A walk along the museum embankment in Frankfurt
Frankfurt’s Main River offers more than just the city’s panoramic skyline and architecture; take a stroll along the Main from east to west. Cross from the north to south end of the river via the Old Bridge (Alte Brücke), and you’ll find yourself surrounded by an array of museums that promote Frankfurt’s art, culture and history.
The Museum Embankment, or the Museumsufer, features a diverse mix of exhibits, all near Frankfurt’s historical city center. Whether you are a lover of art, a history guru or a film enthusiast, there’s a museum for that. Interested in dinosaur fossils? Frankfurt has that, too. There are more than 60 museums that make up the embankment (some larger than others), 26 of which are neighbors, making it easy to hop from one to the next. Thirteen of those museums comprise the riverfront between the Peace Bridge and Iron Bridge (Eiserner Steg and Friedensbrücke). In fact, Frankfurt is one of the leading museum locations in Europe.
Antje Runje, head of the press and public relations department of culture and science, said the idea behind the embankment was to “provide culture for everyone on both sides of the Main.”
“Today, this ensemble forms a complementary cultural and spatial urban development program that is entirely in harmony with the Frankfurt skyline,” she said.
Some of the exhibitions not to be overlooked include the German Film Museum that exposes present-day German cinema and its history; the renowned Stadel Museum, holding some of Germany’s most treasured artworks; and the Senckenberg Museum of Natural History, one of the largest natural history museums in the world.
Senckenberg Museum of Natural History
When entering the Senckenberg Museum, you’ll be drawn in by the 18-meter-high diplodocus dinosaur displayed on the 6,000-squaremeter ground floor, just one of the museum’s highlights. There are only two originals existing in the world — one in New York and one in Frankfurt. Senckenberg’s is the only diplodocus dinosaur mummy from the United States. It was given to the exhibition as a gift in 1907, when it moved to its current location in Frankfurt’s city center. The move provided the museum more space for its momentous collection of 10,000 different species, including reptiles, amphibians, sharks and birds.
Dr. Bernd Herkner, head of the museum department, explained the amount of research involved behind the scenes of Senckenberg. “The museum is just a window to our research,” he said.
Behind the fossils, dinosaurs and other species displays is a research team gathering more than 38 million potential objects to be researched and studied. Senckenberg shares its research with Frankfurt University (built around the museum) to educate students attending the university.
Another collection only existing in the Senckenberg Museum is the famous Messel exhibition, which displays fossils from the village Messel, located 30 kilometers from Frankfurt. Some of these fossils still have preserved skin after 47 million years. According to Dr. Herkner, Messel is “like a Pompeii of paleontology, or fossil systems.” Senckenberg’s research team goes to excavation sites to gather fossils, which are brought back to be examined and potentially displayed in the museum.
“Messel is unique,” Herkner proudly stated. “There is nothing comparable to this in all natural history museums in the world.”
Above the Messel exhibit and the rare dinosaurs, is an anaconda preserved in the action of swallowing a capybara. If you’ve never heard of or seen a water pig, think guinea pig, only much larger.
Senckenberg is popular among families and children, with 50 percent of visitors under 18 years of age. If you’re walking along the Museumsufer wondering which museums will attract your kids’ attention, put Senckenberg on your list. If the T-Rex with the giant teeth won’t get their attention, try getting their hands dirty in one of the specialty workshops where they can build their own dinosaurs with clay and other crafty materials. Senckenberg also offers educational programs for children and families and guided museum tours. Don’t worry, parents, there are workshops made for you, too. For more information on tours and workshops, visit www.senckenberg.de.
Frankfurt Historical Museum
More toward the city center, across from a yummy café, is the Kinder Museum, part of the Frankfurt Historical Museum and another popular must-see for little ones. When you enter, there is immediate fun and creativity to jump into. Adults can sit at the café tables with steamy cappuccinos while the children play dress up and “cook” in the Old Country Store and kitchen designed for children ages 6 and older. They can role-play cashier and customer in the store, then learn about 19th century utensils and appliances in the kitchen.
Have a toddler? No problem — the “mini-museum” is made just for toddlers (2-5 years) giving them the freedom to kick off their shoes and get creative while parents play keep-up. The little ones can build forts with the giant cube-shaped pillow,s or zoom down the slide as many times as their hearts desire (or as many times as Mom and Dad can handle). There are also two fun game stations for the parents and children to sit and play unique board games together.
The Kinder Museum has workshops in English and German designed for pre-school ages and up, where children can learn how to create art with papier-mâché, and learn about theater and acting, painting, and bead making. For more information in English on upcoming events and workshops, visit http://kindermuseum.frankfurt.de/english.
More at Museum Embankment
There’s plenty more to do when you visit the Museumsufer (as if 60 museums weren’t enough). In and around Wallstrasse and Brückenstrasse is the new hot spot for shopping. There are numerous cafés, cute boutiques and museum shops along the embankment. Once you get to the river, take a relaxing boat ride to tour up and down the Main. You can choose the 50- or 100-minute ride while you soak in the city view and sip a glass of wine.
If you really want to see the embankment’s fun side, visit Frankfurt during the Museumsuferfest, one of Europe’s biggest cultural events that attracts more than 2 million people each year. Museumsuferfest takes place along the south end of the river every August, offering three days of music, food, performances and appreciation of the embankment’s history. You can book a long culture-driven weekend during the festival that includes a hotel, breakfast, a special “Museum button’’ and more at www.museumsuferfest.de.
Planning your trip
Staying at a hotel near the main train station will place you within walking distance of the city center and the embankment, or you can take advantage of Frankfurt’s easy transportation system (U-bahn and S-bahn) that gets you from point A to point B quickly.
Purchasing the Frankfurt Card can be worth it if visiting multiple museums; a one- or two-day pass gives you unlimited use of the transportation system, plus discounts on museums, restaurants and shops. For more information about the Frankfurt card and how to get around the city, visit www.frankfurt-tourismus.de/en/Information-Planning/Frankfurt-Card.