Frankfurt’s skyline is a beautiful contradiction. Striking gothic and medieval buildings sit alongside contemporary skyscrapers as the past and present jostle for the limelight in the city centre. While the modern constructions are beautiful, it’s the ancient buildings that fascinate and inspire the most. From the gothic charm of Old Nikolai Church to the medieval Eschenheimer Turm watchtower, there’s plenty to discover on a tour of Frankfurt architecture. Join us as we journey through the ages by virtue of the city’s most striking buildings.
Old Nikolai Church
Set on Frankfurt’s historical Römerberg Square, Old Nikolai Church (Alte Nikolaikirche) is one of the oldest-standing buildings in the city. Its precise year of construction is unknown but it is thought to have been in the 12th or early 13th century. The church’s style is early gothic and, despite many surrounding buildings being destroyed during WWII, the church miraculously escaped with minimal damage and remains in good condition to this day. Visit at 9am or midday on any day to hear the red brick bell tower ring with the harmonic sound of its bells chiming in unison.
Opposite Old Nikolai Church stands one of Frankfurt’s most iconic sights, Römer. Operating as the city hall since 1405, the medieval building was originally a complex of houses before being acquired by the council. While Römer has deep historical foundations, its famous three-peak façade was designed in the 20th century to reflect the city’s heritage. The four figures in the centre section represent four Roman Emperors – Frederick I, Louis IV, Charles IV and Maximilian II – while inside the Emperor’s Hall (Kaisersaal), where the imperial leaders held banquets, still stands.
Cathedral of St Bartholomew
The gothic-style Cathedral of St Bartholomew, also known as Frankfurt Cathedral, is the largest religious building in the city. The imperial church overlooks the River Main and is the site at which emperors were crowned from the mid 16th to late 18th centuries. The church has been restored and renovated over the years but remains a key example of Frankfurt’s gothic architecture. Visitors can learn about the heritage of the cathedral at the on-site museum. During the warmer months, they can also climb the tower for beautiful panoramic views of the city.
Eschenheimer Turm is one of Frankfurt’s former watchtowers. Built in 1428 and located at the end of Bockenheimer Anlage, the medieval tower was once part of the city’s fortifications. It has been beautifully preserved and stands out as a fascinating flash of history in the modern city centre.
St Paul's Church
A more recent but equally significant building, St Paul's Church is a national monument and an important site on our tour of Frankfurt architecture. Built as a Protestant church in the late 1700s, it became the seat of Germany’s first democratically elected Parliament in 1848, before being returned for use as a church after the parliament was dissolved. The building was partially destroyed during WWII but reconstructed following the war. It is recognisable for its elliptical shape, red sandstone walls and distinctive green roof.
Continue your architectural journey by witnessing the aristocratic grandeur of Villa Kennedy. Originally built in 1901 as a home for an influential banking family, the hotel has since been restored but still retains its original character.
Image credits: Frankfurt Cathedral © iStock/Meinzahn, Old Nikolai Church © iStock/thehague, Romer © iStock/Deejpilot, Eschenheimer Turm © iStock/thehague, St Paul's Church © iStock/manfredxy.