Frankfurt is also an important trade fair city. Among others, the city hosts the world’s largest music and book fairs, the Musikmesse and the Buchmesse, respectively. The Frankfurt Motor Show is held every two years and is widely considered to be the most important European auto fair. The trade fair area available in Frankfurt is among the five largest of the world.
If you plan on a visit to Frankfurt, make sure not to confuse it with a city of the same name near the Polish border in Eastern Germany. To distinguish between the two Frankfurts, you will most commonly find the rivers crossing the respective cities as a designator: Germany’s fifth-largest city is often referred to as “Frankfurt / Main”, while the much smaller Frankfurt east of Berlin in Brandenburg is “Frankfurt / Oder”.
The Main river also lends its name to a common moniker of Frankfurt, which is sometimes called “Mainhattan” due to its skyline featuring nine of the ten tallest buildings in Germany. There are now twelve buildings with a height of 150 meters (490 feet) or more and a number of others are currently in the planning stages. Among these, the new building for the European Central Bank is expected to rise to 185 meters (607 feet) and to be completed by 2014. Most of the highrises in Frankfurt have been constructed in the 1990s and most house the headquarters of various banks. The Frankfurt Stock Exchange with its 4500 registered traders, located at Börsenplatz, accounts for more than 90% of the turnover in the German market. Frankfurt has a long history as a marketplace, going back all the way to the 9th century.
It has probably been as early as the 1st century that Romans established settlements along the Main river which later became the city of Frankfurt. The city grew quickly and gained in importance and from the 9th century on, the German kings of the Roman Empire were elected here until 1792. From the 14th century on, these ceremonies took place in the Frankfurt Cathedral (Frankfurter Dom), which can still be found and visited at Domplatz. Frankfurt was granted the status of Imperial City in 1372, which meant that it stood directly under Roman rule. As such, it continously grew more significant and more affluent. This in turn caused Napoleon’s troops to bombard the town heavily in the Napoleonic Wars at the beginning of the 19th century. Frankfurt entered the German Confederation after the Congress of Vienna and became the seat of the parliament. In 1849, the famous parliament assembly at St. Paul’s Church (Paulskirche) created a constitution for a united Germany, Frankfurt, which had once had a strong Jewish presence, suffered from great destruction during World War II, especially in the city center. The wounds thus inflicted upon the city would later be used as a chance at modernization and paved the way towards the modern skyscraper architecture of the downtown area. Frankfurt became a part of the American Zone of Occupation and hosted the Commissioner’s headquarters. It was designated to become Germany’s capital but that plan was vetoed by chancellor Konrad Adenauer, who favored the city of Bonn.
The birthplace of famous author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (after whom the city’s major university is named), today is home to people from 180 different countries and has large communities of Turks, Arabs, Italians, Serbians, Russians and Koreans, among others. It is estimated that 25% of the Frankfurt population has not been born in Germany. The city forms a large metropolitan area with several neighboring communities, extending as far as to Mainz, Wiesbaden, Offenbach and Darmstadt, each of which is a sizable city of its own. To the west of the city, the Taunus low mountain range offers a number of opportunities for outdoor activities such as hiking or cycling and even skiing during the winter. The city itself is subdivided into 46 districts, which in turn are often colloquially broken down into smaller neighborhood units.
Frankfurt is home to quite a number of sights and tourist attractions. There are architectural highlights such as the “Römer” a complex of several buildings that house the city hall or the Old Opera building from 1880, a number of interesting shopping areas, many parks and even a forest within city limits and more than 30 museums, most of which can be found in scenic locations along the Main riverbank.