For the past couple of years, I have had the privilege of travelling the world. My journeys have taken me from dorm room to dorm room, country to country, and continent to continent.
Of the many countries I have visited, there are two that I have spent so much time in that I have come to think of them as home.
They are the United States of America and Germany. In the former, I have lived primarily in New York City. In the latter, I have been largely based in Frankfurt.
I first visited Frankfurt shortly after spending several months in Manhattan. To those familiar with the city, it should come as no surprise that I acclimated to Frankfurt so quickly. After all, it is known among locals as “Little Manhattan”.
That’s a difficult title to live up to. In fact, when I first heard Frankfurt described in this way, I was pretty skeptical. After only a couple of days in the city, however, I couldn’t deny the similarities.
These days, I am firmly of the belief that Frankfurt is indeed Europe’s answer to Manhattan. There are countless reasons for this, but in today’s article, I’m going to be focusing on the top ten.
Here are ten reasons Frankfurt is “Little Manhattan”.
New York City is famous for its towering buildings and skyscrapers. Germany, however, is not. German architecture is generally much more humble, with buildings rarely exceeding a couple of stories in height.
Frankfurt is certainly home to many buildings that could be classified as traditional German architecture. However, its skyline is unlike that of any other city in the country. High-rise buildings loom over its streets, the most notable of them being the Main Tower.
The Main Tower is a jaw-dropping skyscraper that stands at 656-feet tall. Located in the Innenstadt district of Frankfurt, it promises breathtaking views of the entire city.
These views can be enjoyed from the tower’s observation deck, which is open seven days a week with an admission price of €7.
Manhattan has launched the careers of some of the finest artists and performers of all time. Frankfurt has made similar contributions to the German entertainment industry.
To this day, Frankfurt is home to a thriving arts scene. Theatre’s operate throughout the city, such as the Old Opera House, The International Theatre, and The English Theatre.
These spots give a platform to some of Germany’s finest performers, as well as highly respected international acts.
For more informal entertainment, try visiting the city’s pubs or coffeeshops when the sun goes down. There, you can find musicians, comedians, poets, and more showcasing work that would not seem out of place in Greenwich Village.
Culture doesn’t always come with multiculturalism.
In Frankfurt, thankfully, it does. Just like Manhattan, Frankfurt is home to people from all over the world. Walk down any street in the city and you can expect to encounter a variety of different cultures.
Frankfurt’s expats are often enthusiastic about sharing their traditions and customs. This has long been one of my favourite things about the city. Truly a melting pot, you’ll leave Frankfurt with a knowledge of cultures teething far beyond Germany.
Despite being home to so many people from so many different cultures, Frankfurt has an incredible sense of community. Regardless of their cultural, political, or theological differences, its residents are brought together by an unwavering love of the city.
This is very similar to New York City and, in particular, Manhattan.
When you walk down the borough’s streets, it’s impossible not to feel as though you are part of something. No matter where you were born, when you live in New York, you are very much a New Yorker and when you live in Frankfurt you are very much a Frankfurter (yes, that’s really what its residents are called).
This powerful sense of community will ensure you feel at home in Frankfurt, even if you’re just visiting for a weekend away.
5. Street Food
New York’s street foods have always been one of the city’s greatest allures. No matter where you are in Manhattan, there is never a hot dog or falafel far away. Granted, food from New York’s street vendors is pretty hit and miss, but there’s still something magical about walking up to one of those aluminum carts with a dollar in hand.
Frankfurt can really give Manhattan a run for its money in the realm of street food. Throughout the city, you’ll find vendors peddling their culinary offerings.
The difference here, however, is that Frankfurt’s food carts are markedly more versatile. Sure, you can get a hotdog if that’s what you’re in the mood for, but you could also order some noodles, a slice of pizza, some skewered chicken, and more. The list just goes on! I’ve yet to see it myself, but I have even heard reports of some street vendors selling sushi!
Whatever particular brand of street food tickles your fancy, I highly suggest trying currywurst at least once. This is a type of sausage that is cut up and served with curry sauce and a side of French fries. It has long been a staple of Frankfurt’s street food and it isn’t hard to see why. It will not disappoint!
When people think about the history of America, they tend to gloss over New York City. If tourists decided to indulge in one of the many historical tours offered in Manhattan, they would soon discover that its history is just as interesting as that of New England or the southern states.
Frankfurt is in a similar boat. History buffs tend to choose Berlin instead, believing it to have the more fascinating history. While it is true that Berlin has been the heart of some of the most crucial events in German and global history, there is no shortage of historical sites in Frankfurt.
Take the Goethe House, for example. It is here that German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born. Goethe would go on to produce some of the greatest novels, poetry, and plays of all time. In fact, he even wrote his masterpiece, Faust, within the walls of the house. Today, the Goethe House features authentic period decor, recreating the interior Goethe would have known as a young writer.
Additional historical sites you should check out while visiting Frankfurt include St. Paul’s Church and Gutleutkaserne. The city is also home to a house once lived in by Anne Frank. Much like its Dutch counterpart, this house serves as a solemn reminder of the horrors of World War Two and the bravery of Anne Frank and others like her.
7. Public Transport
The jewel of Manhattan’s public transport system is the subway. The intricate collection of trams connects Manhattan to the other boroughs of New York City, with the exception of Staten Island, which is connected to Manhattan via a ferry system. The New York subway is complimented by a handy assortment of buses, cabs, trains, and, increasingly, Uber.
Frankfurt’s public transport system is extremely similar to Manhattan’s. Its answer to the subway comes in the form of the Frankfurt U-Bahn, which boasts 86 stations across 9 lines. Working alongside the U-Bahn is an additional network of 10 tram lines known as the Frankfurt Straßenbahn.
For longer journeys, there is the Rhine-Main S-Bahn. This is a more traditional network of trains that links Frankfurt to the cities of Hanau, Mainz, Darmstadt, Offenbach, and Wiesbaden.
On top of these tram and train lines, Frankfurt’s public transport system includes taxis, buses, and park and ride car parks.
As a veteran traveller, I have learned to be skeptical of buses and their ability to arrive when they’re supposed to. During my first visit to Frankfurt, however, I was pleasantly surprised by how punctual its buses were. Even now, after several stints in the city, I have yet to experience a bus arriving more than five minutes behind schedule.
I’ve never been averse to a night on the town, so I’ve long appreciated Manhattan’s nightlife. The first time I left New York, I was concerned that its many pubs and nightclubs would be impossible for any other city to live up to. For a while, that certainly proved to be the case. Then I arrived in Frankfurt.
Frankfurt’s nightlife is just as thrilling and as versatile as Manhattan’s. If you want a quiet evening in a pub, you can find it without even leaving the city center. If you’d prefer something a little wilder, Tanzhaus West is the place to be. Considered by many to be the best rave club in Germany, this is the perfect spot to experience authentic European trance music.
During my first visit to Frankfurt, I found the city’s pub crawls to be immensely enjoyable. Not only did they help familiarize me with Frankfurt’s nightlife, they also helped me meet new people and make some friends for life. If you’re visiting Frankfurt alone, I seriously recommend partaking in at least one of the pub crawls operating in the city.
Nature isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New York City. Having spent a significant portion of my life in Manhattan, however, I can confirm that there are indeed many scenic walking trails and beautiful parks in the city.
Many of these parks are located towards the top of the borough, where skyscrapers and tourists are few. But Central Park, the most notable and by far the most breathtaking, sits right in the heart of the city.
Much like Manhattan, Frankfurt boasts numerous parks and other areas where you can enjoy nature without leaving the city. Bethmann Park is particularly beautiful and I’ve always considered it to be Frankfurt’s answer to Central Park. The park sprawls across three hectares and features a lake, wildlife, and an array of colorful flowers and trees. There’s even a Japanese Garden for those searching for that extra hit of serenity.
Other parks I highly recommend visiting in Frankfurt include Ost Park, Grüenburgpark, and Rothschildpark. All provide a fun and free day out while showcasing the work of the Supreme Architect.
A lot of people scoff when I describe New York City as being affordable. Sure, I’ll concede that there are some very expensive spots in Manhattan. This is especially true around tourist traps, such as Times Square. If you know where to go, however, you can grab a quality lunch for less than $10 and a beer for under $4.
Frankfurt is similarly affordable. The only difference between Frankfurt and New York is that you don’t need to be familiar with the former to save money in it. Even bars and restaurants in the heart of the city are priced extremely reasonably. There are several bars, in fact, where a beer won’t cost you more than €2.
Accommodation in Frankfurt tends to be among the lowest in all of Germany, if not Europe. Inexpensive though not cheap, you can expect all the comforts of home without having to drain your bank account.
With so much extra room in your budget, you’ll have more money to dedicate to exploring Little Manhattan. You may even have enough left over to visit its larger counterpart. There, you can see why they call New York ‘Big Frankfurt’!