11 Mar 2019
Römerberg: the pristine, historic main square of Frankfurt. Its half-timbered, fairytale buildings are filled with Disneyesque gaiety and ebullient charm, while its role in Frankfurt’s history has been pivotal. Exploring the square is taking a step back in time. Here’s how to enjoy the most intimate encounter with one of Europe’s most iconic squares.
In central Altstadt, Frankfurt’s historic town centre, lies Römerberg square. The Medieval district was the target of Allied bombings during WWII, yet precision restoration work has returned the area to its original glory. The approach to Römerberg is almost as beautiful as the square itself, and it’s worth spending the time to study the architecture. Serenely trickling fountains and white-and-bright-coloured building facades smooth the transition from modern to medieval.
The square itself is immaculate. The historical details that are noticeable in the walk to Römerberg are focused in the stunning ensemble of buildings, many restored, but some original, that populate it. In Römerberg’s every corner, the interlocking patterns of timber beams and brightly-coloured plaster resemble ornate fabrics. Approach from the wider north entrance where the beautiful, largely-original 15th-century Lutheran church, Alte Nikolaikirche, is framed by the timber-panelled, high-gabled roofs of the surrounding buildings.
From here, we suggest moving to Römerberg’s heart and soul, the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, or Fountain of Justice. Representing the Latin deity, Justitia, the Fountain of Justice is a symbol of good counsel and faithful law-making. The deity is depicted with Libra scales representing fairness and a sword symbolising dutiful enforcement. From those present at its original dedication in the 17th century, to the U.S. armed forces who symbolically placed it outside their HQ in 1945, to JFK who paid Römerberg a visit prior to his famous Berlin speech, the statue has been an inspiration for righteous government to all that gaze upon it.
Moving to the west of the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen, you’ll find Römerberg’s namesake, Römer hall. Originally sold to the city council in 1405, it has served as the city hall for over 600 years. The building’s most distinctive feature is its triple-peaked neogothic facade. Designed at the turn of the 20th century, the facade’s unique appearance conveys the broad architectural styles of Medieval Frankfurt. Even amidst the nearby half-timbered buildings, Römer hall is in its own league of beauty, with stately proportions and an inviting exterior. From in front of the Römer, you’ll have the most sweeping vista of the square’s beautiful eastern side, where six steep-roofed half-timbered terraced houses huddle like fairy tale towers.
Yet, the beauty of the buildings is not the only highlight here. Römerberg is a lively, bustling neighbourhood, with all manner of shops from the quaint to the trendy. Here, you’ll find pastel pastry shops selling all delights German from freshly-baked strudels to velvety hot chocolate complete with dollops of whipped cream.
In the summer, dining outdoors is a local pastime and favourite watering holes like the venerable Alten Limpug serve traditional Hessian dishes with heaps of sauerkraut and mashed potatoes. In the winter, especially around Christmas, Römerberg glows with festive lights and traditional Christmas market stalls, serving warm drinks and a delightful variety of seasonal crafts, perfect gifts to bring home. After all the pleasures of Römerberg’s unique ambience, Jumeirah Frankfurt is just a beautiful ten-minute walk away.