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Frankfurt: A vibrant gay capital where a grey city used to be

Frankfurt: A vibrant gay capital where a grey city used to be

Forget its reputation. Frankfurt, in summer (but we can guess in the rest of the year as well) is a vibrant and colorful city.

I have to admit that landing in Frankfurt Hahn was not the best choice. The Ryanair airport is very far from the German city’s center and now very cheap flight companies serve the main airport as well – well linked to the city and with its multicultural atmosphere as well.

Frankfurt’s main airport, in fact, is an international hub, one of the biggest in Europe, and is the first destination for Japanese and Chinese tourists coming to Europe.

And that means Frankfurt is the future of Europe – not just because the new European Central Bank headquarters, to open in a couple of years and to cost more than €1.1billion ($1.6billion).

Frankfurt, in fact, is not only grey employees, banks, finance centers and the stock exchange. The path along the river is stunning, its museums are simply unique, the historic center is very small but very pretty as well.

But there’s something more: there are loads of art galleries, contemporary shopping centers, nice restaurants and very cool clubs. Plus, little jewels of its grand past, which survived the World War bombs and the German euphoria for a modern landscape.

You can see the landscape from the top of the Main Tower, ‘Main’ standing for the river Main, of course.

From the visitors’ platform – the highest observation point in the city of Frankfurt that is open to public at 200 meters – you have a wonderful view over the whole Rhine-Main region. In fine weather, you can see as far as the Taunus, Odenwald and Spessart Hills.

From this platform you can really understand Frankfurt is a very green city, that its river unites more than dividing and that, under the skyscrapers, there’s a city wanting to be a leading destination in Germany and central Europe.

The Tourismus+Congress GmbH, the city’s tourist board, is pushing Frankfurt’s image as a leisure city as well.

They told us Frankfurt now ranks among the most popular urban centers of Europe’s gay community. They estimate that somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000 LGBT people live in the Main metropolis.

Visiting the city during the local Christopher Street Day (CSD), that is the name given by the Germans to the pride parades, could be misleading, of course.

Frankfurt is not only blond guys in shorts and sandals, but, of course, this is a city where being gay or lesbian is absolutely accepted by almost everyone.

‘In recent years, we’ve never heard of a homophobic attack or assault,’ claimed Christian Setzepfandt, our guide, a gay writer, journalist and local councillor.

He took us to the Alte Gasse, Frankfurt’s gay street, to the ‘Homomonument’ Frankfurter Engel – remembering the 25,000 LGBT people sent to the camps by the Nazi party – and the AIDS memorial by artist Tom Fecht, a wall with thousands of big nails, one for every man or woman who died from AIDS.

Setzepfandt is one of the best guides in town. A half day with him is the perfect way to discover most of the Frankfurt’s secrets, which are hidden under the surface of a busy and multicultural city. But Frankfurt is fully German, that’s what we learned walking with Setzepfandt.

Thanks to him, we discovered the Stock Exchange’s old building, the very commercial street Fress Gasse, the Alte Opera – dating back to the 1880 – and the secrets of the apfelweine, a fragrant apple wine which is made in the Frankfrut area.

It is made of a small kind of apples – there are 1,500 varieties in Germany – and the flavor is sour and crispy.

You need 100kg of apples to produce 30liters of apfelweine and usually it is ready for Christmas.

We tried the apfelweine at the Zur Schonen Mullerin restaurant, close to the city center, one of the best restaurants in town and a place where to taste very local recipes.

We also discovered Goethestrasse, the luxury brands’ street, and Goethe’s House – where the famous writer lived – next to the first gay area in the early 20s, Weisfadlergasse.

And, then, Die Kleinmarkethalle, a stunning market in the city center, the Iimori Haus, where a Japanese lady produces the best German sweets and cakes, and the Catholic cathedral, where several kings were crowned.

Next to the cathedral, the city council is rebuilding a very old area, respecting the Medieval architecture. It will be ready in 2016 and it will cost millions of euros. But Frankfurt needs to rediscover its past, too many bombs fell here.

And Frankfurt is rediscovering its present too. When we visited the City Hall, the rainbow flag was flying on it, thanks to Setzepfandt.

‘We did it after long discussions in the city council,’ hetold me. ‘But this is a country going towards a law on gay marriage, the times are changing.’

Frankfurt essentials

Gay scene: The area known to be most popular amongst Frankfurt’s gay community is the downtown domain between Konstablerwache, Bleichstrasse and Eschenheimer Turm.

Featuring classic pubs like Zume Schweijk, popular bars and clubs such as the Piper Red Lounge, Pulse, Lucky’s LM 27, Friends and Bar Central, the gay and lesbian bookshop, Oscar Wilde, the LIBS Lesbian Information Center and Germany’s only exclusive female sex shop, InsideHer.

Hotels: We tried the pretty NH City Center. Isabell Ketteler is the front office manager and welcomed us in the best way. It has 256 rooms and rates start from €79 for a double room during the weekend, from €139 during the week.

It is a really gay friendly hotel, close to the gay area, you can have Thai massage, wonderful breakfasts or very hot saunas. Ketteler told us: ‘Our philosophy is that Frankfurt is not just a business city. It could be really fun!’

Restaurants: We tried Zur Schoenen Muellerin and the wonderful Oosten, along the river. This is a post-industrial restaurant, with good food and very friendly service. The views of the city from its roof are wonderful.

Museums: Frankfurt is home to 60 museums. The Museum Angewandtekunst is simply stunning. Several exhibitions run every year, at the moment one on Korea, one on Frankfurt’s design and one on contemporary fashion. The Schirn, close to the Town Hall, is another wonderful venue. Until the 22 September you can find a nice exhibition: Glam! The Performance Of Style. But don’t forget to go to the best museum in town, the Staedel, where hundreds of years of art are waiting for you.

Organize your trip: KulTours by Christian Setzepfandt is the best in Frankfurt.

The tourist board, Tourismus+Congress GmbH Frankfurt Am Main, is able to welcome you with all your queries and needs.