Flights from South Africa to Frankfurt land at Frankfurt am Main Airport (also known as Rhein-Main-Flughafen), which is the busiest airport by passenger traffic in Germany and serves as the main hub for Lufthansa, including Lufthansa CityLine and Lufthansa Cargo as well as Condor AeroLogic. The distance from Frankfurt airport to the city centre is approximately 13km. You can fly direct from Johannesburg to Frankfurt, and can also fly from Cape Town or Durban, with layovers. The cheapest flights to Frankfurt often go via cities such as Amsterdam or Doha. When it comes to visa requirements for visiting Frankfurt, South Africans must apply for a short-stay Schengen visa – the correct visa for holidays in Germany. Frankfurt is the business and financial centre of Germany, known as a ‘gateway to Europe’ for its central location. Running along both sides of the Main River (hence ‘Frankfurt am Main’), Frankfurt is a truly cosmopolitan city where visitors can enjoy everything from an entire neighbourhood of museums – the Museumsufer – to taverns serving traditional Apfelwein. Popular events include Oktoberfest (in September), the Christmas market (in December) and the Frankfurt Book Fair (in October).
A trip to Frankfurt offers something for everyone. Frankfurt’s quaint Römerberg square is the historical old medieval centre of the city, which suffered extensive damage in World War II. The area was rebuilt under a lengthy restoration project, with the Römer (Frankfurt’s city hall) and more than a dozen historic houses being reconstructed and many new ones built in the traditional timber-framed style. The Staedel Museum is a must for art lovers, with paintings by the likes of Van Gogh, Degas, Monet and Picasso. Goethe House – the birthplace of Germany’s most famous author and poet – provides an authentic experience of the environment in which Goethe grew up, while the Frankfurt Goethe Museum features paintings from the era in which he lived and worked. The Palmengarten Botanical Garden is a palm house and garden; a paradise of plants from all over the world, grown in thematic gardens and greenhouses. For panoramic views over Frankfurt, head to the top of Main Tower, one of the city’s tallest buildings with a striking glass façade. At the top, 200m up, you’ll find a viewing platform and restaurant. Also worth seeing are the Frankfurt Cathedral, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum, the Frankfurt Zoo and the Deutsches Filmmuseum (German Film Museum).
Frankfurt am Main's oldest and busiest shopping area is located along Zeil Street, a pedestrian mile extending from the Frankfurt Zoo to the Hauptwache Plaza and brimming with high-street chains, restaurants, upscale shops and big German department stores such as Karstadt. The tree-lined Goethe Straße is home to the likes of Gucci and Versace, Tiffany and Prada. On nearby Schiller Straße you will find more quality clothing and gift shops, plus a lovely market every Friday. Berger Straße is a more characterful choice, with second-hand outlets and – particularly in the lower part, close to Frankfurt’s centre – chic, interesting boutiques and family-owned shops alongside restaurants and bars. Brücken Straße is also great for local designers and boutiques, while Schweizer Straße offers foodie delights alongside modern fashion. If you enjoy shopping at a mall, head to MyZeil, Nordwestzentrum, HessenCenter or Skyline Plaza Frankfurt. When it comes to street markets, Frankfurt has several markets around the city on almost any given day. The markets sell mostly fresh produce and flowers, but on Saturdays, the Frankfurter flea market takes place at either the Schaumainkai or the Eastern Harbour at the Lindley Straße. The East Harbour flea market also sells typical flea market items – old books and records, porcelain, crockery, paintings and vintage clothing.
Germany is known for fast, reliable and efficient transport systems and public transport in Frankfurt lives up to this reputation via the metro, tram and bus lines of the Rhine-Main Transport Association (RMV). Frankfurt’s metro system consists of the S-bahn (nine routes of suburban rail) and the U-bahn (nine routes of combined tram and underground lines). You’ll find touch-screen ticket machines in stations, usually with an English option. For day trips, Germany’s state-run rail network, Deutsche Bahn, connects Frankfurt with several long-distance rail stations. For those who prefer not to travel via public transport, taxis offer a convenient way to travel or you can opt for the Uber or Mytaxi apps.
Accommodation in Frankfurt comes in many guises. As with any big city, you’ll find everything from top international hotels such as The Westin Grand and Hilton to small boutique hotels, Airbnbs or hostels. The Zentrum-Altstadt is a great area in which to stay, especially for a first-time visit to Frankfurt. In the heart of the city, this neighbourhood is home to many of Frankfurt’s (rebuilt) medieval buildings and historic landmarks. Sachsenhausen is a good choice for nightlife, and for the Museumsufer (Museum Embankment) – a cluster of 12 museums, mostly on the south bank. Gutleutviertel, located next to the Main River and one of the newest neighbourhoods in Frankfurt, is another cool place to stay with trendy bistros and shops and an eclectic alternative scene. Those on a budget should consider Bahnhofsviertel, the neighbourhood which was Frankfurt’s red light district and today is a buzzing area with bars, nightclubs, restaurants and shops. Bornheim, meanwhile, is a scenic part of Frankfurt, good for families due to its proximity to the zoo and botanical gardens.
Direct flights from Johannesburg to Frankfurt are available with South African Airways and Lufthansa. Other airlines that fly to Frankfurt from Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban include Qatar Airways, Swiss, Turkish Airlines, Etihad Airways and KLM. A direct flight from Johannesburg to Frankfurt takes approximately 10 hours 40 minutes, but your flight time to Frankfurt will of course be longer if you have any layovers or are travelling non-direct from Cape Town or Durban. The Frankfurt am Main Airport is located about 13km from the city centre and you can travel into Frankfurt by train, by transfer or with the Frankfurt Airport bus.
For something unique during your visit to Frankfurt, visit the DialogMuseum, where you will participate in an hour-long tour in absolute darkness. The idea is to experience daily life without any visual components, the way a blind or visually impaired person would. Your guide (themselves a visually impaired person) will lead you through four rooms bringing up a range of emotions. Also worth a visit is the 10-storey Eschenheimer Turm, which once guarded the northern wall of Frankfurt’s enormous medieval wall. Very little of the wall has survived into the 21st century – the wall was mostly pulled down in the 1800s when defences were modernised and this tower from the 15th century, although up for demolition, was eventually spared and named a monument. Eschenheimer Turm is the oldest unchanged landmark in Frankfurt and, if you book ahead, it’s possible to dine at the posh restaurant inside it.