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Frankfurt am Main [ˈfraŋkfʊrt] is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth largest city of Germany. Situated on the Main river, it has a population of approximately 650,000 (but about 5 million in its metropolitan area ).

Among English speakers it is commonly known as simply "Frankfurt", though Germans more frequently call it by its full name in order to distinguish it from the other Frankfurt in Germany, Frankfurt an der Oder. It was once called Frankfort-on-the-Main in English: a direct translation of Frankfurt am Main.



The three pillars of Frankfurt's economy are finance, trade fairs, and transport; it is the transport hub of Germany. Frankfurt has been Germany's financial capital for centuries, and is the richest city in Europe. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange is Germany's largest, the site of 85% of Germany's turnover in stocks, and one of the world's biggest. Frankfurt is also the home of the European Central Bank and the German Bundesbank, as well as a large number of big commercial banks, notably Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank and Commerzbank . Many large trade fairs also call Frankfurt home, notably Messe Frankfurt.

Frankfurt is also the German capital that never was. The city has been at the political center of Germany for centuries. From 855-1792 Frankfurt was the electoral city for the German Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation which ultimately failed to establish a central government over all of Germany. In 1848/49 the city on the River Main was the revolutionary capital and the seat of the first democratically elected German parliament. The revolution failed and it was not before 1945, when Frankfurt lost out the status of West-German capital only by one vote to Bonn (near Cologne), which was chosen mainly because of its proximity to the home of the first West-German chancellor Konrad Adenauer. After the wall came down in 1989, Berlin was the obvious choice for German capital.

During World War II, Frankfurt was heavily bombed, though the city recovered relatively quickly.

Frankfurt is often called "Bankfurt" or "Mainhattan" (derived from the local Main River). It is one of only three European cities that have a significant number of high-rise skyscrapers. With 9 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters (492 feet) in 2004, Frankfurt is second behind Paris (La Défense and Montparnasse: 12 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters, not counting the Eiffel Tower), but ahead of London (Canary Wharf and City: 8 skyscrapers taller than 150 meters). The city of Frankfurt contains the tallest skyscraper in Europe, the Commerzbank Tower. In Germany, only Frankfurt and Düsseldorf have high-rise skyscrapers.

Frankfurt is renowned for its finance industry, on a par with London and Paris, as well as for its central location in Western Europe, surrounded by the most populous areas of Europe. It has a first-class infrastructure and a major international airport: Frankfurt International Airport. It is the second or third-busiest in Europe, depending on the data used. Passenger traffic at in 2003 was 48,351,664, second in Europe behind London Heathrow Airport (63,487,136), almost in a tie with Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (48,220,436).

Frankfurt is also home to many cultural and educational institutions, among them Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, its university, and many museums, most of them lined up along the Main river on the Museumsufer (museum embarkment), and a large botanical garden, the Palmengarten. The best known museums are the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, called Städel, and the Naturmuseum Senckenberg. The Museum für moderne Kunst (Museum of Modern Art) and Schirn Kunsthalle (Schirn Art Gallery) are also notable.


In the area of the Römer Roman settlements were established, probably in the first century, with some artefacts remaining. Also, the city district Bonames has a name probably dating back to Roman times, Bonames is thought to be derived from bona me(n)sa. Nida (Heddernheim) was a Roman civitas capital.

The name of Frankfurt on the Main river is derived from the Franconofurt of the Germanic tribe of the Franks; Furt (cf. English ford) denotes a low point passage across a stream or river. Alemanni and Franks lived there and by 794 Charlemagne presided over an imperial assembly and church synod, at which Franconofurd (-furt -vurd) is first mentioned. However, since frank is also an old German word for frei (meaning "free"), Frankfurt was a "free ford," an opportunity to cross the river Main without paying bridgetoll.

In the Holy Roman Empire, Frankfurt was one of the most important cities. Since 855 the German kings and emperors were elected in Frankfurt, and then crowned in Aachen. Since 1562 the kings/emperors were also crowned in Frankfurt, Maximilian II being the first one. This tradition ended in 1792, when Franz II was elected. He was crowned, on purpose, on Bastille Day, July 14, the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. The elections and coronations took place in the cathedral St. Bartholomäus, known as the Kaiserdom (en: Emperors Cathedral), or in its predecessors.

The Frankfurter Messe (en: Frankfurt trade fair) was first mentioned in 1150. In 1240, Emperor Friedrich II. granted an Imperial privilege to its visitors, meaning they would be protected by the Empire. Since 1478, book trade fairs are held in Frankfurt, the Frankfurter Buchmesse still is the most important in Germany and, some might say, the world.

In 1372 Frankfurt became a Reichsstadt (en:Imperial city), i.e. directly subordinate to the emperor and not to a king or a local nobleman.

Frankfurt managed to remain neutral during the Thirty Years' War, but it suffered nonetheless from the plague that was brought to the city by refugees. After the end of the war Frankfurt regained its wealth.

In the Napoleonic Wars Frankfurt was occupied or cannonaded several times by French troops. The Grand Duchy of Frankfurt, a vassal state of France, remained a short episode that lasted only from 1810 to 1813. The Congress of Vienna dissolved this entity, and Frankfurt entered the newly founded German Confederation as a free city. It became the seat of the Bundestag which was the parliament of the German Confederation.

After the ill-faithed revolution of 1848, Frankfurt was home to the first German National Assembly (Nationalversammlung), which resided in St. Paul's Church (Paulskirche) (see German Confederation for details) and was opened on May 18th, 1848. The institution failed in 1849 when the Prussian king declared that he wouldn't accept "a crown from the gutter". In the year of its existence the assembly had developed a common constitution for a unified Germany with the Prussian king as its monarch.

Frankfurt lost its independence in 1866. The Austro-Prussian War was over, and Prussia annexed several smaller states, among them the city of Frankfurt. The Prussian administration incorporated Frankfurt into its province of Hesse-Nassau. The formerly independent towns of Bornheim and Bockenheim were incorporated in 1890.

In 1914, the citizens of Frankfurt founded the University of Frankfurt, later called Johann Wolfgang Goethe University. This is the only civic foundation of a university in Germany; it is today one of Germany's largest.

During the Nazi era the synagogues of Frankfurt were destroyed. The city of Frankfurt was severely bombed in World War II. After the end of the war Frankfurt became a part of the newly founded state of Hessen. Frankfurt was the original choice for the capital of West Germany, they even went as far as constructing a new parliament building, never used for its intended purpose and is now a TV studio. In the end, Konrad Adenauer (the first post-war Chancellor) preferred the tiny city of Bonn, for the most part because it was his hometown, but also for another reason; many other prominent politicians opposed the choice of Frankfurt out of concern that Frankfurt, one of the largest German cities and a former center of the old German dominated Holy Roman Empire, would be accepted as a "permanent" capital of the federal republic - thereby weakening the West German population's support for reunification and eventually returning the capital city to Berlin.


Frankfurt is twinned with

People born in Frankfurt


Frankfurt Cathedral
Frankfurt Cathedral


The Cathedral Saint Bartholomeus (Dom Sankt Bartholomäus) is a Gothic construction which was built in the 14th and 15th century on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time. It is the main church of Frankfurt. From 1356 on the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in this church, and from 1562 to 1792 the emperors were crowned here.

Since the 18th century Saint Bartholomeus has been called "the cathedral" by the people although it has never been a bishop's seat. In 1867 the cathedral was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in its present style. The height of the cathedral is 95 m.


The name of the town hall means "Roman". It is in fact nine houses which were acquired by the city council in 1405 from a wealthy merchant family. The middle house became the town hall and was later connected with the neighbouring buildings. In the upper floor there is the Kaisersaal ("Emperor's Hall") where the newly crowned emperors held their banquets.

The Römer was destroyed in World War II, but rebuilt afterwards.

St. Paul
St. Paul

Saint Paul's Church

Saint Paul's Church (Paulskirche) is a rather new church. It was established in 1789 as a Protestant church but not finished until 1833. Its importance has its root in the Frankfurt Parliament which was held here in 1848/49 in order to develop a constitution for a united Germany. The institution failed because the monarchs of Prussia and Austria did not want lose power; in 1849 Prussian troops ended the democratic experiment by force of arms, and the parliament was dissolved. Afterwards the building was used for church services again.

Saint Paul was completely destroyed in World War II but quickly rebuilt. Today it is not used as a sacral building anymore but for exhibitions. In 1963 US president John F. Kennedy made a speech in Saint Paul during his visit to Frankfurt.


Opera house
Opera house

The famous opera house of Frankfurt (Alte Oper) was built in 1880 by the architect Richard Lucae . It was one of the major opera houses of Germany until its destruction in World War II. It was not until 1981 that the old opera was eventually rebuilt and opened. Today it is a concert hall while operas are performed in a building from 1951.

Other constructions

  • Henninger Turm (silo with observation deck, unfortunately closed for visitors)
  • Europaturm (unfortunately closed for visitors)

See also: Frankfurt International Airport, Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, Frankfurt School, Frankfurt Transit

External links

Skyline of Frankfurt, photographed from the south-west
Skyline of Frankfurt, photographed from the south-west

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