Glinting with glass, steel and concrete skyscrapers, Frankfurt-on-the-Main (pronounced ‘mine’) is unlike any other German city. The focal point of a conurbation of 5.5 million inhabitants, ‘Mainhattan’ is a high-powered finance and business hub, home to one of the world’s largest stock exchanges and the gleaming headquarters of the European Central Bank, and famously hosts some of the world’s most important trade fairs, attracting thousands of business travellers
Yet at its heart, Frankfurt is an unexpectedly traditional and charming city, with half-timbered buildings huddled in its quaint medieval Altstadt (old town), cosy apple-wine taverns serving hearty regional food, village-like neighbourhoods filled with outdoor cafes, boutiques and street art, and beautiful parks, gardens and riverside paths. The city’s cache of museums is second in Germany only to Berlin’s, and its nightlife and entertainment scenes are bolstered by a spirited student population.
International trade fairs have been held in Frankfurt since 1240, and the city is now a leading commercial, financial, and high-technology centre. There is an important stock exchange (first established in 1585). The Rothschild family started building its international banking empire in Frankfurt. The city also is the home of the European Union’s central bank. Annual book, automobile, and computer fairs are popular events, and there are many other fairs held throughout the year. Manufactures include automobiles, machinery, chemical and pharmaceutical products, printing materials, and foodstuffs. The city is traditionally known for its production of high-quality sausages (frankfurters).
Frankfurt has long been a key stopping point for river, rail, and road traffic from Switzerland and southern Germany northward along the Rhine River to the Ruhr region and across the Main River to north-central Germany. It is still the chief traffic hub for western Germany and has also been an important inland shipping port since the canalization of the Main in the 1880s. Frankfurt Airport is the largest airport in Germany and one of the busiest in Europe.