10 surprising things you never knew about FrankfurtRheinMain

Frankfurt isn’t as diverse as Berlin? It’s too sleepy to rival Hamburg’s raucous nightlife? It can’t rival Munich’s great outdoors? The German finance capital is often characterized as provincial. But a closer look shows that it has great things to offer.

Published: Tue 26 Feb 2019 06:29 CEST
10 surprising things you never knew about FrankfurtRheinMain
Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

The finance capital is Germany's most international city

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Frankfurt has been described as "a city of minorities" due to the fact that not even Germans make up a majority of its inhabitants. While walking down its bustling streets you could meet locals from Mongolia, Mogadishu or Montana - over 90 percent of the world's 194 countries are represented here.

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Berlin may well have a reputation as being Germany's cultural melting pot, but Frankfurt and the town of Offenbach are in fact the German cities that have the most inhabitants with foreign backgrounds.

Small city, big region

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

Anyone who has been to Frankfurt will know that it is a pocket-sized power house. It has gleaming skyscrapers to rival those of New York - hence the nickname "Mainhattan" - but you can travel under the downtown area in a handful of stops on the metro line.

What is much less known though is that Frankfurt is the centre of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in Europe. Mainz, Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, Offenbach and several other cities make up a larger urban area seamlessly linked by a suburban train network and a great highway system. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to drive from one city to another.

So while Frankfurt's population is roughly three quarters of a million, the wider FrankfurtRheinMain region has 5.5 million inhabitants. And many of these places challenge Frankfurt for their cultural importance. Mainz is the proud home of a 1,000-year-old cathedral, while glamorous Wiesbaden is famous for its 19th-century spa and casino that inspired Dostoyevski to write ‘The Gambler'.

Hidden after-work drinks culture

A walk around wealthy neighbourhoods such as West End may give the impression of a city enjoying the quiet life. But appearances can be deceiving. In recent years a whole host of hip bars have sprung up in the Bahnhofsviertel, the district around the central station as well as in North End and Bornheim.

Bahnhofsviertel is grungy to say the least - it is the centre of Frankfurt's red light district. Scratch under the surface though and you'll find vibrant bars and clubs hidden in courtyards and on the top floors of buildings. Many of these establishments don't advertise themselves to ensure that only those in the know find their way inside. But it is worth one's while to seek them out - venerated DJs and club promoters have moved into the neighborhood, earning it comparisons with the edgiest parts in Berlin.

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

Technological hotspot

We all know that Frankfurt is one of Europe's finance capitals. But it is no exaggeration to say that the FrankfurtRheinMain region is also Europe's digital capital.

Frankfurt is home to the largest internet exchange on the globe, the DE-CIX, which handles more than 6 Terabits per second of data, or roughly the equivalent of half a million books. The DE-CIX is so crucial to German life that when it was hit by a rare power outage last year, internet connection speeds in much of the country slowed to a crawl.

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Similarly, the city of Darmstadt shows that the whole region is contributing to this thriving digital economy. Predictably a "software cluster" in the city has earned comparisons with Silicon Valley. But the fact that 11,000 IT firms employ 100,000 people with a turnover of €25 billion annually means this small city truly is one of the tech capitals of Europe.

Robust sport scene

Rugby has a proud history in the Rhein-Main region. SC Frankfurt 1880 have been playing the sport for well over a century. The club has the largest youth training system in the country and has won almost every title in the youth divisions at the national level. And they're not the only ones mauling near the Main. Eintracht Frankfurt, the city's most famous sports club, have been playing the sport since the 1920s.

The region's international character also means that homesick expats from India and Australia set up its first cricket club back in the 1970s.

A resurrected old town

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

For centuries Frankfurt was defined by its medieval old town, the largest in Germany. This knot of timbered houses was described by the city's most famous son, writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as so "bustling and crowded that we feared to get lost in it."

Sadly the medieval homes were reduced to ashes in the Second World War and post-1945 the rubble was used to create a concrete town hall. But a recent revival of interest in the historical led to the town hall being ripped down and replaced by replicas of the original buildings. No expense was spared on the painstaking reproductions which have been built using traditional methods. Since last summer the heart of the old town is once again open for visitors to wander through.

Nature inside the city

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

Frankfurt is one of the few cities in which you can feel completely removed from the hubbub of the city while remaining firmly within its boundaries. To thank for this is the Stadtwald (city forest), the largest urban forest in the country which spread over an area of 3,866 hectares. Joggers are not likely to have too much trouble coming up with new running routes on the 450 kilometers of paths through these expansive woods.

A prestigious wine region

Just to the south of Frankfurt lies one of the most distinguished wine regions in the world. The Rheingau, located near the banks of the Rhine river, is famous for its Riesling wines, delicate white wines which were particularly beloved of Queen Victoria and are still revered today known as 'Hock' in the Angle-Saxon world.

An excellent way to visit the Rheingau vineyards is by setting out on one of dozens of marked hikes that wind through forests and past ruined castles and historic mills.

The world's biggest trade fair

Thanks to its advantageous position on the banks of the Main and a stone's throw from the mighty Rhine river, Frankfurt has been at the of international trade routes for centuries.

The city used this location well, convincing the German emperor in 1240 to offer special protection to traders who travelled to the city. The result was an explosion in the popularity of Frankfurt trade fairs. By the 14th century the city would double in size during fairs, as merchants and guests alike flocked to the market square. Even back then the city earned the name "das Kaufhaus Deutschen" (the Germans' shopping hall).

Messe Frankfurt, the company that owns the modern exhibition grounds in the west of the city, has kept this heritage alive. It is the largest fair organizer on the planet, putting on 150 exhibitions a year and attracting companies and people from all over the world.

An airport that'll take you practically anywhere

Photo: Mr_Worker / Pixabay

It is well known that Frankfurt has the largest airport in Germany, beating off competition from Munich and easily outdoing Berlin's outdated landing strips.

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But in 2018 it was also the best airport in Europe in terms of direct connectivity, offering just over 5,000 direct flights. This all means that the people of Frankfurt can reach almost any corner of the world with the minimum of fuss - it takes just 30 minutes by car to reach the airport from almost every corner of the region and 10 minutes by public transportation from Frankfurt city centre. Fitting figures for a small city that has always seen itself at the centre of the world.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH.



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