|One of the galleries at the Stadel Art Museum’s new Garten Hallen exhibition hall.|
Germany’s western cities, long a magnet for U.S. business travelers anxious to build trade with their counterparts in Western Europe’s strongest economy, are increasingly offering attractions worthy of vacationers’ attention. One such city is Frankfurt, which Travel Agent visited on a pre-convention tour offered as part of the 38th Germany Travel Mart held in Leipzig in early May.
The first stop was the 169-room Steigenberger Hotel Bad Homburg in Frankfurt’s affluent suburb of Bad Homburg, where numerous local spas, expansive green parks and upscale private homes make it an attractive alternative to staying downtown when visiting the city. Originally built in 1883 as the Winter’s Park Hotel, the property once hosted both English royalty and the German Kaiser Karl Friedrich during their visits to Frankfurt. Now receiving many English guests, the Steigenberger Hotel Bad Homburg averages 8 percent Americans over the course of a year.
According to General Manager Peter Martin, the hotel received about 18 percent Americans during a busy April 2012. The main attractions here are the impressive villas along the hotel’s Kaiser Friedrich Promenade opposite the town’s lush green parks, and the accommodating Steigenberger front desk staff, which can arrange for guests to visit one of several neighborhood thermal baths for beauty treatments that attract Bad Homburg visitors.
Best of the Old and New
A walking tour of Frankfurt revealed that the city has much to offer visitors beneath its business-first exterior. Layers of ancient city walls are being excavated adjacent to the Schirn Kunsthalle modern art museum. The visible archeological findings include remnants of an eighth-century castle of Charlemagne as well as a first-century Catholic church. A short walk away is the Frankfurt Kleinmarkthalle, a 200-year-old food market where stalls serve everything from Mrs. Schreiber’s spicy Polish sausage, said to be the best in Frankfurt, to ginger tea and honey, sunflower seeds from Iran, prosciutto di Parma from Italy, and other specialties from Europe and the Middle East.
|Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof is in the final phase of a major renovation.|
Behind Frankfurt’s Rathaus city hall is St. Paul’s Church, site of Germany’s Unification Congress in 1848. John F. Kennedy, whose plaque is on the wall, visited the National Congress here prior to his Berlin visit in 1963 and famously called St. Paul’s “the cradle of German democracy.”
One of Frankfurt’s oldest pedestrian districts has become its new hot spot for nightlife. The Alte Sachsenhausen, with history dating to the end of the 15th century, was largely untouched during World War II bombing. There are international bars, dance clubs and many traditional German pubs serving local hard apple cider at long tables in this late-night Mecca. A famous statue of “Frau Raucher” will spit water on passersby if they don’t pay close attention in the main street called Klappergasse.
Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof
In the spirit of Frankfurt’s newer look this year, General Manager Armin Schroker and Sales Director Nadine Menzl at the city center’s Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof are overseeing the completion of a renovation of the hotel’s 303 rooms, including 43 suites, by November of this year. Built in 1876, the hotel was bought by the Steigenberger family in 1940, and several family members still reside there.
About 80 rooms are being renovated during a current final phase, and the outcome is a “young, lively, and not stodgy” look to the accommodations, according to Menzl. The hoteliers hope the new look, created by Dutch modern designer Jurgen Bey, will draw more leisure travelers into the Frankfurter Hof’s current mix of 80 percent business guests. The new standard rooms display multiple color schemes with brown and black panels against off-white walls and gray-white and light blue fabrics. Suites of 860 square feet have beige and light green interiors, rich wood-paneled wardrobes and entertainment units in the bedroom, black-white striped dining chairs in the living area, flat-screen TVs, and maroon bedding and love seats.
The hotel is also justly proud of its Michelin one-star Restaurant Francaise, a 60-seat red enclave hosted by Head Chef Patrick Bittner and master Pastry Chef Oliver Nave, who was named “Pastry Chef of the Year 2011” by the French gourmet guide Gault Millau.
Revamped Stadel Art Museum
The art excitement in Frankfurt is undeniably at the Stadel Art Museum, an elegant 1876 building situated at 2 Durerstrasse along the city’s Main riverfront museum district, a short distance over bridges from the city center. The museum’s department of education provides excellent English-speaking guides. Audio self-guides and other materials in English are readily available, too.
The Stadel has an impressive collection of more than 3,000 paintings with rich 17th- and 18th-century holdings so vast they can only be exhibited in small segments at one time. Not to be missed are a portrait of Pope Julian II by Raphael (1511), Dutch painter Johann Vermeer’s The Geographer (1669), and Farmhouse in Neunen (1885), an early Van Gogh. Works by Renoir, Monet, Manet, Degas, Sisley and Cezanne are also on display. Admission to the Stadel was $5.10 at the time of our visit.
The Stadel’s new Garten Hallen exhibition hall houses the works of contemporary artists from 1945 to the present. Andy Warhol, Pablo Picasso and new German expressionists such as Rainer Fetting, Wolfgang Matheuer and Helmut Mittendorf are represented in the 32,000-square-foot hall, which is now double the size of its previous space. We had lunch on a scenic outdoor terrace in the Stadel’s Holbein’s restaurant, where German comfort food, white wines and the ambience provided another Frankfurt highlight.