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Why does Frankfurt have so few inhabitants?

Frankfurt is a comparatively small city. The European metropolis has gained around 100,000 new residents (+16 %) in the past 10 years, but only around 750,000 people live within the city limits. This places Frankfurt in 5th place in the largest German cities:

  1. Berlin (3.9 million inhabitants)
  2. Hamburg (1.8 million inhabitants)
  3. Munich (1.5 million inhabitants)
  4. Cologne (1.1 million inhabitants)
  5. Frankfurt (750,000 inhabitants)

Frankfurt thus has just under 20% of the population of Berlin. When looking at just city borders, the German financial metropolis also appears tiny against international cities like Paris (2.1 million inhabitants in the core city and 10 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area) and London (8.9 million inhabitants). Every city simply has its own development cycles.

Nevertheless, Frankfurt is becoming more and more attractive internationally, which is also due to the existence of its surrounding area (2.7 million inhabitants) and the Rhine-Main region (5.7 million inhabitants). Frankfurt today takes on a metropolis function for large parts of Germany.

City of Commerce

Frankfurt has been a successful trading city in the past. Its success was especially caused by its convenient location on the river Main. As a free trading city, Frankfurt was threatened by sieges and looting in the Middle Ages. Therefore, a city fortification was built around the city of Frankfurt around the year 1000, which lasted until the 19th (!) century. Due to political changes, the city wall was only largely dismantled until 1818 and until then the development of the city had been limited. Until today, a ring of parks is surrounding the city center which was caused by the removal of the city fortification. In 1845, Frankfurt had only 58,500 inhabitants.

In contrast to many other cities in Germany, Frankfurt was never the residence of electors. That is why there are hardly any magnificent boulevards or stately palaces in Frankfurt.

While goods used to be transported across the Main river, today it is people, goods and information that are “handled” in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt city walls - Frankfurt fortification

Few Incorporations

In comparison to other metropolitan areas (Berlin, Cologne, Stuttgart, etc.) Frankfurt did only incorporate a few neighboring cities late in time. Many surrounding cities have remained sovereign to this day (Offenbach, Neu-Isenburg, Eschborn, etc.). At the Frankfurt city border it is not uncommon today to find legally different cities just by crossing the street. In real life, these suburbs are now today a part of the Frankfurt city region and should actually be incorporated into Frankfurt. And so it is no surprising that many people in the region today think:

Without these cities, Frankfurt would not be what it is today. It is only the surrounding area of the suburbs that makes Frankfurt a metropolis of more than a  million people due to around 400,000 commuters.

City limits are today primarily only annoying barriers for people, for example by mapping into tariff limits by the RMV regional transportation authority: A trip using the S-Bahn commuter trains from Offenbach to Frankfurt across the city limits is more expensive than a comparable trip within the City of Frankfurt.

Center of Traffic Routes

Frankfurt is centrally located in Germany and today is only a few kilometers from the geographic center of the EU. Large national and international modes of transport meet here and create superlatives:

The convenient location between north-south and east-west ensures that Frankfurt has become a point of contact for people, goods and information. The location is Frankfurt’s unique selling point.

Frankfurt has developed an international reputation today due to its modes of transport, the trade fairs and commerce. The number of inhabitants within the city limits belies the actual metropolitan function. Only by being surrounded by the Frankfurt city region (2.7 million inhabitants) and the traffic hubs Frankfurt does become a world metropolis. Also, the skyscrapers of Frankfurt also make the city appear bigger than it is in reality.

But Frankfurt does not only consist of tall buildings. It includes various densely built-up inner-city quarters with a height of up to six storeys. But also the newly rebuilt old town (Neue Altstadt) and green spaces around the city are special. Frankfurt has other identities: the metropolis is a sports city, event center and hip destination for millions of visitors every year.

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