Wanting to take a few days off around Easter 2018, I decided on a trip to Frankfurt – the only major German city I’d not visited before. It had a reputation of being a bit modern and bland – aimed at business rather than pleasure – but I thought I’d take a punt. I’d factored in a night and day in Paris on the way back so I’d have no shortage of pleasure there anyway.
I arrived by the fast and comfortable German ICE train, having got a good deal on a through 1st class ticket from London (including Standard premier on the Eurostar) for a little over £100. Frankfurt station is huge and my hotel was located just opposite the station entrance. It was called the Savoy, which hinted at a grandeur this hotel certainly didn’t posess. But it was a comfortable enough 3* place and had a nice little pool on the top floor.
Just round the corner from the hotel I found myself in the Bahnhofsviertel (station quarter), which is one of the most unappealing and unnerving areas I’ve ever stayed in. A huge red light district – with girls lined up in rooms in multi-storey brothels, sex shops and even more depressingly, rampant homelessness and drug abuse. On one of the days there was a huge police raid on the brothels and organised crime, and yet on my last evening there was a lovely pop up mini wine festival which suggests there is some attempt to gentrify the area. I found it odd that such a run-down area could exist so close to the station and through which commuters and tourists would have to pass to get to the city centre.
I didn’t loiter long in Bahnhofsviertel and almost immediately was presented with a complete contrast – huge modern skyscrapers in the business district. Impressive as they were, it’s not the prettiest area. Further into the centre I found much more pleasant squares and buildings. Crossing the river to the district of Sachsenhausen (saxon houses) I looked back and had a good view of the contrast between old and new Frankfurt.
Sachsenhausen was the highlight of my stay here – a charming little area on the other side of the river from the city centre – a maze of cobbled streets with quirky shops, cafes and bars. It had a distinctly local feel to it and I enjoyed drinking here and chatting to interesting locals and ex-pats.
As for food – I had made the decision to try a vegetarian diet several weeks previously, at the worst possible time. Not feeling comfortable going to fancy restaurants on my own, the choice of pub food or snacks seemed to be overwhelmingly sausage-based, as you may expect. I just about stuck with it, though survived on an almost exclusively cheese-based diet – pizza and nachos mainly!
One afternoon I decided to catch the train to Mainz, a medium sized city about half an hour from Frankfurt. It was very appealing, with a much larger historic centre and lots of pretty squares and churches. Definitely worth a few hours of your time.
I’d say Frankfurt was an interesting place to visit with lots of contrasts between old and new, rich and poor – but not enough to appeal for another visit.