The Bahnhofsviertel in Frankfurt – roughly translated into “scary red light district full of drunk men, junkies, dealers and women turning tricks’ – used to be avoided by everyone who’s in their right mind.
I grew up in the suburbs of 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.
Places and people of interest in the Bahnhofsviertel
Remarkable places of interest are Plank, a bar in affiliation with the Robert Johnson Club in Offenbach, the Yok Yok Kiosk – a Späti, basically, which is always on fire during the long Frankfurt nights. The Maxi Eisen is the kind of conceptual and well-executed Pastrami joint you’d expect in Berlin-Mitte rather than Frankfurt, but here it is. And there’s the 25hours by Levi’s hotel, right in the middle of it all.
This hotel of the successful lifestyle brand 25hours has a sister in Frankfurt called the “Goldmann”, and both hotels bring something fresh to Frankfurt. If you’ve ever tried to look for a stylish, affordable hotel in the city, you know how difficult it is to find a suitable alternative.
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 people I met in Frankfurt – those with Greek, Afghan, American or Persian heritage – were born and raised in Frankfurt.
They are putting their hands on their spatial identity, creating and re-creating the Bahnhofsviertel into something that belongs to them. Something perhaps nobody wanted in the past. Meanwhile, it seems to me that many leading personalities in the Berlin creative scenes are from abroad or at least moved from other parts of Germany into our capital. What gives?