Germany isn’t just about beer, Oktoberfest, or fairy-tale castles. There’s much more to find, see, and do in the country with a wide array of choices throughout the country.
But with tens of millions of visitors streaming into the country every year, are there any “hidden gems” left to discover?
The phrase “hidden gem” is mentioned as an overused cliché. Yet, the phrase can be turned over on its head to emphasize the individual letters in “GEMS”. That word is no longer a four-letter burden or curse. I’m creating an informative and more engaging acronym.
I shine the spotlight on places where most arrive by plane – on Germany’s five largest cities. They are Frankfurt am Main, 0.7 million; Köln (Cologne), 1.0 million; München (Munich), 1.4 million; Hamburg, 1.8 million, and Berlin, 3.5 million (source).
Although it’s impossible to fit my favourites into a handful of categories, I’m listing for each city the following “G-E-M-S”: a Green Space, a place to Eat, a Museum, and something significant or Special. By design, the individual letters also work beautifully in German: Grünanlagen, Essen gehen, Museum, and Sondertipp, respectively.
Frankfurt am Main
The series begins in Frankfurt am Main, where a vast majority will find their introduction to the country. Frankfurt on the river Main (pronounced “mine”) is not only the primary gateway into Germany; the city is also the nation’s financial headquarters. Some may criticize the city for “non-beauty” and obsession with money to go along with the city’s nicknames “Bankfurt” or “MAIN-hattan”. But the people of Frankfurt work hard, and they also take their food, drink, art, culture, and leisure time very seriously.
Travelling within the city is easy to do with public transport on S-Bahn, U-Bahn trains, or Strassenbahn (streetcars).
Green space : Mainufer
You don’t have to go far to escape the hubbub of the city for something a little more tranquil. Along the banks of the river Main, or the Mainufer, are paved walks lined with grassy fields and leafy trees. A walk on the south bank of the Main, or Schaumainkai, produces a view of the tall city towers. In summer, people lie along the river for beer or wine, picnic nibbles, a chat and some laughs with some friends, or a simple snooze on a warm quiet afternoon.
Transit stop: S/U Hauptbahnhof, U Schweizer Platz, or Tram Stresemannallee/Gartenstrasse.
Eat : Sümela II
The spread and quality of food at the Turkish restaurant Sümela II are impressive. Start with the appetizer platter with bread (pide), dips, and salads; move next to cuts of lamb or chicken grilled over coals; and finish the meal with sweet Künefe drizzled in honey. We entered the joint as a “tough crowd” with discerning palates. We left extremely satisfied: delicious food, full bellies, happy people.
Website: Sümela II.
Transit stop: S/U Hauptwache, or U Eschenheimer Tor.
Museum : Museum für Kommunikation
How do we communicate with each other? How do we relay messages and news to one another? Do we inform or do we deceive? How have delivery mechanisms changed with time and technology? The Museum for Communication examines these questions from a historical perspective, and challenges visitors with possible answers for present and future.
Website: The Museum for Communication.
Transit stop: U Schweizer Platz, or Tram Schweizer-/Gartenstrasse.
Special : Main Tower
The Main Tower with its tall thin solid “candy-cane” pillar has an observation level about 200 metres above ground. It’s uncovered up top and exposed entirely to the elements, and visitors get a complete view of the entire city and surrounding area. Of all the city’s skyscrapers, the Main Tower offers the only public viewing area, and it’s high enough you can wave across the way at people working in the Commerzbank Tower. That alone is almost better than the view.
Website: Main Tower.
Transit stop: S Taunusanlage, S/U Hauptwache, or U Alte Oper.
Along with the location of the city’s primary train station, the map below shows the following G-E-M-S in Frankfurt am Main:
- G: Green Space (Grünanlagen) – Mainufer,
- E: place to Eat (Essen gehen) – Sümela II,
- M: Museum für Kommunikation,
- and S: Special (Sondertipp) – Main Tower.
Regional & National Transport
Frequent local S-Bahn S8 and S9 trains run several times per hour between Frankfurt airport’s regional train station, Frankfurt (Main) Flughafen Regionalbahnhof, and the city’s main train station, Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof. Additional regional trains supplement travel in the short leg between airport and city. Each one-way trip is under 15 minutes.
From other locations around the country, Deutsche Bahn trains to Frankfurt am Main are approximately 4.5 hours from Berlin, 4 hours from Hamburg, 1 hour from Köln, and 3 hours from München.
I made all of the photos above, and this post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
PostScript: check out the YouTube video, “Backpacker Survival Guide: Frankfurt”, by Mike Corey of Kick the Grind dot TV, for the German National Tourism Board.