Frankfurt: the best or worst place to live?

I feel in a pretty good position to judge the relative quality of living in Frankfurt now after a couple of years here. Particularly as this is the 5th country I have lived in in the last 20 years on a number of continents. I have also had the pleasure of travelling extensively to many others and so got at least a fleating glimpse of their quality of life.

I was a little concerned before I moved here because, as many of you will already have heard, Frankfurt has a bit of a reputation both in and outside of Germany. I almost called off the move at one point due to the flood of warnings about unfriendly people, crime, difficulties working with Germans, poor services, poverty and immigration issues, lack of English speaking services… just to name a few ;-).

But here I am. And for the reason that I also had many other people telling me what a wonderful place it is, the locals are warm and open, the city is busy with expats, a great cultural centre with loads happening, really well networked with extensive underground and an excellent airport hub.

Well, now that I am here, they were both right in some respects. It can be a mixed bag ;-).

To prove a point. For some reason Frankfurt pops up in city rankings regularly:
– #1 for crime in Germany (German government)
– #7 worldwide for quality of life (Mercer quality of living)
– #7 most unfriendly city in the world (Business Insider)
– #14 most desireable place to visit in 2014 (New York Times)

I am sure you can find more. I have seen the best and the worst of this city and I can understand why it divides opinion so drastically. There is so much happening both socially and economically in this relatively small city of less than a million people. There are so many work opportunities and so much money in the over sized financial district that it attracts a lot of people from across Germany and overseas. This puts a lot of pressure on housing, schools and basic services that they are always in short supply. People with money pay to get what they need, and others suffer.

There is a massive student community and social life here thanks to three universities and a number of big unis in satellite towns.

There are some beautiful commuter towns stuffed full of highly paid execs, Bad Homburg for example which has the highest number of millionaires in Germany. And there are immigration, asylum and crime hotspots like Offenbach and the train station quarter both of which newcomers are warned about on arrival.

But on the other hand, it is still Germany. In comparison to any little Swiss town (read: Zurich) it will always lose out, but it is definitely a big step up in life from many UK or US cities. Crime is high for Germany, thanks to the immigration issues, the airport and the train station, but crime is still low on international standards.

So as I said, its a mixed bag. Once you find a home, a school for the kids, a job with enough disposable income, you will have as much if not more fun than many other cities. But if you can’t get the balance right you’ll hate it.

So just like pretty much anywhere else, right? 🙂

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29 thoughts on “Frankfurt: the best or worst place to live?

  1. I loved living in Frankfurt. Was there for a few years some time ago and enjoyed the whole time. Felt always very safe (ok maybe a bit less late at night at the main station) and loved the various Fests and markets. For me it had the right mix of expat/student/banking atmosphere combined with German life.

  2. Why is the crime rate high, then? What do you think are the reasons for that? I imagine Detroit-like crime scenes in the streets when Frankfurt is mentioned, but I guess that is not the case:) Does the financial crime also fall into that statistics of crime rates? I have a job opportunity there and my husband is hesitant because of all the crime-related stories and we are generally worried for the safety of our children. Thank you and I am sorry for asking too many questions, but I see that you know quite a lot about these things. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jelena,

      I have been here for two years now and after talking to a lot of people I am fairly certain that the crime story is simply outdated. The stats are certainly increased because crime from the largest airport hub on the continent is included, but even then the level of crime is on a German level. Compared to any of the cities in the US or UK, where I lived, crime is low. Safety is definitely a big step up especially if you avoid living at the main train station. The only crime spree I can see is for bicycle theft which is starting to annoy me… I need somewhere more secure for my bike.

      All the best!

      1. Hi, I have a couple of questions, if you don’t mind. First, do you have kids? If so, how is their life organized (do you let them walk o school or do you have to drive them in and out?). You mention that Airport is the source of the crime, I honestly find it hard to believe that heavily policed airport is a greater source of crime than the low policed urban quarters filled with disenfranchised low skilled immigrants. Do you have any figures to support this claim, or is it just something Frankfurters tell each other to rationalize things? Speaking of affluence, you mention slums like Offenbach and commuter towns filled with millionaires, they obviously went there because they don’t feel safe in the city (sort of like gated communities in US), and we most certainly cannot afford to compete with them, so are there such places for middle class too? Thanks.

  3. Hi Mil,
    A few points to clarify here. The difference in crime stats between cities is marginal. It isn’t as if there are raging gun battles in the streets of Frankfurt. There aren’t even any ‘no-go’ areas is the city. Just places where you need to be more careful about your belongings.

    The difference for Frankfurt is that the airport is included in the stats and is significantly bigger than any other German airport. It doesn’t matter how well policed it is, there is crime that is recorded, and with 3 million passengers a month (3 times the population of Frankfurt) it does have an impact on overall figures.

    And I would never call Offenbach a ‘slum’. it does have a bad reputation locally, but since the standard is fairly high in Germany, it is still not a bad place to live. The variation in districts is nothing compared to many other countries.

    And yes, I do have kids, and i let them walk to school on their own. I chose an apartment close enough to school that they could walk or cycle safely. I was ultra-conservative on this, but many children cross the city by bus, train and tram unsupervised in order to get to school and the locals were surprised that I was being so cautious over safety.

    I am tempted to take a trip down to Offenbach and the train station to take some realistic pictures/video for you 🙂

    All the best!

    1. Hi, first, thanks for taking the time to answer, it is much appreciated. Since I would like to do some exploration (online and during visit) can you tell me which parts of Frankfurt you reside in? And what is your opinion on the local schools? (Thanks again). Also, which parts of the city would you characterize as being places where to be careful, aside from the train station and red light districts. Thanks.

      1. Hi Mil, I have lived in two different places in Frankfurt actually, since I spent some time chosing the best place. I was in Nordend near Grünerbergweg station, then near Höhestrasse station close to Bornheim. If you have children then I would avoid the following places: Train station and Messe (exhibition) quarters, city centre (due to crowds, noise), Ostend (due to lack of good schools), centre /old Sachsenhausen (due to heavy partying until late in the evenings). I’ve written a few posts about ‘where to live‘ but you should specifically have a look at this one:
        Good luck with the visit!

  4. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain things in detail, it is much appreciated. If you need any info on life in Serbia (where I live), or better yet, about fun places to visit, feel free to ask:) Also, I had a wonderful opportunity to live and work in Bermuda for three years, so that might be more interesting. Thanks again and I will definitely visit Frankfurt first and later decide if it is a nice place to relocate to. Best, Jelena

    1. Thanks Jelena, I’ve never been to Serbia or Bermuda, but they sound great! I’ll let you know if I have the opportunity :-). In the meantime, enjoy your trip to Frankfurt!

  5. Do you still find this to be the case – feeling safe, a slightly higher crime rate than the rest of Germany but still substantially less than in the UK or US? I’m contemplating a move to Frankfurt from the Northeast US but have heard some concerning things about crime increasing lately, especially with the immigration influx. At the same time, as long as it is not unsafe (assuming one is smart and aware), I don’t imagine it is too bad.

    To be clear, my guess is that this has been blown out of proportion with all of the political articles lately, but I want to check, of course!

    1. Hi Anne, I have been thinking about this a lot recently as well. I was planning on actually writing a post about the immigration issue for a while but the truth is I am having trouble finding much to write about. There has definitely been an impact, but for the most part I read about the problems in the news (both in German and International papers). I don’t really see a big impact in the city.

      Part of the problem is that the streets of Frankfurt have always been very international and mixed. I hear that the effect is more obvious in smaller, less diverse towns and cities. Certainly what happened in Cologne at New Year shocked a lot of people but there is a general feeling about scaremongering by the media.

      The difficulty I have is that I have not seen or been affected by the refugee crisis personally and yet, especially after Brussels, I find myself paying more attention to people of middle eastern appearance on trains and around the city. I often look over my shoulder now when I hear a different language or avoiding the hauptbahnhof area of the city which has always been a hotspot for crime. Probably the biggest impact of the refugee crisis is paranoia.

      But back to your question about the US and UK, yes I do still feel safer than wandering around DC, NY or Philadelphia, or London, Birmingham and Manchester. There are still almost no ‘no-go’ areas in Frankfurt and the police are everywhere at the moment.

      Hope this helps!

      1. Not having no-go areas is a certificate with glowing A+ grade; that’s a pretty low barrier to walk over. Innit ?

      2. Glass half full Ron? 😉 sounds like you have been having a pretty rough time of it – or simply hanging out in the Bahnhofsviertel a bit too much. Frankfurt has improved massively in the last 10-15 years even considering the last 2 years of immigration. I have spoken to a lot of locals about it and they all agree.

  6. Naturalised German National; In Frankfurt since I arrived here in 2008 as Masters student in Uni Frankfurt. Parts of Frankfurt now look like Africa, rents have shot up 35% since 2014, accessory costs(heating, electricity, garbage cleaning, urban maintenance), and most importantly healthcare has shot up drastically, to cover the wider cost of non-productive illegal migrants. Old age poverty, waiting time for hospital treatment and academic year loss for lack of school berth are skyrocketing.
    Littering, vandalism, fare dodging, shop lifting, pick pocket, burglary and sexual assaults at record high. Frankfurt is still a nice place, compared to Tower Hamlets or Haarlem, but it fell from small, clean, upmarket town like a stone.

  7. I moved to Frankfurt early 2010 for work In banking.. I have lived and work in New York city, London, Tokyo and Nyon Switzerland before coming to Frankfurt.. Frankfurt is a safe, clean, friendly, multicultural small city, with the feeling of a big city.. The food and social culture is great plus things stay open late here if that’s your thing.
    It take a good 6 months to a year to get use to the German way of life, the language, the way how Germans do things, culture, the people etc.. But if you stick it out you will come to realise Frankfurt and living in Germany is a beautiful thing.. Frankfurt as a lay back easy go lucky way of life.. People are not stressed out here, the Germans are friendly and warm you meet here..
    My daughter was born here and we chose to send here to a private bilingual school in the westend.. School are a bit hard to fine, so start looking or asking other parents a year before your kids need to start..
    To me the best is getting around in Frankfurt, I live in Nordend south very central for work in the city and school for my daughter.. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn are safe and easy to use.. You can get from one end to the next in a very short time.. The airport take 20 minutes from home are office with the S-Bahn..
    Winters are long here but lots to do and look forward to.. Christmas markets one of my favorite time.. Spring / summer Frankfurt come alive, never a dull moment with festivals on most weekends in Frankfurt and the surrounding cities, lot of museums and art galleries to see and visit .. If wine is your thing, Frankfurt is only a hours drive away from some of the best vineyards in German.. The out door cafe, bars, restaurants goes late and a great time with fantastic weather June to October..
    With Frankfurt its location too, flights to most European cities go daily and with in 2 hours travel time.. From Frankfurt Main train station plenty of trains daily to most of Europe..
    I’m part of Frankfurt now and this is my home.. I get that feeling every time I fly back and the plane approach the Frankfurt skyline..

  8. I just accidentally got on this page and found the comments so interesting that I would like to share my view on Frankfurt as a German native. I’m originally from Hamburg – and since it is undoubtedly a lovely and beautiful place to live, I didn’t really like Frankfurt, when I first came here for work some years ago. Its just not so scenic as Hamburg or Munich. However, after living here for some time, I can definitely say that its one of the coolest and most vibrant cities in Germany. Frankfurt has a super interesting art and culture scene – the Städelschule is considered to be one of the best art schools in Europe and has ever since generated great artists….As I work in the art industry, I can definitely say that with the Städel Museum, the Schirn Kunsthalle the three MMKs (Museum für Moderne Kunst 1,2 and 3) and the art space Portikus Frankfurt offers institutions and collections of very high quality.
    In general Frankfurt is a super international city which is also reflected in its wide range of gastronomic treats . From super posh restaurants to rather laid back places…there is something for everyone. Within Germany Frankfurt is definitely known for its amazing gastronomic scene. Further people are very open minded and friendly, much friendlier than in other parts of the country.

    Since I have studied and lived in London and New York, I can definitely assure everyone who might be concerned about safety issues – Frankfurt is very safe! The crime rate is not comparable to London (as much as I do love London) and not at all to the US. Not one single time have I heard that anything has happened to anyone of my friends here……Like in every city you have to use common sense and take care of your belongings especially in crowded touristy places and of course you should not walk alone in the park at 3am…..but let’s be honest – who does that? :-)! As it has been mentioned before the high score in Germany’s crime ranking is largely due to the airport’s tax/custom/migration crimes…One should also take into account white collar crime, since Frankfurt is an important finance and banking location.

    The only thing which I find a bit annoying with Frankfurt is that the Bahnhofsviertel (area around central station) has some kind of a drug problem, which I have not experienced anywhere in Germany before. However, even though it might be a bit irritating to see junkies and some shady characters hanging around the central station area, these guys will leave you alone as long as you don’t belong to the drug scene yourself or interact with them. Its just annoying to see but I would not say its really dangerous for people who use common sense. You can find some cool bars and restaurants in the Bahnhofsviertel, and new ones are opening continuously.Still, if you don’t like this area, you can just avoid it and have your drinks or dinner somewhere else.

    1. Jana, thank you for your observations, it’s interesting to see what Germans think about FFM.

      I lived there 1999-2005 and have been in London since, returning often for work. I might return to live.
      The junkies were there in 1999, but they are usually flaked out and harmless. The gangs around the Hbf are a far bigger concern. My office is near there and so is my hotel, so there is often street theatre interaction with the Polizei. I was mugged in 2015.

      “of course you should not walk alone in the park at 3am”. We used to do just that quite often. Now? No way. I saw the rot in a series of snapshots, so June was worse than May, July was worse than June, and so on. So in 2016, when there was one dealer working outside the shop on the Am Hauptbahnhof? Now there are four.

      Any other negatives (taxes) (trains heated to 35C) apply to all of Germany and aren’t relevant here.

      Anyway, there are a few positives to go with it.
      I prefer old-fashioned workers’ smoking pubs and Hessen still has them.
      I don’t care for the expat scene, but it’s there if you want it.
      Too much ham, sausage and decent bread.
      You can (usually) ride a bicycle there.
      I speak German relatively well, so I get on with local people. It might also be a matter of understanding their ways, like saying “Tschuess” when leaving a lift.
      If you need to escape, you can. A Hessenticket costs €35. Take some friends with you.
      Tickets to the airport are affordable.
      The Alte Oper is great.
      Very fast Autobahnen nearby.
      The city is quite compact and you can walk most of it.
      Christopher Fletcher mentioned upstream that he lives in Nordend Sued. If you are reading this, we were near the Musterschule – a nice part of town.

      Thanks to Expatfrankfurt for starting this very interesting, long-running conversation.

  9. I lived in Frankfurt for 6 months. Compared to Berlin or Hamburg, it is a hole and I can see why it is the #7 unfriendliest city in the world. It has good restaurants, and is fairly quiet and doesn’t feel like a big city, the river is beautiful and in summer evenings it is nice, providing you actually meet someone you like and want to hang out with. Otherwise get used to going to the airport to leave every weekend like I did.

    1. Sounds like you had no luck! I can imagine any city is pretty depressing if you don’t meet anyone nice. There are lots of nice people here though but probably hard to meet them if you are gone every weekend

      1. Arrived yesterday for a long term (couple of years or more) stay, rented a bicycle to get to the ,—Hauptbahnhoff- yesterday as it was -Sontag- and I needed some essential groceries, ran out of airtime on my still foreign phone number, so had to leave the bike and walk home with my bags (€20 fine for leaving the thing at a unofficial spot). Having lived in South Africa all my life and the past 15 years in arguably THE city most famous for its reputation for specifically violent crime, Johannesburg , I must say, I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe at all at any time. I expected the streets to be a bit cleaner, but thats only because my previous visit here was to the Hilton which was in quite an upmarket part of central Frankfurt. Can’t wait to explore more of my new home-town today!

  10. Moving to Frankfurt in early 2019! Moving from NYC to Frankfurt to take a role that was created because of Brexit. Your blog’s been quite helpful and very entertaining to read! Have lived abroad before in South Africa and a short stint in London so not too worried about the living abroad thing. Plus Europe is tiny compared to the US and Frankfurt’s airport is close and central to everything, so very much looking forward to exploring more of Europe!

    I’m looking at rental prices and even with the increase in cost of living and Brexit, the apartment prices are still a fraction of what it is in NYC so very excited to finally live in something nice and bigger for a change. We pay $4000 USD or so to live in a 1 bed/1bath 65m2 apt in Manhattan and I’m finding some incredible 2 bed/2bath apartments in Frankfurt for 2000 euros or so. Let’s see what the new year brings!

  11. I have been living in Frankfurt from summer 2015 and in 2017 moved to Wiesbaden.
    I moved from Berlin, so I found it a bit boring and with “fests” like for older people, I was quite disappointed at the beginning, I also did not fall in love with the neighborhoods and had the feeling it was a city without a soul. Anyways, I think the city is improving, and you can´t compare it with cities like Berlin or London, that´s the mistake (at least in my case). I think it´s quite convenient and there is always somewhere to go, excellent restaurants, etc.
    I love its Christmas market, the summer celebrations and the Rhein-Main area is just beautiful.

    So, although I still not my dream city, I find it very convenient with cute corners and the airport is ideal for those who are expats wanting to visit their families and traveling.

  12. OK so what was this article all about???? The main heading did not give us what we are looking for. Best and worse places to live while working in Frankfurt area.

    1. To be fair, that’s not what the title said. The title I used was exactly what the article discussed. Thanks for the comment though 🙂

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