Paternoster elevators are a rare sight in today’s world. Invented in the 19th century, the unusual design involves two elevator shafts with no doors, that move continuously up and down on rotation as passengers hop in and out on their desired floors.
Like many a Victorian-era invention, the idea seems bonkers through a modern lens. But continuous elevators were quite popular in Europe up until the second half of the 20th century, when the majority of them were shut down.
Most of these antiquated lifts have been removed, thanks to their high costs, constant maintenance requirements, and not least, safety concerns. There are just a handful of these complex machines still in operation, and one of them can be found at the Fleming’s Hotel in the heart of Frankfurt. Its unique 1952 Kerhahn paternoster elevator has been restored and is still in working order.
Taking a ride in a paternoster is an increasingly elusive experience, and one that Fleming’s Hotel embraces. The hotel’s historic lift takes passengers up to the terrace where views of the city skyline await. And unlike the harrowing machines of yore, there are safety instructions and mechanisms in place to make sure nothing goes awry.
Update November 2023: The lift is currently working, although passengers can only disembark on the top floor when the bar is open (starting at 5:30 pm) . Otherwise you get out on the 5th floor and walk up one flight of stairs.
Know Before You Go
The hotel is open for visitors looking to see the elevator. Be respectful of the guests who also need to ride the elevator to get to their floors. You can also find working paternosters at the Prague City Hall and the Arts Tower in England.