Frankfurt © Roland Meinecke

Sprawling Frankfurt on the River Main is celebrated more by the business crowd than curious tourists. The city is a major transport hub and an industrial and financial powerhouse, not only in Germany, but the whole of central Europe. Frankfurt is home to Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank and one of Europe's most important stock exchanges, which has been trading since 1585.

For tourists, Frankfurt offers many intriguing sights, some great restaurants, a variety of cultural events and excellent shopping opportunities, not to mention an energetic nightlife scene. Attractions are mostly confined to the historical district known as the Römerberg, where Charlemagne erected his fort in medieval times. Most of the original buildings were destroyed during World War II, but some have been reconstructed, including the home of Goethe, Frankfurt's most famous son who became Germany's greatest writer. For shopping, it's hard to beat the Zeil, Germany's equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue.

With its excellent rail connections and autobahn system, Frankfurt is the natural hub for travellers wishing to explore the surrounding towns and countryside. It's also the venue for numerous trade fairs, exhibitions and congresses, drawing about 12 million event-goers a year. The largest and best known is the annual International Book Fair, attended by thousands of publishers, writers and avid readers.