With so many museums to choose from in Frankfurt, how does one prioritize? Aaron wanted to visit the History Museum. I was most drawn to the art of the Stadel or the cinema showcases of the Filmmuseum. These are all discounted with a Frankfurt Card, so we figured we’d start with one and just go down the line; why not see them all?
Time wound up putting a stop to that idea, but we were fortunate to have started with what I think was the most interesting of them all – because it was the only one we actually had time to see. It had so many fascinating exhibits to see, it’s no wonder we ended up spending an entire day there.
Here are 11 amazing reasons to visit the Historisches Museum Frankfurt.
Upon first entering the museum, patrons are greeted by this magnificent giant snowglobe. Ironically, there’s no snow in this globe. Instead, eight disparate views on Frankfurt are depicted through the collaboration of eight artists. And each scene can be loaded via selection by visitors and a robotic arm that lifts the new 3D model into the dome.
We were mesmerized by the cleverness of this exhibit that we easily could have spent an hour or more just examining each unique work as it gently spun, accompanying videos and text displayed on the walls around us. In fact, every time we passed this corridor on our way to a new room of the museum, we had to stop for a few moments to observe the latest loaded model.
It wouldn’t be a history museum without some history, right? Several floors of the museum are dedicated to showcasing Frankfurt through the years. Read about kings of old, the first toilets in Frankfurt, and a full timeline of the city – when the name was first officially recorded through present day – and how it correlates with the respective timelines of Europe and the world.
Each case featured a different artifact, with descriptions in both German and English. In-depth exhibits also highlight topics like Anne Frank and and printing press.
Really old coins
An entire room was dedicated to these coins! Regents of the area would each establish their own currency, so there was a wide variety of stamped coins. We tried to find the oldest coin there.. some were well over 1000 years old!
How explorers used to view the world
It was easy to see how early explorers could have expected easy passages to Eastern Asia when they thought there was so little landmass to the Americas! To actually see these visualized globes with minimized islands in the middle of the Atlantic was a curious insight to the views of old. We could also understand how they would envision North America being so easy to traverse; it was hardly there!.
This really awesome full-scale miniature of Frankfurt
Now, this was a treat! Miniatures are just a cool thing to look at – picking out the common landmarks and identifying ones own location, or where they ate breakfast that morning, or their relation to the train station or hotel.
But aside from an intriguing model, it was the materials that really drew our attention. This wasn’t hyperrealistic; instead, each building and landmark was created by the most unlikely of implements. Highways were bungee cords. Towers were stacks of casino chips. The airport was comprised of old cell phones and TV remotes.
It was an art piece in addition to being a map of Frankfurt, and it was spellbinding. We could have wasted so much time analyzing every detail.
The Toll Tower
We’re finding we’re naturally drawn to towers – the spiral stone staircases and the cool rock smell. We’ve already climbed several here in Europe, and I’m sure we’ll scale some more before we’re through.
This toll tower was exactly as it sounds: a tower in which tolls were collected near the end of the 15th century. The adjacent river was unpredictable, flooding often and freezing in the winter, and flood lines can be seen inside. Ascending several stories, visitors are treated to some beautiful views of the city.
We were also particularly delighted with the clock in the tower. It counted 60 full seconds before the minute hand advanced (instead of most analog clocks that incrementally advance the minute hand with each second). I was obsessed with deconstructing how it actually worked, staring at the gears until I understood the mechanism. It was fascinating!
Some thought-provoking paintings
There were rooms of paintings of all sizes – collections from ages past. Each was unique in its own ornate frame, gilded with gold trimmings and assembled with a dozen others of a similar style. So many portraits and casual, everyday scenes.
And then there was this one that really made one think, “what is going on here?” Evidently a battle between good and evil, both angels and demons can be seen. There was just so much to look at in this one!
Near the end of the exhibit, we could arrange our own wall of paintings (I was always one for some asymmetry). And the fun part was pushing the button that loosened them all to fall into a basket below.
Historical guns, swords, and armor
If you like sharp pointy things or loud boomy things, this room’s for you! So many different swords and guns to view, along with historical armor and helmets. We could even try some armor on for ourselves, and boy, was it heavy! I think I would have tripped on it if I had to wear it into battle; it certainly wasn’t designed for someone as short as me!
Blue and white vases
You might have seen these before, famous pottery from China. They became so popular in Europe that they crafted their own. The Netherlands’s Delft is now quite famous for producing this “Delftware.” The collection featured in the History Museum hails from Frankfurt (of course).
The best part of this room was the wooden version, sliced into discs and enticing visitors to reassemble it. Aaron couldn’t figure out where I had disappeared to. He should know by now I can never resist a puzzle!
Frankfurt used to be bound by a wall built in the early 13th century by Staufers to protect the city from raids. While most of the wall now no longer exists (and has been replaced by a circle of greenways), at least one piece remains on the far end of the city.
Descending into the bowels of the museum, you can find archaeological artifacts from this period discovered as recently as 2012. Who knew the museum was located atop an old harbor?
It is also believed that this basement was originally used as storage for gems such as the imperial insignia, replicas now on display here.
But the coolest part was an interactive 3D video, depicting the evolution of Frankfurt as a city. Using a projection on a white 3D miniature of the city, we could see how the river changed course, how the city outgrew its boundaries, and how the center of Frankfurt evolved. It was a great way to visualize the passage of time.
As a final bonus to the trip to the History Museum, you have to pay attention to the lockers. No large bags are allowed in the museum, so you have to rent a locker. The doors take a euro to lock and remove the key, but the coin is returned upon unlocking it.
Each locker has a unique number, but you might notice they aren’t sequential. Instead, they represent years that have historical significance for Frankfurt. Aaron had to pick the locker for his birth year (no, this is not a picture of our locker ;)). Interestingly, there were also lockers for dates in the future. One was in use, so I couldn’t see the tidbit inside, but the other gave a predicted population for that year.
Proof of payment to the museum is denoted with a red sticker you’re instructed to wear on your shirt. Fortunately, they provide a place to put these upon your departure – better than ending up on the pavement outside!
We aren’t always big on museums in general, but this was a really wonderful experience, with lots to entertain and delight us. I think we made the right choice on the one museum we got to see in Frankfurt!
What is the most interesting museum exhibition you’ve ever seen?
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