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Insider Guide: Best of Frankfurt
By Joe Yogerst, for CNN
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The Commerzbank Tower plays well with its 600-year-old neighbors.
CNN Insider Guides are thoroughly checked for accuracy. Given the fluid nature of the travel industry, however, some listings may fall out of date before guides can be updated. The best practice is to confirm current information on official websites before making plans to visit any business or attraction.
(CNN)Frankfurt looks and feels more like a modern American city than any other German metropolis.
The towering steel-and-glass skyline spawned the nickname "Mainhattan," while its more than 300 banks -- and the German stock market -- prompt others to call it "Bankfurt."
But scratch beneath the surface and a very German city emerges, one where older traditions like beer gardens, street markets and Teutonic opera mix easily with Michelin-star bistros, fashion boutiques and party boats on the River Main.
Almost completely destroyed during World War II, Frankfurt's Altstadt (Old Town) is a model of architectural resurrection and adaptive reuse, a maze of cobblestone streets and squares flanked by medieval churches, palaces and townhouses.
Across the river is leafy Sachsenhausen with its apple wine taverns and museum row.
On either side of Goethe University, Westend and Bockenheim offer bohemian alternatives to the glitz of nearby downtown.
Though the city's population falls just short of 700,000, Frankfurt feels like a bigger town where big experiences await. Here's where to find the biggest and best of them.
With its glass tower and shiny saddleback roof, the 28-story Jumeirah holds its own among the architectural icons of downtown.
But the ultramodern abode stands out in many other ways, from the rooftop beehives that produce the hotel's own honey to body-heat detectors and motion sensors that regulate temperatures and energy consumption in the guest rooms.
Overlooking the Zeil pedestrian precinct and a seven-minute walk from Goethstrasse, the Jumeirah boasts a best of Frankfurt location for a shopping expedition.
The main train station and old town are also within walking distance.
Frankfurt's wildest new hotel overlooks the river and Osthafen docklands on the central city's eastern edge.
Built as a flourmill in 1520, the stout riverside structure is where the writer Goethe met his first love.
Now it's an art hotel with décor that ranges from antique (exposed stone walls) to offbeat (horse lamps).
The 18 rooms and suites are thoroughly modern, with Wi-Fi, widescreen TVs and marble bathrooms.
The riverside Summer Garden offers cold beer and traditional German snacks, while the indoor Winter Garden specializes in modern German food including local specialties like Grüne Sosse (hard-boiled eggs and potatoes in a green sauce).
This swank Westend eatery personifies the new wave of global cuisine that's swept Frankfurt in recent years.
Both décor and dishes summon the exotic East -- Japan, China and Southeast Asia.
Giant Buddha heads, towering bamboo shafts and muted lighting give the dining room a temple-like feel.
The food is equally interesting. Among Zenzakan's signature dishes are lobster soup with red Thai curry and lobster tempura, teriyaki glazed salmon, pepper-crusted miso black cod and "XO" hot chili pepper Georgia wildcat prawns.
Renowned for its handmade cakes and pies, Café Laumer has been a Frankfurt favorite since 1919.
Housed in a beautiful old building in the Westend university district, the café serves breakfast, lunch and light dinner daily.
The extensive menu includes soups, salads, quiche, croissants and sandwiches as well as local specialties like schnitzel, sausages and Frankfurter tafelspitz (boiled beef in a green sauce). There's also a range of teas and coffees, as well as wine, beer and spirits from around the continent.
Located on the pedestrian-friendly Fressgass, Ebert's is an eating institution among both Germans and expats.
As the name implies, this eclectic deli specializes in soups -- vegetable, chicken, pea, potato, lentil, liver dumpling, goulash, chili con carne.
But there are all kinds of dishes -- spinach fettuccine with veal strips in gorgonzola sauce, meatloaf with "gypsy sauce" and mashed potatoes, German-style pancakes with raisin and almond applesauce, and wild salmon fillet with leeks.
You can eat on the shaded sidewalk tables outside or "take away" food to nearby Bockenheimer Anlage park for a picnic around the water features and outdoor sculptures.
The good, the bad and the beautiful people flock to this upscale Frankfurt nightclub, where world-class DJs spin a wide variety of contemporary and classic dancehall tunes.
Premium tequilas, vodkas, whiskeys and tropical cocktails are served at the long tubular bar, and there's plenty of champagne in the coolers for special occasions.
Bottle service is available in the exclusive golden niches at the back of the dance floor.
Kane & Abel, Goethestrasse 31-33; +49 160 9011 8257
A throwback to the golden age of German cabaret, the "Tiger Palace" presents a snazzy blend of live music, dance, comedy, mime, magic, acrobats and animal acts in a dinner-theater setting downtown.
Over the years, the show has embraced an increasing number of "nouveau cirque" performances like roller skating acrobatics, strap acts, avant-garde juggling and modern dance, enhanced by cutting edge sound and lighting techniques.
The club stages two shows a night of eight acts each.
Guests can opt for a dinner-show package or go solo (cover charge and drinks only).
American GIs brought jazz to Frankfurt after World War II and it wasn't long before the city spawned the best jazz club in Europe.
Founded in 1952, the legendary Jazzkeller has hosted Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie.
The cozy basement club is still going strong after 60 years with live music four nights a week and a "cool music mix" dance party every Friday until well after midnight.
In addition to headliners, the club also showcases emerging jazz talents from Europe, Latin America and the U.S.
The Jazzkeller, Kleine Bockenheimer Str. 18a, Frankfurt, Hesse Germany; +49 69 28 85 37
Despite all of the great beer and wine produced in the region, Frankfurt's favorite libation is apfelwein (apple wine).
Sachsenhausen on the south bank is renowned for its apfelwein taverns, none better than Adolf Wagner, established in 1931 and still owned by the same family.
Braeburn single variety apfelwein, created from fruit grown just outside of Frankfurt, is the house specialty.
The tavern also serves traditional German dishes like pork knuckles, schnitzel, sausages, potato salad and sauerkraut.
It's a sprawling place with several distinct bar areas, and both indoor and outdoor seating during warmer weather.
Apfelwein Wagner, Schweizer Strasse 71 Frankfurt am Main, D-60594 Frankfurt, Hesse Germany; +49 69 61 25 65
The city's main shopping street for more than a century, the Zeil stretches roughly a mile across central Frankfurt.
The eastern half is motorized, the western half a broad pedestrian street spangled with trees, outdoor cafes, department stores and boutiques.
Anchor tenants like Karstadt and Kaufhof have been there for what seems like forever.
But the ever-evolving thoroughfare has newer shopping places, in particular the flashy MyZeil, an American-style shopping mall with a fitness center, food court, game arcades and child care to complement the diverse shopping.
Frankfurt's version of "thrift" shopping hawks barely-used designer frocks at a literal fraction of what you might pay in the branded boutiques on Goethestrasse.
Armani, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Alexander McQueen -- the big names are here.
But Kleidoskop also offers plenty of new fashion from the best of Frankfurt's hip, young designers, plus shoes, handbags, belts and other accessories.
It's located in Nordend near the Eschenheimer Tor subway station.
Kleidoskop, Oeder Weg 56; +49 69 550 837
Football fashion and accessories are the forte of this sporting goods store in the old town, not far from the Römerberg square.
Jerseys, socks, posters, pennants, badges, bags, mugs, video games -- you name it.
The shop takes its name from city's pro soccer team (Eintract Frankfurt). And while the hometown squad may sell the majority of the merchandise, the shop also carries wares from every other Bundesliga team as well as foreign favorites like Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventas.
Eintract, Bethmannstrasse 19; +49 69 283 010
The Frankfurt branch of this Swiss luxury watch and jewelry emporium overlooks the Rossmarkt (Horse Market) square between downtown and the old town.
Given the wide selection, this two-story marketplace is without a doubt the best in Frankfurt for shopping high-end timepieces, diamonds, gold and other baubles.
In addition to its own creations, Bucherer carries treasures by Cartier, Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Chopard, Patek Philippe and other luxury lines.
Bucherer, Kaiserstrasse 1, +49 69 138 821 04
Germany's second oldest porcelain maker has been creating fine plates, cups and animal figurines since 1746, when it received a royal license from the crown prince and archbishop of Mainz.
The company's "transparent manufactory" in west Frankfurt includes a walkthrough factory tour, during which visitors see the entire creative process from start to finish, as well as a chance to browse the showroom for take-home treasures.
This cobblestone square in the old town has been a hub of Frankfurt life since the 9th century.
It's served as a venue for many of the city's most important events, from imperial elections and medieval jousting to public executions and Christmas fairs.
Here are found historic buildings including the Old Nikolai Church, St. Paul's Church and the structure from which the square takes its name -- the exquisite Römer, home of Frankfurt's city government for more than 600 years. The Imperial Hall displays the portraits of the 52 Holy Roman emperors.
Due south of the square is the Frankfurt History Museum, highlighted by the permanent collection, "Collectors and Donors of Frankfurt," which features the private art and artifact collections of a dozen well-known Frankfurters.
With a renowned airport and busy train station, it's easy to forget that Frankfurt is also a river city, but its full name is Frankfurt am Main.
It's only in recent times, however, that the River Main has come into its own as a recreational outlet and tourist attraction.
Primus' Nautilus cruiser.
Primus Line runs a variety of trips along the Main in modern triple-decker river boats including short sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises and after-dark skyline tours.
Its full day trips include an upstream cruise to Seligenstadt monastery and Aschaffenburg Castle, as well as a downstream trip to the confluence of the Main and Rhine and the romantic castle towns along the Middle Rhine Valley.
All trips depart from the north bank (Mainkai), just upstream from the Eiserner Steg bridge.
Frankfurt's popular Saturday flea market now rotates between two waterfront locations -- the Schaumainkai promenade on the river's south side and a new site on Lindleystrasse around the Osthafen docklands.
Hundreds of stalls hawk a heady blend of new arts and crafts, vintage clothing, antiques and genuine junk, as well as food and drink.
Merchandise often changes by the season, with yuletide decorations, gifts and foods all the rage in the run-up to Christmas.
The market runs 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Frankfurter Flohmarkt, Schaumainkai oder Lindleystrasse immer abwechselnd 9:00 bis 14:00 Uhr, Frankfurt, Hesse Germany;
Like other river cities in central Europe, one of the hottest summer trends in Frankfurt is pop-up beaches at spots along the Main.
In addition to sandy strands and swimming spots, these mock tropical hangouts feature beach chairs and colorful umbrellas, sand volleyball courts, tents serving food and drinks, boules and other games, and either live bands or DJs spinning the latest summer sounds from around the world.
The King Kamehameha Beach Club at the western (downstream) tip of Hafeninsel Island is probably the best known, but the number is growing with each new summer.
Other Frankfurt strands include Orange Beach in Griesheim and Niddastrand Beach Club on the Nidda River.
Frankfurt's latest river renewal project is Westhafen, a mixed-use residential, retail and marina complex on the northern bank of the Main.
Scattered along the waterfront are a number of eateries and drinking spots with spectacular waterfront settings: Café & Bar Marina Westhafen, with its outdoor tables and wooden deck; the Druckwasserwerk restaurant, inside an old Romanesque Revival-style powerhouse; and the ultra-mod Frankfurter Botschaft, with its huge picture windows overlooking the harbor and sandy garden.
The Rheingau wine country sprawls along the Main and Rhine to the west of Frankfurt, producing what many oenophiles consider the world's best Riesling.
While white grapes are the area's bread and butter, the Rheingau also produces excellent Spätburgunder (pinot noir).
Legend holds that Charlemagne mandated the planting of the first vines more than a thousand years ago, but it was Queen Victoria who brought the region's wines to world attention when she became enamored with the Riesling produced by the vineyards around Hochheim village.