This is one of Europe's foremost natural history museums, famous for its stunning (and world-class) collection of dinosaur remains, and a leading international centre of research.
The origins of the museum owe much to Goethe, Frankfurt's most famous citizen, who proposed the idea of a natural history collection, and a generous legacy from the eponymous Dr Senckenberg in 1817. This led to the development of the collection from 1822, for which the present building was completed in 1907.
The prize of the museum has to be its display of dinosaurs, the skeletons of which dominate the main hall. Here you find all the childhood favourites: the long-tailed Diplodocus, a Stegosaurus with its famous back-plates, the three-horned Triceratops and a terrifying Tyrannosaurus rex. But equally important are the large collections of swimming dinosaurs and other fossilised marine life from all over the world, fossils of early flying birds and the collection from the Grube Messel pit, which include fossils of early relatives of the horse, the size of a small dog!
Other displays include impressive reconstructed skeletons of elephants and their ancestors and of several whales, and well put-together galleries covering astronomy, geology, and invertebrates. Less attractive in my book are the traditional galleries featuring huge numbers of stuffed birds and mammals, although the reconstruction of a python eating a Coypu is a grisly favourite of school parties. An odd though fascinating addition is a small gallery dedicated to mummified people and animals from ancient Egypt.
As you'd expect, the museum caters very well for children and families, and has an excellent shop. Most of the galleries (though not all) are accessible by wheel-chair. Many of the interpretations have English translations, and there is an extensive range of leaflets in other languages. There is also a small cafe/self-service restaurant, although it was closed when we visited.
Nearest U-bahn: Bockenheimer Warte, 3 minutes' walk.
Frankfurt has the second highest concentration of museums in Germany after Berlin. A lot of those museums are on Museum Row (Museumsufer) and it's very easy to spend a day or two walking from one to the next. The Senckenberg Natural History museum is NOT on Museum Row...but it definitely demands your attention. Almost hiding in one of Frankfurt's university neighborhoods (Bockenheim) and not quite close to the Fairgrounds (Messe), the museum might seem out of the way. Don't let that stop you because it is both a wide open and densely packed museum with a lot of natural treasures from the animal kingdom. A great weekend spot for families with children, but also a quiet spot to soak up culture during the week for people without children.
Top Three Highlights:
1.) Easily accessible by public transit (U4/U7 subway trains).
2.) €6 adult entry is very reasonable considering how much time you can spend inside.
3.) Many exhibits feature English translations.
It is the holidays and my sons owed me an educationally worthwhile family outing. Frankfurt being rather close, the weather suggested an indoor activity and my childhood memories of the place pushed us in the direction of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum.
Unfortunately, we were sorely disappointed. I remembered the museum much bigger, more beautiful and much more interesting. My son, drawing on his worldly experience, meant laconically: You were little. All things seem bigger when you are little. He is, of course, dead on.
Only I am left with the question where my childhood memories of a marvellous place come from. Certainly not from the Senckenberg. Like one of the German reviewers, I also noticed quite a lot of dust on several of the exhibits, which might be a metaphor on the whole place. In my mind, it needs a lot of dusting, metaphorically speaking as well as actually.
There were many visitors, mainly families with children of all ages, and maybe this enormous interest and the reputation of the Senckenberg Museum is the reason, why nobody seems to notice the need to liven up the place. There are hardly any interactive sections, which is surprising considering the possibilities. In the stuffed animal section (the location is quite curious) an alcove gives a hint of what could be achieved with a little imagination. This little room has the development of a human being in the uterus as its subject. While watching nine windows with texts and models, one constantly hears a heartbeat reminiscent of that might be heard by a foetus. However, even this is only the beginning of an idea, not a fully-fledged exciting display.
There are many taxidermy exhibits in class cases, and one is hard-pressed to find connecting threads or keep up the interest of accompanying children. Yes, the entrance hall with the dinosaur bones and reconstructions is impressive. We also liked the exhibits about prehistoric man. But that's more or less where it ends.
Overall, the museum seems rather old-fashioned; I almost want to use the word boring. To somebody already interested in the subject, it is no doubt rewarding, but we missed enthusiasm, something to inspire the visitors.
As mentioned before, there are no parking spaces in the near vicinity; public transport seems the logical approach. Most of the exhibits have English texts accompanying the German explanations, there are English guide booklets available as well.
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