First mentioned in 794, an original stone age settlement near present-day Frankfurt’s cathedral had developed by Roman times into a garrison town, and Frankfurt later became a place of importance in the Holy Roman Empire.
As its market flourished, so did its significance as a trade city; by the 12th century the ‘Frankfurt Fair’ attracted business from the Mediterranean to the Baltic.
With Frederick I (Barbarossa) in 1152, Frankfurt became the site of the election and coronation of all German kings. The last German emperor was elected in 1792, and by the time the Holy Roman Empire collapsed in 1806 the region was under French control.
It was in Frankfurt in 1848 that Germany’s first-ever parliamentary delegation met at the Paulskirche. Although this parliament was disbanded by the Prussians, Frankfurt was hailed, much later, by US President John F Kennedy as the ‘cradle of democracy in Germany’.
About 80% of the centre was destroyed by Allied bombing raids in March 1944. Plans to raze the remains of the Alte Oper (old opera) were vigorously opposed by residents and a reconstruction of it, along with much of the historic city centre, was undertaken. Known as the Römerberg, it was completed in 1983. Today its banking district – a shimmering symbol of Germany’s post-war economic redevelopment – continues to reach new heights.