How German groups enjoy their British visits

Visitors from abroad enjoy the UK as group travellers, just as we do! Germans are amongst the most significant incoming groups and for this issue, Val Baynton investigates what German groups like to do when they are in Britain. She talks to two specialist incoming operators that help them with their plans, and German operators experienced in offering itineraries for visiting groups.

Three specialists who help with German incoming groups

Alex Jacobs

Alex Jacobs
Alex Jacobs was born in Germany, moving to Newcastle-upon-Tyne to study at university before making it his permanent home in 2004. Passionate about the North East and its great tourism potential, he trained as a Blue Badge Guide and set up Northern Secrets in 2010 to promote the area, and to provide a service planning and managing itineraries and leading tours for groups, both from the UK and Germany. (Read more about Alex on page 65 of the August 2015 issue of GTO magazine (258).

Karin Urban

Karin Urban
Karin is Managing Director of Hotels & More, which was founded in Germany in 1996. Since then the company has become one of the leading wholesalers of tours of Britain and Ireland for German groups, offering a wide range of services. In 2015, the wholesaler organised tours for 2,400 groups and more than 100,000 guests travelled with them. The 70-strong multilingual UK team is based in Harrow.

Niall MacDougall

Niall_UrlaubCornwall
Niall MacDougall runs Urlaub Cornwall, a Truro-based marketing company, specialising in promoting the county, as well as other parts of the UK such as Scotland, to German groups. He set up the Urlaub website around six years ago to provide information about visits to Britain in a more inspirational way, with iconic photography. His site now comes up first on internet searches in Germany for ‘Cornwall’.

German visitors to Britain have some clear preferences about what they’d like to do and see – and group organisers bringing them here demonstrate those choices in where they visit, stay and eat.
Coach travel is popular in Germany and group travel a significant element in holiday-taking, but the way it is put together is somewhat different to UK–based group organisers. Clubs, societies and local organisations exist, but they tend to leave the programming and travel arrangements to suppliers, including the coach sector, where the ‘tour operator’ dimension of coach firms is more significant than in the UK, and just ‘providing the wheels’ less usual.

Family-run tour operators and small to medium-sized travel businesses are an important sector all over Germany, but there are big names involved in selling collective trips too – perhaps surprisingly including retailers Lidl, Aldi and Tchibo, who promote through their stores – though not in the UK (yet!).

One of the biggest firms engaged in UK group travel for Germans is Hotels & More, whose customers value the experience, quality of products and competent all-round service that’s offered from one source. Karin Urbach, their Managing Director, says ‘Round trip tours to the UK and Ireland are our most popular products, with the south of England and Cornwall being the most popular destination. Scotland is second with the country’s spectacular Highlands, iconic castles and whisky being draws, and Ireland is rapidly growing in popularity.’

The cultural differences and expectations of German group visitors are clearly recognised and supported by Karen, Alex and Niall. The most popular themes include history, culture and countryside. Key is the cleanliness of each hotel and since hotels are more expensive in Britain than Germany, expectations are high! The traditional English breakfast will be tried by visitors, but Germans prefer a selection of continental items such as ham, cheese and fruit on the buffet as well. The quality of group food served in hotels is singled out as being poor with bread being particularly criticised. During a visit, groups like to sample cream teas and fish and chips as well as beverages such as whisky, beer and wine. Jamie Oliver’s ‘Italian’ restaurants are also popular on itineraries. Germans are not used to double quilts and will usually have single quilts even on a double bed. A standard double bed in the UK is smaller than a German double bed and is often mistaken for a single bed. A German double bed usually has two single mattresses in one frame and is comparable to a UK king-sized bed. Germans generally don’t wait to be seated in a restaurant but will go straight to a table. In bars in Germany, it’s customary to place an order at the table whilst in Britain orders are taken at the bar.

The top picks

Niall MacDougall from Urlaub Cornwall develops itineraries for German groups including options for visits that are a little ‘off the beaten track’ and partners with specialist tour operator Barton Hill from Haywards Heath to provide the travel services that the group requires. Niall finds ITB Berlin (the world-leading travel trade show taking place every March) is an important opportunity to meet German tour operators. He adds, ‘The Urlaub website helps to spread awareness but ITB is the chance to talk to operators face-to face. The German market for travel is diverse and deep, and there is a lot going on, but it’s also very traditional and regional, and there are many local travel and coach companies, which each offer the personal service that Germans favour for their holiday needs. The local and fragmented nature of the market means it can be difficult to get information to the operator.’

Prideaux Place 17

Prideaux Place

Film location tours are popular with British groups and unsurprisingly also with a German audience. More than 100 of Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels including The Shellseekers have been serialised and broadcast by national German TV since 1994 and so her works have become a focus of many itineraries, with visits to places in both Cornwall and Devon that feature in the novels, and to attractions and destinations that were filmed in the different episodes. Amongst attractions often included are Prideaux Place, an Elizabethan manor in Padstow, Port Eliot house and gardens in St Germans, the Victorian Duke of Cornwall hotel in Plymouth (now a Best Western hotel), St Michael’s Mount and much of the coastline at Chapel Porth. Hotels & More offer Rosamunde Pilcher itineraries as part of more general tours to the UK and Ireland, which can also take in London and Scotland. Karin Urban, Managing Director of Hotels & More, reports that Ireland is growing as a destination because it offers good value for money and has a reputation as a safe country.

Niall MacDougall adds that his expertise and in-depth knowledge of Cornwall means he’s able to add tailored options to the Rosamunde Pilcher tour including visits to houses that are not normally open. He also plans other themed itineraries including Myths & Legends tours, with a visit to Tintagel whilst in Cornwall and to Stonehenge, on the way to or from the county, being an important must-see part of many trips. Alternative tours are essential both for returning groups and for specialist groups popular in Germany such as baker or butcher professional groups or others such as dolls’ house collectors.
Most groups travel to Cornwall by coach direct from Germany, but some groups fly from Frankfurt Hahn airport to Newquay with Ryanair, meeting their coach once they are in Britain. Niall remarks, ‘The number of hotels in Cornwall is declining and this is a challenge, but the Hotel Bristol in Newquay is a favourite with German guests as it has German speakers on the staff including the general manager.’ Niall continues, ‘The county has had a chance to develop its offer for German groups with printed information in German as standard and many German speakers on hand, and these are benefits other parts of the country that want to make themselves attractive to this European nation should consider when developing their offers.’

One destination in Cornwall that has already developed its facilities for Germans is Clovelly. This historic village, in private ownership since Elizabethan times, is famous for its steeply cobbled street clinging to a 400-foot cliff in North Devon, and can only be accessed by donkeys and sledges. Its picturesque beauty makes it a natural stop for German groups to take in the views and the tourism team have accordingly developed German literature, a welcome film in German plays at the visitor centre and German-speaking guides help to ensure a warm greeting to groups. Coaches with German groups – some 500 each year – come between Easter and October, and are brought by a host of operators including over 100 by Hotels & More.

CIMG0746

A German group in Durham

Alex Jacobs tailors programmes around northern England and Scotland with a focus on the North East to meet the specific needs of his groups – he brings around 7,000 people to the region every year – and he aims to let them experience the character of the area. A several-night package involves accommodation, visits to attractions and restaurant bookings, and there are several destinations that regularly feature on itineraries because of their importance – such as Alnwick Castle with its links to Harry Potter films and Downton Abbey, which is currently popular on German TV. Alex comments, ‘Another series that is a favourite in Germany is Vera, which is filmed in various locations in Northumberland, and I am seeing demand to visit Vera hot spots increasing on my tours.’ Iconic buildings such as Durham Cathedral, the National Trust-owned country house Cragside and the Bowes Museum are regular stops, and groups also enjoy exploring the city of Newcastle. Alex adds, ‘If an attraction would just prepare a little bit of information in German for visitors to take away, this would really add to the quality of a visit.’

Generally groups stop in one hotel for the duration of their visit and the Ramada Encore hotel in Newcastle is a popular choice. One of Alex’s groups of family and friends is returning for the third time this year and their 11-night stay will include return visits to Newcastle and Durham but many new places including gardens throughout the region and Edinburgh Castle.

A recent group of 32 singers and their friends, from the Der Gesangverein Freundschaft (the Singing Club Friendship) from Hamburg in Germany travelled to Newcastle for a six-day tour in August last year, and their itinerary took in many of the sights mentioned as well as Hadrian’s Wall, Vindolanda and the concert venue, Sage Gateshead. The choir group said, ‘The trip was excellent – we especially enjoyed the mix of boat trips, cultural exchanges and tours, free-time and coach excursions in general. Alex’s explanations were easy to follow yet comprehensive and interesting.’

Lidl Travel

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Now well-known as a food retailer in Britain, where it entered the market in 1994, Lidl traces its roots in Germany back to the 1930s, when it was founded as a food wholesaler, and the first retail stores were opened in Germany in Ludwigshafen in 1973. Since then it has added stores in most countries of Europe, and many different services to its offer including travel.
Tours to the UK and other countries are promoted through its stores in Europe and are available from the online Lidl Travel shop at www.lidl-reisen.de, for customers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Its UK tours programme is launched in October for the following year and customers fly from a variety of airports such as Munich, Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt, arriving in London, Manchester or Dublin, to join their coaches.
Two new programmes are added to the selection each year – and there are usually eight departure dates between April and October for each tour. For 2016, the trips include ‘Classic England’ – taking in Liverpool, Chester, Snowdonia, Birmingham, Leeds, York and the Peak District – and a ‘Castles and Garden Tour’ with visits to London, Chester, Snowdonia, Oxford and Brighton as well as to Sissinghurst, Canterbury and Rochester in Kent. A popular option is the ‘Classic South England and Cornwall’ itinerary, which takes in Windsor, Glastonbury, Land’s End, St Ives, Stonehenge and Salisbury, Southampton, Purbeck and Brighton.
A final option is a combined ‘England and Ireland’ tour with a choice of 16 dates. Meanwhile, the ‘Ireland’ only tour is extremely popular with five different itineraries running three times weekly from March to October. Itineraries allow some scheduled stops and tours as well as free time to explore destinations.
Hotels are booked depending on the size of the group and availability, but are generally three or four-star, offering good quality. It is estimated that Lidl tours bring 40 group trips to the UK every year plus others exclusively to Ireland.

Croydon stays suit German guests

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London is a popular destination in the programmes of German tour organisers. We checked out three of the firms, whose coaches are regularly seen in the capital, to find out about their arrangements.
Graf’s Reisen of Herne in the Ruhr regularly bring groups on trips of up to four days in London, taking the ferry from Dunkirk or Calais to Dover. The three-night accommodation options generally are hotels on the outskirts of the city, such as the Croydon Park Hotel and Jury’s Inn in Croydon, which are promoted as good quality four-star, and well-placed for independent trips into London by train during the visits, for which the formal programme includes The British Museum, Windsor Castle, a city tour with a guide and pub lunches. Perhaps surprisingly, Graf’s also offer a day trip to London from Germany with no overnight accommodation for just 79 euros/£60.00. In February, Graf’s brought 40 travel agents on a three-day educational trip to London.
Another regular London visitor are Jansen Reisen of Wittmund, on the North Sea Coast near Bremen, using the same hotels in Croydon.
Hoffman Touristik of Vechta in Lower Saxony use both the Jury’s Inn and Holiday Inn Express in Croydon, and the Double Tree by Hilton in Islington. As well as their London trips, Hoffman’s bring other group visitors to the UK on eight-day tours along the South Coast, including Brighton, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath, Bristol, Tintern Abbey and the Brecon Beacons, returning via the Cotswolds, Straford Upon Avon, Birmingham, Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Windsor. The trips with seven nights accommodation cost 1195 euros, which is around £900.

Tips for tourism suppliers
•    The coach driver is often likely to be the owner of the company so treat him well!
•    Train staff to be patient and understanding with German groups – many visitors can speak English but are unfamiliar with regional dialects
•    Provide some information in German

Fact File…  German groups in the UK:
•    Coach travel is popular in Germany – there are some 2,500 coach tour operators and 4,200 coach companies.
•    Just under 300,000 Germans travelled to Britain by ferry and coach in 2013, with a little under 50,000 travelling by coach through the tunnel.
•    The average coach group size is 30 to 40 people, with groups arriving by plane being 25 to 30 people on average.
•    German groups make four to seven-night stays on average and three or four-star hotels are preferred.
•    London is the most popular destination, accounting for 31% of visits, the south east is second with 14%, and the south west and Scotland both receive 10% of visitors.
•    As well as coach and tour operators, food and non-food retailers in Germany offer holidays to their consumers – including Lidl, Aldi, Otto and Tchibo (see page 36 for more on Lidl).
* Figures courtesy of VisitBritain and RDA. The RDA International Coach Tourism Federation in Germany represents the complete spectrum of the coach tourism business activity. There are over 3,000 member companies, with several associated federations in some 40 other countries. Over 70 individual sectors include coach companies, tour operators, tourism federations, destination marketing organisations, visitor attractions, culture and event suppliers, carriers, hotels and restaurants. The RDA organises major exhibitions and workshops (travel trade only). The next takes place in Cologne from 5th to 7th July and will have between 900 and 1000 exhibitors, and trade visitors from some 3,500 companies. www.rda.de

 

Düsseldorf: the art city

The Rhine Embankment Promenade
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

In the third of our new series ‘On the European City Trail’, Abbe Bates visits the Rhineland city of Düsseldorf to reveal a destination home to an electic artistic, musical, fashion and media elite.

Amongst the major German cities, the role and character of Düsseldorf sets it apart as one of the more creative, even oddball, places. Lying on the Rhine, in the west of Germany, it has carved out a reputation for having a thriving artistic community, centred around the Kunstakademie. It saw the birth of electronica music thanks to the influential Kraftwerk, the band that still calls Düsseldorf home. Its Opera House is the base for the largest ballet ensemble in the country and its current director is notorious for pushing the boundaries in the genre. It is the fashion capital of Germany, with many high profile designers based here, has an enviable avant-garde media scene, and over 100 museums and art galleries, many centred around the Arts Axis, not to mention a reputation as a ‘garden city’.

With a history stretching back over 800 years, which includes a spell being governed by Napoleon, Düsseldorf also houses an historic Altstadt (Old Town) and has grown from a small fishing village into a bustling metropolis with a multicultural population of nearly 600,000 people. As the capital of the North Rhine-Westphalia region, it has much to attract visiting groups.

As Düsseldorf is compact – it is known as the city of small distances – guided tours are a great way to explore the varied streetscapes. You can read more about the different types and themes below in The düsseldorf guides.

It is often useful to arrange for your group to have Düsseldorf WelcomeCards, which offer unlimited use of the efficient network of trams and buses within the city and also free or discounted admission to museums and other attractions and leisure facilities.The cards can be bought in bulk for groups, with a 10% reduction for 100.

 

ARTS AXIS AND RIVERSIDE

Kraftwerk

Kraftwerk.

Düsseldorf is well known as the city of art in Germany. Its world famous academy of art – the Kunstakademie – is where internationally renowned artists such as Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter and Jörg Immendorff studied and taught, and where the founding members of the electronica band Kraftwerk met. For more on the band, see the panel on page 64.

A good place to start a tour then is at the Museum Kunstpalast, at the top of the city’s Arts Axis, which reaches from the Ehrenhof complex in the north to the Ständehaus in the south, and links nearly all the city’s large cultural institutions. The museum re-opened in May 2011 after a two-year renovation project, which saw a better displaying of the varied collections, one of the few in the Rhineland to house important paintings, sculpture, graphic works, crafts and new media all under one roof. Visiting groups are able to view some 450 selected artworks from the Middle Ages to the present day including the famous ‘Creamcheese’ installation, which recreates the interior of Düsseldorf’s former Cream Cheese club using 1967 artworks by Gerhard Richter, Heinz Mack, Ferdinand Kriwet and Günther Uecker. For more on the Cream Cheese club see the panel on page 64. Tours are available that highlight particular artwork along with ‘have a go’ workshops. Within the Kunstpalast complex, you will also find the Hentrich Glass Museum, with the world’s most important collection of medieval glass.

The Ehrenhof complex, built in 1926 to create a new home for the city’s burgeoning exhibition fair culture, is also home to the domed Tonhalle Düsseldorf, which was Germany’s first planetarium and is now the city’s concert hall, and the NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft, which presents exhibitions on the subjects of media, photography, architecture, fashion and design.

Making your way further south from the Ehrenhof complex down Oederallee and onto Grabbeplatz you will come to the K20 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen. This gallery presents an enviable collection of 20th century art and was recently renovated to include a new extension. Groups can book tours of the permanent collection or current special exhibitions.

Close by, the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf offers changing exhibitions of cutting edge modern and contemporary art, and its concrete-block construction at the end of the 1960s is an ex­am­ple of the type of architecture that arose from the frugality of the immediate post-war years in Germany. It was extensively renovated at the beginning of this century but still retains its original cubist exterior and over its nearly 50-year history it has been responsible for introducing a num­ber of in­ter­na­tion­al artists into the Eu­ro­pean art mar­ket.

If you continue south through Hunsrückenstrasse, onto Kasernenstrasse, you eventually come to Ständehausstrasse and the K21 Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, the sister gallery to K20, which celebrates 21st century art, and is set in the city’s former parliament building.

As well as the Tonhalle, Düsseldorf has many other celebrated theatre and music venues including the Kom(m)ödchen, Germany’s first political cabaret, and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, both close to the K20. More than 300 performances a year take place at the Opera House, which dates from the 19th century. It was extensively rebuilt after war damage in the 1950s and the interior is a lovely example of architecture and design from this era. The 1342-performance space is also home to the Ballet am Rhein, the largest ballet ensemble in Germany, which has been under the progressive charge of Martin Schläpfer since 2009, as well as two orchestras – the Düsseldorf Symphonic and the Duisburg Philharmonic. An extra-special option for groups is to arrange a tour of the Opera House’s costume department with a historian, who will take you through the backstage areas where some 50,000 costumes are stored!

The Rhine is a major feature of the city, running for 40 kilometres through its centre. As part of a stroll around the Arts Axis, take a walk down the Rhine Embankment Promenade, which is a great place to enjoy a drink or bite to eat, as well as being the base for river trips along the Rhine. It begins at Burgplatz, the centrepiece of which is a Cartwheeler Fountain, the cartwheel being the symbol of the city, and where it is said to have originated in the 13th century – there is even an annual cartwheeling competition in July (see panel on page 66)! The promenade is also home to several museums including the SchifffahrtMuseum im Schlossturm – the city’s maritime museum, set in the last remaining tower of Düsseldorf’s former castle, which was destroyed by fire in 1872.

Below the promenade is the KIT – Kunst im Tunnel, which sits nestled between two road traffic tunnels. Since it opened in 2007, this space has developed into a hub for contemporary art. The entrance is a glass pavilion on the promenade facing out towards the Rhine. It houses the KIT Bar, a terrace and a cafe, through which the 888 square-metre submarine-shaped exhibition space can be accessed. Each year, four to six temporary exhibitions take place and the programme focuses on contemporary art, and the fields of sculpture, painting, photography, video and installation art.

Just behind the Rhine Embankment Promenade is the Stadtmuseum, or City Museum, which is vast, and takes at least two days to explore to get the fullest experience. It is the oldest museum in Düsseldorf, founded in 1873, and is set over three floors; its permanent collection documents the development of Düsseldorf and the surrounding area from its early history to the present day.

Further outside the main city centre, if you talk a walk from the top of the Rhine Embankment Promenade and on up the river, you will come to one of many picturesque green spaces that give Düsseldorf a reputation as a garden city, the Nordpark. This is home to delightful Japanese Gardens, reflecting the influence of this culture in the city, which grew during the years after the Second World War, when an influx of Japanese came to the city to work in the steel industry. Further out still in this direction is the Kaiserswerth area, the oldest part of Düsseldorf, dating from the 12th century, which houses the ruins of Emperor Barbarossa’s imperial fortress.

 

OLD TOWN

The city’s Old Town or Altstadt has its origins in the 13th century, when the first brick buildings emerged in the city, although much of it now dates from the 17th century; as with many of Germany’s cities, parts of it have been largely reconstructed following bomb damage during the Second World War. It covers a square kilometre and houses 260 restaurants, inns and pubs, home to the region’s famous dark Alt beer, which has earned it the nickname ‘the longest bar in the world’.

St Lambertus Church with its twisted spire.

Hunsrückenstrasse is one of the main streets within the Old Town. At the northern end of this street is the 17th century St Andreas Church, one of a number of ancient churches that your group will find within the narrow streets, and amongst the Rhineland’s most beautiful baroque examples.

Walking past St Andreas Church and turning left onto Mühlenstrasse leads you to Liefergasse, at the end of which is another of the city’s religious architectural highlights, St Lambertus Church. This 14th century Gothic structure, set on the site of a former 12th century Romanesque church, has a distinctive twisted spire that easily identifies it.

Walking round the corner onto Burgplatz, you will find an interesting bronze sculpture by Bert Gerresheim, depicting the history of Düsseldorf and the date of 1288, when it was granted town status by Count Adolf von Berg.

Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal

The statue of Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal in the Altstadt.

Moving south again eventually brings you to Bolkerstrasse. It is worth a stop at the Heinrich Heine Birth Place here, the former home of one of Germany’s most important poets. At the western end of Bolkerstrasse is the Marktplatz, where you will find the Rathaus or Town Hall, which actually consists of three buildings, the ‘old town hall’, the ‘Wilhelminischer Bau’ (from the period of Emperor Wilhelm II) and the ‘Grupello house’. At the centre of the square is a statue of Elector Jan-Wellem-Denkmal – who ruled the Rhineland during the 17th and 18th centuries – on horseback. The monument is considered one of the most important Baroque equestrian statues north of the Alps and its sculptor lived at the Grupello house, named in his honour.

Not far from Marktplatz on Schulstrasse is the Maxhaus, a former Franciscan monastery that is now a restaurant; look out too for a more modern building, the Mannesmann Tower on the outskirts of the Old Town on Mannesmannufer, now home to Vodafone, but one of the city’s first skyscrapers, built by renowned German architect Paul Schneider Esleben (father of Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the band Kraftwerk) in the 1950s and now a protected monument.

 

MEDIA HARBOUR 

Dancing Houses

Frank O. Gehry’s Dancing Houses.

The area to the south of the Rhine Embankment Promenade and Düsseldorf’s Old Town has now become known as the Media Harbour and the city’s avant-garde mile. This former industrial harbour area has been transformed into a hub for Düsseldorf’s TV, film and radio industry in recent years. Signifying the area’s renaissance are the three Dancing Houses constructed in 1999 and designed by architect Frank O. Gehry who was responsible for the Guggenheim in Barcelona. These each reflect a different image – one of fish scales, one of an ocean liner and one of brick, and their uneven textures and lines give the impression that they are ‘dancing’.

The Rhine Tower.
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

A great way to view not only the sights of the Media Harbour, including the Roggendorf Haus office building with its amazing ‘flossis’ (bright plastic figures that climb the outside), is to take a trip up the Rhine Tower, Düsseldorf’s most iconic landmark. The 240.5-metre high television tower also acts as a decimal clock of the world, and groups entering the building will see an electronic display explaining how this works. One of the most visited towers in Germany, it stands on more than 250 pillars over water in the former harbour. At its top is a revolving restaurant – the Top 180 – where groups can have a peaceful set menu meal. A viewing floor just below the restaurant allows panoramic views over the whole city. Highlights include the former 1930s police headquarters on Mühlenstrasse, now home to the Düsseldorf Memorial, which remembers local victims of the Nazi regime (currently closed for renovation), and the new parliament building, the Landtag, inaugurated in 1988.

Groups thinking of visiting Düsseldorf have a number of different accommodation options open to them. Those to consider include the four-star Hilton Düsseldorf hotel on Georg-Glock-Strasse with 375 rooms, and for something slightly different, DJH Hostels’ Youth Hostel Düsseldorf on Düsseldorferstrasse with 96 rooms.

 

HOW TO GET THERE 

The coach journey to Düsseldorf from the UK is fairly good taking around seven hours (from London to Düsseldorf Old Town it is 377 miles) using the short Channel Tunnel crossing or alternatively via the Harwich to the Hook of Holland ferry crossing, which takes slightly longer at around ten hours altogether. Düsseldorf is also well connected to the rest of Germany via the local autobahn network.

Düsseldorf is easily reached by rail too; perhaps the best route to take is via Eurostar from London St Pancras International or Ebbsfleet International in Kent to Brussels-Midi in Belgium and then onwards via Deutsche Bahn’s high speed ICE trains straight through to Cologne, with a short connecting train ride to Düsseldorf. This takes around four and a half hours at present but travelling time should be reduced by around an hour once planned direct ICE services from London St Pancras to Cologne begin. These were due to begin in 2013, but have now been postponed to 2015. Deutsche Bahn has an active groups department, with discounts starting at six or more people.

It is only a 10-minute drive from Düsseldorf International Airport to the city centre. Several airlines operate direct flights to the city from the UK including Lufthansa (from London Heathrow, Manchester and Newcastle) and easyJet (from London Gatwick).

 

THE DÜSSELDORF GUIDES

Tour guide Caroline West.

Caroline West and Joop Eskes were the very capable guides who took the author on her tour of Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus can arrange walking tours of the city for your group with a range of freelance guides.

Caroline in particular offers ‘We Love Music’ tours that come with a musical performance, first developed to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place at the city’s ESPRIT arena in 2011, as well as ‘Arts in Düsseldorf’ itineraries.

Tour guide Joss Eskes.

Joop can offer tours on subjects such as architecture, history and breweries as well as tours designed specifically for less able bodied groups.

Another tour to look out for is ‘A City Changes its Face’, which focuses on the ongoing construction of the Werhahn Undergournd line and the redevelopment of the northern end of the Königsallee shopping area.

Open-top bus tours 

Hop-on, hop-off open top bus tours are a staple of any city offering and Düsseldorf is no exception. The HopOn HopOff CityTour lasts around 90 minutes and takes you around the whole city centre, before going right through the Old Town. It allows you to get on or off at any stop to explore areas in more detail, and you can learn further information enroute with a live tour guide commentary or through earphones. Reductions on prices are available for groups of 10 or more people. Bike and segway tours are also available, as are coach tours that include a visit up the Rhine Tower.

Airport tours 

Guided tour at Düsseldorf International Airport.
© Andreas Wiese

Tours of airports are popular in Germany and Düsseldorf International offers a chance to experience the apron – where the planes are parked – on guided tours. Lasting about two hours, there is the possibility to book an exclusive bus, just for your group. As well as the tour, the price includes free entrance to the observation deck and free use of the SkyTrain, which connects the Düsseldorf Flughafen airport railway station with the terminal. Web: www.dus-int.de/dus/besucherservice

 

Coach Parking Facilities 

For those travelling by coach, 17 free coach parking places are available near Fritz-Roeber-Strasse (north of the Old Town, parallel to the Oberkassel Bridge).

A number of charged for parking spaces are available on the Haroldstrasse (under the Rheinknie Bridge) for groups visiting the North Rhine-Westphalian Parliament (Landtag) and on the Tonhallenufer where there are 80 parking spaces near the concert hall.

Along with help in planning and booking itineraries, when special major events take place in Düsseldorf, the Düsseldorf tourist board offers a free coach parking reservation service.

 

THE AVANT-GARDE MUSIC SCENE 

Düsseldorf has an impressive avant-garde music scene. The most well-known artists to emerge from this are Kraftwerk, the influential electronic music band. The group was formed in 1970 by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider and pioneered the revolutionary electronica sound, which relies heavily on computer generated speech. One of the favoured haunts of these and other creatives including perfomance artist Joseph Beuys was the Cream Cheese disco – Germany’s first – inspired by the character created by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. It is now a jewellery shop on Neubrückstrasse, but as a disco is mooted to be the first place to use strobe lighting in Western Europe, and it is certainly worth looking up; there are several Cream Cheese Revival Parties held each year, where the experience is recreated at various venues.

The stone club

The Stone Club on Ratingerstrasse.

The Stone club on Ratingerstrasse, just around the corner in the Old Town, is also worth looking out for and is still an influential music venue in the city. It is cited as the birthplace of punk in Germany, where the band Die Toten Hosen first began, who have since gone on to become one of the most popular punk bands in Germany. You can learn more about the scene on a ‘We Love Music’ tour (see The Düsseldorf Guides above).

 

FESTIVAL CITY 

Over 10 days in July each year, the ‘biggest fun fair on the Rhine’ – Kirmes – visits Düsseldorf and sets up on vast grounds spanning 165,000 square metres on the western bank of the Rhine. It houses an eclectic and impressive range of fairground rides, both nostalgic and modern, as well as traditional bars – some of which revolve (!) – and restaurants. This year the fair will take place between 13th and 22nd July and marks the 111th time it has visited the Rhine meadows in Oberkassel. The fair is accessed from the main city centre by a short ride on the Rhine Ferry.

Kirmes

Kirmes.

Summer is also the time of the ancient Cartwheeling Tournament,which takes place in June next year, whilst November marks the beginning of the popular carnival season in Düsseldorf on 11th of the month. This runs until the 20th February and is marked by an opening celebration called Hoppeditz’ Erwachen (or Hoppenditz awakes) in front of the Rathaus. Another highlight on the events calendar is, of course, the Düsseldorf Christmas Market, which takes place throughout the city centre and Old Town and runs from 22nd November to 23rd December this year.

 

FASHION 

As the location for one of the biggest fashion fairs in the world – the CPD – twice a year, it’s no surprise that Düsseldorf is a centre for shopping.

The Kö-Galerie.
© Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH

Königsallee – referred to as Kö by locals – is the most famous of the city’s shopping streets and is Germany’s equivalent of 5th Avenue in New York, with a wide range of exclusive shops and luxury malls including the Kö-Galerie along its one-kilometre stretch.

You will find high street bargains on Schadowstrasse, which features the Schadow Arkaden with 70 shops, cafes and restaurants, and Friedrichstrasse is home to the Düsseldorf Arcaden, with 120 shops on three floors. The Old Town, meanwhile, is home to cool boutique-style shops whilst the Carlstadt area to its south is a haven for antiques and art lovers.

 

Our thanks to nalogo! tourism & leisure for arranging Abbe Bates’ visit to Düsseldorf, in conjunction with Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus, Deutsche Bahn and the Hilton Düsseldorf.

 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Contact Düsseldorf Marketing & Tourismus GmbH, Postfach 10 21 63, D-40012 Düsseldorf

Telephone 00 49 (0) 211 17 202 854  Fax 00 49 (0) 211 17 202 3222

Email welcome@duesseldorf-tourismus.de  Web www.visitduesseldorf.de

 

Group Travel Organiser is interested in hearing about other towns and cities that have something to offer visitors to explore so please get in touch.

FRANKFURT: Germany’s Euro city

The Euro sign in front of the Eurotower.

The Euro sign in front of the Eurotower.

In the second of our new series ‘On the European City Trail’, Abbe Bates visits Europe’s banking capital, Frankfurt, to reveal the hidden delights that lie beneath the German city’s commercial face.

Amongst Germany’s many famous cities, Frankfurt is not one of those that would at first spring to mind as being worth an extended visit. But the very fact that it has developed a unique role and identity means that it has a range of interesting activities and places to visit, which add up to a very worthwhile group stay.

Unusually, a decision was made after the extensive Second World War damage not to rebuild as before, but to go for a new modern urban form. The development has continued with the flourishing banking industry spawning a range of towerblocks leading to the nickname ‘Mainhatten’, referring to its location on the river Main and its similarity to downtown New York.

The River Main in fact splits the city into the newly modernised part and a much more serene and classical area on the south bank called Sachsenhausen. A little confusingly, the modern part includes the residue of the original oldest part, a relatively small area of half timbered houses that have recently been restored – or more accurately rebuilt – to create a square with a flavour of the 15th and 16th century. The river itself is a flourishing place to be and there are plenty of opportunities for sightseeing alongside, over or on it. You can read more about these at the bottom of this feature.

The Frankfurt skyline at night. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The Frankfurt skyline at night. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Frankfurt has been a centre of trade since medieval times – in fact the first official mention of an autumn fair, from which the famous annual Frankfurt Book Fair evolved, was way back in 1150. Its location at the heart of Europe and Germany provided a central meeting point for travelling merchants from across the Continent, and it still plays a major role in the trade fair calendar including hosting the International Motor Show every second year in September, the largest motor show in Europe. As the seat of the German federal bank, and the headquarters of the European Central Bank since 1998, Frankfurt is a key player in the financial markets but complementing this industrious backdrop, it is also home to a bustling shopping district and a significant heritage offer. It’s pivotal role as a setting for the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup this July and as a host city for a number of the FIFA World Cup matches in 2006 has also boosted tourism for the city. Added to this, it has a significant history of research and academia – Nobel Laureate Paul Ehrlich discovered chemotherapy here in the 19th century and Laois Alzheimer also discovered the illness that was to bear his name in the city.

Frankfurt is part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region of Germany, and is the country’s fifth largest city, with a population of nearly three quarters of a million people. Its history dates back into the Roman period but was first officially recorded in 794, and the city became the electoral site for Germany’s emperors in the 14th century.
Frankfurt’s place as the financial capital of Germany was cemented in the 16th century with the creation of the city’s first money exchange whilst the 17th century saw an influx of Huguenot religious refugees from France. After the formation of the German Federation in 1815,the first German National Assembly met in Frankfurt. The city survived annexation by Prussia during the Franco-Prussian War, but was not so lucky during World War Two, and much of its landscape was destroyed by Allied bombing raids.

Once the war ended, rebuilding work began, but rather than reconstruct many of the city’s historic buildings, it was decided that a break with the past was needed and a range of more modern architecture sprung up from the 1950s onwards. Some were good examples of their type but other uglier examples are now being torn down to recreate a flavour of Frankfurt’s lost heritage, with architecture reminiscent of the more picturesque medieval styles of past centuries.
One such project is the ‘Das DomRömer Projekt’, which began this year within the city’s Old Town and aims to recreate a series of historic townhouses, using the original plans of what was Germany’s largest medieval old town, on the site where an unattractive 1970s office block once stood. As part of the project, there are also plans to make more of the Roman remains in the current Archeological Garden next to the site.

Frankfurt Zoo. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Frankfurt Zoo. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Frankfurt is easy to get around as it has an extensive and innovative public transport network, which you can read more about in the panel on p32, and there are various free coach parking lots dotted around the city. The Frankfurt Card provides free travel on the public transport network, as well as discounts at attractions across the city over one or two days and is available to groups at a special discount (for a maximum of five people on one card). Though walking in the centre and along the river is very pleasant, the bus, tram and metro are a great way to reach attractions such as Frankfurt Zoo, the Experiminta science centre – which opened in March – and the wonderful Struwwelpeter Museum, honouring the children’s character – Shock-Haired Peter – created by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann in the 19th century, whose stories have been the stuff of many a child’s nightmares! You can read more about the options for walking, bus and tram tours at the bottom of this feature.

The modern city centre

A good meeting point to start a city tour is the huge Euro sign that marks the site of the European Central Bank at the Eurotower in Kaiserstrasse. The towering skyscraper built in 1977 forms part of the high-rise skyline that has become known as ‘Mainhatten’. First coined as a derogatory term by locals, they have now more fully embraced the concept, and the buildings that came with it! Whilst the building will remain, the bank is set to relocate to the city’s former market hall within a new banking complex in Frankfurt’s Ostend district, due for completion by 2013.

Continuing down Kaiserstrasse and into Am Kaiserplatz brings you to the Commerzbank, currently the tallest building in the European Union at 300 metres high. Designed by Sir Norman Foster and completed in 1997, it was built using an innovative double facade technique that allows air to circulate between the outer and inner layers of glass, leading to huge energy cost savings and gives it a position as the city’s first ‘eco-building’. Sky gardens were created at certain levels and you can stroll through its impressive glass atrium on your way to our next stop, the Main Tower.

The view from the Main Tower. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The view from the Main Tower. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The Main Tower on Neue Mainzer Strasse is the only one of Frankfurt’s high rise buildings to have a viewing platform. Opened in 2000, the building is home to the area’s regional TV studio as well as a restaurant at its peak. Before you ascend, look out for the amazing wall mosaic on the ground floor by Stephan Huber, depicting 50 personalities from the 20th century, all with links to Frankfurt. Groups of 30 or more are offered a discount on the small entrance fee to access the platform, over 200 metres above the city. Here you can see panaromic views over the whole of Frankfurt against the hilly backdrop of the Odenwald, Spessart and Taunus Mountains, stretching from the beginnings of the Europaviertel (European Quarter), set to emerge in the next few years around a new ‘Central Park’ on the site of the former Main Freight and Marshalling Yard, to the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University campus that was once home to a factory making the deadly Cyclon B chemical, and was then occupied by the US Army when Frankfurt became part of the American Zone of Germany after the Second World War.

Close by on Schillerstrasse is the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, which was created in 1585. The current building dates from the late 19th century and also now houses an interesting mix of sculpture. Guided tours of the exchange can be arranged especially for groups to see traders in action on the floor.

In stark contrast to the modern monoliths around it, one of the few houses to be reconstructed in its original style after the Second World War was the Goethe-House, which lies a few streets away from the Commerzbank. The birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in 1749, it was here that he began his career as a writer and, in particular, his famous work, Faust. The house, which features original furniture from his time and a recreation of his writing room, has now been extended to include a modern museum, which houses changing exhibitions of painting from his era.

The Alte Oper on Opernplatz

The Alte Oper on Opernplatz

Moving through Goethe- Platz, take a walk down Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse or ‘Fressgass’ – translated as Nosh St (!) – where you will find the pick of the city’s eateries in its culinary mile. You will eventually come out onto the beautiful Opernplatz, site of the Alte Oper or Old Opera House. Built in 1880, it was badly damaged in the Second World War but its facade and forecourt were rebuilt according to original plans in 1981; it is now an internationally acclaimed concert and congress centre, hosting over 300 concerts, balls and other performances across the year. Guided tours of the building can be arranged. The new Oper Frankfurt was built in the 1950s and can be found near Willy-Brandt-Platz, opposite the Eurotower.

Going back along Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse, you will come to the Hauptwache, a former guardhouse, originally erected in 1671 and reconstructed in 1728. It became a cafe in 1904 and the area around it is set to be converted into a public traffic-free square within the next two years.

The interior of My Zeil, which follows on from the vortex-shaped exterior. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The interior of My Zeil, which follows on from the vortex-shaped exterior. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Carry on going and you get to Zeil, Frankfurt’s main shopping promenade, featuring department stores, shopping malls and specialist stores.

One of the most impressive of the shopping malls here is known as ‘My Zeil’. Opened in 2009, it was designed by Italian architect, Massimiliano Fuksas, and features an incredible glass exterior, which recedes into a vortex shape – it really has to be seen to be believed!

Look out also for the Galeria Kaufhof and Peek & Cloppenburg department stores – the former with its eye-catching 1950s architecture and the latter with its 1980s New York-style opulence – and the Zeilgalerie with its roof terrace.

For upmarket designer stores, Goethestrasse, running parallel to Grosse Bockenheimer Strasse is your best bet whilst farmers markets on Schillerstrasse each Friday and every Saturday at the eastern end of the Zeil on Konstablerwache are also worthwhile stopping by if you get the chance.

The old town

Going past the Hauptwache and onto Neue Kräme brings you into Frankfurt’s Old Town, passing the city’s oldest shopping street Töngesgasse, as you go. Here you will find the Kleinmarkthalle, a wonderful indoor grocery market with a multicultural mix of products and some of the best coffee in Frankfurt. There has been a market on the site since the 19th century but the current structure dates from the 1950s and pulls off this retro look to perfection. Look out for the ice cream parlour as you come out of the Hasengasse entrance!

The Kleinmarkthalle. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The Kleinmarkthalle. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

At the end of Neue Kräme, you will emerge onto the Römerberg, the city’s main historical square, most of which has been reconstructed since the end of the Second World War, as many of the original medieval buildings were sadly lost during bombing raids. Amongst these were the row of pretty half-timbered townhouses or Ostzeile, rebuilt in 1986 using original plans. The Fountain of Justice stands at the centre of the square, with a bronze 1887 figure of Justitia, the female champion of justice, at its heart, and it is an ideal place to grab a bite to eat during the day at one of the many traditional restaurants.

The Römer or city hall in the square was reconstructed soon after the war, meanwhile, and has been in use since 1405. It was where former rulers of the Holy Roman Empire were presented after their coronation. Take a look inside at the famous ‘Kaisersaal’ or Emperor’s Hall if you can.

Those rulers presented at the Römer were crowned at the nearby Dom, whose original architecture dates from the 13th century, and which became the official site of the elections of emperors and kings in 1356. After a fire in the 19th century, it was largely reconstructed in the Neo-Gothic style and further restoration work was undertaken in the 1950s after bomb damage. There is a small museum within its medieval cloisters and tours can be taken of the interior outside service times.

Frankfurt’s cathedral or Dom. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Frankfurt’s cathedral or Dom. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

There are a cluster of museums around the Dom including the Historical Museum Frankfurt – currently shut until early 2012 whilst the 1970s building that it is housed in is replaced by a more modern structure – the Museum of Comical Art and the Museum of Modern Art (MMK) on Domstrasse. The MMK was opened in 1991 so celebrates its 20th birthday this year; designed by the renowned Viennese architect, Hans Hollein, it is thought of as one of the world’s most spectacular examples of postmodern museum architecture. It contains a fascinating triangular interior – and is often referred to as the ‘piece of cake’ – and showcases wonderful examples of European and American art from the 1960s, including work by Andy Warhol, amongst its collections, as well as the very latest international art.

Whilst on Domstrasse, make sure you stop at the window of the Bitter & Zart sweetshop, whose diplays are an artwork in themselves.

On the opposite side of the Old Town from the Dom is St Paul’s Church (Paulskirche), the seat of the first German National Assembly in 1848. Consecrated in 1833, it was rebuilt in the 1950s after bomb damge and incorporates an interior chain motif within its design to symbolise light and peace. There is now an exhibition space on its ground floor whilst its airy and round main chapel is used mainly for political and cultural events.

Look out too for the narrow green spaces that run along the former course of the Medieval City Walls, which were landscaped in the early 19th century and form a semi-circle around the Old Town.

Across the Main – the Museum Embankment and Sachsenhausen

As you leave the Old Town, you are greeted with the tranquil sight of the Main River as it winds its way through the city. The pedestrian-only Iron Bridge (Eiserner Steg) is one of several that span its width, but is one of the most interesting. It is over 100 years old and as you climb its steps, you can see markings on the wall depicting flood levels through the ages.

Once on the river’s southern bank, you will find the Museum Embankment and wider Sachsenhausen district, which has a more intimate surburban villagey feel compared to the northern side, survived much better during the Second World War, and is home to some grand houses and most of the city’s famous apple wine and cider bars.

The Städel Museum. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The Städel Museum. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

The Museum Embankment is a series of 14 institutions that run side by side along the river, stretching from the Friedensbrücke (Peace Bridge) to the Alte Brücke (Old Bridge). The buildings are all villas dating from the 19th and early 20th century, which have been extended with modern additions and are now under a heritage protection order. The Museum Embankment Festival takes place every year in August and is Europe’s largest cultural festival, including arts and craft stalls, live music and food from around the world.

Amongst the institutions here are the German Film Museum – with a daily arthouse cinema programme – the German Architecture Museum and the Museum of Applied Art, one of the leading international museums of its type founded in 1877. It has a particualrly good programme of guided tours for groups.

The Städel Museum (Museum of Old Masters), meanwhile, has an impressive collection of art spanning seven centuries. Highlights include work by Botticelli, Rembrandt, Bacon and Picasso. February next year will see the unveiling of a new underground extension that will provide further space for the expanding collection.

A green wreath depicting an apple wine bar in the Sachsenhausen district. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

A green wreath depicting an apple wine bar in the Sachsenhausen district. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Walking further on into the Sachsenhausen district – which was a separate village right up until the 19th century – you will find the pick of the city’s traditional cider and apple wine bars – or Ebbelwei pubs – particularly on the Klappergasse in Old Sachsenhausen, which did retain some of its original medieval half-timbered houses. The apple wine culture has played an important role in the city for hundreds of years and the huge popularity it still retains to this day first began in the 16th and 17th centuries, when it became a substitute for regular wine, the production of which suffered heavily from various vine diseases in Frankfurt at that time. It reached its peak in the middle of the 18th century, when a change in climate meant that grapes simply wouldn’t ripen anymore. Many publicans were forced to look for alternatives – and thus the first apple wine taverns were established. Upon obtaining official licenses, publicans were allowed to sell their own brews, a tradition which still exists today. A green wreath was displayed outside a tavern to show that apple wine was served within, and these symbols still depict venues that offer apple wine today.

There are also a wealth of good coffee shops and restaurants around the narrow and winding alleyways of the Sachsenhausen district. In particular look out for Depot 1899, the city’s old tram depot, which has been transformed into a modern bar and restaurant, and is ideal for group meals.

Tours with the Frankfurt guides

Anne Katrin Schreiner

Anne Katrin Schreiner

Anne Katrin Schreiner, who is also an artist, was the very pleasant and informative guide who took the author on her walking tour of Frankfurt. There are numerous options on subjects including the Jewish Frankfurt, Following in Goethe’s Footsteps and Criminal History in Frankfurt, and coach tours are also available. All Frankfurt Guides work on a freelance basis and are bookable through the Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board – CityTours
Tel: 0049 (0)69 21 23 89 53
Email:citytours@infofrankfurt.de
Web: www.frankfurt-tourismus.de

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, then you can also download an audiovisual iTour of the city from the Apple Appstore, or hire an iPod Touch at Frankfurt’s Tourist Information Offices at the Hauptbahnhof railway station or at the Romer. Various free apps can be downloaded for smartphones to read special bar or ‘QR’ codes, and you can also find these codes dotted around at sights in the city, which allow the user to access further tourist information.

OPEN-TOP BUS TOURS

Open top bus

City Sightseeing operates open-top hop-on, hop-off bus tours around Frankfurt with a choice of a City Tour, covering the main sightseeing hotspots, or the new extended Skyline Tour, concentrating on the high-rise skyline and ongoing urban development of the city; passengers are also able to swap between the two. It is worth noting that private tours or charters are not available.
Web: www.citysightseeing-frankfurt.com

© The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

© The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

TRAM & AIRPORT TOURS

Another great way to explore the city is on the Ebbelwei (Apple Wine) Express. The period streetcar makes its way around the city whilst you sample a glass or two of Frankfurt apple wine. There are scheduled services on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, for which a free audio podcast can be downloaded (only in German) for mobile phones and MP3 players, but you can also hire the tram for your group, provide your own food, and use the services of a city guide onboard.
Web:www.ebbelwei-express.com

Tours of Frankfurt Airport also provide a different perspective on the city and options include Zeppelin Tours, which include a visit to the onsite Zeppelin Museum.
Web:www.frankfurtairport.com/content/frankfurt_airport/en/shop_enjoy0/airport_sightseeingtours.html

Frankfurt Airport © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board Fraport AG

© The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board Fraport AG

Or why not try a bike or Segway tour by contacting the Frankfurt Tourist Board.

On the river

Exploring Frankfurt’s sights from the River Main is a great way to understand how the city interacts with the water, and also to spot some of the many river cruise ships that stop off in Frankfurt as part of longer Rhine, Moselle and Danube cruises.

River Main. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

River Main. © The Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board

Primus-Linie is a family-run company that has been operating in one form or another since 1880. Today, the fleet comprises five large modern ships operating daytime sightseeing trips, evening and dinner cruises on the River Main, and longer journeys to destinations further afield such as Rüdesheim and Mainz. Group rates and special harters are available.
Web:www.primus-linie.de

Köln-Düsseldorfer Cruise Lines also operates on the Main onboard the MS Palladium, which was launched in 2006. As well as daily river cruises, charter cruises are offered to groups of around 60 to 200 people.
Web:www.k-d.de/english/kd-round-trips/kd-round-trips-in-frankfurt/

Hotel with an illustrious story to tell

For those looking for a luxury stay whilst in Frankfurt, the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof has been an iconic venue in the city for 130 years, and it still retains its 19th century facade. The five-star hotel is one of the top 100 in the world and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group. Set right within the Banking District, it is an attraction in itself, housing valauble antiques including Goblin Tapestries. It has a critically-acclaimed gourmet restaurant, amazing bistro terraces from which to enjoy the world going by and a wonderfully elegant Authors’ Bar & Lounge. It has played host to many important visitors through the ages including presidents and heads of state such as Queen Victoria and Francois Mitterand, and musicians such as Elton John and The Rolling Stones.

Jürgen Carl

Jürgen Carl

One of the most unique facets of the hotel is its concierge, Jürgen Carl, who at 71 has been manning his desk for over 40 years, and is a member of the Clefs D’Or or Golden Keys, the international association of professional hotel concierges. He has become almost as famous as the hotel, not least because of the attentive service and wealth of information – particularly about literature and film – that guests can glean from him. He notoriety has spread so far, in fact, that he has written a book about his experiences, Concierge – Happiness is Being of Service to Others, currently only available in German.

If you are thinking of planning a stay at the Frankfurter Hof, then look for deals when the hotel is less busy with business travellers – during the summer months, at weekends, and in the festive period to coincide with the Frankfurt Christmas Market.

Ahead of the transport game

In recent years, Frankfurt has proven itself as leading the way in the progression of public transport technology. In 2010, the German national transport operator Deutsche Bahn’s ‘Touch & Travel’ mobile phone-based payment and ticketing project was rolled out to the city, allowing enabled smartphone users to check in via touchpoints at the start and end of their train journey; payment is then made from a linked Deutsche Bahn account and the customer is billed monthly via direct debit. Frankfurt’s own transport authority, RMV, introduced similar touchpoints this year at its bus stops and train stations around the city and Frankfurt’s transport operator, VGF, worked with them last year to place smart posters, known as Info-Modules, in carriages on Frankfurt’s U-Bahn underground network. This allows passengers to hover over bar or ‘QR’ codes and receive real time travel information as well as news of special events and local points of interest. The Ebbelwei Express uses similar technology, allowing customers to access photos and descriptions of sites enroute.

How to get there

The city’s international airport – where a new runway and terminal are being built – is only a few minutes via train from Frankfurt’s main railway station, Hauptbahnhof, one of the largest in Germany and an impressive sight with its Neo Renaissance and Neo Classical architecture; the city is also well connected to the rest of Germany via the local autobahn network.

Lufthansa now operates a total of 111 direct weekly flights from London City, Gatwick and Heathrow airports to Frankfurt, with the introduction of a new twice daily service from Gatwick beginning on 30th October. The airline also flies from Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and will begin a new thrice-daily service from Aberdeen, also in October.

Hautbahnhof.

Hautbahnhof.

Frankfurt is easily reached by rail too; perhaps the best route to take is via Eurostar from London St Pancras International or Ebbsfleet International in Kent to Brussels-Midi in Belgium and then onwards via Deutsche Bahn’s high speed ICE trains straight through to Frankfurt. This takes around five and a half hours at present but travelling time should be reduced by around an hour once direct ICE services from London St Pancras to Cologne begin in 2013.

Our thanks to Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board for its hospitality to Abbe Bates during her visit to the city.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Contact Gisela Moser, Manager International Marketing, Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board
Telephone 0049 (0)69 21 23 03 98
Fax 0049 (0)69 21 23 78 80
Email tourismus@infofrankfurt.de
Web www.frankfurt-tourismus.de