Frankfurt: Sky’s the limit

1 May 2023 by Tamsin Cocks
Financial district in Frankfurt (iStock/Zoranm)

Tower blocks race towards the clouds and the airport undergoes huge expansion as Germany’s financial capital evolves into a cool, cosmopolitan hub.

Clusters of skyscrapers rise from the centre of Frankfurt am Main, proudly signalling the city’s position as Germany’s economic hub. While the number of high-rise buildings may pale in comparison to the likes of New York City (there’s currently about 40 that stretch past the 100-metre mark), their presence has nonetheless earned the nickname “Mainhatten”. In fact, of Germany’s 15 highest buildings only one is not located in Frankfurt, the tallest being the 56-storey, 300-metre tall Commerzbank Tower.

There are plenty more towering edifices to come. Eight new skyscrapers that will soar well over 100 and 200 metres are currently in development. A major site of interest is a collection of four skyscrapers in the heart of the financial district, dubbed FOUR Frankfurt, which will form a new city quarter when complete in 2024.

The project has been conceived as an urban solution to blur the line (and reduce the commute) between corporate areas and residential districts by creating a cohesive neighbourhood for people to live and work.

Tower 1, the tallest at 233 metres, and Tower 4 (100 metres) will predominantly feature office space, while Towers 2 and 3 will house more than 600 residential apartments, plus two hotels (Hyatt House serviced apartments in Tower 2 and a Kimpton Hotel in Tower 3). The complex will also feature restaurant and retail outlets, plus daycare and fitness facilities.

Mixed-use towers featuring luxury residential apartments are a relatively new phenomenon for the German city, and a frenzy for such upmarket residences saw the city’s real estate market balloon in value by up to 50 per cent between 2016 and 2021. In 2021, Allianz AG signed a deal to purchase Tower 1 of the FOUR Frankfurt development for €1.4 billion, making it the most expensive single building ever sold in Germany.

Locals roll their eyes at the “unsustainable” prices, and they may have a point – Frankfurt was second on the UBS Global Real Estate Bubble Index 2022, which says buyers can now expect to get 40 per cent less space for their money than pre-pandemic. The housing market has since cooled, but as the city continues to attract a steady stream of international businesses and skilled workers, investment opportunities continue to attract healthy interest.

Down to business

The Mainhattan moniker is joined by another punny nickname – Bankfurt, thanks to Frankfurt’s credentials as the finance capital of Germany and central Europe’s financial hub. It’s home to over 200 banks, with 160 international banking headquarters and two of the world’s largest central banks – Deutsche Bundesbank and European Central Bank, plus the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

Post-Brexit, its status has only continued to rise, with major finance firms bulking up their Frankfurt offices. Last year, Ernst & Young’s (EY) Brexit Tracker identified Frankfurt as the third most popular destination for firms to transfer staff to from London since the EU referendum, involving 23 companies such as Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan and some 1,800 staff. In March this year, asset management firm Blackstone opened a brand new 1,300 sqm office in the city’s Omniturm tower.

Aside from its financial credentials, Frankfurt is a major player in several sectors including the IT, automotive and life science industries. BioNTech, along with Pfizer, developed one of the first vaccines against Covid-19 and has its headquarters in nearby Mainz.

Frankfurt has also been identified as one of the world’s top emerging start-up ecosystems, particularly in areas of cybersecurity, fintech, and insurtech (tech innovations to improve insurance models). In 2021 the region produced its first “unicorn”, a start-up valued at over US$1 billion, with insurance platform Clark.

Part of what makes Frankfurt such an appealing business destination is its excellent transport credentials (see right). Geographically, it’s located in the centre of Europe and served by a strong network of infrastructure.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) is one of the busiest railway stations in Europe, with 25 platforms serving around 170 million passengers a year. Key cities such as Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, and Zurich can all be reached within a roughly four-hour train journey. Meanwhile excellent public transport makes it easy to navigate within the city limits.

Work-life balance

An influx of international residents has also helped the city shrug off its boring business guise and quietly cultivate a reputation as a great place to live. In Mercer’s most recent Quality of Living Index (2019, as the rankings were suspended due to Covid-19), Frankfurt ranked seventh globally.

The Bahnhofsviertel area surrounding the Central Station is a prime example of the city’s transformation. Much like London’s Kings Cross, this area used to represent the city’s seedy underbelly. But today the red light district has been gentrified with a new cosmopolitan vibe: think cute bistros and top-notch sushi parlours.

In the evening, patrons have swapped exotic dances for edgy international performances at venues such as The English Theatre (catch Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer until June 4) before moving on to a cool bar or late-night club.

Medieval-style timber-framed buildings in the New Frankfurt Old Town (Credit iStock/No_Limit_Pictures)

Another part of town that has witnessed a major evolution – or should that be devolution – is the New Frankfurt Old Town. Today, visitors would have no idea that the cute medieval timber-framed buildings are less than a decade old. In a renewed effort to promote tourism, and recover architecture lost to WW2 bombing raids, the Dom-Römer Project between 2012 and 2018 saw the city’s original old town meticulously reconstructed to resemble its pre-war magnificence.

The area is also populated with a mix of traditional and modern restaurants, while nearby lies the upmarket Goethestrasse shopping street brimming with luxury brands from Louis Vuitton to Montblanc. Here you’ll also find the beautiful Alte Oper – the original concert hall was also destroyed by bombs in 1944 – with its reconstruction opened in 1981.

Alternatively, you could cross the river to visit the laid-back Sachsenhausen neighbourhood, which features riverside museums known as the Museumsufer, and quaint cobbled streets where you can tuck into the city’s native dishes of frankfurters or schnitzels with herb-filled green sauce. Wash it down with a cup of apfelwein (apple wine) at one of many boisterous taverns such as Apfelwein Adolf Wagner, where it’s poured generously from earthenware jugs called bembel while you’re seated on long sociable benches. It’s the only kind of “in-cider” trading that’s strongly encouraged in this finance city.


Frankfurt is one of the busiest hubs in Europe, handling 48.9 million passengers in 2022. (Though in pre-pandemic 2019 this figure was 71 million passengers.) Its network covers around 330 destinations spread across 100 countries, stretching from Buenos Aires to Stockholm and Sydney. Thanks to its central location in the middle of Europe, the airport serves more international destinations than any other in the world, and is a major hub for transfer traffic.

Plane-spotters have plenty of open-air access to soak up the runway action, with the Visitors’ Terrace in Terminal 2 plus three observation decks located next to the Berlin Airlift memorial, Runway 18 West and Northwest Runway.

In 2019 one of the main airport hotels was revamped as the dual-branded Frankfurt Airport Marriott Hotel and the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and Conference Center with over 1,000 rooms in total. Business Traveller reviewed the property last year.

Hotel review: Frankfurt Airport Marriott Hotel

But the airport doesn’t just cater to humans: the onsite Dog Hotel features 45 heated kennels and 17 outdoor runs designed to keep furry guests in the height of canine luxury. While over near CargoCity South, 80,000 bees call the airfield home, producing up to 150 kilograms of honey each year.

In 2005 a major €4 billion expansion of Frankfurt International airport was launched by Fraport, the airport’s operator. This has so far seen retail space in Terminals 1 and 2 doubled to 20,000 sqm in 2007, plus a fourth runway opened in 2011. An immersive behind-the-scenes look at the airport’s operations is also now available at the Fraport Visitor Centre opened in 2021 (see our review of this facility online).

Still to come is the completion of the €1.1 billion Terminal 3, which Fraport says is designed for the future of aviation. Capable of handling 25 million passengers, this will increase the airport’s capacity to up to 100 million passengers a year.

The terminal will include three piers, a central marketplace, and new lounges. Check-in desks will be housed in a new modern architectural landmark, with a 250-metre-wide and 16-metre-high hall constructed from steel and glass. State of the art technology and smart processes will be combined with a vibrant environment and modern retail, dining and entertainment spaces for an enhanced passenger experience. The new terminal was originally due to open in 2023, but has been delayed to 2026.

As Terminal 3 will be located several hundred metres away from the other terminals, a new people mover is being built to transfer passengers in just eight minutes.

A large-scale photovoltaic system has also been built in the new cargo hall at CargoCity South that will generate over 1.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year – the equivalent of powering 450 four-person households.

Melia Frankfurt - Credit Walter Luttenberger Photography


nhow frankfurt

In August 2022, NH Hotel Group unveiled its eighth nhow lifestyle brand in the new ONE tower, which opened last year in the western banking district. Nhow Frankfurt offers 375 guest rooms and suites designed with the fitting theme “the art of money”. The NFT Skybar and restaurant on the 47th floor is Frankfurt’s highest rooftop bar, offering 365-degree views over the city from the wraparound terrace. Spa facilities in the hotel include two saunas and a fitness centre, while the VIP Insider Lounge is available for premium guests to relax or conjure up their next million-dollar idea, fuelled by complimentary drinks and all-day snacks.

Melià Frankfurt City

In August 2021, the city welcomed Melià Frankfurt City to the One Forty West Tower, the city’s first hybrid high rise, with upmarket residential apartments on the top 17 floors. Thanks to its location in the Senckenberg Quartier, about 15 minutes away from the main finance centre, guests can enjoy spectacular city skyline views from guest rooms and public spaces. The 15th floor Oben Restaurant & Sky Bar serves up modern Mediterranean and cool DJ sets, while the LEVEL lounge is a cool hangout for premium guests.

Ruby Louise

Lean-luxury brand Ruby Hotels opened a new hotel in the city’s financial centre in 2021. Ruby Louise, named after the aristocrat Louise von Rothschild, blends 19th century elegance with edgy urban accents, and features original antiques alongside street art. The hotel offers 215 rooms, a 400 sqm roof terrace on the sixth floor, plus a two-storey bar dressed in copper, marble and granite connected to a co-working space and chill-out lounge.

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