Getting Oriented

Legend has it that the Frankish Emperor Charlemagne was chasing a deer on the Main's south bank when the animal plunged into the river and, to the emperor's amazement, crossed it with its head always above water. A stone ridge had made the river shallow at that point. That supposedly was the origin of Frankfurt (literally "Frankish Ford") as an important river crossing. Commerce flourished from then on: to this day Frankfurt is an important center of business and finance.

  • Altstadt and City Center. Frankfurt's downtown includes the Altstadt (Old City), parts of which have been carefully restored after wartime destruction; the Zeil, allegedly Germany's number one "shop 'til you drop" mile; the Fressgass ("Pig-Out Alley"); and the bank district.
  • Ostend. This area near the East Harbor is where you'll find lots of corporations and banks, although there are also some sights, including the zoo, as well as restaurants, cafés, and clubs catering to those working in the neighboring skyscrapers.
  • Messe and Westend. The Westend is a mix of the villas of the prewar rich and a skyscraper extension of the business district. It's a popular place for the city’s elite to live. Messe is the area around Frankfurt’s huge and busy convention center (Messe), but unless you are attending the huge book fair here or Europe’s largest auto show and need a nearby beer or meal to refuel, there’s not much reason to go.
  • Nordend and Bornheim. These residential areas are a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy small neighborhood restaurants and shops.
  • Sachsenhausen. Just across the river from downtown, Sachsenhausen is distinguished by the Apfelwein (Apple Wine) district and the Museumufer (Museum Riverbank). The Apple Wine district, now with every sort of restaurant and tavern, is one big party, especially in summer, when the tables spill out onto traffic-free streets. The Museum Riverbank has seven museums within as many blocks along the riverfront street Schaumainkai.

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