THE first thing anyone asks you when you say you are off to Frankfurt for a few days is ‘why? Berlin and Munich are much nicer’.

I have to admit the venue of choice for my maiden trip to Germany would not have been one of Europe’s largest financial centres. The same probably goes for the thousands of people working in the 43 per cent of investment firms moving out of London and heading to Frankfurt post Brexit – taking £800bn worth of business with them.

But having spent three happy days roaming around the place I can reassure all those City whizzkids, Frankfurt is a beautiful, lively and friendly town.

It was books not bucks that took me to the Fatherland. My brother-in-law has written a novel (Salt of The Nation by Matt Bloom, since you ask) and his publisher was one of the 7,450 exhibitors from 104 countries within the massive hall complex at the city’s magnificently domed Messe Frankfurt venue. He was over from New York for a reading and signing session so we went along to offer moral (and alcoholic) support.

More than 300,000 people flock to the fair over five days, although the first three are restricted to trade representatives who roam the stands looking for the next Dan Brown (let’s hope they don’t find him). Publishing executives have been coming to Frankfurt for this fair for 500 years, ever since Johannes Gutenberg – printer, blacksmith and enormous beard-wearer – developed printing in movable letters in nearby Mainz in 1454.

Gutenberg was rewarded for his revolutionary invention with, among other things, 2,000 litres of wine tax free and if the evidence of my eyes are anything to go by, the book professionals seem determined to honour his memory by consuming at least as much during their short stay.

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I know this because happily we stayed at the wonderful Maritim Hotel right next door to the Messe (it even has its own direct access) and at the end of each day the exhibitors decamp to its superb circular Life Style bar like thirsty wildebeest at sunset – remaining there till the wee small hours.

It’s not hard to understand why, apart from an athletic lounge-lizard style singer who had the bookish types gyrating on the dance floor like Soho cage dancers, the cold, crisp Riesling served in huge glasses is just sooooo more-ish.

The attractive circular hotel has a wonderful view of Frankfurt’s famous modernistic skyline (locals call it Mainhattan after the River Main and, well, Manhattan) and, should you so desire, you can take it all in while floating in the hotel’s majestic eighth floor pool.

The multi-award winning SushiSho restaurant in the open hotel lobby is always busy and there are Frankfurt delicacies and international specialities at the restaurant Classico.

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Maritim hotel

Like many German cities, the Second World War accounted for much of its older architecture and the historic old town was largely decimated. In one attack on March 22, 1944, more than a thousand ancient half-timbered buildings were destroyed. But there are still enough hints of what once stood stretching down to the River Main to add a traditional flavour to this bustling modern metropolis.

One beautiful remainder is Romer, a complex of nine houses acquired by the city in 1405 and home of the city hall. The square around it, the Romeberg, is dotted with gothic buildings that are reminiscent of Bruge’s ancient market square. It even has the same touristy restaurants that sell overpriced meat and two veg. The beer is excellent though and it’s a great spot to nurse a stein while the world wanders past.

The city’s statuesque red brick St Bartholomew’s Cathedral adds an historic touch to the steel and glass the skyline but it has not been a lucky building (mind you, nor was St Bartholomew – he was flayed alive and beheaded). The first 14th century cathedral was destroyed in a fire in 1867 and rebuilt but the replacement suffered badly in that fateful RAF raid and the interior was burnt out before being rebuilt in 1950.

For the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Kleinmarkethalle, a must see for foodies and students of German sausagery. The ancient hall that stood on the site for centuries also fell victim to the British bombs and in its place in 1963 the city built a new hall with all the architectural finesse of an East German sewage pumping station.

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Congress centre, Messe

It would be easy to walk past this monument to design mediocrity but within it are more than 60 stalls selling fruit, veg, fish, bread, wine and everything to go with them. Frau Schreiber has been feeding city dwellers with Frankfurters since the day the place opened and huge, unruly queues form every lunchtime. No one knows how the system works but everyone gets fed. Eventually.

Upstairs there are tiny restaurants and one huge and rather rickety wine bar with a tarpaulin roof, dispensing Reisling and another local favourite, apple wine, by the bucketload to an enormous vibrant crowd who at 3pm on a Friday seemed to have no job to go to.

One thing to bear in mind about Frankfurt, for a city whose future is rooted in finance it has a healthy distrust of credit cards. Its banks may be able to zap dollars, pounds and yen all over the world, offshore and one in nano-seconds but proffer plastic to a cabbie for a nine Euro ride and he’ll look as if you’ve suggested bartering with chicken joints.

So, yes of course Berlin and Munich may be more obvious German destinations but Frankfurt feels like a city that is at last recovering its identity. The huge influx of young, rich workers ahead of Brexit is gentrifying rundown areas like the red light district near the railway station, where lively bars and restaurants are springing up.

The city opens up along the riverside walk and in summer it really springs to life when pop-up bars and music add to the atmosphere. The older city is still being restored and rebuilt in traditional style in the shadow of the ever-growing financial district where more glass and steel thrusts skywards.

Frankurt is old, Frankfurt is young, Frankfurt is more than just money.

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