The Frankfurt History Museum: 11 Amazing Reasons Why It’s the Best

With so many museums to choose from in Frankfurt, how does one prioritize?  While we didn’t have enough time to see all the museums we wanted to (they were all discounted with the Frankfurt Card, after all!), I think we picked the best one: the Frankfurt History Museum.

Why did we enjoy it so much?

Here are 11 amazing reasons we loved the Historisches Museum Frankfurt… and why we think you will too!

Front wall of the Frankfurt History Museum | BIG tiny World Travel

1. The Snow Globe

Upon first entering the museum, you’ll notice this magnificent giant snow globe.  Ironically, there’s no snow in this globe.  Instead, eight disparate views on Frankfurt are depicted through the collaboration of eight artists.  And visitors can load each scene with 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, while 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.

2. Frankfurt’s history

A wall of levers and dials at the Frankfurt History Museum | BIG tiny World Travel

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.

A wall of artistically painted shooting targets | BIG tiny World Travel
These are artistic targets! See the bullet holes?

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.

3. Really old coins

Close-up of a display of dozens of ancient coins | BIG tiny World Travel

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!

4. How explorers used to view the world

An old globe of the earth depicting a mostly-intact South America and a series of islands representing North America | BIG tiny World Travel

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!.

5. This really awesome full-scale miniature of Frankfurt

The massive miniature of the city of Frankfurt, with mini bridges suspended from the ceiling | BIG tiny World Travel

Now, this was a treat!  Miniatures are just a cool thing to look at – picking out the common landmarks and identifying one’s 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.  Old cell phones and TV remotes made up the airport.

An airport miniature constructed from old remotes and cell phones | BIG tiny World Travel

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.

6. The Toll Tower

The spiraling stone stairs of the Toll Tower at the Frankfurt History Museum | BIG tiny World Travel

Throughout our travels, we’ve found we’re naturally drawn to towers – the spiral stone staircases and the cool rock smell.  We climbed so many in Europe!

This toll tower is exactly as it sounds: a tower for collecting tolls near the end of the 15th century.  The adjacent river was unpredictable, flooding often and freezing in the winter, and we could see flood lines inside.  Ascending several stories, the city treated us to some beautiful views.

A clock face on a clear wall, behind which all the many gears and inner workings can be seen | BIG tiny World Travel

The clock in this tower particularly delighted us. 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!

7. Some thought-provoking paintings

A large cabinet with every inch packed with many smaller paintings, each in a gold frame | BIG tiny World Travel

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.

A detailed painting depicting dozens of angels and demons in a gruesome battle | BIG tiny World Travel

And then there was this one that really made one think, “what is going on here?”  Evidently a battle between good and evil, you can see both angels and demons depicted.  There was just so much to look at in this one!

A pegboard wall with many small painting replicas affixed | BIG tiny World Travel

Near the end of the exhibit, we could arrange our own wall of paintings (I was always one for some asymmetry).  But the fun part was pushing the button that loosened them all at once to fall into a basket below.

8. 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!

Brianna wearing heavy chainmail and a helmet while holding a stout sword | BIG tiny World Travel

9. Blue and white vases

You might have seen these before as famous precious pottery from China.  They became so popular in Europe that when trade out of China became interrupted, 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!

10. Staufer artifacts

A wall built in the early 13th century by Staufers used to encircle Frankfurt 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.

A jeweled crown and scepter in a glass case | BIG tiny World Travel

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.

11. The lockers

A white keyed locker, with the number "1702" | BIG tiny World Travel

As a final bonus to the trip to the History Museum, you have to pay attention to the lockers.  You’re not allowed to bring large bags into the museum, so you have to rent a locker.  Pay a euro to lock and remove the key, but you’ll get your coin back 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, and each contains a blurb inside the door on that year.  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.

Visiting the Frankfurt History Museum

A wall of red Frankfurt History Museum stickers | BIG tiny World Travel

At the time of this writing, you can buy entry tickets online or in-person for €12 per person, though tickets are half off with the Frankfurt Card.

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 usually very big on museums, but with the Frankfurt Card’s discount, 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, so I wasn’t able to check out the art of the Stadel or the cinema showcases of the Filmmuseum.  However, the Frankfurt History Museum had so many fascinating exhibits to see, it’s no wonder we ended up spending an entire day there. I would plan to spend at least a few hours there. It’s probably best to not have any other big plans on the same day!

A map of the Frankfurt History Museum, showing the various sections of the building | BIG tiny World Travel

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?

Psst… planning a trip to Germany?  You might also enjoy these:

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6 thoughts on “The Frankfurt History Museum: 11 Amazing Reasons Why It’s the Best

  1. That sounds like it was a fantastic experience! I love history, but it’s obvious by reading this post that a history museum to me is so different than to a European. Antique muskets and maybe some old arrowheads is usually as aged an artifact as an American might experience, particularly in the NW where there are scarcely any buildings over 100 years old!

    Just seeing 1,000 year old coins or suits of armor that belong to one’s civic history…

    Also, I read the part about the abstract scale map of Frankfurt using random objects just as I spied a bunch of gray legos in an adjacent picture. I had to laugh. One question about your experience in Frankfurt: No hot dogs?

    1. Yes, Nathan, history takes on a much different perspective when it spans millennia instead of centuries! I bet we’d have a similar reaction to Chinese history museums.

      The room-sized Frankfurt model I think was my favorite part of the museum. If you’re going to use a wide variety of objects to build it, it’s hardly surprising to see legos as one of the materials 😀

      And honestly, we didn’t think to seek out hot dogs. They’re so common in the States that we were more drawn to the schnitzels and pretzels 🙂

      1. Oh, of *course* you didn’t go looking for frankfurters; I was being silly! Just wait until you visit Turkey or Hamburg or Sichuan Province…….

  2. I’m like you – kind of selective in my museums, especially while traveling. You have to find the right balance between seeing the museum offerings and seeing everything else there is to see with the limited time you have. However, it seems like you made a great choice. I think even I would choose to see that museum! Also, I find it hilarious that “bitte” is in the German for “Place stickers here.” Many years ago we memorized some German phrases before embarking on a trip that included Vienna. While there, we were so confused by the myriad meanings of the word “bitte.” We had learned it meant “you’re welcome,” but it clearly was being used to mean so many more things.

    1. It seems that Europe more than anywhere else REALLY loves their museums! Unfortunately, on top of time constraints, many are quite expensive (the ones in Rotterdam were €20 per person!). We were rather shocked to find a lot of *free* museums in London in contrast. But that still doesn’t help the time issue XD

      And I’ll admit we really don’t speak a lick of German. I took a semester back in school – only because I needed the language credit – so I know a few words, and I remember nouns are capitalized… but not much else. I always interpreted “bitte” to mean “please.” I didn’t realize it could mean “you’re welcome” as well!

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