Practical and pragmatic Frankfurt: post-modern architecture, hideous historical reproductions, and a visit to the red light district

Frankfurt is a model of efficiency and pragmatism with superior infrastructure.  The ride from the train station to the airport takes 12 minutes.  Cars politely defer to bike riders and pedestrians.  Everything is clean and orderly–even the red light district.  We walked by a “fix cafe” where drug addicts meet with social workers for clean drug paraphernalia and while being around addiction never is pretty, it did feel much safer than similar areas in my home town of Chicago.  I don’t want to idealize here, but the practical German approach to prostitution and drug addiction seems to be working.  (I realize that seeing something through a tourist’s eyes is not the same as living in a place and experiencing it every day so I’d be happy if residents of Frankfurt would share their opinion).

Frankfurt agressively supports the arts with 11% of the city’s budget dedicated to arts funding.  The city’s smart investment  in the arts is obviously paying off.  For a city low on must-see sights, Frankfurt is pulling in bus loads of tourist who are clearly psyched about the art and architecture on view.  We visited the Stadel Museum on a random Thursday and the museum had a steady line out the door and down the sidewalk from morning to early afternoon.

Architecture in Frankfurt, is, well, a mixed bag.  The banking district is packed with modern, post-modern and contemporary skyscrapers.  We walked into a couple of bank lobbies and found wonderful art installations (including a great piece by Bill Viola).  We also sought out  Saal Lane (Saalgasse), a street of row house from the 1980’s built by postmodern architects in tribute to the medieval buildings that formerly occupied the space before the war.  While I can’t say I was overly impressed by the results, it is a great idea and I admire the city for trying it.  Less impressive, okay, more like repulsive, are Frankfurt’s historical re-builds of bombed-out buildings.  If I wanted to see cheesy ye-olde faux medieval buildings I would go to Disneyland.

saalgasse saallane

Saal Lane, the architect-designed row houses in tribute to the former medieval buildings that stood here before the war.


The banking district–the reason Frankfurt is nicknamed “Bankfurt”.


Japan center–see how it’s like a post modern Japanese house gone giant?


Museum of Prehistory in Frankfurt designed by Josef Paul Kleihues (also the architect of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago).  It joins right up with a medieval cloister and shares a color scheme with it.

lights redlight

The ride light district, which is located immediately next to the banking district.  An eros center is a building where women can rent small apartments to solicit customers from the open door or from behind a window.  Prostitution is legal and taxed in all of Germany and the prostitutes receive benefits just like other workers.


Horrendous kitschy reproductions of historical architecture.  Major fail in an otherwise decent city.


Thomas Mann was probably running for parliament on a platform of “No more cheesy architecture!


No Scotty dogs, no Marcia Brady hair, no cell phones from the ’90’s, no ice-cream with pencil-lead cones and definitely no upside-down cigarettes allowed!


How we got to Frankfurt:  train from Bamberg.

Where we slept: Hotel Excelsior.  Price: €77 for a double.  Recommended: yes.




  1. Great post.


  2. Nemorino · · Reply

    Interesting to read your take on Frankfurt. I’ve been living here for 47 years now (and counting) and wouldn’t voluntarily live anywhere else. I especially like the opera company (one of the world’s best, in my opinion) and my teaching situation. Fortunately I live in the northern half of the city, but the people in the southern half are driven crazy by airplane noise. The airport is simply too close to the city, and it keeps expanding, so the noise pollution keeps getting worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Frankfurt is a city where I thought “the people who live here must share a high quality of life.” Of course I was thinking of the airport proximity as a convenience but should have considered the noise pollution as well.

      There was no opera on during out visit, though we caught a wonderful Die Walkure in Nuremberg. Are you still teaching opera appreciation?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nemorino · · Reply

    Yes, I still teach two opera appreciation courses, one in German (Opern-Gespräche) and one in English (Frankfurt OperaTalk), on alternate weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

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