Frankfurt am Main: Modernity and tradition in a multicultural city

Modern skyscrapers and history buildings stand side-by-side in downtown Frankfurt. Not only is Frankfurt an international centre of finance, it’s also a green, multicultural metropolis which offers countless opportunities to young people.

by Johanna Wendel

Opera and a skyscraper © Horschig/DAAD
Opera and a skyscraper . © Horschig/DAAD

Facts & Figures

Monthly rent:
375 €
Clear your head while watching the jet planes take off and land!

Welcome to Frankfurt

Frankfurt is known for its skyscrapers. The skyline resembles Manhattan, which is why the city is nicknamed “Mainhattan”. Large banks are headquartered in most of the skyscrapers, such as the European Central Bank, some 150 international banks and the Frankfurt stock exchange. Frankfurt is also home to many innovative and top-performing companies.

Skyline of Frankfurt © Wendel/DAAD
Skyline of Frankfurt . © Wendel/DAAD

Frankfurt boasts an excellent infrastructure thanks to its central location in Germany, the large train station and the Frankfurt Airport. The volume of traffic in and around Frankfurt is enormous. Both the airport and train station are among the busiest in the world. Together with the network of highways around Frankfurt, you get the feeling that every hour is “rush hour”.

Frankfurt is also well-known for its international trade fairs. For instance, the Frankfurt Book Fair, which takes place every October, is world famous. The city’s international community gives the hectic metropolis a cosmopolitan flair. In fact, one out of three people on the street has a foreign passport. So no matter where you’re from, you won’t feel homesick in Frankfurt.

St. Paul's Church © Horschig/DAAD
St. Paul's Church . © Horschig/DAAD

The best-known street in Frankfurt is the “Zeil”. This is where you can “shop till you drop”. On the rooftop of the “Zeilgalerie”, you can enjoy a panoramic view of Frankfurt. Right here in front of you is a perfect example of the contrast between modernity and tradition - on one side, the international banks in their skyscrapers and on the other, the Frankfurt Cathedral and St. Catherine’s Church.

There is another side of Frankfurt which offers inhabitants a high quality of life. A long green strip of land runs seven kilometres along the banks of the Main River. But the riverside is not the only place you can relax; there are over 8,000 hectares of greens and woods located throughout the city.

Town hall (
Town hall ("Römer") . © Horschig/DAAD

The Römer and St. Paul’s Church are two famous landmarks in Frankfurt. The Römer has served as the city hall since the 16th century and, before that, it was used for coronations. St. Paul’s Church played an important role in bringing democracy to Germany. It was here in 1848 that the first freely elected national assembly convened. That’s why the church is called the “Cradle of German Democracy” and is the most important symbol of freedom and democracy in Germany today.

Living in Frankfurt

Frankfurt is one of the most expensive cities in Germany. This is especially true of the rental prices for flats. Taking rent into account, you can expect to pay around 800 euros per month to cover your cost of living. For this reason, the universities in Frankfurt are widely known to be “commuter universities”. Many students choose to live in the larger Rhine-Main region to escape the overpriced housing market in the city.

Apfelwein district © Sir James/wikicommons
Apfelwein district . © Sir James/wikicommons

If you’re looking for an affordable breakfast, "Café Bohne" is a great place to go. One of their shops is located directly at the Frankfurt Zoo, and the other in the Bornheim district. For around five euros, you can treat yourself to a large breakfast buffet. The nice thing is that the buffet is open until 8 pm, so even if you’re a late riser, you can eat scrambled eggs and bacon all day long.

If you want to go out for a quiet evening, the Alt-Sachsenhausen district is ideal. There in the narrow streets you’ll find everything your heart desires – sport bars where you can watch football, Irish pubs and the typical Frankfurt hard-rock pubs. If you’d rather go dancing, Zeil is where you should go. At the "Velvet", they play chart and electronic music. If you prefer Rock’n’Roll, then you’d like the "Cave" or the "Final Destination". Both are located in old, vaulted cellars.

My tip

Take a trip to the Frankfurt Airport. You can go up to the viewing platform and drink a cup of coffee while watching the jet planes take off and land. It helps clear your head for your studies.

You should definitely try the regional speciality called “Handkäs' mit Musik”. This somewhat heavy, but delicious dish is made with sour milk cheese garnered with onions and caraway seeds. Apple wine, or “Äppler”, is another Frankfurt original. Don’t underestimate the alcohol content of this beverage. “Äppler” and “Handkäs” is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you ought to give it a chance anyway.

The Main promenade is well frequented in the summer. It’s also the venue of various festivals and events. The "Museumsuferfest" is particularly popular and attracts over three million visitors from near and far every year.

Interview with Muhammed from India

Muhammed Asim Azmi comes from India, is 30 years old and is pursuing his master’s degree in “High Integrity Systems”.

Picture of Muhammed from India © Wendel/DAAD
Muhammed from India . © Wendel/DAAD

What did you decide to study in Frankfurt?

Frankfurt is multicultural – people from all around the world live and work here. It’s the kind of city you find anywhere in the world. That makes it easy to be so far away from home. The economic situation in Germany is another reason why I chose Frankfurt.

How did you find your accommodation? Do you have any advice for students looking for a flat?

I share a flat with friends of mine from India in Kelsterbach – a small town near Frankfurt. That’s why, for me at least, it was relatively easy to find a flat. But generally it’s not too hard to find accommodation if you start looking early enough and have patience.

How do you finance your studies and living expenses in Germany?

I worked in India for six years after getting my bachelor’s. I’m using the money I earned there to pay for my master’s. My parents have always supported me financially as well.

Main promenade © Horschig/DAAD
Main promenade . © Horschig/DAAD

What do you like best about Frankfurt? What is your favourite place in the city, and why?

There are lots of modern buildings in Frankfurt, but outside the city there are many beautiful villages and towns. That’s what I like about Frankfurt. But I can’t say it often enough – Frankfurt is the perfect place to meet people from all around the world.

Do you have any advice for dealing with Germans?

The Germans are always a little shy at first. It always takes a while until they warm up to you. They take their time to get to know you, they don’t rush into things. But after some time, they become true friends. That’s why there’s no need to worry if they still seem rather reserved after one or two meetings.

What three words best describe the Germans?

Very helpful – Professors and other students always try to support you.

Career-oriented – It might take some time for them to make a decision, but then they are very determined.

Shy at first – It takes a while to get to know Germans.

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