Blog about architectural and design psychology

The new Frankfurt

Frankfurt has changed profoundly. These are the places in the mini metropolis on river Main that throb with life.

Many Germans deem Frankfurt Main to be a gray city, where bankers and office workers pursue their daily business. In recent years, though, Frankfurt has changed indeed. A little photo trip to our favorite places in the city.

How Frankfurt became a financial metropolis

Frankfurt has been a trading center and infrastructural hub for more than a thousand years. Before the first bridges were built, many travelers traversed river Main at shallow spot close to the present-day city of Frankfurt. Passing travelers and a good reachability in general made Frankfurt a regional center. Thus, since the 14th century, the city also became host of fairs. Initially, farmers sold their goods here. Later, fairs also became attractive for cloth merchants. Nowadays, the city is especially known for the International Motor Show (IAA) and the Frankfurt Book Fair and is one of the biggest trade fair locations in the world.

Trading also caused people from remote regions to visit the city. Accordingly, there were many different currencies in circulation. Often times, unwitting merchants got ripped off by inappropriate exchange rates. Therefore, in the 16th century, merchants agreed to install public exchange rates for the different currencies. This way, they laid the foundation of Frankfurt Stock Exchange, which today is one of the biggest stock exchanges in the world. Currently, they are in merger talks with the London Stock Exchange.

Another important element of the history of Frankfurt is its status as a free and imperial city. From 1815, there were only four free cities left in the German Confederation. However, Frankfurt had to renounce their status in the 19th century when the city was occupied by Prussia. After Frankfurt, Lübeck was the last German city to renounce its status as a free city. Hamburg and Bremen are still sovereign city states till this day.

Today, Frankfurt is not only a European financial hub and place of business for both the German and the European Central Bank. In Frankfurt, commerce and infrastructure have always depended on each other. The Frankfurt International Airport is the biggest air port and Frankfurt interchange the most trafficked intersection in Germany. What is more, Frankfurt has developed into a center for the new economy: The biggest internet exchange point is located here, too. So-called DE-CIX distributes data streams on the internet similarly to a telephone exchange station. This is why besides Berlin, Frankfurt tends to be the only German city studies attribute a global significance to.

Many Germany, however, are skeptical. The mini metropolis on river Main is thought to suffer from criminality and to be gray and boring. Truth is: The city has been enhanced remarkably over the last decade or so. Important urban renewal projects such as Western and Eastern Harbor have extended the existing offering. Today, creative people are increasingly attracted by the city. Frankfurt’s appeal can also be recognized by its growth. Amongst the biggest German cities, Leipzig and Frankfurt Main are the ones growing the fastest. Over the last five years, Frankfurt’s population has increased by 50.000 people. Where to experience the new Frankfurt at its best? Here is our collection of favorite places..

Eastern Harbor

Two years ago, the new office tower of the European Central Bank was completed in the Western Harbor. The skyscraper is composed of slightly twisted and shifted glass, so that the light creates interesting reflections on the surface of the tower. The building is integrated into former Großmarkthalle from 1928, which was a big market hall, where they traded fruits and vegetables until about a decade ago.

Pretty cool: The sporty park in the Eastern Harbor.

Pretty cool: The sporty park in the Eastern Harbor.

Surrounding the skyscraper, a park was laid out, in which old rails and cranes still remind of the times when the area was used as a proper harbor. The park is separated by a train bridge called Deutschherrenbrücke, which can be recognized from its three characteristic archs. East of the bridge, you can get your daily dose of activity on handball fields, in a skate park or with open air gym machines.

On the flee market in the Easter Harbor, there is a lot to rummage.

On the flee market in the Easter Harbor, there is a lot to rummage.

Every other Saturday, there is also a flee market in the Eastern Harbor, where you can buy everything from cloths to books to old cameras.

Containers in the Eastern Harbor.

Containers in the Eastern Harbor.

Both sides of the riverside are great to have a stroll, go jogging or ride the bike. Heading into the city, you’ll have a great view on the skyline. On the river, you can also do rowing and paddling or drive around with your own boat. Thanks to a redesign of the riverwalks, river Main now is quite an important element when it comes to free time activities in Frankfurt.

Breathe big city atmosphere at the riverbanks.

Breathe big city atmosphere at the riverbanks.


Unfortunately, the reputation of the Bahnhofsviertel is not good for a reason. Criminality, drug trafficking, poverty and prostitution are happening right at the foot of the skyscrapers, in which well-paid bankers close expensive deals. This is why calling the Bahnhofsviertel a hip neighborhood would be derisive.

The Bahnhofsviertel still is a tough place.

The Bahnhofsviertel still is a tough place.

Nevertheless, the area has developed. No other district in Frankfurt features as much magnificent historic architecture as the Bahnhofsviertel. Also many of these buildings have been renovated in recent years. This is why the neighborhood reminds of Berlin’s Neukölln in a way, even though the contrasts might be even more pronounced in Frankfurt. Barely affordable apartments and trendy cafés can be found almost next-door to drug counseling centers, brothels and gambling halls.

One of the many reconstructed historic buildings on Kaiserstraße.

One of the many reconstructed historic buildings on Kaiserstraße.

Rents in the gray streets of the area have been relatively low for a long period of time attracting young and creative people. By now, there is a range of cool cafés and restaurants especially on Kaiserstraße and the streets south of it. However, while indulging in a flat white or pulled pork sandwich, one shouldn’t forget about the predicament the district is still stuck in.

Schweizer Straße

On the other side of river Main, much is happening on Schweizer Straße. On the rear part the street is designed as an alley with high trees on both sides. There are a few old inns like the Gemaltes Haus that offer apple cider and cooked cheese in proper style.

At Gemaltes Haus in Schweizer Straße they serve traditional Hessian dishes.

At Gemaltes Haus in Schweizer Straße they serve traditional Hessian dishes.

Towards the city, the street is less green, so pedestrians have a great view on the skyscrapers of the central business district. There are also quite a few hip cafés, bakeries and shops.

Ein Geschäft für Neonbuchstaben in der Nähe der Schweizer Straße.

A shop selling illuminated letters close to Schweizer Straße.

Goethe Tower

Frankfurt is basically located in the middle of a forest close to the Tanus. Nature is thus only a stone’s throw away. For example, Goethe Tower in the Waldspielpark is great for a little trip. From April to October, the wooden tower of 43 meters is open to public. From the top, visitors have a brilliant view over the whole city. By the way, the main picture for this article was taken on Goethe Tower.

Der Aufstieg auf den hölzernen Goetheturm lohnt sich.

Climbing the wooden Goethe Tower is absolutely worth it.


There are heaps of museums and theatres in Frankfurt. The Städel is one of the most popular museum in Germany and has recently been extended below ground level. The exhibition space is lighted by circular windows in the ceiling that are integrated into a small park. Visiting the museum is definitely worth it, if only for its amazing architecture.

Below the ground, there is even more to see in Städel museum.

Below the ground, there is even more to see in Städel museum.

Besides this, there are also few smaller museums to be discovered. The Museum of Modern Art has opened a third exhibition space in the Taunusturm in 2014. The museum’s location in a skyscraper reminds of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Another interesting museum is the Portikus, which is located in a red house on a small island on river Main.

Holy Cross Cafe B

At Holy Cross close to Frankfurt Cathedral, you can indulge in delicious coffee.

Not far from there, you can recover your energy level with delicious coffee from The Holy Cross. The coffee actually tastes really fresh and nicely roasted. It’s no surprise it is quite popular in Frankfurt. Small theatre and dance performances can be seen in the Bockenheimer Depot.

Electronic music with a view: Robert Johnson in nearby Offenbach.

Electronic music with a view: Robert Johnson in nearby Offenbach. (Photo: Marc Krause)

Night life in Frankfurt has had several great moments. The Cocoon Club had a close collaboration with DJ Sven Väth and was well-known all over the country. Nowadays, lovers of electronic music can pursue their passion in the Robert Johnson. The club has a minimalist interior design and is located directly at the southern banks of river Main. When dancing long enough, you can observe from the dance floor how the river is slowly appearing in the light of the day.

In der Taunusanlage versteht man, wieso die Stadt auch Mainhattan genannt wird.

In Taunusanlage, you suddenly understand why the city is also referred to as Mainhattan.

There is a lot to explore in Frankfurt. It’s high time to visit a German city that is probably as American as it can get.


City Guide