Frankfurt am Main, known as “Mainhattan” in cross reference to the Main river that traverses the city and the skyscrapers that shape the skyline vaguely like in New York. But I like to call it “the small town with a big city name“. Here are my personal views on Frankfurt as the home for an expat.
1. International and multicultural
It is probably the most international and multicultural city in Germany. Nearly one fourth of the population is an expat or holds a non-german passport. This is because the city hosts many international banks and companies as well as the largest fair events in Germany and Europe. It is very common to hear many languages when you are in the train or just walking down the street. This also makes Frankfurt a very English friendly city and you can manage to visit or even live here without speaking German at first.
2. Airport and train connections
Frankfurt’s airport is the fourth most transited airport in Europe, after London’s Heathrow, Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam’s Schiphol . You can find direct flights to almost any imaginable place in the world or with very few changes. It is strategically located in the middle of Europe so stopovers here are very common. The airport is also conveniently located 15 minutes by train from the city center so you avoid the stress of leaving your place in a rush to catch a plane.
The main station – Hauptbahnhof – is also very busy. With trains and a long distance buses departing from here, they make Frankfurt a transit city on the way to many other areas in central Europe. This makes weekend getaways very time and money saving adventures.
3. Skyline and surroundings
Much of Europe is flat when it comes to skyscrapers, Frankfurt however has an iconic skyline that is easily recognised in photos and postcards. You can appreciate the view of the Frankfurt’s skyline from many places around the city. Specially parks and the areas around the Main river. Some of my personal favourites are:
– Sitting right in front of the buildings on the side of the river.
– From the Eisener Steg bridge.
– Go up to the last floor of the Galeria Kaufhof at the Hauptwache. There is an open restaurant with a terrace where you can just walk there to enjoy the view. No food purchase necessary.
– Go up the MainTower at located at Neue Mainzer Str. 52-58. The view is impressive but it has a cost of EUR 7,50
– During the summer, the CityBeach Frankfurt located at the top of the Peek & Cloppenburg store at the Zeil is an excellent spot. The view and ambiance is just the perfect combination of an impromptu city beach atmosphere.
4. Museums and street festivals in the summer
Weekends in Frankfurt are for enjoying life and culture. With an impressive variety of museums and galleries, Frankfurt am Main has earned a national reputation as a city of the arts. Every year more than 2 million people visit the city’s approximately 60 exhibition centres. Galleries also present a comprehensive range of contemporary art from the areas of painting, photography and sculpture. [www.frankfurt.de]
If you are keen on art and enjoy visiting exhibitions and galleries, you can considerer getting a Museumsufer Card or a yearly museum’s card for EUR 85 which allows you to visit the 34 museums in the area as well as the known Night of the Museums and the Museum’s Riverbank Festival.
Throughout the year Frankfurt and its surroundings host more than a hundred street festivals that celebrate just about anything! From particular culinary specialties: Apple Wine Festival, Green sauce Festival , etc. to just the street or neighbourhood itself: Bergerstraßenfest, Schweizer Straßenfest, Friedberger Platz <— which is technically not a street fest but every Friday afternoon people gather here to enjoy some wine and delicatessen.
With an impressive amount of world cultures present in the area, it is also very common to find festivals dedicated to the great diversity of nations of expats in the city. The Latin American Week – Lateinamerikanische Woche – is a popular event and gathers dozens of latino nations in a week long event with music, dance and traditional food. The Parade Der Kulturen celebrated every two years is also one of the biggest highlights and multicultural expressions the city hosts.
Frankfurt knows it is the home to many expats and it even has a Newcomers Festival in the City Hall in the month of September where the visitors receive a free copy of the Newcomers Guide (in English) that gives tips about living and working in the Frankfurt/Rhein/Main area and services, clubs and other organizations exhibit informative stands to the international community in order to discover the attractiveness of the region.
Frankfurt is not a big city that requires long distances to travel in order to reach a point of interest. It is very easy to meet up with friends and just be spontaneous when it comes to just “do something somewhere”. This is why you will find many bikers around the city and the city itself holds good infrastructure for cyclists. Even in winter you can find a good number of bikers still moving through the city. It is just a very convenient medium of transportation.
If you don’t have a personal bike, there are multiple options with different bike sharing companies that found Frankfurt a good market place. The Deutsche Bahn, Call-a-Bike is a pioneer of the service here and it offers a few different plans according to your usage. New comers are Byke, Visa Nextbike and oBike. Even if you own a bike, sometimes when you find yourself without it a trip on borrowed wheels is sometimes faster (and definitely cheaper) than taking the train.
“Frankfurt is a city with a dynamic and fast paced personality without forgetting that quality of life is important for its citizens”
1. Very expensive
Frankfurt is definitely one of the most expensive cities in Germany. This is due to the international presence of big companies and businesses but most notably, the bank industry. It is not as expensive as other european cities like Paris or London, however Frankfurt is not a capital city and it has a much smaller population.
2. Housing disaster
Finding a place to live in Frankfurt can be a challenge. Considering that prices are quite high already. The price per square meter in average has raised due to Brexit as more international companies have their eyes on this city and a large wave of newcomers are expected to arrive in 2019. Nevertheless there are options for every one and one way or another you can end up with a roof over your head.
3. Dangerous? Maybe
Frankfurt has the reputation of being “the most dangerous” city in Germany. Why? Mainly because this statistics are calculated per capita and minor offences caused in the highly trafficked airport add into these numbers and also like any other metropolitan city it has some neighbourhoods that are not so friendly. Particularly the area near the central station, which is known as sort of the red light district with strip clubs and drug selling. It is part of the urban stories that police has very little law enforcement in this area and it is not recommended to wander around late at night if you don’t know what you are getting into.
It may sound a bit strange and contradicting but the city celebrates the “Central Station Quarter Night” Bahnhofsviertelnacht where all businesses in this area, bars, restaurants, galleries, shops, mosques, and including (specially) strip clubs are open until late night to the public with attractions. Yes, strip clubs are open for the whole public to come in and see a show like a Cirque du Soleil act.
By opening the doors to the public, this street festival also tries to remove the stigma of the area and gives a different view on its stereotypes. The streets are packed, the turn out is impressive.
4. Not your typical “german” town
If you come to Frankfurt to see some traditional german culture and architecture, you will be disappointed. Most of the buildings and city was destroyed during the war and a lot of the area is now covered by modern structures and architectural styles. Nevertheless some of the reconstructed buildings are still found in some parts of the city and you can almost scavenge for them. It is very interesting the juxtaposition of the old and modern. But this won’t be enough to satisfy your desire for german culture. Neighbouring towns, like Heidelberg and Marburg which are a short train ride away can give you the fairy tale like scenarios from the Grimm Brothers stories.
5. Not as exciting… at first sight.
Overall Frankfurt can give you the impression to be quite a dull city to live in, specially because it lacks many of the high selling points from other major cities in Germany. Frankfurt’s style and fashion consists mainly of suits and business attire during the day. It is however one of the most “gangster/hip hop” cities in Germany, specially with the influence of the neighbouring city, Offenbach. Nightlife is not as vibrant as the shiny skyline, but there is enough to have a good weekend in clubs and friends. It is only when you live here and after some time that you start to discover the hidden gems this place has to offer. It is then when you realise that the quality of living is not in something see on the street but how you live and experience the everyday of the city… that’s when you see the true colours of Frankfurt.
Did you also move to Frankfurt from another country? What do you think about the city?