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Live large on small sums in Frankfurt

A world financial center packed with investment bankers sounds like a tough place to do on a budget, but even the Manhattan of continental Europe has secrets aplenty for the thrifty.
Image:A passenger ship
A passenger ship named "The Arms of Frankfurt" cruises through Main river as it heads towards the skyline of Frankfurt, Germany. Frank Rumpenhorst / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A world financial center packed with investment bankers sounds like a tough place to do on a budget, but even the Manhattan of continental Europe has secrets aplenty for the thrifty.

From beautiful outside gardens to sizzling sausages, many of the city's pleasures are actually the cheapest.

Getting around: Frankfurt is so compact that walking is the best way to see it, but for euro1.90 ($2.40) you can use the U-Bahn in the city center (euro4.60 or $5.90 for a day pass). For euro6 ($7.65), tour the city on the "Ebbelwei Express," an old streetcar named after the drink served free on board, apple wine. If that's not to your liking, there is juice and of course pretzels.

Famous places: Frankfurt's skyline is dominated by skyscrapers, which has given rise to the nickname "Mainhattan," but its historic center is the Roemerberg or "Roman Mountain." Wander around the square, watch newlyweds leave the historic town hall, and look into some of the churches. The Kaiserdom, or Church of Saint Bartholomew, dates back to 1867 and is one of the few historical buildings not destroyed during World War II bombing raids. Next to the church are Roman ruins discovered in the rubble after the war that you can stroll through for free.

Of course, the best view of the city is from above. Commerzbank offers free tours of its Sir Norman Foster-designed skyscraper at Kaiserplatz with inside gardens and a 49th-floor panorama. Close your eyes in the glass elevator if you need to. The tours are held on the last Saturday of the month and must be reserved far in advance.

Otherwise the view of the city from the Main Tower, Neue Mainzer Strasse 52-58, costs euro4.60 ($5.90) and is just as dizzying, some 600 feet above it all.

Back on the ground, Goethe University, the largest in the city, has its own botanical garden for research, but it is open to the public as well with huge Chinese redwoods, camellias and other exotic flowers, at Siesmayerstrasse 72.

Image:  A woman cycles near a fountain in Frankfurt
** FILE ** In this Sept. 25, 2008 file photo, a woman cycles near a fountain in Frankfurt, central Germany. A world financial center packed with investment bankers sounds like a tough place to do on a budget, but even the Manhattan of continental Europe has secret aplenty for the thrifty. From beautiful outside gardens to sizzling sausages, many of the city's pleasures are actually the cheapest. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)Michael Probst / AP

Palms, eucalyptus and unusual trees also grow in the Nizza Garden on the Main near the Untermainbruecke, or Under Main Bridge. When the sun is out, everyone is there promenading on the river bank.

Museums: On the last Saturday of each month, the Jewish Museum at Untermainkai 14-15, Archaeological Museum at Karmelitergasse 1 and Film Museum at Schaumainkai 41, are all free, as well as the Museum of Modern Art at Domstrasse 10, which also gives out free food and drinks at openings, no invitation necessary.

Portikus, a tall red building on a tiny island in the river, is free and shows artists with international status such as Olafur Eliasson and Wade Guyton, just off the Alte Bruecke 2 Maininsel.

The Geldmuseum or "Money Museum" at Wilhelm-Epstein-Strasse 14 is always free with exhibits on the history and production of money, and on spotting counterfeit bills.

Entertainment: Summer festivals abound from the Opernplatzfest, June 19-28, 2009, in front of the old opera house with international food and dance, to the Museumsuferfest, when all the museums host events on the banks of the river, Aug. 29-31, 2009. In the fall the Rheingauer Weinmarkt brings some 600 different wines and sekts to be sampled along the Fressgass, Sept. 2-11, 2009. The Christmas Market sells gingerbread, toys and all kinds of sweets at more than 240 stands opening later this season, Nov. 26-Dec. 21 at the Roemerberg.

Food: Street food is always the cheapest and most local way to go. Frankfurt has markets five days a week in several spots around town. Try the market directly on Kaiserstrasse straight down from the main train station for famed German wurst — five kinds all swinging on a round grill suspended from the top of the stand. Grilled chicken, crepes, coffee and local wines are all for sale here on the street starting at 9 a.m. and running through 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays year round.

The market on Konstablerwache has the widest variety of drinks, from the local apple wine — a strong sour alcohol made from fermented apples, to riesling from the Rheingau and home-brewed beer not available bottled, only light or dark on tap. All cost euro2-3 ($2.50-4) a glass. In the winter, the afterwork crowd bundles together around tall tables with steaming mugs of mulled wine called Gluehwein. Try the honey waffles and fresh yogurt from the milk bar or one of the juices — elderberry, apple or pear — in tall, cloudy glasses. The market is every Thursday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., but on Fridays many of the same stands show up on Schillerstrasse for the market next to the stock exchange, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Shopping always means spending money but Frankfurt's flea market even earns praise from out-of-towners with a selection of clothing called vintage elsewhere. Everything from plaid wool jackets to 1960s designer furniture is available at the market, not to mention souvenirs like beersteins, postcards and Cold War paraphernalia. It's up to you whether you want to drive a hard bargain or just pay the euro2 ($2.55) for your find.

When hunger hits, grilled corn on the cob and crepes are ready and waiting. The market runs along the Main river on the south bank, or the Sachsenhausen side every Saturday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and is always packed regardless of the weather.

The Cafe im Liebighaus is tucked just around the corner at Schaumainkai 71, just secret enough to be special. For euro1.80 ($2.30) try the Abruzzo, Poppy Seed or Buckwheat Tart — original creations made from scratch in this villa built by Baron von Leibieg in 1896. Friday evenings there is jazz in the garden, and inside, the low ceilings make the old-fashioned rooms the coziest in town.

For a hearty dinner, go to Klosterhof at Weissfrauensstrasse 3, which serves heaping platters of Bratkartoffeln with Woodcutter's Steak or hash browns called Roesti, piled with cheese and tomato, all for euro10-12 ($13-15).

Neighborhoods: Directly out of the main train station is certainly the most colorful neighborhood in the city. A two-block red light district runs directly into the major banking district on Taunusstrasse. Running parallel two blocks over, Muenchenerstrasse is a one-street Turkish district with barbers, banks, restaurants and coffee shops. Try honey-soaked baklava in the Suna Bakery or ayran, a salty yogurt drink, at Bayram across the street and watch men carving up Mediterranean fish at Ali's.

Behind the Kaisersdom is a tiny neighborhood with a mix of unique shops and galleries. The Bitter and Zart Chocolaterie, Domstrasse 4, creates their own extraordinary confections and Walter Koenig next door has a great selection of art and design books to browse through in English. One street down on Fahrgasse, a row of galleries displays works through oversize windows and the art-book publisher Revolver sells limited editions. Back up into town is the Kleinmarkthalle, a real Frankfurt institution, a market hall with produce, spices and all cuts of meat at Hasengasse 5.

Accommodations: A youth hostel is the cheapest way to go, at euro17 ($22) per night in the dorm style room for under 27-year-olds — over 27 is euro21.50 ($27.50) — in Sachsenhausen, on the south side of the river at Deutschherrnufer 12. Another hostel opposite the main train station at Kaiserstrasse 74 charges euro18 to 20 ($23-25.50) a night for dorm rooms.