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A “shaky” night walk through the streets of Frankfurt

frankfurt facade lighting

I was partly shaky with cold (and fear), so was my camera! But i could manage to click some good pics of the streets in Frankfurt at night. And as a solo female traveler, i had some “Queen” moments too, way before the movie was made… 🙂

The one thing i love about German and European cities is just how compact and “walkable” they are. The vibe you get, right from the moment after stepping outside the central station (Bahnhof), and all the way to the centre of the city. Usually the quaint old Altstadt core, surrounded by the more modern, middle layers that house business districts (and expensive residences!), to the spacious urban sprawls.

The impression you get of Frankfurt at night depends on which side of the Main river you get to experience. The city is a perfect amalgamation of modern and classical Europe.

When you’re walking at a breakneck speed and clicking away in haste, the pictures go for a toss. But the memories remain as fresh as ever…

Frankfurt at night: The Intent

My stay in Frankfurt was an “ultra-short” one. Just a stopover while travelling from Munich to Barcelona. The idea was to also catch a fleeting glimpse of the famed “Romantische-Strasse” circuit from Munich to Frankfurt. Reason why I took the train.

Being in Frankfurt was a mixed bag, albeit a good experience overall, considering i only did a few night walks post 9 pm. The goal was to scour through the banking district, the opera house (given my love for classical music!) and find a restaurant that serves Indian food.

Surprisingly, the city didn’t carry a bustling night vibe. Most of the streets, and even dining places, were rather deserted. Of course, it was a weekday. But this was in sharp contrast to Munich, where beer-houses and restaurants are bustling with crowds and chatter until late… Let’s blame it on the exceptional work-life balance in the pre, pre-covid days.

Empty plaza outside the European Central Bank
frankfurt state opera house face
State Opera House facade had brilliant night-time lighting
Restaurant opposite ECB
Well, i had the entire city to myself!
frankfurt empty streets
People of Frankfurt, where are thou?
Here we are, some of us, crossing the street!
Some please explain. An empty diner at 9:30?

Frankfurt at night: The ultra-short stay

After dumping my luggage at the hostel i had booked, i set off on a “brisk walk” across all that was walkably possible from Kaiserstrasse. Of course, “touch-and-go” trips aren’t really an immersive experience. But being a mindful, psychic architect helps me gather the essence (and the sense) of a place in an “ultra-short” span of time.

And the stay cost me a full 17 Euros back in those years only for a few hours of usage. But nowadays you can opt for a “Day-Use Booking” (well, what about night?) which may be far cheaper. The entrance to the place was through a small shop front. Took me a while to spot the signboard of United Hostel. I chose the place due to it’s “strategic location” within the city centre, walkable proximity to the station and few of the places i wished to see.

I was on a Master student budget, so splurging on stay wasn’t exactly my agenda at the time. I tried searching for the exact hostel again, but sadly, it may not have survived the wrath of the pandemic.

frankfurt kaiserstrasse
A shop-front on Kaiserstrasse
The street outside United Hostel

Frankfurt at night: The Walk

I used a Nikon point and shoot camera for all the photos. “Selfie culture” didn’t exist in those days. And given the time i was prowling through the deserted streets, i couldn’t find even a single soul who i could request to click a picture of me, except for this one pic outside the Oper. Thanks, kind fellow traveller, city dweller, rescuer…!

frankfurt opera house susmita
A studious traveler in front of the Opera House

To console myself, i felt it’s ok since Frankfurt is not exactly a touristy city. Neither did i plan to visit any place whose equivalent (opera house, central plaza, markets) did not exist in other European cities, including the one where i lived…

Lamposts with the old-world charm
frankfurt shop modern chandelier
Modern crystal chandelier in a shop. The only sharp picture from the walk

The only time i took the U-Bahn (underground metro) was on my return from Alter Oper to Willy-Brandt Platz near the ECB. Trust me, despite my hefty build, i can walk amazingly fast.

frankfurt banking district
Banking District: also a time of “shaky” confidence post 2008 crisis!
ubahn frankfurt modern oper
Willy Brandt Platz U-bahn near the modern Oper. Deserted.
No one rode the tube past 9….
Let’s lobby for an empty metro. Introvert’s delight!
Taunus Turm under construction
Steigenburger Frankfurter Hof, a luxury hotel

Fare thee well, Frankfurt at night!

Having set off with just a sandwich from my Munich hostel, I managed to have had a snacky dinner of Dahi Bhallas at an Indian restaurant, which too was empty. That didn’t surprise me any more. I was seeking some familiarity in a barren place. Usually i only consume the local food at a new place. But the emptiness of Frankfurt left me wanting for some Indian connect. The diner was close to the area where i stayed, thankfully, since i was jaded from all the walking! I’m afraid the place may have shut during the pandemic, since i couldn’t locate the exact place now. In hindsight, i’m thankful for the comfort it offered me.

Fuss-free, well-lit interiors
My only co-diner, a kid, at the restaurant
Dahi bhalla chaat was delicious

After crashing at the 6-bed female dorm of the hostel, i woke up after a 3-hrs nap to get to the bus stop behind the Hauptbahnhof. I was aware, even back in 2012/13 that Frankfurt is not as safe as Munich. And seeing how deserted it was, i seriously hoped no one would bother to snatch away my belongings, or even hurt me. I travel light and agile for this very reason. And i like to “mind my surroundings” sans headphones/smartphones.

Well, the scary part in Frankfurt at night had an amusing twist. It turns out that Kaiserstrasse, the place where i walked and stayed right off the main station, transforms into a red light area at night! There were (apparently?) prostitutes staring at me! One every 2 meters. Standing outside quirky shops that my innocent and prudish self wouldn’t prod over. I reckon some may enjoy this exposure. But my firm rejection of wordly pleasures stands tested in Amsterdam too, where the most exciting thing i did was only a boat tour of the canals! What took me by surprise was the presence of such a feature right in the middle of the city. Usually you’d expect them to be located somewhere in the outskirts…

I hastened my pace, and walked past several of the ladies and men, avoiding eye contact as much as i could. I was shaky enough, not to even take my camera out this time 🙂

frankfurt kaiserstrasse RLD
Shut at night, opens past midnight… A click from the previous walk

Ah, so much for the thrill of solo travel! But i’m not the one to give up. Time has taught me it takes a lot more than empty streets and prowling eyes to shake my confidence. Just had to overcome the awkwardness, since none of the ladies and men (i tried not to see) really intended to harm me. In fact, a lot of people i know may love the experience. I was apprehensive, and alert, but not afraid. Savouring my “Queen” moment, way before the movie was made. And thankfully a different world lay out there, after I’d cross the street opposite the Bahnhof…

Yeah, that’s the street opposite the Bahnhof

Considering how much of a Euro-phile i am, would love to give a second chance to Frankfurt and explore the city on a more deserving, better-planned stay. I’m not judgemental, you see. I like to rediscover cities (and situations) from a fresh perspective. February 2013 is a long, long time ago!

Eventually after what seemed like an eternity, I made it to the Ryan Air bus stop beside the Bahnhof. Caught up on the rest of my sleep on the bus and on the flight, of course. Landed in Girona on time too, looking over the break of dawn!

girona morning horizon barcelona

The “shaky” Frankfurter night was finally done with 😀

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