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Frankfurt/Main: City Layout

Most of Frankfurt's sights, nightlife, restaurants, and hotels lie in the Stadtmitte (town center). However, chances are you'll cross the Main River to visit the apple-wine taverns in the Sachsenhausen area as well. It is also possible that you'll seek out both restaurants and hotels in the increasingly fashionable Westend. Most of the other areas of Frankfurt probably will not concern you, unless you're hunting for intriguing restaurants in the Nordend (north end) or even in the Ostend (east end).

Most of the heart of Frankfurt can be covered on foot. Nearly all the main sights lie within the boundaries of the old town walls, which today form a stretch of narrow parkland, almost a perfect half-moon around the Altstadt or old city. Once one of the great old towns of Europe, the Altstadt was blasted in two horrendous air raids in 1944. Some of its buildings have been sympathetically reconstructed in the old style.

A good place to start exploring Frankfurt is at the RɆmerberg, or historical core of the city. This is actually the site where Charlemagne erected his fort. In medieval times, the RɆmerberg was the marketplace of Frankfurt.

The most important building in the Stadtmitte is the red-sandstone church of St. BartholomȨus, often called "the Dom" although it isn't a cathedral. It was the venue for the coronation of the Holy Roman emperors even though it didn't have cathedral status.

Directly to the east of RɆmerplatz stands the glaring modern building, Kultur-Schirn, a cultural center where various exhibitions are held. It is a controversial postmodern structure that meets with ridicule among Frankfurters, who like their architecture traditional.

The Goethe-Haus and Goethe-Museum are only a short walk north of the center in the northern Altstadt. To the north of this is Zeil, the Fifth Avenue of Germany and one of Europe's greatest shopping streets.

Another landmark of the Stadtmitte is Hauptwache, an 18th-century baroque building that is a virtual Times Square of Frankfurt, as it lies at the junction of both the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn lines. Northwest of the Hauptwache is the BɆrse, the stock exchange of Frankfurt.

The Hauptbahnhof, at the western edge of the center of town, opens onto a large street called Am Hauptbahnhof. As you walk out of the station, Dɒsseldorferstrasse will be on your left and Baselerstrasse on your right, heading south toward the Main River. You have a choice of three streets heading east to the center of the Altstadt: Taunusstrasse, Kaiserstrasse, and Mɒnchner Strasse. Mɒnchner Strasse leads directly into Theaterplatz, with its opera house. Taunusstrasse goes to three of the major Altstadt squares in the southern part of the city: Goetheplatz, Rathenauplatz, and (most important) the Hauptwache, with its rail connections. In this section of Frankfurt, along Kaiserstrasse, some of the best shops are found.

The Main River flows slightly south of the Altstadt. Many bridges, including the Alte Brɒcke and the Obermainbrɒcke, cross this important waterway. On the south bank of the Main is a popular district, Alt-Sachsenhausen, center of the apple-wine taverns (more about them later). For other major attractions, you'll have to branch out, heading east to the Frankfurt Zoo or northwest to the Palmengarten (both easily reached by public transportation).

Street Maps -- Arm yourself with a detailed street map, not the general overview handed out by the tourist office. Maps are sold at most bookstores and news kiosks.

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