So now that I’ve had about a week to recover from jet lag, I’m happy to say I’ve arrived in Germany!! Robin and I have both been feeling a little under the weather after doing ‘all the things’ (as well as dealing with our crazy stopover), so we had a few rest days. A few days ago however, we were able to really explore Frankfurt, and what better way to do so than a free walking tour!
If you’re in a new city that has one – DO IT! Especially in Europe there’s a lot of great walking tours that not only get you acquainted with the city, but the guides can also give you tips on good places to eat and drink. Plus you just might make some new friends to wander around the city with!
In Frankfurt there’s a group called Frankfurt Free Alternative Walking Tours and they have 14 guides in their group. They offer two tours daily – one at 10am and one at 2pm, both starting at the corner of Kaiserstraße and Moselstraße. We opted for the 2pm tour as we’re not morning people, and our tour guide was the lovely Tjarda.
We started in the main station quarter which is comprised of 16 blocks which held the original three main train stations. However due to the demand of tourism in the 19th century, the city build a brand new one where the current Hauptbahnhof stands. It was the biggest train station until 1915 when Leipzig built a larger one. This area is also great for finding a wide range of international foods, but if you’re looking for something German this is not the place to be!
Afterwards we passed by the Cream Music Store. For Elvis enthusiasts this might peak your interest as he served his military service in Frankfurt. In order to give back to the people, he purchased a guitar from this music store and played some concerts. Other greats such as Billy Idol and John Lennon have made purchases here, and the store has a full list of all their famous clientele within it.
We then wandered towards the red light district, but on the way Tjarda pointed out one of the legal drug houses in Frankfurt. To clarify, it is illegal to buy or sell drugs in Germany, but it is not illegal to consume them. In the past the city had a lot of issues with users actually dying on the streets. As a result, legal houses were set up where users are provided with not only a place but also clean needles. This cleaned up the area as it took people off the streets and prevented the spread of disease and injury. Houses like those in Frankfurt are found throughout Germany, with München being the only city without them. A few more blocks and we were in the red light district, which is actually one of the safest areas in Frankfurt as its police presence is the highest in the city. Tjarda then talked about the most famous brothel which was ran by the German Mafia. Referred to as a walking house (because unlike in Amsterdam when the ladies are on display, you must go inside in order to get the night rolling), this particular one is quite the money maker. On average it makes over €500 million in one year alone! As prostitution is legal in Germany, those working in the profession are tested and supported to ensure that everything is done safely.
Our next stop was in what many call ‘Mainhattan’ – a mash-up referring to the river which runs through Frankfurt, and the skyscrapers within the city. Fun fact: all of the skyscrapers except for one are owned by banks, with the highest being 300m tall. Frankfurt is also home to the Euro Central Bank. After passing through we stopped by the house where the famous author Goethe lived. Tjarda told us that the story of Faust was actually based on a law case Goethe was involved with.
Frankfurt’s Altstadt is not actually that old, as all buildings except for one have been rebuilt since 1945. Despite this the area is absolutely beautiful with traditional German architecture and the iconic cobblestone streets of the time. Here we also learned that Frankfurt loves their Apfelwein (apple wine) which is made from fermented apples. You can have it three ways – pure which is quite sour, with water (which in my opinion makes it tastes similar to Strongbow), and lastly with lemonade. I have yet to try it as is or with lemonade, but I think the latter will be my favourite!
Bonus Germany information: Tjarda explained to us what the three colours of the country’s flag stand for. The black represents the dark times early in the country’s history; the red refers to the blood shed during the revolutions of 1848 and 1849, and lastly the gold refers to what they hoped were the upcoming golden times.
After passing by the beautiful Main riverside and saying hello to the Eisener Steg, we arrived at our last stop. The Hauptwache, or main police station, is now a bustling square with plenty of malls, restaurants, and is fully pedestrian (my favourite). After enjoying the view It is here where Tjarda informed us of the last bit of fun German trivia, as there used to be a vegetarian restaurant located close by that Hitler used to frequent. Now the jury is still out on whether or not Hitler was indeed vegetarian (a quick look on Google and it seems to be quite the debated topic), but Tjarda told us that his doctor said eating chicken wasn’t good for him, hence he began to steer clear of many meats. Afterwards Tjarda took us to an awesome lookout point at the top of the Zeilgalerie that’s definitely a must-see, especially since it might not be there after this summer!
With that our tour ended, and we felt much more acquainted with the city of Frankfurt. Anyone who is looking to get to know a city more should check out tours like these since you not only learn about the city but you get some exercise too! Just don’t go and play laser tag afterwards like we did – your legs will hate you for days.