Exploring Frankfurt: A native’s tips on dining, sightseeing and culture | Travel

As the only German city with a skyline of modern office towers, Frankfurt has earned the nickname “Mainhattan” (as in the Main River). Like New York it’s also a major global banking hub, despite its moderate size of around 750,000 inhabitants. We asked Frankfurt native Souâd Benkredda, a managing director at Germany’s DZ Bank AG, what it’s like to work in the city and what visitors shouldn’t miss. Her responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Discover Frankfurt through the eyes of a local, from childhood memories of Palmengarten to favourite business dinner spots like Mikuni and rooftop bar Oosten.(Pixabay)

What places that still exist did you appreciate as a child living in Frankfurt?

The Palmengarten [a botanical garden] was and is fun. There’s a little pond where you can take a paddle boat. Wide steps lead down to the water. As a child, I always thought they were curved in the middle, because everyone walks in the middle.

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What has changed since your childhood?

Frankfurt has become even more international than it always was. Announcements on the train didn’t used to be in English. Today it’s indispensable.

How do you commute to work?

I usually take the train, as I live in the city center. It’s quicker than driving, and I’ve never owned a car.

What’s your favorite spot for a business dinner?

Mikuni is an original Japanese restaurant and is fantastic. The owners prepare the food freshly behind the counter. There is no fancy interior, and when you’re there, you think you are in Japan.

And where would one go for drinks afterward?

A beautiful rooftop bar is the Oosten, right between the European Central Bank and the Main River. I celebrated my birthday there once. With a mix of steel and glass, it has an industrial charm, and you have a view of the beautiful Frankfurt skyline.

What makes the city special in summer?

There are lots of great markets, like the one in Bornheim or in the Kleinmarkthalle, with local vendors selling their products. Young and old meet there for the region’s famous apple wine. What I also try to do in summer are long walks along the Main River.

And in winter?

This is an ideal time to visit museums. Frankfurt has lots of very good ones. My favorites are Städel for art and Senckenberg for natural history.

Where do you always bring visitors from out of town?

To the Römer square. It’s a beautiful central square in the heart of the city, surrounded by timber-framed houses. The buildings were destroyed during the war and have been rebuilt. It’s super beautiful. From the Römer you can quickly reach any other central district and the Main River.

What are the less appealing sides of the city?

The biggest challenge for Frankfurt is its central station district with many homeless people suffering from drug addiction. Commuters should feel safe when they come by train and cross the area to go to work. And at the same time, we have to systematically address the health problems of people suffering from drug addiction. The new mayor has made this one of his top priorities.

What stands out in Frankfurt compared with other cities?

Frankfurt is much less anonymous than the cities I’ve lived in before: London, Paris and Dubai. Here it can easily happen that you bump into friends while shopping. And in 15 minutes, you’ll get everywhere. Compared to other German cities, to me it feels more diverse. With the city forest, the cozy neighborhoods and then the international banks, it doesn’t have just one face. It’s such a diversity of people, architecture and scenes.

What gift or souvenir of Frankfurt would you bring a friend?

A bembel. This is a typical gray clay jug for apple wine with blue flower prints, but of course you can also fill it with water, for example. And I would also bring a bethmännchen, a marzipan pastry. Rausch confectionery makes it especially delicious. Through a window you can watch the employees making them, as the factory is right next to the store. You can even buy a bethmännchen in a bembel.

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