For pleasure or business, take this hotelier's advice.
Known for its modern skyline and financial vigor, this city on the Main River is well versed in international business—and poised to become an even bigger powerhouse post-Brexit. “After the U.K., this is the easiest place in Europe to do business,” says Sir Rocco Forte , the English hotelier who has spent the past 13 years going back and forth to Frankfurt. “It’s certainly a strong financial center—but there’s also quite a lot to do.” Here are some tips for your next business trip.
Home to Europe’s second largest airport by passenger volume (over 60 million annually), Frankfurt is a transportation juggernaut with nonstop service from 13 U.S. cities. Its airport is also a refreshingly convenient 20 minutes from downtown and well connected to public transportation. On arrival, you can get around on foot or by train, bus, or subway, but Forte notes, “it’s a driving city, and parking isn’t a problem,” so you may want to rent a car if you plan to spend more than a few days.
Best business hotels
Situated on the southern bank of the Main River, Forte’s Villa Kennedy resides in a late-19th-century mansion with a garden courtyard, a first-class, four-floor spa, and the suave JFK Bar. Closer to the financial center (just a 10-minute walk from Deutsche Bank HQ), the Sofitel Frankfurt Opera opened last October with urbane suites and an indoor pool.
Stay in shape
Frankfurt’s full name is Frankfurt am Main, for its location on the jogger-and-cyclist-friendly waterway. Hemmed in on either side by pedestrian parks and laced like a high-top sneaker with slender bridges, the river makes an ideal location for getting some exercise, as well as your geographical bearings.
Where to entertain clients
It might seem strange to dine on American meat and potatoes in Frankfurt, but M-Steakhouse, from the city’s prolific Mook Group, is a popular place for business dinners. The logo looks like something out of Guy Fieri’s camp, while the cozy interior (white linens, candles, wood wainscoting) conjures New York City’s Minetta Tavern. The menu includes “The Butterknife,” a Nebraska-sourced filet mignon, and no less than eight types of potatoes.
“Everyone thinks of Berlin as Germany’s music center,” says Forte, “but Frankfurt has quite a scene,” which ranges from variety theater at Tigerpalast and international musicians at the underground Jazzkeller—Armstrong and Gillespie played there—to shows at the city’s two opera houses. Rebuilt to its pre-WWII glory, the original Alte Oper hosts concerts, while the Oper Frankfurt company, whose soprano Louise Alder was named 2017’s Young Singer by the International Opera Awards in May, performs in the modern glass hall by the river.
Frankfurt’s deep distilling and brewing tradition means there are many delicious drinkable souvenirs to ship home. Local favorites include apfelwein, akin to dry French cider; Gin Sieben, a Frankfurt-style gin infused with seven specific herbs, including borage and sorrel; and mispelchen, a brandy made with medlar, a persimmon-like fruit.
Extending your stay
Heritage wine estates dot the sloping green hillsides of the Rheingau region, just west of Frankfurt, which is famed for its 20-mile stretch known as the Rheingauer Riesling Route. As the name suggests, Riesling is queen here (about 78% of production), but also look out for the region’s elegant, lesser-known pinot noirs, called spätburgunder.
German politesse and discipline are famous, so “don’t be aggressive and put a rush on [a business deal],” says Forte, who notes that despite Frankfurt’s modernity, “old-fashioned” traditions still command respect: “When you shake hands, it’s a done deal.” With regard to politics, the U.S. has many issues in common with Germany (immigration, Russia), so respectful discussion is completely permissible. As at home, though, it helps to get a feel for your audience before launching into a more vigorous debate.
A version of this article appears in the July 1, 2017 issue of Fortune with the headline “Doing Business in Frankfurt.” We’ve included affiliate links in this article. Click here to learn what those are.