Straddling the River Main not long before it converges with the Rhine, FRANKFURT AM MAIN is the capital city Germany has never actually had, having been cheated on more than one occasion of the role to which its history and central geographical position would seem to entitle it. Yet that hasn't stopped it becoming the economic powerhouse of the country, a cut-throat financial centre which is home to hundreds of banks, including the Bundesbank and, since 1998, the European Central Bank. It's a modern international city, with over 28 percent of its residents - the highest proportion in Germany -being of foreign citizenship. Frankfurt is a major communications and transport centre, and consequently gives many travellers their first taste of the country. It's a place with a surprising amount to offer and it's worth spending at least a couple of days here rather than treating it as a mere transit point.
Over half of the city, including almost all of the centre, was destroyed during World War II and the rebuilders decided to follow a policy of innovation rather than restoration. The result is a skyline that smacks more of New York than the Federal Republic - appropriate enough in a city that has the reputation of being one of the most Americanized in Europe and whose most commonly used nickname is Mainhatten. It's also a surprisingly civilized metropolis which spends more per year on the arts than any other city in Europe, and whose inhabitants like nothing better than to spend an evening knocking back a few jugs of the local apple wine in the open-air taverns of the Sachsenhausen suburb.
Frankfurt has an energetic nightlife and is a thriving recreational centre for the whole of Hesse, with a good selection of theatres and galleries, and an even better range of museums, mostly concentrated along the south bank of the River Main. It comes across as a confident and tolerant city, and in the Bockenheim district there's a healthy "alternative" scene, not self-consciously institutionalized in the way that Berlin's has become.
Most of central Frankfurt can be covered on foot; almost all the main sights lie within the bounds of the old city walls, which have been turned into a stretch of narrow parkland describing an approximate semicircle around the city centre. From here it's...
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