If You Must Go to Frankfurt
Monday, September 24, 2007; 7:00 AM
Frankfurt doesn't get much love. Business travelers often say it's Europe's most boring city, and novelist Günter Grass dubbed it "a lump of concrete." But Frankfurt doesn't need love: It has money. Mainland Europe's financial capital since the 1700s, Frankfurt is home to the European Central Bank and the stock exchange (Deutsche Bï¿½rse), earning it the nickname "Bankfurt."
But Frankfurt is also a cultural capital. Home to the Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing expo, it has drawn bookish talent since 1455, when visitors to the Frankfurt Trade Fair reported seeing a Bible made with a newfangled device, the printing press; they'd glimpsed a Gutenberg. Nearly 300,000 people are expected at this year's bazaar, which runs from October 10 to 14 at the Messe Frankfurt fairgrounds. Here's a guide to the city of banks and books.
Sleep (Old Guard): Bankers and politicians enjoy the palatial, 19th-century Frankfurter Hof, where U.S. Federal Reserve vice chairman Donald Kohn, Bank of England boss Mervyn King, and German chancellor Angela Merkel have checked in.
Sleep (New Elite): For less pomp and more pampering, head to Rocco Forte's Villa Kennedy. It opened only last year but quickly became the hotel of choice for executives including Procter & Gamble C.E.O. A.G. Lafley and Bank of America C.E.O. Kenneth Lewis-as well as Sean "Diddy" Combs.
Good Eating: Deutsche bankers are flocking to the new Ivory Club, Europe's only gourmet curry and steak joint. A more traditional option is the rustic Italian restaurant Da Claudio. "I've been going there for 30 years, and I don't think a single item on the menu has changed," says Penguin chairman and C.E.O. John Makinson. Doubleday Broadway president and publisher Steve Rubin bookmarks Avocado, a serene French-Mediterranean eatery with a deep wine cellar.
Let's Make a (Book) Deal: Though most trading at the Frankfurt fair involves foreign rights, several major U.S. deals have been sealed there: Two years ago, the hot book was Alice Schroeder's authorized biography of Warren Buffett, which went to Random House for $7 million and is due out in 2008. According to Tracy Fisher, the William Morris Agency's director of international rights, most negotiations aren't done at the fairgrounds but in the lounges and bars of the Frankfurter Hof and its rival, the Hessischer Hof, where the literati scramble for seats and deals. At lunchtime, they move into Oscar's, the Frankfurter Hof's brasserie, for slabs of rib-eye steak.
Pig Out: Never get between a Frankfurter and his frankfurter. They enjoy nothing more than plowing through a plate of sausages with sauerkraut. Wash them down with a glass of gut-rotting local apfelwein (that's hard cider to non-Frankfurters). Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl is known to scarf down heaps of wurst at the Adolf Wagner tavern, but locals swear by the less touristy Zur Germania.
Kultur und Kapital: Lots of banks and financial institutions equal lots of corporate sponsorships and a glut of some 60 museums and galleries. Ignore the Museum for Comical Art-Frankfurt is not the place for funny-and head to the Stï¿½del and its collection of Dutch masters instead. At night, you might spot E.C.B. boss and opera lover Jean-Claude Trichet at the Frankfurt Opera House, where Verdi's Don Carlo and Nabucco are on the bill this month.
Time Zone: C.E.T. (E.S.T. + 6)
Temperature: October: 50°F (average)
Airports: Frankfurt (commercial flights), Egelsbach (private)