Frankfurt: Bahnhofsviertel

Thoughts about the Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt.
21 Aug ’13 by Sara Travel

The Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt – roughly translated into “scary red light district full of drunk men, junkies, dealers and women turning tricks’ – is usually avoided by everyone who’s in their right mind.

I used to live near Frankfurt before I moved to Berlin. The city never seemed remarkable or interesting to me, but I would always remember the Bahnhofsviertel as an obnoxious place. It’s not like in Berlin, where the “bad stuff” just spreads all over the city. Here, it’s centered in a realm of 3 or 4 streets. But time has passed, and the district I used to avoid  has become a culturally evolving hub for artists, students and – ahem – “the scene”.

At night the streets are lit in neon pink colors to advertise the sex shops, brothels, strip clubs and bars. The backdrop is the fantastic skyline of Frankfurt. During the Bahnhofsviertelnacht – an annual festival for the district – the streets are packed with people having a good time. Mosques, ethnic restaurants, churches, brothels – everything is open and on display.

Of course, the Bahnhofsviertel being trendy now – as the only affordable area in the city center – has not been met without controversy. Gentrification is an issue in Frankfurt as well. Art students from the Städl-Schule, creatives and party-goers all mingle in the Bahnhofsviertel now.

Remarkable places of interest are  Plank, a bar in affiliation with the Robert Johnson Club in Offenbach, the Yok Yok Kiosk  – a Späti, basically – , and the 25 Hours Levis Hotel, where I got to spent a wonderful night. In relations to Berlin, the Bahnhofsviertel has more in common with Oranienstraße than Simon-Dach, but it’s still weird to see men and women – bankers – in suits mixed with the cool crowd. It’s also ethnically mixed, much more than in Berlin. The scene does not only consist of Western Europeans and Germans. Many young, creative Afghanis, Arabs, Greeks and Turkish are part of the “cool” community as well. In that sense, the Berlin scene can definitely learn from its counterpart in Frankfurt. It’s also interesting that quite many of these kids were born and raised in Frankfurt, while many people who are the leaders of the artistic / creative scenes in Berlin are usually from abroad (or other German cities). What gives?

I visited a couple of times in the last few months and decided to take a few shots of the surroundings. It turned out to be more difficult than I thought, considering that it’s basically strictly forbidden. The privacy of the prostitutes has to be ensured as well as that of the johns. They congregate openly.

Two comments

  1. i used to be at the Bahnhofviertel 2/3 times a week, but that’s nearly 10 years ago. feels like an eternaty if i now think about it. but time does not stand still, i’m getting older (and wiser) and the streets are not the same anymore.

    i always liked the way it was back then. everbody knew how to keep clean and stay alive. everyone knew where they stood and where they belonged too.

    nowadays with all the money comming in and the hard times the old crowd faces it gets more difficult and less fun.

    but then again – it all depends on how you define fun, right?

  2. I live right on Kaiserstraße now and it’s not as bad as people think. I get a lot of guys staring at my boobs and stuff – it seems people have less manners around the area. And I get sad seeing the young girls on the corners. But I think if I looked closer in London, I’d see the same. It really is becoming the “scene” in Frankfurt, maybe it’ll take over from Bornheim to be “the place to be”.