Last week Frankfurt’s former city walls celebrated an historic birthday. Two hundred years ago, the City of Frankfurt enacted the so-called Wallservitut, an easement with which they moved to protect the parklands along the course of the former mediaeval city fortifications from destruction. This edict also helped to lay the foundation for further natural development within the city. Today, Frankfurt is one of Germany’s “greenest” urban centres, featuring over 50 parks and gardens within its city districts.
Today, the Anlagenring, a section of the former city walls now landscaped, forms a five-kilometre-long semicircle around the city centre. Visitors taking a walk along this green ring will come across fountains, ponds, ancient trees, modern sculptures, monuments and memorials, many of which serve as reminders of Frankfurt’s colourful history. The demolition of the former city walls had helped to bring about the establishment of English-style landscape gardens, which were continuously expanded over time. The former course of the star-shaped city fortifications is still recognisable upon closer examination of a city map.
Starting at the massive euro symbol situated in front of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt’s green ring takes visitors past the Beethoven Memorial and Heinrich Heine Memorial to one of the city’s most beautiful locations: Opera Square and Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s grand old opera house and one of the city’s premier landmarks. A few hundred metres further on, one comes across the Nebbiensche Gartenhaus. This oasis of green, built in classicistic style in 1810, was one of the first glasshouses to be erected along the green pathway. Today, it is available for special-event hire. From here, it is not far to the Eschenheimer Tor, the only remaining city gate of the former mediaeval walls. Continuing on, one arrives at the Odeon, a popular dance club. Originally, this classicistic-styled structure was built by order of the Bethmanns, a famous Frankfurt banking family. For many years, it served as the home of the Museum of Sculptures. Taking a few steps away from the beaten track, walkers will arrive at the nearby Bethmann Park and its Chinese Garden, which was designed according to the principles of Feng Shui. Having returned to the green lane, one comes across Frankfurt’s most beautiful “outhouse”. Nowadays, these monument-listed former public toilets with their chapel-like dimensions are home to a cocktail bar named Lala Mamoona. The gabled roof and half-timbered framework provide an excellent background for the lounge music and relaxed atmosphere of this popular location.
The end of the green ring is now only 750 metres away. The former municipal library, rebuilt in 2005 and now the home of the Frankfurt House of Literature, today presents itself as a beautiful café with an attached beer garden, inviting visitors to a refreshing respite. Those fit enough are urged to continue on down Frankfurt’s unique and very natural riverside promenade, which runs along both sides of the River Main. From here, beautiful views of the city’s skyline and surrounding area are guaranteed; in fact, they are best enjoyed from one of the riverside establishments while drinking a glass of Frankfurt apple wine.
Frankfurt’s Anlagenring, the first such landscaped parklands to partially encircle a city centre in Germany, raised many eyebrows throughout Europe at the time of its creation. This green ring was instrumental in commencing the establishment of a series of parks and gardens that helped to transform Frankfurt am Main into a truly green city – a fact that often escapes attention due to the many other highlights found in the Main metropolis.
With such an impressive skyline, it is hard to believe that the business and banking city of Frankfurt is also home to several nature reserves, such as Enkheim Moor in the city’s northeast, Schwanheim Forest in the southwest and Fechenheim Forest to the east.
Two hundred years after the creation of the the green ring, Frankfurt’s “GreenBelt” has established itself as the city’s premier place of rest and recreation. Fully completed in 1991, it now encircles the city at a length of some 80 kilometres and consists of hiking and cycling paths as well as countless other recreational opportunities. During summer, the GreenBelt’s many public gardens attract visitors with their impressive variety of flora – be it Mediterranean, like at the Gardens of Niece at the banks of the River Main, baroque-style as at the Bolongaro Gardens, or spacious as the English landscaped parks of old, such as Grüneburgpark and Ostpark.
One location that’s particularly attractive all year round is the Palmengarten. Founded in 1868 with the kind donations of Frankfurt’s citizenry, these magnificent botanical gardens are home to some 3,000-odd species and varieties of plant. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity of experiencing plant life representing the most diverse climate zones.
Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest city forest, a 5,000-hectare wood that extends from the airport to the city districts of Oberrad, Sachsenhausen and Niederrad. Recently, during Whitsuntide, Frankfurt locals once again headed to the city forest to celebrate their national holiday, the Wäldchestag, or “Forest Day”. This festival is unique to Frankfurt and has been taking place since 1792.