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Welcome to a world of travel, entertainment and culture, curated from a global collective of writers, photojournalists and artists. Each article of our award-winning magazine is sure to inspire, no matter which of our destinations you call home.
 
 
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Travel to Frankfurt

 
 

Nordend, Frankfurt, Germany

1 August 2017

Nicknamed Mainhattan, Frankfurt is a city defined all too often by the international banks that have made it one of the world’s leading financial powerhouses. If one image perfectly captures this city of contrasts, it’s the reflection of half-timbered buildings and century-old stone facades in Westend’s glass and steel skyscrapers

But there’s more to it than that and one district that has been flying the flag for the city’s more bohemian spirit is Nordend. Frankfurt’s most densely populated neighbourhood with about 55,000 inhabitants, you’ll find it sandwiched between Westend and Bornheim. While the Nordend-West is characteristically slower paced, Nordend-East (Ost) has a more dynamic vibe, thanks largely to its three-kilometre shopping thoroughfare named Berger Street (Berger Strasse).

The seed for Nordend’s free spirited character was probably planted in the 1960s and 1970s, when it became the centre of anti-government student demonstrations. Despite the area’s gradual gentrification, its left-leaning tendencies have stuck.

Owner-run boutiques, rare bookstores, independent restaurants and topsy-turvy thrift stores line its shady streets, intersected by leafy boulevards flanked with magnificent Wilhelminian-style mansions, where residents water their flower-strewn art nouveau balconies and bike to work. Do as the locals do and navigate some of the neighbourhood’s perfectly intact (and relatively flat) 19th century avenues on two wheels.

With three tranquil parks – Holzhausen, which regularly hosts exhibitions and concerts; Günthersburgpark, once the private estate of the Rothschild family and Bethmann, which sequesters a Chinese garden – it’s not difficult to reconnect with nature while in Nordend.

And its gnarly trees are by no means its oldest inhabitants. In ancient times a Roman estate thrived here and you can visit less touristy landmarks like Holzhausenpark’s moated castle (originally built in 1271) or delve into the city’s cultural heritage in the Old Cemetery located on Rat-Beil-Strasse.

Nordend is also home to the biggest library in Germany, which remains one of the district’s best-kept secrets. The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, located at the intersection of trendy Oeder Weg street and Eckenheimer Landstrasse, hosts behind-the-scenes tours of its vast archives in the underground stock area.

HUTCOUTURE

Susanne Baenfer has dressed the heads of German nobility, no less, and the designer’s airy workshop-cum-boutique, located right on the fringes of Nordend, is festooned with several hundreds of the 13,000 hats she estimates to have crafted in her lifetime. Trained in sculpture and with roughly 20 years in the industry, Baenfer’s work ethic is refreshingly old school. With the help of an apprentice, she creates form hats by hand using wheat, winter felt and rabbit hair sourced from Italy, often accessorised with feathers or lace. Most days you can find her steaming, sewing or dressing a mannequin in her light-flooded studio, which is plastered with editorial fashion portraits showcasing some of her more theatrical creations. Her one-of-a-kind bespoke headpieces, which include fascinators, bowlers, cloche and cylinders, will set you back anywhere from €300 to €1,000 (US$345 to US$1,151).

Oeder Weg 25, 60318
+69 596 1294
susanne-baenfer.de

BRAUSTIL

This microbrewery prides itself on 100 per cent craft production – from crushing the malt to bottling. Lunch on inventive plates of tortellini with venison and cranberry or wild hog sausages in the beer garden.

Oeder Weg 57, 60318
+69 986 69557
Braustil.de

CHINESE GARDEN

There’s more to Bethmann Park – the former Rococo-style private garden of a wealthy banker – than its giant chessboard and immaculately manicured lawn. Concealed behind two dragon-guarded portals is a 4,000sq m exotic oasis that transports you 7,000km to central China. Inspired by the Shuikou Gardens in Huizhou, the meditative walled garden was built in 1990 to honour victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Its shady pagodas and pavilions are styled on simple homes from the Anhui province, using authentic materials imported from China. Every feature – from its traditional jade-carved zigzag bridge and carp-filled pond to the mini-waterfall – has been landscaped according to the principles of feng shui. The Zen vibe spills out into the park, where locals regularly practise early morning tai chi alongside the remains of a ruined Friedberger guard tower draped in foliage. There are few better refuges from the city’s daily grind.

Friedberger Landstrasse, 60316
+69 212 30991

ANTIKEEP

This unassuming antique store sells everything from Hoechst figurines and Steiff animals to an array of Asian collectibles such as Indian silk paintings and Buddha in every conceivable shape and form.

Elkenbachstrasse 40, 60316
172 690 9792
Antikpeep.de

VIPHO

Packed at breakfast, lunch and dinner, this Vietnamese street food restaurant is proving to be a huge hit with Frankfurt’s in-the-know eaters. Its success lies in the creativity of its hands-on owners, Hung Quach, a former banker and his wife Thu, a former fashion saleswoman. From the origami freedom birds that hang from the ceiling to the rotisserie that slowly cooks corn-fed chicken, Vipho – which translates as Vi (taste) and Pho (traditional noodle soup) – is full of quirks. Colourful rice noodle salads native to the Mekong river get a modern twist, as do street food-inspired dishes like banh xeo (Vietnamese pancake hailing from Saigon), best washed down with regional vintages as part of the venue’s wine-pairing menu. And for a novel caffeine fix, try the Vietnamese iced coffee served in an authentic ca phe coffee filter. The interior – part Scandi, part Asian – is equally eclectic. Sustainably sourced cherry wood panelling is offset with colonial-style cushions and striking black and white portraits.

Oeder Weg 21, 60318
+69 556 746
vipho.de

IM GLÜCK

This tobacconist-turned-nostalgia cafe, styled with shabby chic furniture and beautiful art nouveau details, serves up vitamin B bomb drinks, guilt-free chia seed desserts and some of the best espressos in town.

Gluckstrasse 17, 60318
+69 9501 6817
Imglück.com

Words / images: Sarah Freeman

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