City tour on the Ebbelwei Expreß
Travel through the heart of Frankfurt on the Ebbelwei Expreß. History, stories, monuments and memorable sights all lie along the route. We invite you to discover a lively city on a romantic tram.
Have a great trip!
Welcome aboard the Ebbelwei Expreß:
Come and discover our lively city on a historic tram. Enjoy an hour-long tour taking in history, stories, monuments and memorable sights along the way.
We hope you have a great trip!
Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main
Tips on enjoying the audio city tour
The trip on the Ebbelwei Expreß starts at the zoo and the circuit takes you past Frankfurt am Main’s most important sights.
To help you get the most out of the tour, you’ll hear a tone at the start of each audio file, the number of the section and the name of the stop that you’re approaching. We’ll then tell you about the sites that you’ll be seeing on either the left- or the right-hand side of the route. You can shuffle between stops on your MP3 player as you wish provided you have downloaded all the podcast files to your MP3 player in the correct order. You’ll hear another tone at the end of each section. If you hear this before arriving at the next stop, pause your MP3 player and wait until you get there.
Before we start our city tour, we’d first of all like to introduce you to our Ebbelwei Expreß. Trams in Frankfurt are identified by a consecutive series of letters. The latest type of tram is the ‘S’ carriage. The Ebbelwei Expreß is a generation ‘K’ tram and was built between 1949 and 1954 by Duewag/Crede. The carriage is 11.44 metres long, 2.16 metres wide and has room for 22 seated and eight standing passengers. It weighs 13 tonnes and has two 60 kW engines giving it power. VGF has a total of four engine carriages and six trailer carriages in its inventory.
We hope you enjoy your trip through our beautiful city. If the tram has already moved away from the zoo stop, please quickly move on to the next section.
The Frankfurt zoo is the second oldest zoological park in Germany. It was created in 1858 by an action group led by citizens of the city. The zoo was originally located in the Leer’schen Gärten in the city’s Westend district, but in 1874 moved to its current site, Pfingstweiden. After World War I, the zoo was taken over by the city of Frankfurt. During World War II, the zoo was almost completely destroyed. It was rebuilt after the end of the war with the support of animal researcher Bernhard Grzimek, who succeeded in raising the necessary funds.
Today, the Frankfurt zoo is one of the most visited zoological gardens in Europe.
Of particular interest are the Exotarium, the cat jungle, the Bogori forest and the nocturnal-animal house. The nocturnal-animal house is a space artificially made to look as if it’s night-time so that you can observe nocturnal animals during their waking hours.
Go to www.zoo-frankfurt.de for more information.
You’ll find the old Jewish cemetery on the left-hand side between the Allerheiligentor and Börneplatz stops that are just coming up. This is the second oldest Jewish burial ground in Germany and was used as such until 1828.
A total of 5,500 gravestones have been counted both above and below the ground. These date back as far as 1272. On the cemetery wall, there are 11,134 small plaques commemorating the Jewish citizens of Frankfurt who were murdered during the Holocaust.
At the end of the 1980s, the foundations of five houses in Judengasse and the Börneplatz synagogue were uncovered when building a new administrative centre for Frankfurt’s public utility company. Some of these walls and archaeological treasures were saved, and in 1992 the Judengasse Museum opened in the basement of the administrative building. The Judengasse Museum is a subsidiary of Frankfurt’s Jewish Museum. It’s located on the left-hand side at Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse 10 Here, as already explained, you’ll find archaeological relics from Frankfurt’s Judengasse shown as part of an exhibition on the history of the Jewish community since the 15th century, everyday life in the street and the history of Börneplatz since the 19th century.
Börneplatz was historically the site of the Börneplatz synagogue. This was built from 1881–1882 on the site of the Fremdenhospital that was constructed at the southern end of the former Judengasse in 1780. The synagogue was opened on 10 September 1882. The Börneplatz synagogue was one of four major synagogues in Frankfurt used by the orthodox wing of the community as their religious centre. It was set on fire by the National Socialists during the November Pogroms of 1938 and was completely destroyed apart from the external walls. The remains of the synagogue were torn down immediately afterwards.
Reconstruction of the area around Börneplatz that was completely destroyed in World War II began in 1952, but the former Börnestrasse was not rebuilt. Instead, a wide street was created, Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse, which is where VGF’s administrative building is now located.
At the Börneplatz stop, you can look to the right towards Konstablerwache and Zeil. Zeil was built in 1330 and is the most famous shopping street in Frankfurt. Today this 1,100-metre-long and 40-metre-wide pedestrian zone is one of the busiest shopping miles in Germany. The name ‘Zeil’ comes from the way in which the buildings are built very closely to one another in a way that looks like a row, or ‘Zeile’, of books. We’ll be travelling parallel to this shopping street between Börneplatz and Römer, where you can also catch a glimpse of Zeil to your right.
Museum für Moderne Kunst
You’ll now see the Museum für Moderne Kunst (museum for modern art) on your right-hand side, or the ‘piece of cake’ as it’s called by the locals. This striking triangular building with its unconventional interior puts on temporary exhibitions of contemporary art. The way the building has been constructed means that you can view all the paintings in natural light when the weather is good. The building was designed by Viennese architect Hans Hollein and opened in 1991. The Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt features works by artists such as Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys and James Turrell.
Look to your left at the next junction and you’ll see the cathedral, built on Cathedral Hill. This was the centre of the first settlement in Frankfurt during the Bronze Age. Strictly speaking, this former collegiate and parish church is not a cathedral as Frankfurt has never had its own bishop. The church was, however, designated a cathedral back in the Middle Ages so that it could be used for coronations. This is where German kings were crowned from 1356 onwards and where German emperors were crowned between 1562 and 1792.
On the left-hand side is the Römerberg. This has been Frankfurt’s most prestigious square for centuries, known by the locals as the ‘Gudd Stubb’. In the middle of the square is the Fountain of Justice, which was originally erected in 1543 to symbolise traders’ right to hold a market on the site and which has often been rebuilt. Since 1887 the bronze ‘Justitia’ with her sword and scales has adorned the fountain. Römerberg is also where the famous Christmas market takes place in front of the reconstructed half-timbered houses.
The ‘Römer’, the old city hall that currently houses the municipal authority, is a group of 11 town houses on the western side of Römerberg. The centrepiece of the site and emblem of Frankfurt is the collection of three Gothic stepped-gable houses called ‘Zum Römer’, ‘Alt-Limpurg’ and ‘Löwenstein’ that were converted in 1405 to create the city hall.
‘Römer’ is understood figuratively to mean the city authorities. The first imperial staircase built in 1405 is now used as the entrance staircase to the registry office’s wedding suite.
St. Paul’s Church
On the right is St. Paul’s Church. This is built in the shape of an elliptical rotunda in neoclassical style. The church was where the pre-parliament and the Frankfurt National Assembly met in 1848–1849. The National Assembly was Germany’s first representative body that was freely elected by the people.
The interior of St. Paul’s Church was gutted by fire in 1944 and only reopened on 18 May 1948. St. Paul’s Church is seen as a symbol of freedom and democracy and is no longer used as a church. Nowadays it is used as a meeting place for special events and ceremonies, such as the German book trade’s peace awards ceremony held during the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Willy-Brandt-Platz lies within the banking district adjacent to the ramparts of Frankfurt. The ramparts form a ring-like park around the inner city of Frankfurt am Main. They were created at the beginning of the 19th century on the grounds of Frankfurt’s former city fortifications. The Frankfurt ‘Anlagenring’ runs around the ramparts. The ramparts are divided into seven sections, most of which bear the names of the former city gates. These are the Untermain, the Gallus, the Taunus, the Bockenheimer, the Eschenheimer, the Friedberger and the Obermain sections.
Willy-Brandt-Platz and the Städtische Bühnen are located along the Untermain section.
The Städtische Bühnen are on the left-hand side of Willy-Brandt-Platz, previously known as Theaterplatz. This new building was constructed between 1951 and 1963. The Städtische Bühnen house Frankfurt’s municipal theatre companies, which are the largest in the state of Hessen. They are divided into the opera house, which seats 1,400, the 700-seat theatre and the 200-seat playhouse.
The Frankfurt opera was named opera house of the year in 1995 and 2003 by the magazine ‘Opernwelt’.
Frankfurt’s ‘Fairy-Tale Fountain’
In front of the Städtische Bühnen is the Märchenbrunnen (‘Fairy-Tale Fountain’), an art nouveau fountain by Ernst Friedrich Hausmann that was completed in 1910. The bronze figures at the base of the eight-metre-high fountain were melted down during World War II and only reconstructed in 2006 using photographs from the 1920s.
After turning to the right, the street on the right at the next junction is Kaiserstrasse. Kaiserstrasse is one of the most famous streets in the centre of Frankfurt. With its magnificently decorated Wilhelmenian facades, it connects the city centre to the railway station in grand style. After World War II, Kaiserstrasse became synonymous with Frankfurt’s red light district, although it is no longer part of that scene. The street is now home to many bars, cabaret clubs, businesses and offices that give the street a multicultural feel.
Frankfurt central station
The railway station was opened in 1888. Today, it’s one of the largest railway terminal after in Germany. Around 1,800 trains stop here on weekdays. The station now has over 25 platforms in five departure halls. There are also four local train platforms and four underground train platforms 17 metres below the station.
The station was built by the Holzmann company. It was extended in 1924 when two new external halls were built. Three halls were needed because there were three different railway companies at the time – the Taunusbahn, the Preussische Staatsbahn and the Hessische Ludwigsbahn. The Taunusbahn was the first railway company in Frankfurt.
The route to Wiesbaden was opened in 1839. In Mainz-Kastel, there was a connection to sea crossings.
The station’s facade is made of sandstone. To the left and the right of the clock at the main entrance, you’ll see an artistic impression of day and night. In the centre of the roof, there’s a statue of Atlas carrying a globe on his shoulders. To the side of him are figures symbolising steam and electricity. This 6.3-metre-high group of figures is designed to highlight the special significance of the station.
Platz der Republik
From Platz der Republik, you can see the skyscrapers along Mainzer Landstrasse and the Ludwig-Erhard-Anlage to the right. At the junction with Mainzer Landstrasse on the right-hand side, you’ll also see the City Hochhaus. This 142-metre building is also known as the Selmi tower, named after Ali Selmi who built the tower designed by Richard Heil between 1971 and 1974.
Further along Mainzer Landstrasse to the right is the Westend Tower. Together, this tower and the City Hochhaus are the headquarters of DZ Bank. The Westend Tower is also known as the ‘crown tower’ due to the corona-like structure that sits on top of it. At a height of 208 metres, this is one of the highest skyscrapers in Frankfurt and indeed all of Germany. The Westend Tower was designed by architect William Pedersen and completed in 1993. The crown at the top symbolises Frankfurt’s role as the coronation city of Germany’s emperors. For this reason, it faces the Römerberg where the coronations took place. The corona is heated in winter to avoid icicles forming that could be a danger to those using the roads underneath.
The former police headquarters building on the left-hand side of Friedrich-Ebert-Anlage was opened in 1914. Most of the building has been vacant since the police headquarters moved to a new building on Alleenring. The police headquarters was built in the historicist style, which is a blend of neo-baroque and neoclassical styles, and this is now a listed building.
The next building on the left after the police headquarters is the evangelical Matthäuskirche built in 1905. It was severely damaged during the war and so most of the current building dates from the post-war period. The congregation now barely numbers 100 members, so the regional association Protestant Church in Hessen and Nassau decided in 2002 to quit the building and sell it for demolition. The local church congregation is fiercely fighting this move.
Frankfurt Westend district
Along with the railway station district, the Nordend and the Ostend, the Westend is one of Frankfurt’s densely populated inner city districts that was built during the Wilhelminian period. Nowadays it’s still one of the most expensive places to live in Frankfurt. The district stretches largely to your right as far as the Messe Frankfurt trade fair centre.
The western section of the inner city, the eastern section of the railway station district and the southern part of the Westend together form Frankfurt’s banking district with its many high-rise office buildings.
There’s also an above-average number of educational establishments in the Westend disctrict, including most importantly the Bockenheim campus of the Goethe University Frankfurt and the Senckenberg Museum.
Messe Frankfurt trade fair centre
Trade fairs have dominated the economic and cultural life of Frankfurt since the 12th century. The IAA and the Frankfurt Book Fair are particularly important in cementing Frankfurt’s role as a leading international trade fair centre. The dome-shaped Festhalle built in 1909 and the Frankfurt Congress Centre are both located on the trade fair grounds.
Messe Frankfurt GmbH is one of the world’s largest trade fair organisers. With 28 subsidiary companies, five branch offices and 52 international sales partners, it’s represented in more than 150 countries worldwide.
Numerous well-known trade fairs are regularly held in Frankfurt, and most of these are organised by Messe Frankfurt GmbH itself. The main focus is on specialised trade fairs for the textile, consumer goods, architecture, technology and car industries.
The Festhalle (Festival Hall) is the venue of many major events, such as the concerts of renowned artists and bands or sporting events like the ATP World Tour in the early 1990s as well as major equestrian tournaments.
The first events held there in 1909 were the German Gymnastics Festival and the International Aerospace Exhibition. The Festhalle was built between 1907 and 1909.
The architecture of the 256-metre-tall MesseTurm is a post-modern nod to American skyscrapers of the 1920s. When the tower, nicknamed the ‘pencil’ was completed in 1991, it was the tallest building in Europe. The roof pyramid alone, which is what makes the building look like a pencil, is 36.6 metres tall. The pyramid, which is not accessible to the public or people hiring the building, is illuminated at night. Because of this, it is particularly visible from planes landing at Frankfurt Airport at twilight. The tower is called the MesseTurm due to the fact that it’s located to the south-west of the trade fair grounds. However, it’s used as an office building rather than for trade fair events.
To your right behind Tower 185 is the Europa quarter built on the site of the former freight depot. This district contains offices, hotels, flats, shops and leisure facilities, and it is due to be a place where 10,000 people will work and 3,000 people will live. Tower 185 is 185 metres tall. The actual tower rises above the centre of a horseshoe-shaped plinth, looking as if it’s made from two halves of a skyscraper.
Before we cross the Main River, you’ll see the former Westhafen on the right. This is now being transformed by the construction of attractive modern residential complexes. The Westhafen is a former inland port separated from the Main by a breakwater that’s 560 metres long and 75 metres wide. The Westhafen Tower has stood at the entrance to Westhafen since 2003. At a height of 109 metres, it is one of the city’s smaller skyscrapers. The tower is referred to locally as ‘Geripptes’, or the largest cider glass in the world, due to its diamond-shaped windows. These diamonds look very much those on the typical cider glass called the ‘Gerippte’. Because the foundation of the building is round and the floors are square, there are 18 conservatories situated between the inner facades and round outer facade.
Our trip across the Main will now take us over the Friedensbrücke, or ‘peace bridge’. This 300-metre bridge was rebuilt between 1950 and 1951 and is supported by four columns.
In 1945, this was the only bridge over the Main in Frankfurt that had not been completely blown up. It was over this bridge that the US army was able to enter the city on 26 March 1945.
On the south side, there is a bronze figure called ‘Der Hafenarbeiter’ (‘the port worker’) created by Meunier in 1893 in memory of Frankfurt’s Westhafen. The worker is wearing a hood to protect him from coal dust.
The Städel and the Museumsufer
On the other side of the Main, we come to the museum embankment (Museumsufer) on the south side of the river. To the left, you can see the Städelsches Kunstinstitut and the Städtische Galerie (municipal gallery) immediately alongside the next bridge across the river, the Hohlbeinsteg. The Städel building was constructed in historicist style between 1874–1878 and is now fully accessible again following renovations that started in 2000. It is one of the most beautiful and richest art galleries in Europe.
The Frankfurt museum embankment (Museumufer) is one of the most significant museum sites in Germany as well as Europe. There are currently 13 exhibition buildings here on the Schaumeinkai. The idea of bringing various museums together was put forward by Frankfurt’s then head of cultural affairs Hilmar Hoffmann in 1977. Between 1980 and 1990, existing facilities were expanded and new buildings were constructed. Museums that you will find here include:
- Ikonen-Museum (icons museum)
- Museum für Angewandte Kunst (museum of applied art), formerly Museum für Kunsthandwerk (museum of crafts), along with the Villa Metzler
- Weltkulturen Museum (museum of world cultures), formerly the Völkerkundemuseum (museum of ethnology)
- Deutsches Filmmuseum (German film museum]
- Deutsche Architekturmuseum (German architecture museum)
- Museum für Kommunikation (museum for communication), formerly the Bundespostmuseum (post office museum) the Liebieghaus sculpture museum
- Museum Giersch featuring regional art
On the northern side of the Main, you will also find the Historisches Museum (history museum) and the Jewish Museum. If you are interested in public transport, we recommend visiting the VGF Transport Museum in Schwanheim. Take a journey through the history of public transport in Frankfurt am Main.
Sachsenhausen takes its name from the settlement of Saxon families by Charlemagne. This part of the city was originally a fishing village outside Frankfurt and is now a popular residential area with many refurbished old buildings.
This is where you will find Schellgasse 8, the oldest remaining house in Frankfurt built in 1291.
In Frankfurt’s local dialect, Sachsenhausen is also called ‘Dribb de Bach’ or ‘over the stream’, in other words on the other side of the Main. ‘Hibb de Bach’ means ‘on this side of the stream’, or the northern side of the Main.
There were previously more than 100 breweries located here. The beer was stored cold in large cellar vaults in the Sachsenhäuser Berg.
Today, Sachsenhausen is known as the Ebbelwei district. Ebbelwei is name that those living in Frankfurt give to cider, and it’s also where the name Ebbelwei Express comes from.
In Sachenhausen’s old cider bars, you can now also find Frankfurt’s world-famous cider. The cider is a dry and extremely light apple wine made from local apples. This ‘Stöffche’, as the locals also call it, is served in easy-to-hold diamond-patterned glasses known as ‘Gerippte’. In the past, the ‘ribs’ created by the pattern were supposed to help drinkers hold the glass more easily in their hands. People ate without using knives and forks at that time, particularly farm workers, and smooth glasses slipped more easily through greasy fingers.
The cider is poured from a classic earthenware pitcher called a ‘Bembel’. It’s typically served with ‘Handkäs mit Musik’ or a hearty ‘Rippche mit Kraut’. Enjoy sampling Frankfurt’s cuisine – and spend some time relaxing over a good ‘Schoppen’. It’s definitely worth stopping for a bite
Turning left here brings you to the famous Klappergass in Old Sachsenhausen. ‘Frau Rauscher’, the life-sized stone sculpture, welcomes guests in for a glass of cider. It’s also the name of the naturally cloudy ‘Stöffche’ made by the Possmann family press house in Frankfurt that you can find in all good food shops or specialist drinks outlets.
Our tour then proceeds past Alt-Sachsenhausen and over the Main river with the Ignatz Bubis bridge. The earlier Obermainbrücke (Upper Main Bridge) was built between 1876 and 1878.
Looking left from the bridge you can get a good view of Frankfurt’s skyline. The view of the skyline from the East is one of a kind. Because the tall buildings are largely in the western part of the city, you can also recognise numerous historical towers, like Frankfurt Cathedral, from here. If you look right you’ll see the Osthafen area and the European Central Bank built on the old market grounds, whose imposing twin towers rise almost 200 metres.
At the start of the Ignatz Bubis-Brücke is the white portico of the public library that was completely destroyed in 1944. The building was constructed between 1820 and 1825. Today it’s used for art exhibitions.
Hospital zum heiligen Geist
The Hospital zum heiligen Geist (hospital of the Holy Spirit) is a public foundation and the oldest of its kind in Frankfurt. It was first mentioned in documents dating from 1267. Originally the clinic was on the banks of the Main, but on 22 May 1835 construction started on a new hospital building. Due to a lack of space the foundation Stiftung Hospital zum heiligen Geist built a new hospital on Lange Strasse along the ramparts of the inner city wall. After a construction period lasting four years, the hospital opened in 1839. It was destroyed in World War II and then rebuilt.
End of the tour
We’re almost at the end of our tour and will shortly be arriving back at the zoo. We hope you enjoyed your trip on the Ebbelwei Express, and hope that you recommend us and our podcast to your friends. You’ll find all the information and the sources on the VGF website at www.vgf-ffm.de. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon and hope you enjoy the rest of your stay in our lovely city of Frankfurt am Main.
Please remember that you can also hire the Ebbelwei Express for family parties and special events. For more information, visit www.ebbelwei-express.com.
Information and data come largely from the following sources on the German Wikipedia site as at June 2010: http://de.wikipedia.org
and, in particular, the following sources: