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Germany’s most underrated city, thousands of travelers pass through Frankfurt every day. Though being the “Gateway to Europe”, most travelers only pass through the airport, using the city’s central location as a convenient layover to reach the rest of the continent.

These travelers are missing out.

Mixing glittering skyscrapers with traditional medieval towns, Frankfurt is a city of sharp and constant contrasts, and unlike any other German city around. 

From the business hub known as ‘Mainhattan’, to the ‘cosy apple-wine taverns serving hearty regional food’, Frankfurt is one that, given the chance, travelers will undoubtedly love. 

Being a unique city, there are a couple of things you should know before traveling to Frankfurt; tips that you won’t typically find in any guide book.

Things They Don’t Tell You About Traveling to Frankfurt

Don’t Worry About Learning German

It’s a sign of respect to learn at least some phrases in German, and make an effort to converse with locals in their native tongue, but most Frankfurt locals speak very good English.

If their English is not good, they’ll at least speak some.

Germans Tip Modestly

Euro MOney RF

Europe has recently taken America’s lead when it comes to tipping, though Germans tip quite modestly.

Don’t worry about leaving a huge tip if you’re eating out at a restaurant; you can just round the bill up by a couple of Euros, and include it when you pay (don’t leave change on the table).

Think about it as less than the US, but more than the UK. It’s not very common to tip more than 10-15 %

Shops Close on Sundays

Especially if you’re planning a short weekend getaway in Frankfurt, make a mental note that most shops are closed on Sundays.

If you are wanting to work in some souvenir shopping, plan this for another day of the week, and schedule your sightseeing for Sunday. Tourist sites and restaurants are all still open, just not the shops.

Locals Are Not Being Rude

German woman traveler RF

German frankness is often mistaken by international tourists as being rude, but in fact locals are a friendly bunch, and even though it’s in their culture to be honest and direct (often brutally so), this should not be misconstrued.

Germans tend to consider small talk and over-politeness as a waste of time, and they’ll only smile when they want to. Smiling at a stranger they pass in the street is considered weak.

Local frankfurters might appear to be standoffish, though are in fact very approachable. Remember that neutral facial expressions here are normal.

Serviced Apartments vs Hotels

Being a business and finance hub, Frankfurt has long catered to corporate travelers, and this means that you can often find fantastic serviced apartments in Frankfurt for the same price you would pay for a hotel suite.

Apartments offer far more facilities than hotels do, often with modern designed furniture and integrated living, kitchen and bedroom areas that are more spacious, and offer all the comforts of home.

Even if you’re only visiting for a short break, there’s nothing better than having your own space where you can comfortably rest, prepare your own favourite meal and take a soothing bath.

Get Used to Cigarettes

Germans smoke like it’s Europe. They love their cigarettes, and one of the first things you’ll notice about Frankfurt is the presence of cigarette smoke.

While the ban on smoking in public places is now nationwide in Germany you’ll sill likely encounter it in Frankfurt restaurants, bars and even clubs.

It’s a good idea to pack knowing that you’ll only get one use out of an outfit, as you’ll need to wash out the smell of smoke.


Germany travel guide Amazon

Lonely Planet Germany

Germany travel guide Amazon

Fodor’s Germany (Full-color Travel Guide)

Germany travel guide Amazon

DK Eyewitness Germany

Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.



  1. LOL on German frankness Meg. I met a few Germans while circling the globe and saw this honesty but hey; knew about it as a little kid. My mom was born in the Black Forest and my relatives were definitely direct when visiting the USA LOL.

    • Not bad, just different! To be honest I prefer the brutally honest approach lol you know exactly where you stand, it can definitely be a little jarring though at first!

  2. Most importantly: Ensure you’re going to Frankfurt am Main. There is another Frankfurt in Germany!

    • Ah fabulous tip! Yes, that’s confusing!!

  3. Germany is a wonderful country, but, indeed, as in Austria, the shops are closed. What I discovered is that they are closed on Saturday as well. There are a few opened (near big transportation hubs). But yes, if you want snacks and stuff, you need to buy on Friday. They anyway close earlier than in other European countries (for instance, in Romania, my country, we have shops, hypermarkets, mall everything open until 10 or 11PM daily :) ). And yes, you can definitely get around perfectly even if you don’t know German! :)

    • So glad to hear you’ve enjoyed your time in Germany Lorenda! I’ll keep that in mind re the shops for Austria as well! Interesting that they also close on Saturdays, I would have thought the weekend would have been the most popular shopping day!

  4. Excellent post!

    • Glad it was helpful :) Happy travels!

  5. Great post!
    But nobody would consider smiling at people as being weak! Really, please smile at people. I’m German and spent most of my life there and have ever heard of it :)

    • Thanks Sarah! And thanks for sharing your insight as an actual local – maybe I need to actively smile at people to get a smile back :D Will try this on my next trip :)

  6. Never tried the concept of serviced apartments. I’ll have to check this out.

    • My favorite form of accommodation – especially since we like to cook for ourselves. But the difference in space is always a huge perk too :)

  7. I don’t understand why they see smiling at strangers as being weak. I personally see smiling as a display of strength and confidence!

    • I always find cultural differences really interesting – definitely different to our culture here in Australia where everyone is smiling all the time! :)

  8. Yes, been there. Not only do Germans love their cigarettes, they also love their beer and cakes…

    • It’s always quite a shock for me when I visit a country of smokers from Australia where we’re largely smoke free :)

    • Yeah, I hear you. As an immigrant from the Netherlands to Canada I spent most of my adult life in Vancouver, BC. Vancouver is pretty much smoke free as well. Imagine my shock when I moved to Toronto a little while back when I found smokers everywhere, everywhere…… And cigarette buds littering the streets, the sidewalks, the parks – you name it. My thinking is that Toronto has a large immigrant population who bring their smoking habits with them from other parts of the world. Yes, visiting other countries with smokers is not easy!

    • I think I tired it once when I was 18 and traveling Europe, and coughed up so much of a storm trying lol – I’ve never really understood the appeal tbh

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