Frankfurt New Altstadt

In September 2018 Frankfurt celebrated the official opening of the "new" Altstadt. This incredible development reflects architectural styles spanning six centuries. Of the 35 buildings which make up this new quarter, 15 of the houses have been authentically recreated whilst the other 20 properties have a modern contemporary style. The whole project was funded by the city costing 200 million euros and was over 12 years in the making.

Pre-war the old town was an area of 28,000m² and was the most expansive medieval old towns in Germany. However, on March 22nd 1944, the bombs rained down. The timber-framed, medieval houses, were not able to withstand the fires, resulting in 80% of the old town being destroyed.

Frankfurt wanted to rebuild itself as a modern city and by 1974 the Technische Rathhaus (technical town hall) took pride of place between the cathedral and the Römerberg. However, there was little love for the building’s brutalist architecture so when it was voiced that the building was to be demolished, the locals wasted no time in petitioning for a sympathetic redevelopment of the old town to represent what stood here before the war. 

Today the old town is 7,000m² and is only a quarter of it's previous size. The new development brings back to life former times from the Romans, to the Kaiserpfalz of the earliest Holy Roman Emperors and the centuries of architecture that followed.

Underneath the Stadthaus, and open for the public to view, lay the old Roman ruins, walls of the former Kaiserpfalz and some of the earliest medieval cellars.

Two of the old trading yards, Hinter dem Lämmchen and Hof zum Rebstock have been beautifully re-crafted, and after 70 years of being blocked, the Coronation Way, Krönungs Weg, is once again a thoroughfare for the public to retrace the steps of the newly crowned Holy Roman Emperors from the cathedral to the Römerberg.

The Hühnermarkt is the hub of the quarter, with the gothic Neue Rotes Haus ready to house "schirns" of yester-year and the Esslinger Haus, with it's reference to Tante Melber, an aunt of Germany's most famous author Johann Wolfgang Goethe. The baroque Grüne Linden, on the south side of the market place, houses the Balthasar Wein Bar offering quality German wines to thirsty passers-by. Meanwhile, on the east side, a row of classicist housing has been recreated. In the centre of the Hühnermarkt stands the fountain dedicated to Friedrich Stoltze, a local satirist and activist of the 1848 democratic movement.

The most outstanding house, the Goldene Waage (the Golden Scales) stands opposite the cathedral. It cost €8 million to authentically recreate both inside and out. This replica 17th century renaissance house is to be managed by the Historical Museum and will open to the public. Next door, at the Weißer Bock will be the Stoltze Museum.  

Take some time to explore the new town. Better still, come on a Walk-Frankfurt tour and get the full details and stories of what life was really like here, throughout the centuries.

Where to stay in Frankfurt for maximum access to the sights

This is not a hotel guide, it's a location guide; which location to choose in Frankfurt to maximise being out and about and seeing all the highlights. Frankfurt is a small city with a great local transport system. However, if you want to step out of your hotel and walk into the old town, where do you stay?

There are three key areas that tourists find themselves in. First, the Bahnhofsviertal by the main railway station (Hauptbahnhof) which is close to the Messe for the trade fairs and highlighted in red on the map below. Second, the Innenstadt and old town which is the heart of the city and highlighted in blue on the map. Lastly, Old Sachsenhausen famed for its apple wine taverns and lively nightlife, and known as the Brückenviertal highlighted in purple on the map. 

The Innenstadt, old town and heart of Frankfurt

This is the place to stay if you want to step out of your hotel and explore the heart of the city (highlighted in blue on the map). The area is geographically identified by a green park that circles the city centre and the park is the path of the old medieval city walls. Any hotel in this area is central. There are plenty of bars and restaurants in the heart of the city and all are accessible without the need for transportation. Walking to the river bank will take a maximum of 10 minutes and from there you have access to the south side of Frankfurt, Sachsenhausen, with its museums and apple wine taverns. At the end of the night, if you're too tired to walk, a taxi is going to cost less than 10€ to get you back to your hotel. From the airport, getting into central Frankfurt is easy using the S-bahn. The S8 and S9 trains from the airport will bring you to three stops in the city centre - Tanusanlage, Hauptwache and Konstablerwache. My one caveat for this area is the eastern end of the Zeil where the Zeil meets Breite Gasse. This very small, contained area is seedy and run down, so worth avoiding.


Frankfurt Bahnhofsviertal, Hauptbahnhof and Messe

The main railway station is 1km to the west of the city centre and it has the biggest concentration of hotels. Unfortunately it's also the red light district and struggles with a drug problem. The area is outlined in red on the map. The concentration of hotels is a legacy from when the railway station was first built and, at that time, the area was one of the nicest in the city. Post war, Frankfurt made a name for itself hosting World class trade fairs and the trade fair exhibition centre is about 500 metres north of the railway station. These days it is still the place where most tourists book a hotel room, but the reality is you will need to use local transportation to explore the nicer parts of Frankfurt unless you are a keen walker. The area around the station is slowly improving with a few trendy bars and some good Thai and Chinese eateries, not to mention the excellent Turkish restaurants on Münchener Strasse. The hostels in this area, which cater for backpackers, are well maintained, safe and security conscious. If you are booking a hotel close to the railway station then my recommendation is to book one south of Kaiserstrasse. The drugs and red light area tend to be north of this street. The added advantage of being south of the station is that you are close to the river bank, which offers a lovely walk into the old town.
Hotels very close to the Messe (trade fair centre) are also away from the problem areas near the main station. However, this area is geared towards the business traveller and doesn't have much to offer except chain restaurants and a sterile environment.


Old Sachsenhausen, the Brückenviertal

There is very little provision of hotels south of the river in Sachsenhausen (the area with a purple outline on the map.) The international youth hostel is here and very well located for enjoying the night life and offering a quick walk across the bridge into Frankfurt city centre. Being residential, Sachsenhausen is the sort of place to stay if you prefer quieter areas, with plenty of local bars and restaurants but without the city noise. A short walk over the Eisener Steg will bring you to the heart of the old town, or use the local transport system to get around.