Europe Quick Trips
Take a trip to Frankfurt’s reconstructed Old Town
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 7, 2018
It might sound very cliche, but out of the ashes and the dust, a new Old Town has arisen in downtown Frankfurt.
Before World War II, Frankfurt had one of Germany’s largest and best-preserved medieval city centers, known for its half-timbered houses and warren of narrow streets.
Then came World War II.
Allied bombing reduced the city to rubble. In the heart of the old town, between the Main River, the city hall and the cathedral, only one building remained relatively unscathed.
Following the war, the city hall — the Roemer — was rebuilt, but for a long time much of the area was empty space and even a parking lot.
In the 1970s a concrete monstrosity, the so-called technical city hall, was built between the Roemer and the Dom. In the ’80s, a row of beautiful half-timbered houses was reconstructed, fooling to this day the tourists who think they are originals.
Earlier this century, plans were made to raze the modern city hall and replace it with the new Old Town.
The decision was met with love and hate. Many thought it was a brilliant idea, other said it would lead to a downtown Disneyland.
The concrete building was torn down starting in 2010 and construction began in 2012. Frankfurt’s new Old Town officially opened in September and has since been a major attraction. And not just for tourists. Almost all the living and commercial space in the 35 buildings — 15 reconstructed to original plans and 20 designed to fit in — are occupied.
The heart of the Old Town is the Huehnermarkt, or Chicken Market square. It features a bust of Friedrich Stoltze, a Frankfurt writer and poet.
One of the reconstructed houses at the rear of the square was the home of Johanna Melber, an aunt of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe whom he wrote about in one of his books. You can see her silhouette adorning the facade.
One of the most beautiful reconstructed houses is the half-timbered Goldene Waage, or Golden Scale. Check out the arm holding a golden scale that embellishes its facade.
Something else to see that’s even older than the Old Town is the ruins of Roman Frankfurt that were discovered during an earlier construction project. They have been integrated into the new construction.
The best place to get an overview of the Old Town and to see how narrow the streets are is the viewing platform of the cathedral, about 200 feet above the city.
From here you can trace the “Coronation Way,’’ the path newly crowned emperors walked from the cathedral to the Roemer after receiving the crown.
Now you can walk it, too.
Directions: Located between the Roemerberg and the cathedral (Dom). Entrance to parking garage Dom Roemer is on Domstrasse. Subway (U-bahn) lines 4 and 5 stop at Dom/Roemer; tram lines 11 and 12 stop at Roemer/Paulskirche.
Times: Always accessible
Costs: Parking costs 2 euros per hour Monday-Saturday and 1 euro per hour Sunday.
Walking tours offered by the city cost 12.90 euros per person and can be booked online (see below). It costs 3 euros for adults and 1.50 euro for children to climb to the cathedral viewing platform. Beware: narrow, winding stairs.
Food: There are a couple of cafes and restaurants within the Old Town and plenty, in all price categories, nearby.
Information: For booking tours and other info go to www.frankfurt-tourismus.de/en.
From now until Dec. 22, you can combine the trip with a visit to the Christmas market next door.