The Football Connoisseur's Guide Frankfurt: The Mainhattan of Germany

Frankfurt is more than just an airport and banks. Full of culture and eats, the town has more than enough to entertain its visitors. And it's going all out during the World Cup.

Frankfurt turned its skyline into a photo gallery earlier this week.

Frankfurt turned its skyline into a photo gallery earlier this week.


Strange as it may seem, Frankfurt is one of the first towns that foreigners mention when they are asked about Germany. Is it the sausages? Or the gigantic airport? One could film several versions of the Tom Hanks vehicle “Terminal“ here without the camera teams ever crossing paths. If you make it beyond the airport itself and into the city of Frankfurt, you will find yourself in the center of Germany's banking capital. But it's not large. To arrive at the official population of 652,000, some dubious mathematics are required. If you leave out the rural satellites and cider brewing settlements dotted along country lanes, the actual figure is closer to 350,000. Just don’t tell that to the Frankfurters. They prefer to see their city as a dazzling, urban, dynamic place, with a certain multicultural flair. The proud Frankfurter can imagine nothing but wilderness beyond the city boundary.

Frankfurters have much the same aspirations for their football team: The diva, as Eintracht Franfurt is known, with an aura to match. But relegation to the second division restored a painful sense of reality.

The stadium

First things first. You can walk right around the stadium’s outer shell and count the plentiful toilets as you go. No need to go hungry either. Add together the counters of the beer and sausage stalls, and you’ll come up with over 200 meters of elbow space. Fully 22 kiosks on two levels.

The old Waldstadion has been transformed in the last three years. New arenas tend to be modern, but Frankfurt’s visionaries wanted something really special. Capacity on international days is 50,000, with a fancy chain of executive boxes stretching right around the pitch. An imposing cube (weighing 30 tons) hangs over the center circle, 12 meters wide. It also marks the centre of the foldable membrane roof. A giant spider’s web of steel supports the wavy tent over turf and terrace. The roof can be retracted or extended to cover the whole arena, a process taking 20 (trouble free) minutes.

Even first-timers will have a job getting lost in this ground. There is a transparent logic to the signposting all the way from the car park to your seat. The four stands are color coordinated. The main stand (Haupttribüne) is red, the one opposite (Gegentribüne) green. The east stand (Osttribüne) is blue and the west stand (Westtribüne) yellow. Easy. If you still manage to lose your way, ask the staff or check the maps.

Where else can I watch the football?

The tournament is going to be a sell-out, by all accounts, and FIFA’s efforts to stifle the black market look effective enough. Frankfurt has worked hard to present alternatives for the ticketless. The most pompous project is the “MainArena“, in which several big screens will be erected in the river Main between two bridges (Obermainbrücke and Alter Brücke), enabling spectators on both river banks to follow proceedings in all 64 matches for free. The 15,000 fans who will sit or stand here, will also be able to enjoy music, all manner of magic and maybe even free love on the lawns. A worthy alternative to South Korea against Poland.

For the traditionalists, there’s always the pub. Few custodians will pass up the opportunity to switch on a television or two. You can’t go wrong with the “O25“ (Ostparkstrasse 25), popular with the Brazilian community., who usually have more to celebrate than the Germans.

The “Champions Bar“ (Hamburger Allee 2-10) is an American classic, nestling in the noble Marriot Hotel. Sporting greats adorn the walls, along with three big screens and 28 smaller ones, ensuring that everyone gets a look-in. To blend in with your surroundings, order a multi-layer burger with fries (Pommes). Stadium sausages please wait outside.

“Backstage“ (Rothschildallee 36) is not as posh, nor are the mullets on the walls. Around 100 guests can sip freshly pulled pints (or half liters) here, but there will be a screen in the garden for the World Cup., a treat in nice weather. The menu will also have a World Cup flavor. If Holland are playing, it’s cheese. For Argentina, plates of meat. Plus World Cup quizzes with top prizes.

There will be plenty of World Cup fever in Frankfurt.

There will be plenty of World Cup fever in Frankfurt.

Football sightseeing

There's quite a lot to see in Frankfurt. After all, Germany’s 32 panelled, leather, hand-stitched heart beats in Frankfurt. In other words, the Zentrale des Deutschen Fussball Bundes(Otto-Fleck-Schneise 6), the German Football Association. Their home, along with the neighbouring WM-OK (World Cup Organising Committee), is adjacent to the Waldstadion. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of the figureheads of German football, perhaps of the Kaiser (Franz Beckenbauer) himself.

A short trip to Bieberer Berg (Bieberer Strasse 282) is also recommended. This is the home of Kickers Offenbach FC, who spent a few glorious years in the upper echelons of the Bundesliga, back in the seventies.

If you decide to stay in Mainhattan, you could do worse than make a pilgrimage to the Brentanobad stadium (Rödelheimer Parkweg 39). This is where the more successful of the Frankfurt clubs plays its home matches. In fact, FFC Frankfurt could probably claim to be the best women’s team in th world. International superstar striker Birgit Prinz and her colleagues play a more cultured version of the game than their Eintracht counterparts, one might argue.

You simply have to see the Frankfurter Römer (Römerberg 23), the Town Hall complete with triumphal balcony. This is where the German team used to hold their trophies aloft ... and more recently the German women’s team has done the same.

In town

There is a saying that goes something like: if you can’t find culture in Frankfurt, then you are in the wrong Frankfurt (a smaller town of the same name lies on the River Oder, much, much further east). Frankfurt am Main, meanwhile, veritably froths over with cultural attractions. Theater, opera, museums, a delightful Altstadt (the old town center) around the Römer. Should the days ref not be to your liking, head for the Fountain of Justice -- or Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (Am Römerberg).

Strongly recommended: the cultural mile along the Museumsuferand the Goethe-Haus (Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25), birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. You should also see the Dom (Domplatz) or cathedral. Until 1356, Germany’s emperors were crowned here.

There is another side to Frankfurt, however, there, where men in suits shuffle between high-rise office blocks. Have a peek at the Börse (Börsenplatz 2-6) or Stock Exchange, and take in the view from the Main-Towerplatform (Neue Mainzer Strasse 52-58). You will be in need of oxygen afterwards, so inhale deeply as you meander through the enchanting gardens of the Palmengarten (Siesmayerstrasse 61), in the center of the city. Fully fledged tourists also venture across to the south bank of the River Main, to Alt-Sachsenhausen. Here you will find the Apfelweinkneipen - traditional inns offering cider. Look out for the trademark spruce wreaths over the doorway, indicating “cider served here“: Wo’s Kränzche hängt, da wird ausgeschenkt.“ Frankfurters like their cider. The colorful Ebbelwei Express tram weaves through town on the weekends and on holidays, allowing passengers on and off as they please. Needless to say, a bottle of Apfelwein and a bag of pretzels are part of the deal.

Good cooking

Yes, you have to eat. Frankfurt has more than its famous sausages on the menu. Plunge into a Frankfurter Kranz, a fluffy temptress of bisquit, butter cream, brittle and candied cherries. A Christmas favorite, Bethmännchen, decorated with almonds, are lighter. Hearty is probably the best way to describe Frankfurt cuisine. Ribs and cabbage is a classic, gently smoked pork , generally eaten cold with a slice of bread if you don’t care for cabbage. The Romans supposedly brought the now legendary green sauce to Frankfurt -- magic potion of seven herbs and mighty tasty at that. For extreme cuisine, order „Handkäs mit Musik“, a cheese made from curdled milk, covered with oil, vinegar and onion sauce, served with bread. And more onions.

If that’s too Hessian for you, you might be more familiar with the fare in “Größenwahn“ (Lenaustrasse 97), reasonably priced and frequented by artists, gays and lesbians in the north of town. Excellent food you can get hooked on but be sure to book in advance.

“MoschMosch“ (Wilhelm-Leuschner-Strasse 78 / Luginsland 1) is unusual, a Japanese noodles bar, restaurant and takeaway rolled into one. All noodles prepared on site, of course, with crispy, fresh vegetables. The dishes have inspiring names like “morning sun“ and “high flyer“ but are low in fat and price as well.

The same can be said of the prices at “7Bello“ (Niddastrasse 82), home of the best pizzas in town. If Mummy and Daddy are tugging at your shirtsleeves, let them invite you to “Stalburg“ (Glauburgstrasse 80). This is one of Frankfurt’s prettiest gardens. Dine on traditional Frankfurt fayre and cider (Apfelwein) on tap.

Should your wallet need a greater challenge, venture into the “Tigerpalast“ (Heiligenkreuzgasse 16-20), an elegant, prize-winning restaurant des arts. The chef has a soft spot for all things Mediterranean, except on Mondays.

Something out of the ordinary to round things off. “Cocoon“ (Carl-Benz-Strasse 21) is as relaxed as it gets, one dines whilst lying down, separated from one’s neighbor by a curtain. Cocoon is, in fact, a nightclub but also houses two restaurants. The styling and color schemes are very much in tune with the electronic music that dominates the later hours at this location. The food has its roots in Austrian cuisine but is unmistakeably international. This is the insiders’ tip for dinner and dancing, under the watchful eye of its owner Mr. Sven Väth.

Night games

Our Mainhattan night on the tiles begins in “King Karnehameha“ (Hanauer Landstrasse 192), a creation of the wonderfully named Radu Rosetti. Intended as a homage to cult detective series in general and that old moustachioed devil Magnum in particular, the King’s eighties flair has since been swamped by business students and young engineers. High on testerone and full to bursting.

It is a similar story at “Club 101“ (Taunusstrasse 2-4) in the Japan Center. The Web site carries a warning about the goons on the door, but once inside the place is a revelation. Over 100 meters up, the view is special. A double length happy hour will ease you onto the dancefloor to an acceptable collection of disco classics.

“Robert Johnson“ (Nordring 131), on the other hand, is said to be one of the top house and techno addresses in Europe. Unlike the “Clubkeller“ (Textorstrasse 26)in Frankfurt’s attractiveTextorstrasse, which caters for indie kids, punk rockers and blues fans. If you prefer smoky cellars to crowds of gel plastered clubheads and clubbettes, this is the place for you.

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