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The fifth biggest city in Germany, Frankfurt on Main (Frankfurt am Main) has gained enormous economic power (both within Germany and abroad) thanks to its position as a key transport hub and its status as a major venue for international trade fairs and other business events.Located in the middle of the highly productive Rhine-Main region, right at the centre of Europe, the city is the financial heart not only of Germany but also of the European Union, pumping euros into the world economy.
A settlement since at least 3000BC, Frankfurt's long and successful history of commerce stemmed initially from its central geographical location on the Main River and the Frankfurt Messe (fair). The Messe has been going since the 12th century (it is mentioned in a Jewish manuscript dating from 1160) and the city received its official Imperial privilege to hold an annual trade fair in 1240.Frankfurt got its name around AD500, when the Framks ruled the area and the settlement along the Main Fort transportation route became known as ‘Franconovurd'.
Frankfurt's substantial political and cultural prestige is based on a fortunate history of decisive events. In 855, it became the election city for future monarchs. From 1562, the coronations of German emperors were held in the city's Cathedral of St Bartholomew. The Frankfurt Börse (Stock Exchange) began trading in 1585, moving to Börsenplatz, its current home, in 1879. In 1815, Frankfurt was declared a free city and part of the German Union, with the Bundestag, the Union's highest committee, located here. Frankfurt University, which took the name of the city's most famous son, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in 1932, opened in 1914, just before the war that would forever change the face of Germany and indeed all of Europe.
If Frankfurt's political aspirations were dashed by the choice of Bonn as capital of the Federal Republic in 1949, the city has directed its post-war energies all the more wholeheartedly into its uncontested financial role. The modern skyscrapers of banks and corporations in the central business district are potent symbols of Frankfurt's economic strength and create a skyline that is more North American than European. ‘Bankfurt' or ‘Mainhattan' is home to some of the tallest buildings in Europe, including the 300m (984ft) Commerzbank tower. These modern behemoths have replaced parts of the old city that were destroyed by Allied bombers at the end of WWII. However, examples of pre-war Frankfurt can still be experienced in the reconstructed buildings on the Römerberg, including the cathedral and the Römer - Frankfurt's city hall since 1405.