If you’re late people think you’re being rude.
Dubbed “Mainhattan” thanks to its striking skyscraper skyline and location on the River Main, Frankfurt’s nickname is apt for one of the world’s leading financial centres.
In refreshing contrast to New York though, the German city’s Museum Embankment has 13 fascinating riverside museums. With more than a dozen others nearby, it’s a chance to explore a variety of subjects, from fine art to film, icons to communications, all within walking distance of downtown.
“Frankfurt is a very international and cosmopolitan city. Not only is English widely-spoken but Germans here are very sensitive to how English speakers do business,” said Emma Brady, who’s lived in the city for 14 years and is senior country manager for Euro London Appointments, multi-lingual recruitment specialists.
Frankfurt is home to the European Central Bank and the Deutsche Bundesbank (German Federal Bank), plus an additional 470 or so banks including the Asian Development Bank and the Chinese Central Bank. The Deutsche Borse and the EUREX futures and options exchange are also based in the city.
The insurance industry offers an array of job possibilities since the headquarters of The European Insurance and Occupational Pension Authority and the Frankfurt International Arbitration Centre are located in Frankfurt, as well as firms such as DBV-Winterthur, ARAG, AMB Generali and R+V Versicherung.
But there’s more to Frankfurt than stocks, shares and currency. With a population of more than 708,000, the city is also the main hub of FrankfurtRheinMain, a region of 5.52 million people, with a diverse mix of industries ranging from biotech and pharmaceuticals to industrial automation. Giants headquartered here include Sanofi-Aventis, Boehringer Ingelheim, Fresenius, Merck, Novartis, BASF, Bayer and Siemens VDO, to name a few. Foreign firms have also moved in, including Showa Corp, China Unicom, Wipro Technologies.
As a bonus to its 800-year history of hosting trade fairs, Frankfurt now finds itself almost precisely at the geographical heart of the European Union. The main venue is the centrally placed Messe Frankfurt with its 578,000 sq-metres of exhibition space, plus a Congress Center.
One of the world’s busiest air hubs, and very useful for Europeans for non-stop flights to Seoul and Shanghai, Frankfurt Airport is 13km (8 miles) from downtown.
Recharging sockets and free wi-fi are offered throughout the two terminals. Directly opposite Terminal 1 is a well-equipped conference centre with flexible meeting spaces and catering, whereas the Sky Lounge in Terminal 2 offers those in transit a quiet place to work or relax for 35 euros ($40)/three hours. Inside the transit area there are also smoking lounges.
Taxis are available outside both terminals and the ride downtown takes 20 to 30 minutes, from around 42 euros ($47). Alternatively, the S-bahn station is directly below Terminal 1. For 4.55 euros ($5) you can take a local train, line S8 or S9, into Frankfurt central railway station (Hauptbahnhof), in about 11 minutes.
For onward travel, Deutsche Bahn runs more than 170 high speed (ICE) trains daily from their mainline railway station opposite Terminal 1.
Mastercard and VISA are widely used, and American Express is also welcome in many shops. But for payments of less than around 20 euros ($22) you may be asked for cash. Chip and pin cards are used at some vending machines but elsewhere a signature is still more usual. Traveller’s cheques can be cashed at banks but are unlikely to be accepted elsewhere.
Not all taxi drivers take plastic so for cabs, buses, coffees and snacks you should carry cash, some of which should be coins for small purchases and vending machines.
Germans pride themselves on their punctuality so don’t arrive late for your meeting. “If you’re late people think you’re being rude. Organisation and planning is a very German thing,” said Brady. “But don’t arrive too early either. Five to ten minutes maximum beforehand. The starting point to showing you’re competent is to arrive on time.”
Straightforwardness is valued, but it’s considered intrusive to become too personal. “With Germans you know where you stand. They are very direct. A meeting is a business meeting and you discuss business,” said Brady. “If you go out to lunch good general topics to discuss are travel, weather and especially sport — football, ski-ing, cycling.”
A sleek skyscraper set directly opposite the Frankfurt Messe fairgrounds and within walking distance of the financial district, the five-star Frankfurt Marriott keeps its fitness and business centres open 24/7. It also offers parking, wi-fi, concierge service, and extensive meeting and event space. The 43rd floor executive lounge serves breakfast and snacks, while offering wide-stretching cityscape views. For some guests, watching the screens in the American-style sports bar is this hotel’s best feature.
Facing the main railway station, within walking distance of the fairgrounds and finance district, the independent Manhattan Hotel is a well-organised four-star option with free wi-fi, some office services, and a 24-hour lounge bar.
Close by, the three-star Frankfurt InterCity Hotel offers free wi-fi, a sauna and workout room, and meeting rooms with natural light. To travel free on public transport, show your room card.
Dinner for one
If you’ve been too busy to sightsee, then whiz up to the 53rd floor Main Tower restaurant for spectacular sunset-facing views. Recently voted a favourite with locals, it offers a good selection of regional and German white wines and international reds. A three-course set dinner is available from 79 euros ($89), including the charge for the lift.
For a more rustic flavour, head into the cobbled streets of Old Sachsenhausen for locally-produced cider, known as apple wine. Culinary specialities are mainly meaty, such as boiled beef sausage, pork knuckle and pork chops but there’s also green sauce — a creamy herbal concoction served with hard boiled eggs and potatoes — and Handkas’ with music — soft cheese marinated in oil, vinegar and chopped onions. In traditional taverns like Atschel, founded in 1849, guests sit on benches at long wooden tables and for fine weather there’s a spacious garden terrace. Certain taverns, including Fichtekraenzi, don’t accept credit cards.
Off the clock
To immerse yourself in some of the finest European art from the last 700 years, step inside the Staedel Museum. Celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, the museum’s collection includes notable works from Old Masters such as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Botticelli, modern art from Degas, Monet and Picasso and contemporary paintings by Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Yves Klein.
A night at Oper Frankfurt, the city’s award-winning modern opera house, is highly recommended. Under the directorship of Bernd Loebe, there’s a lively programme of classics and newly commissioned works. This autumn sees the staging of a new production of The Little Match Girl, based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, sung in German, and also Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, a revival sung in Italian.
Hotel prices can shoot up during major trade fairs: One solution is to book into Motel One, a rapidly expanding German budget chain with two hotels in Frankfurt, plus another at the airport, and a further hotel to open in 2016. Downtown rooms cost from 69 euros ($77), with a maximum supplement charge for events of an additional 70 euros ($79).
Or for more affordable options and a chance to practice your German, the tourist board has compiled a list of rooms available in private homes, from 60 euros/night ($67) not including breakfast.
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