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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the town’s most famous resident, once said “Frankfurt is full of curiosities”. There’s still a lot of truth in these words today. One of these curiosities is the interplay between the traditional and the modern which manifests itself in the mix of imposing skyscrapers and tiny half-timbered houses. Frankfurt, which first and foremost presents itself as a cosmopolitan city, owes a great deal of its size to small villages and towns like Bornheim, Sachsenhausen and Höchst, which are becoming increasingly incorporated into Frankfurt itself.

After the bombing campaign of March 1944, Frankfurt’s Altstadt (Old Town) was almost completely destroyed. There are, however, many sights to see here – the Römer, Leinwandhaus, Paulskirche(church), Dom (cathedral) and the Goethemuseum (Goethe museum) are only a few yards apart from each other. If you want to go shopping after you’ve been sightseeing then you’ll be at home in the Innenstadt (town centre) and you’re guaranteed to find what you want in arcades such as the Schillerpassage or the Freßgass Passage. Evening entertainment in the form of theatre or other cultural pursuits can be found in places like Schmiere, Tigerpalast or the Volkstheater.

In the 1920’s more than 20,000 people lived in the splendid houses close to the Hauptbahnhof (Main Station), which was opened in 1888. Today the Bahnhofsviertel (station quarter) is home to just 4000 residents. The dubious descent of the area into a red light district began in the seventies and a multitude of sex shops, gambling halls, brothels and strip bars has since shaped the street scene here. Other cultures are also being gradually assimilated in this quarter. The English Theatre and the chamber choir in the Logengebäude attract business people and other workers on their way back from work. A welcome break after a day spent in one of the high rise buildings of the neighbouring Bankenviertel area.

The some 40,000 students of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University determine the character of the Bockenheim district. Cafés, bistros, pubs and shops in the area round the numerous institutes and concrete tower blocks of the science faculty have focused their attentions on the young and knowledge-hungry clientele. The Theater am Turm (TAT) in the former tram depot is a place for their innovative theatre and ballet productions.

Frankfurt’s ‘merry village’ of Bornheim spans the divide between traditional and trendy. In the old cider pubs, refurbished bars, boutiques and corner shops attract a varied clientele. The heart of this residential area lies in the shopping street Berger Straße. You’ll find entertainment in Mousonturm, the building frequented by artists, as well as in the Berger Kino (Cinema). If you are in need of relaxation, why not try the Chinesischer Garten (Chinese garden) or for a bit of fun, the Eissporthalle (Ice Skating hall). The Dippemess is also perfect for a spot of light relief.

The district of Höchst, which gave its name to the world famous paint factory, was incorporated into Frankfurt in 1928. The Altstadt (old town) and the castle on the Nidda estuary in the River Main have been undergoing careful restoration since the seventies. In the Neues Theater Höchst, a busy culture scene with variety theatre, cabaret and children’s theatre has been established. Large concerts and performances take place in the Jahrhunderthalle and the highlight of this district’s social life is the Schloß- und Altstadtfest (Castle and Old Town festival) in summer.

The most densely populated and popular residential area of Frankfurt is Nordend which boasts pleasant streets and old houses built between 1871-73, as well as many pubs and small shops. The area used to be dominated by the districts’ left wing alternative scene but today many bankers live here alongside the student population. People meet up in one of the many Italian, Greek or Turkish restaurants or in bars such as Harveys or Kasimir. A true gem is the Holzhausernschlößen situated in a wonderful park.

Formerly a really dilapidated working-class area, the Ostend is today a much sought after district. This neighbourhood features more than just dirty industrial plants: it also offers imposing villas and a lot of culture. Literary enthusiasts meet in the Romanfabrik and future advertising strategists study at the Academy for Communication and Design. Furniture design shops such as Kontrast, Werbeagenturen and Filmemacher have made themselves at home in the former manufacturing halls. And for those out on the town, there are hip locations such as the Loft-House.

The Sachsenhausen district on the other side of the River Main is known throughout the world because of its old half-timbered housing district and cider industry. Old Sachsenhausen has lost some of its charm as an enjoyable tourist area but it still has a lot to offer, such as the imposing town houses on the bank of the Main, trendy locations such as the Stereo Bar and fine boutiques on the elegant Schweizer Straße. Art and culture are alive on the museum bank, where the Filmmuseum, Ethnological museum and Städel stand close to each other.

Standing in the shadow of high rise buildings and banks is the Westend. Students and speculators used to demonstrate about the pulling down here of houses built between 1871-3. Today offices and banks give the area its character and owners of the expensive flats and chic rented houses meet up to jog in the Grüneburgpark or relax in the Palmengarten. The renovated Synagogue is worth seeing as is the monumental IG-Farbenhaus and the Alte Oper on the edge of the district.

History of Frankfurt

When the Saxons beat the king of the Franks, Charlemagne, he fled and came to the Main with his warriors, but the powerful river blocked his way. Then a deer came out of the riverside forest and crossed the river by a ford (Furt). The Franks (Franken) followed it and thus could escape their persecutors. Because of his joy at their salvation, Charlemagne allowed a town to be built to protect the ford. This town was named Frankenfurt.

Each and every resident of Frankfurt knows the story of the king and the deer. But the origins of the town go back even further than this, as the first foundations were already standing 7000 years before. At the time of Christ’s birth, the Romans arrived at the cathedral hill, followed by the Alemannians, then the Franks. Around 700 AD, on the site of today’s cathedral, a stone church and the king’s palace was built, where Charlemagne signed a document ‘to the well-known town with the name of Franconofurd’.

Frankfurt was described as a “town” as early as 1140 and the ascent of the place into a centre of power and trade took its course. From 1240 onwards, the blossoming settlement was the venue for an annual trade fair. From 1330 a spring trade fair took place as well as the traditional autumn trade fair with goods from distant trading places. A book fair was held for the first time in about 1480.

From 1147 onwards, the election of the German king took place in Frankfurt and the right to this was established in the ‘Golden Bull’ in 1356. Frankfurt became a royal free town in 1372 and ten kings in total were crowned in the Kaiserdom.

In the 14th century, Frankfurt had a population of about 10,000 and was bursting at the seams. From 1333 onwards a new city wall with new moats and fortification towers was built. Because the town hall was also too small, the town bought the Patrizierhaus (patrician’s house) ‘Zum Roemer’ in 1405.

In 1533, Frankfurt joined the Lutheran denomination and consequently was taken over by the Imperial Army. Once freedom of religion had been established in the Augsburger Religionsfrieden (Augsburg religious peace) in 1555, Frankfurt was allowed to call itself a Protestant ‘Free City’ of the Roman Empire.

In the so-called Fettmilch Rebellion, social unrest led to the fleeing of the patrician powers from the town. The ghetto on Frankfurt’s Judengasse by the alten jüdischen Friedhof (Old Jewish cemetery) was plundered and in the following period many an attack took place on the Jewish community.

On the 28th August 1749, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt. In 1782 the first town theatre was opened and Friedrich Schiller came from Mannheim to Frankfurt. After the collapse of the Napoleonic Empire, the ‘Free City’ was the permanent seat for the Legation Council of the German Federation.

The first German National Assembly met on the 18th May 1848 in the Paulskirche. But the passing of a constitution and the choosing of a new German Emperor failed and the people’s rebellion that followed was bloodily suppressed by the Prussian troops.

During the ‘Deutsche Krieg’ (German war) between Prussia and Austria, Prussian troops occupied neutral Frankfurt in 1866 and made it a dependent provincial town. In 1867 Frankfurt’s cathedral was burnt to the ground.

With the start of the Second German Reich in 1870-1, Frankfurt again experienced an upswing ‘ bridges were built, water pipes installed and industrial enterprises founded. Representational buildings such as the Alte Oper, Hauptbahnhof (Main Station) and Städel were built. Through many expansion programmes, the town area increased in size more and more.

The First World War left few traces. In October 1914, the university was opened and the trade fair was revived in 1920. The November Revolution led to the setting up of a Worker’s and Soldier’s Council but this was soon deprived of its power. In the following years, a stadium, racetrack, big market hall and airport were built.

From 1929 onwards the world’s economic crisis was noticeable. On 12th March 1933 the National Socialists took over power in the Römer and the deportation of Frankfurt Jews began in 1941. From the autumn of 1943 onwards, Frankfurt was bombed by the Allies. The invasion of American soldiers and their occupation of the IG-Farbenhaus on 26th March 1945 ended the National Socialist regime.

With the ‘Enttrümmerung der Stadt’ period (raising the town from ruins), the rebuilding phase was set in motion. Between 1945 and 1964 more than 150,000 flats were built. The building of high rise administration and industrial buildings as well as the founding of the Bankenviertel significantly changed the town’s appearance.

In 1949 Frankfurt lost out to Bonn in the race to become the capital city of Germany. The town subsequently developed its international economic metropolis. With over 400 internal and foreign credit institutions, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the headquarters of the European Central bank as well as the Burse (Stock Exchange), Frankfurt is one of the world’s most important financial centers.