MANIFESTO LOVES: FRANKFURT – A CONFLUENCE OF MANY FACTORS
I am fortunate enough to travel frequently for business, and one of the places that I have visited most in recent years is Frankfurt. In this time I’ve got to know this rather singular city quite well and developed a sense of familiarity with it that makes it like a business home from home.
Leaving the ubiquitous sausages to one side, to many Frankfurt is the centre of the German financial sector in a way similar to London’s City and Paris’ La Defense districts. Its gleaming glass towers are not just a symbol of how post-war West Germany rose from the ashes of destruction by American bombers, they also give the city a more New World than European look and feel.When I first arrived I took the train from the airport to the city, loving the very German atmosphere at the Bahnhof (railway station), only to be dumbfounded that between it and the financial district in which my hotel was located there lay a couple of blocks dominated by the bright, garish neon lights of a red light district.
I usually stay at the Innside Hotel Frankfurt, whose panoramic rooms and bar offer fantastic views over the city, while the glass lifts attached to the outside of the building whiz you up to the 50th floor in even more dramatic fashion. Serious sufferers of vertigo are scuppered, as there is no alternative, but you soon grow to love the experience.
Shopping and dining
A decent financial centre needs a suitably swish shopping district, which in Frankfurt can be found at the top end of the long shopping promenade, which begins life here as the Große Bockenheimer Strasse. Fortunately it’s close to the hotel, and starts at the Alte Oper, a beautiful classical opera house that is a reminder of how Frankfurt looked before the destruction of war. Modern towers bearing the insignia of the Deutsche Bank, UBI and other once hallowed financial institutions remind one that destruction does not only come in the form of bombs, but on the whole this is a vibrant, prosperous city full of young professionals.
The promenade slowly evolves from designer shopping and dining to large department stores, then mass brands, followed by discount outlets, before becoming a little seedy a few kilometres further along. Turn right in the ‘good’ part and you enter a name-the-luxury brand street populated by limousines, super cars and Kardashian look-alikes. Judge for yourself.
More enticing to me (though I am a dedicated follower of style) are the dining experiences I have been lucky to enjoy in Frankfurt, and they range from a street vendor selling German sausages and sauerkraut or kartoffeln to trendy eateries and Michelin star restaurants. This city offers everything from traditional German and casual Middle Eastern to highbrow Asian and chic French cuisine, and the one is as nice as the other.
Goethe and Car Shows
No tale of Frankfurt is complete without mention of the city’s most famous son. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe is to the German language what Shakespeare is to English, so the city is rightfully proud of this heritage. I’ve heard it said that this central region of Hessen is also where the finest German dialect is from, but I’ve found this hard to corroborate. Either way, it has made Frankfurt a city that is not all about finance and glass towers, but also about culture, museums, lovely river cruises, visits to parks and historical palaces, with at its heart the small but delightful Altstadt district, where it is a pleasure to stroll around amid the shops, stop for a beer, admire the architecture and ultimately find your way to the Römerberg, the historic square surrounded by buildings in fairytale Gothic style. This spot, where Goethe was born, is the epicentre of Frankfurt, and in many ways the epicentre of Germany, where North and South meet on the confluence of Europe’s great rivers.