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Trade Fairs in Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main is not only known as the European financial metropolis. The city is also one of the most important trade fair locations in Germany. Visitors and exhibitors alike appreciate the size of the exhibition grounds, in addition to Frankfurt's large international airport, the Autobahn and a sophisticated public transport network. Worldwide, only the exhibition grounds in Hanover, Germany are bigger than those in Frankfurt am Main.

Trade Fairs in Frankfurt Outdoor Panorama

History of Trade Fairs in Frankfurt am Main
The first mention of the Frankfurt Trade Fair is in 1150, when the fairs took place in and around the Roemer marketplace in Frankfurt. During trade fairs in the middle ages, all the guesthouses in Frankfurt were booked, many trade fair guests were accommodated in private houses. While most stands were erected outside the Roemer building, goldsmiths and silversmiths as well as jewelers were given the most exclusive location: they were allowed to build their stands inside the Roemer for better protection of their precious goods. To read more about the Roemer, read our earlier article Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main.

Thanks to Frankfurt's geographical location at the crossroads of important long-distance trade routes from and to Lyon, Venice, Antwerp, and Lübeck, the city was the hub of the flow of goods and meeting place for people from all over the world, together with the river Main as a favorable transport route. Everything was traded; from cloths and ceramics to books, cattle and more.

A special status was achieved by the privilege of Emperor Frederick II, who gave the fair visitors the full range of escorts during their return trip starting in the year 1240. Even during their stay in the city their security was ensured. The sequence during the fair weeks was roughly divided into four parts: the escorted arrival week, the actual business week, the week of payments and final dealmaking, and finally the departure week. In 1337, Emperor Ludwig granted the city of Frankfurt the privilege that no other fair could be erected throughout the Lands that could harm the Frankfurt fair in any way.

Messeturm, or Trade Fair Tower in Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt Trade Fair Landmarks
The most prominent building and also one of the highest skyscrapers in Frankfurt is the Messeturm - trade fair tower - with an altitude of 256.5 meters (841.5 feet) and a total of 54 floors. The Messeturm is, however, outside the trade fair grounds and is usually not used for trade fair events. Architecturally, its form stands out, which is why he is also called "pencil" by the people of Frankfurt.

The Hammering Man Sculpture by Jonathan Borosfsky, near the Messeturm in Frankfurt am Main

In front of the Messeturm you will find a large, black sculpture by the American artist Jonathan Borofsky called The Hammering Man. The black silhouette shows a worker who moves a hammer against a symbolic workpiece. This sculpture is meant to be a symbol of solidarity for all working people and can be found in various versions all around the world. The statue in Frankfurt am Main weighs 32 tons and was installed in 1991 for the “Art Frankfurt” trade show. This fair for modern art started in 1989 and was canceled due to lack of demand in 2007. The Hammering Man remained.

Today, the fairs in Frankfurt attract more than 1.5 million visitors every year. Every year, the world's largest book fair, Buchmesse takes place here, and the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA) is held every two years in Frankfurt. Most major car brands show all their models in various halls and my dad and I visit every time. This is what the halls look like inside during the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA).

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

People mover at 2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

Skylights at the 2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main
My favorite hall is the Festhalle, Festival Hall, built in 1907, and also the historic center of the trade fair grounds. It can hold up to 13,500 visitors unseated and is home to concerts, sporting events and Mercedes-Benz during the International Motor Show (IAA) every other year in September. The mixture of tradition and modernity is particularly evident during that time. You see old window panes and historic architecture meet the modern interpretation of beautiful cars by Mercedes-Benz. They also add a lot of light effects, that change every couple of minutes.

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main

With a total of 11 exhibition halls, the exhibition grounds in Frankfurt offer space for all conceivable topics. Check out this video from Messe Frankfurt to see the whole trade fair grounds. Currently they are working on hall #12 which will be finished in the fall of 2018.

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Art Lover's Guide to Speyer Cathedral

While we were climbing to the top of every aviation and boat exhibit we were allowed in the Technik Museum of Speyer, we could see the Cathedral waiting patiently, a jewel box on the horizon. It certainly built the anticipation. The museum and the cathedral are close enough, and Germany is in general pedestrian-friendly enough, that it was an easy, safe walk from one to the other. One weird intersection with crosswalks and a street until you’re in the larger park leading to the cathedral.

From the Technik Museum of Speyer to the Speyer Cathedral, about a 10 minute walk

Largest Romanesque Architecture
You could describe this cathedral as so many firsts, largest, best. Being a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List tends to suggest as much. Speyer Cathedral, or Imperial Cathedral of Speyer, Kaiserdom zu Speyer, is the largest example of Romanesque Architecture in the World, the first building constructed entirely from stone in Europe, the first to have an exterior gallery and system of arcades around the entire building, a pilgrimage site, the resting place of 8 Kings and Emperors, and was the biggest church in the western hemisphere at the time of it's completion in 1106. Phew! To say this is a very important building feels like an understatement.

Speyer Cathedral is the largest example of Romanesque Architecture in the World and the first building constructed entirely from stone in Europe.

But, how does it make you feel? Personally, it was a calming, solemn, space. Not in anyway creepy as some older European churches are. With minimal ornamentation and varying natural colors shining purely from the carefully placed red sandstone from the nearby Palatine Forest Mountains, this cathedral is the most naturally beautiful church I’ve seen. I have to wonder if the architect Antoni Gaudi hadn’t once visited the Speyer Cathedral? The smooth, soaring semi-circular columns offers the same feeling of being in a quiet forest, just as I had felt in Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain.

The view of the nave from the western portal in the Speyer Cathedral in Germany

An Image Worthy of a Pilgrimage
A delicate, carefully painted standing Madonna statue quietly demands your attention at the front of the nave with fresh flowers at her feet and candles lit before her. This image, sculpted by German sculptor August Weckbecker, consecrated by Pius XI in Rome, was brought into the Speyer Cathedral in 1930. In doing so, the pilgrimage history for the Speyer Cathedral gained a new chapter to a centuries-long legacy.

Speyer Standing Madonna Statue Sculpted by German sculptor August Weckbecker in 1930

Also in honor of the cathedral's patron saint, the Blessed Mother Mary, along the walls of the nave is a 24-part series depicting Mary’s story painted by Johann von Schraudolph in the mid 1800s. These frescoes were part of an even larger installment and collaboration with Joseph Schwarzmann that was unfortunately removed in the 1960s in an attempt to make the cathedral appear more ‘romanesque.’ Some of the frescoes that were removed have been restored and are now in a new display in the Emperor's Hall of the Cathedral.

Also in honor of the cathedral's patron saint, the Blessed Mother Mary, along the walls of the nave is a 24-part series depicting Mary’s story painted by Johann von Schraudolph in the mid 1800s.

The Mount of Olives
Beside the Cathedral in a leafy clearing, you discover the sculpture ‘The Mount of Olives’, once part of the cloister grounds that were destroyed in the fire of 1689. What survived from Hans Syfer’s original piece was incorporated into the present day replacement by Speyer sculptor Gottfried Renn in 1856. A roof was built above the statue to prevent further wear and tear. Not sure why the roof has a rooster on top. Puzzling, but charming.

The outdoor sculpture ‘The Mount of Olives’, once part of the cloister grounds that were destroyed in the fire of 1689. What survived from Hans Syfer’s original piece was incorporated into the present day replacement by Speyer sculptor Gottfried Renn in 1856.

Speyer Cathedral Bowl
Outside the western entrance of the Speyer Cathedral stands the Cathedral Bowl. Many, many years ago it was often used as a loophole for those hoping to escape prison sentences, as the bowl marks the separate bishop and city territories. Prisoners would make a run for the bowl in order to be out of the city's jurisdictional area, now being protected by the church. And historically, to welcome a new bishop, the bowl was filled with wine for the citizens to freely enjoy.

Outside the western entrance of the Speyer Cathedral stands the Cathedral Bowl. Many, many years ago it was often used as a loophole for those hoping to escape prison sentences, as the bowl marks the separate bishop and city territories.

The view of the Speyer Cathedral from Maximilianstrasse

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The view of the Speyer Cathedral from Maximilianstrasse

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Flowers and Whimsy at Mainau Island

An island of flowers? It's not the first image that pops into my mind when I think of Germany. As we were planning our family trip to Lake Constance and it's towns, the flower-filled island of Mainau popped up. I’m passionate about flowers, and deeply appreciate the labor that goes into making beautiful gardens. Seeing the recommendations that you can easily spend a half day, or full day there, I was really looking forward to exploring Mainau.

To kick off our flower adventure, we needed to cross Lake Constance. We rented a house for the week in Meersburg, and the fastest, cheapest way to get there was by ferry boat. And not just any ferry boat, a ferry boat that carries cars! It would be my first time on a car ferry. We were so lucky, as we pulled up to the ferry boat, we realized we would be the first in the line of cars. Our view from our car would be perfect! While we were waiting, a man walked up and down the cars selling newspapers. It boggled my mind that this was for many an every day commute! Lake Constance was foggy this early in the morning, and there was a nip of chill in the air. Torn between wanting to hear the water and the birds or staying warm inside the car, we compromised and rolled one window down. It made for better photos that way too.


After the ferry ride, it was just a short drive to the parking lot where we left all wheels behind. We paid our admission, and walked along a short path by the lake and spied the feathered residents enjoying breakfast. We saw several ducks and swans diving down and up again.

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

Birds resting on a foggy Lake Constance | Germany

There are several circuits that you can take around the island and we chose to walk counterclockwise. Right away, we saw a group of duck sculptures built out of flowers, then an extravagant peacock built out of flowers! It was like being in Cypress Gardens again. There was once a fantastic botanical park in Winter Haven, Florida called Cypress Gardens, and they had numerous animal sculptures built entirely of flowers. My grandparents used to take my brother and I every time we came to visit. It's no longer open, and has been transformed into a Legoland Theme Park. It made my heart smile to know in Germany flower animal sculptures still exist.

Duck Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Peacock Flower Sculptures on Mainau Island, Germany

Then we discovered a miniature farm where a rabbit had chickens and roosters for roommates. The rabbit had an extra espresso carrot that morning and sprinted in between the roosters, startling them. It was comical to watch. There was a goat who said good morning, and we visited with a calm, orange tabby cat that was not phased by anything. With the morning sunshine starting to bust up the fog clouds, his orange fur was angelically lit.

Mainau Island Farm & Petting Zoo | Germany

The farm was beside an area with a charming wooden bear stuck in a tree log, and a moss-covered troll couple.

Wooden Bear Stuck in a Log Garden Statue | Mainau Island, Germany

'Together in the Garden' Planted Statue in Mainau Island, Germany

The path we were on wound up and down the shore of Lake Constance. I loved the Dahlia garden which were in season, and they had about 75 to 80 different varieties on display.

Posing by the stunning Dahlia Gardens in full bloom on Mainau Island, Germany

Further along, we saw the Italian cascading fountain, and the map of Lake Constance illustrated through flowers.

Italian Style Flower & Water Cascade | Mainau Island, Germany

Floral Map of Lake Constance

We took a break at a garden cafe where the tables had built-in flower planters. It was just what we needed, walking halfway around Mainau Island already.

Garden Cafe Where Tables Had Built-in Flower Planters | Mainau Island, Germany

On top of the hill, the 13th-century Baroque palace and church stands from the time the Teutonic Knights owned the island. Alongside the church is an Italian rose garden complete with statuary and fountains. Wherever we looked there were colorful blooms surrounded by lots of greenery.

13th-century Baroque palace and church | Italian rose garden | Mainau Island, Germany

We passed giant redwood trees on our way to the butterfly house. The butterfly house was overwhelmingly crowded, both with people and butterflies. A pond with a waterfall entertained a gang of turtles, gorgeous orchids hung from the ceiling, and butterflies were everywhere. Specific feeding trays put out for the butterflies was a sure-fire way to get a good photo. I made myself dizzying trying to photograph a few of them! There was always a fluttering of wings passing overhead.

Mainau Island Butterfly House

By the end of the day it felt like we had seen the entire Nature Encyclopedia. It was refreshing, and a wonderful experience not to be missed, if your ventures take you to Lake Constance.

Flowers of Mainau Island

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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler