the north of Frankfurt and has an excellent cycle path offering a gentle, almost no gradient, cycle ride with lots of varied and interesting sights along the way.

The cycle path is accessible from many points around Frankfurt, and you can cycle along the river bank for as far, or as little, as you like. One option is to cycle in one direction and travel back on the S-bahn train. S-bahn stops along the way: Bad Vilbel, Frankfurt-Berkersheim, Frankfurt-Eschersheim, Frankfurt-Rödelheim, Frankfurt-Nied and Frankfurt-Höchst.

From Höchst to Bad Vibel (about 23km)

Whether you start or finish your cycle ride in Höchst, the old town is worth a look around. The old castle is impossible to miss and at the heart of the pretty medieval town square. However, the cycle path is on the Schwanheim side of the river, so you will need to catch the small ferry boat (approx. 1€ fare) to cross over to the Höchst side.

Heading upstream along the Nidda and on the right bank, away from Höchst, the next place you'll come across is Schwanheim. Those of you with an interest geology might want to detour to the Schwanheim dunes, an area of sandy deposits in stark contrast to the usual flora and fauna found in the these parts. Schwanheim is very small but has a local historical museum and a children's zoo open on the weekends.

Continue along the cycle path and past the Grill'sche Weg Nied, where there is a small lake and a picnic spot for grilling. Just beyond Nied you pass under the motorway bridges (which are very low, so duck down as you cycle under!) After the bridges are numerous Schrebergartens to your left, and signs and pathways pointing to various Gaststätte. All the Gaststätte offer hearty food and refreshment, Haus Biegwald, and Gaststätte für Jedermann to name but two. You'll also see a few of the gardens have bee hives and one even offers honey for sale.

Next, the path leads you through Solmspark, a park with beautiful, soaring, trees and then onto the well maintained Brentanopark. On the left bank of the river, opposite Brentanopark is the pretty Petrihaus, a former place of 'retreat' for the Brentano family and saved from demolition in 1999.

At the end of Brentanopark, the cycle path takes you onto a bridge and across to the leftbank of the river. If you stop on the bridge, you might catch sight of the coypu who populate the Nidda. The local Gaststätte at the bridge has a biergarten and terrace overlooking the river (and has Weizenbier for 3,20€). However, if Indian food is what you are craving then cycle on for another kilometre to find Restaurant Nidda, with a terrace overlooking the river and serving plates of delicious Indian cuisine.

The next section of the river offers open fields and meadows, a real feel of escaping the city but it's not long before you discover yet another urban point of interest along the Nidda - Römerstadt! On the left bank, as you continue to cycle upstream, you'll spot some more Schrebergartens and a large fortress like wall. Beyond this wall is Römerstadt, a former Roman settlement and better known today as an area of 1930's housing designed by the architect Ernst May. The Ernst May Haus is open to the public, but check opening times.

After Römerstadt, use one of the bridges to cross over to the right bank and continue on your journey. In 5km you reach the old Bonames airfield, an area of conservation. The airfield itself is on the left bank. The old runway and air traffic control tower are still there along side the excellent Tower Cafe. If you are cycling through on a Sunday morning, the Fire Engine Museum is also open from 09:30 to 12:30.

The final stretch of this cycle ride takes you back along the right river bank through bucolic scenery and onto Bad Vibel. A small town famed for it's natural water source. It has a cute little old town, a pretty park and is rightly proud of it's Burgfestspiele, an old castle converted to an outdoor concert venue. It also has a quite a few ice-cream cafes, Eiscafe Milano is one of my favourites, and after that long cycle ride you deserve a treat, right!     

     

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.  

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.