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 town 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 is open to the public as a cafe and it also has internal access to the Stoltze Museum next door, in house Weisser Bock..  

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.

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.

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!


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.