What your digital camera will do… three years from now.

Posted on Nov 10, 2010 in Design Strategy, Industrial Design, Opinion, Research


In our previous post on the topic, we argued that for the future of digital photography we see big opportunities within the three areas of redefined product architecture, connectivity and the integration of hardware and software. We arrived at these assumptions by evaluating the current digital photography market as well as neighboring market segments, by taking a closer look at the history of photography and by observing common trends in digital technology.

In looking ahead at what this will mean for the development of digital photography, we must also take the photographer into account and deliberate how to best add value for the user. This quickly leads us to looking at the basic, foundational propositions of image capturing, and the essential question:

At the same time as we are looking at what lies ahead in terms of technology, we are deliberating on how to best add value for the user, which quickly leads us to looking at the basic, foundational propositions of image capturing, by asking

“What is photography all about?”

Mankind has always been fascinated by the topic, mainly due to three basic human interests that we all share:

1. Remembering
Said photographer Aaron Siskind: “Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.”

Capturing the moment to remember it has always been one of the main motivations and desires, be it in writing, drawing or through photographic images. No matter if the memories are staged or spontaneous, photography helps us to remember events, mood, atmosphere, location and – last but not least – the people involved.

2. Self-expression
Sometimes, just capturing the moment isn’t enough – and photographers turn into artists that creatively express themselves, generate a certain mood using photography or use the photos they have taken as a basis for post-processing.

In analog photography these goals were accomplished with ink, paint, airbrush or a simple “pointed scraping tool” as it was used in Polaroid Art, where the photographer dissects and then scratches the emulsion of their instant photos to create a desired effect.

Nowadays there is a slew of digital tools available, most importantly Photoshop on the desktop and mobile offerings such as iPhone-favorite Hipstamatic.

3. Sharing
No matter the purpose – memories or art – photography always wanted to be shared. This was first accomplished using prints. In today’s connected world, this desire is illustrated through the abundance of digital photo frames and such online services as Flickr and Picasa.

What would the ideal camera need to accomplish?

Traditionally, the mastery of technology helped us take great photos: Knowing how to focus with a rangefinder or how to apply the “Sunny 16 rule” were once essential to photography.

In today’s world of ubiquitous camera-equipped cell phones and affordable point-and-shoot devices however, one does not need to understand the basics. Instead, there is not much more to photography than pushing the shutter button. Or is there?

Professional systems still rely heavily on the vocabulary and techniques of old, since these undoubtedly deliver results.

But what about the rest of us? The ones that the camera industry sees as “prosumers”? The following two ads – both interestingly about Micro-Four-Thirds cameras – capture the spirit of these products rather concisely:
Kevin Spacey does not want to be “that camera guy“, instead this artist is taking great photos without being a great photographer.

Aspiring photographers are given tools that are in-between the point-and-shoot world and the professional product world. The products promise to unite what is best about the two categories – high quality glass and sensors and an unrivaled ease-of-use. Yet, the so-called prosumer cameras do not bridge the two worlds.
Painting a vision for the future, we believe that the ideal prosumer camera will be characterized by the following three attributes:

1. Precision
Professional cameras as well as photography have always been associated with accuracy: finding the moment when light and subject feel “just right”, framing the shot and then exposing the photographic medium for the right amount of time and with the right amount of light.
The ideal “prosumer” camera will maintain these characteristic traits by presenting the user with precise controls – both in terms of hardware and software – that will facilitate the taking of the “perfect picture”.

2. Ease of use
Kevin Spacey has a point: if an aspiring photographer does not want to be “that camera guy”, his device should comply, by offering simple point-and-shoot-like options. On top of that, when the user demands it, the prosumer camera of the future will offer complete control. This allows the user to grow, experiment and develop additional skill.
The camera will unlock new capabilities through modular extendable hardware and software that will provide additional tools for creative expression.

3. Empowerment
The camera of the future will be a platform for aspiring photographers, one that guides and assists in the pursuit of great photography and helps one to become better at it. This will be accomplished both through an adaptive and integrated user interface, as well as through a network of users that will enable photographers to learn from each other.

Stay tuned – in our upcoming post, we will describe how these ideas and opinions are translated into a product.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

Digital Photography, where will you go? (or why aren’t you there yet?)


As one would expect from any self-respecting creative consultancy, Artefact has a deep interest in photography. For some of us it is a hobby we are passionate about, for others it is a social or creative tool, some actually earn decent income on the side with it.

This leads to a lively conversation (and sometimes spirited debate) about the topic and we thought we’d let you in on our conversation. We will do this in the form of a series of blog posts: We aim to assess and analyze both the history and the status quo of photography, discuss areas of opportunity for the industry and – after having outlined our point of view on the topic, share our thoughts on what we consider could be a compelling product for the aspiring hobbyist in the year 2013.

Cycles of Disruptive and Sustaining Innovation

Invented nearly 200 years ago, the camera industry took it’s first series of experimental steps during the 19th century. After William Fox Talbot invented the positive/negative process in 1816, the first color photograph by James Clerk Maxwell was shown in 1861 and the Kodak Brownie made photography accessible to the masses at the end of the 1800′s.

The introduction of standards like the 35mm format and the 135 film cartridge after the turn of the century led to market growth and a commoditization of the technology started in the 1950’s with the release of cameras like the Agfa Optima and Kodak’s Instamatic. In most recent years, the industry changed from film to digital.

During this history one can clearly see alternating waves of disruptive and sustaining innovation: times where the introduction of new technology opened up photography to new users, followed by periods of more sustaining progress, where incremental improvements and price drops dominated the market.

The digital age has caused a major shift in the industry. It has fundamentally changed who the major players in the industry are by wiping out film. It has taken photofinishing out of the (specialty) store and brought it into our homes. Since the cost per picture has been reduced to zero, the volume of pictures we take has increased by an order of magnitude which gives rise to new tools. Where we used to share pictures only in person, we now share them online.

Yet for all these changes, digital photography has not sparked the transformational change it could have brought for the photographer. It has not yet changed how we take photographs.

Product Architecture and Technology: The Status Quo

Over the years, different form factors have been explored. The industry has now settled on two stable architectures: cameras with and cameras without interchangeable lenses.

The former segment is comprised of single lens reflex cameras and the – currently very “hot” – EVIL systems.

For the most part, cameras with non-interchangeable lenses could be categorized as point-and-shoot devices, even though that term does not do justice to cameras such as the Leica X1 or the Fujifilm FinePix X100.
Today’s digital cameras feature sufficiently high resolutions and the technical challenges of the past (such as low-light capabilities, vignetting, etc.) are constantly being improved.

Author and camera expert Erwin Puts sums it up nicely in his review of the recent Photokina 2010: “We have now the situation that every camera produces image quality that is better than what you need and even a small EOS 550 can create quality that is not that far removed from what you get with a 1Ds.”

All in all, the manufacturers work on incremental and predictable improvement of proven systems bringing these closer and closer to perfection, yet hesitate to truly innovate. We cannot but agree with Puts who provokingly states, that “A vision for photography would be nice too.”

Digital Technology’s Impact (and Lack Thereof)

Critically looking at the past two decades in which the photographic medium has gone through a tectonic shift from film to digital, it is somewhat surprising that the impact on photography as a whole is not as vigorous as it could be: While the post-processing has been altered with the advent of digital technology, the act of taking photos has remained the same for the past 100 years. The most significant change is that photographers are now looking at an LCD screen instead of through a viewfinder.

We find this rather disappointing and think that there are both technology potential as well as untapped user needs that could spark a disruptive change.

The Grass on the other Side of the Fence

Where do the camera industry’s prospects lie? On the search for a point of view, some might say it is too easy to point to other industries, but let’s go there just for clues: mobile consumer electronics have embraced new technologies and opportunities more enthusiastically than the static camera industry.

Mobile electronics leverage wireless connectivity and make extensive use of sensors (e.g. location, proximity). They take advantage of the integration of software and hardware, and blur the boundaries between still and video functionality.

For these reasons today’s smart phones are in many ways the better image capturing device. Traditional camera manufacturers will face greater pressure and threat of obsolescence from increasingly capable camera-enabled mobile devices. Not surprisingly, mobile phone giant Nokia has been the world’s largest producer of cameras for the past number of years.

Opportunities

To sum things up, based on our observations, we see missed opportunities in three main areas:

  • Product architecture: To date, the shift from film to digital has created merely incremental changes – what other opportunities still exist?
  • Connectivity: most of our electronic devices are connected, why not the camera? The digital camera of the future will be linked in multiple ways, allowing for photography devices to communicate with each other and with “the cloud”.
  • HW/SW integration: In most technology areas, hardware and software combine to produce better results and better experiences. Camera manufacturers cannot afford to continue to only use software as an “afterthought”. Going forward, hardware and software must be integrated into a tightly knitted system and great user experience.

“Now what does all this mean?” you might ask. The three areas highlighted above will enable exciting new possibilities and novel use scenarios for photographers. And we will get back to these after looking both at the user needs and wants, as well as guidelines for an ideal camera in the next part of this series.

This article was first published on Artefact’s blog.

A Handful of Thoughts on Consumer Electronics

Posted on Jan 14, 2010 in Design Strategy, Opinion, Research, Trade Shows, Trends

Having visited the past three editions of the Consumer Electronics Show, I am now looking back at a “Vegas hat-trick.” While I just won’t warm up to the artificial lights of Sin City, the trade show itself has become all too familiar and has ceased to hold surprises. Yet there are a few things worth mentioning – five of them to be precise.

1. Personal Favorites

Apart from products somewhat detached from bigger strategies like Haier’s completely wireless TV (no electricity or video signal cables needed) or Asus’s notebook study sporting translucent fabrics, the company that most impressed me was Lenovo – their Skylight and Ideapad U1 seem to break the paradigm of what netbooks have been for the past years, by introducing new architectures, interfaces and with that also new usage proposals. I also got to play briefly with Lenovo’s 乐-Phone (pronounced “Le-Phone”, meaning “happy phone”) that looks like it will be a rather decent Android-device. In combination with a large amount of product releases, the company did position itself as an innovator on an otherwise dreary marketplace.

While those personal highlights might seem to be utterly “small picture”, I concluded that this is due to a complete absence of bigger ideas. My personal theory behind this finding is, that technology has gotten in the way of well thought-out consumer products, which leads us to the second point that I am making.

2. Technology vs. Consumer Electronics

To start with examples, there are two categories of consumer products that have seen drastic changes in their technical possibilities during these past years at CES:

  • TV’s were thinand bigin 2008, got even thinnerand biggerin 2009 and they now seem to disappear into 2-dimensionality, while at the same timenot fittinginto any living room. 3D TV technology on the other hand was a big topic in 2008, became more apparent at last year’s CESand the devices were omnipresent in 2010 with announcements that there might well be a 24-hour 3D TV channelin 2011.
  • Besides incremental innovations in television technology during its last three editions, the CES has seen the “Tablet PC’s” of the early 2000′s being named “MID’s” in 2008 and after another round of re-christening, the same devices are now marketed as “Slate PC’s“. Gizmodo states that Dell’s version looks like a big iPod Touch, and it appears that the product will indeed not have much more functionality than the gadget from Cupertino.

Trade show booths have been flooded with new products and new technologies year after year, yet strong attitudes and points of view of consumer brands seem to have no access to the fairground and consumers are left to wonder what to do with all that promising new technology.
How beautiful would it be if electronics makers would use the technology and turn it into beneficial products for the consumer, rather than blindly implementing what’s out there? It seems like the market is waiting for someone to step up and make a strong position, so that the rest will be able to follow.

3. The Rapid Slide of the E-Reader

And since we are already talking about “Slate PC’s”, I was baffled by the steep decline of the value of E-Readers and by how blazingly fast a rather new product category went from novelty to commodity. The first Kindle went on sale a mere two years ago, soon to be followed by its second generation and an entire hive full of Sony’s, “nook’s” and “Alex’s“.
Roaming the trade show floors at CES, it is impossible to avoid yet another little company introducing half a dozen “me too” e-readers.
Don’t get me wrong, I think there is great merit in new technologies like Pixel Qi’s displays in a reading device and – being a product designer – I obviously appreciate the object that is Plastic Logic’s Que Reader.
That said, it seems that the industry is making the wrong choice, while trying to sell their devices to a broader audience: The incremental innovation that can be observed (additional screens, larger displays, bigger storage,…), coupled with a smaller price tag just doesn’t cut it, as the overall user experience, attached services and new use models that in their combination could make for great products, are left completely untapped.

4. Mobile Computing: Hard- and Software at the Tipping Point?

When it came to information technology products over the past 20 years or so, the choice of an Intel/Microsoft combo seemed imperative and while a shift has been noticeable for the past few years, I believe that a few observations from this year’s CES indicate that the industry is approaching a tipping point, that give consumers new choices for the truly mobile information age, which – according to Gartner – is imminent.
After selling its XScale mobile microprocessor core technology to Marvell in 2006, Intel has been facing strong headwinds in the mobile arena and at this year’s CES it have been Qualcomm’s and nVidia’s technologies that arguably powered the most exciting mobile gadgets, as opposed to Intels’ battery-hungry Atom platform.
On the user interface side of the equation, the market has been searching for an alternative to the Windows-desktop paradigm, which just does not want to fit the bill for small-screen use scenarios. Ever since the advent of netbooks, it have been mostly Linux derivates like Jolicloud that attempted to compete with Windows XP, but new competitors emerged over the past few months. And while Android and Chromium cannot yet keep the user experience promises that the operating systems are making, they will very soon be able to.
I do not expect the marketplace powerhouses to stand still and am looking forward to seeing the goodies that will come out of Redmond and Santa Clara in the near future. I am sure that this competition will be great for the consumer and hope we will have products at hand that will have truly changed the landscape of consumer electronics come 2013.

5. Product Design

So what about the design of consumer electronics? While the shift from classical industrial design to experience design that began a decade ago is now omnipresent, I cannot help but being utterly disappointed by the lack of accomplishments that my profession can post. While I found products and their interfaces in 2008 and 2009 “not very touching“, I can only but report that nothing much has changed since then.
Next to a general lack of figurative transparency, interfaces on handheld devices are quite obviously not made to be used byhands, with interaction elements still being too small and cluttered to help users achieve their tasks. And don’t get me started on the experiences you get from the silver screen: UI and graphic design seem to have mostly been standing still in the mid 90′s and interactions are confusing and clumsy at best… it’s pitiful.Every now and then Hollywood shows us that user experience could truly be natural, but in reality most novel interactions that we come up with are eye-candy features like BumpTop that don’t add much value for the user, are limited to a certain area of the experience and impractical for everyday tasks.
Unfortunately, truly novel and game-changing graphical user experiences like 10/GUI‘s study have not found their way into mass-produced gadgets yet and were absent from CES. The excuse of the discipline still being young simply does not hold water. It is time for a shift on a broad scale towards better user experiences.

Parting Wishes

I certainly do not want to part without expressing a wish for Consumer Electronics Shows to come and hope that CES 2011 will have major headlines other than Elvis’s 76th birthday or the availability of fluffy phones in additional colors to pink.

I wish for new products to be convincing not only in one or two aspects but holistically, starting from technical specifications, industrial and interface design up to integrated services and I wish for consumer electronics companies to make choices and decisions for their customers, so that they become advocates for the user rather than just impersonal institutions that sell “stuff.”

This post was first published on Carbon Design’s blog.

Taipei Tour Guide

Posted on Dec 8, 2008 in Opinion, Travel

Originally I was supposed to go to Taiwan for business in December, but I had to postpone my trip subsequently until I finally didn’t have time anymore to embark on a flight to the South China Sea. In recent months, I was reminded of my years in Taiwan time and time again, as a few friends asked me for tourist tips when traveling to Formosa.

Taipei 101’s Shadow

Not being able to visit my “second home” this time, I went on a little “virtual tour” through my own personal tourist guide for the visitor of Taipei and compiled a pretty comprehensive list that I want to post here, grouped by different sorts of activities.

General Information

The Taiwan Tourism Bureau gives a good amount of general information, while the  website is exactly what the name suggests. One shouldn’t visit Taipei without knowing about the MRT system – a fast, cheap and bilingual (!!!) means of transportation to explore the city.

Obvious tourist attractions are the Taipei 101, (one of) the tallest buildings in the world, the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall and the Office of the President.

Wining and Dining

Taipei is an absolute paradise when it comes to food and also offers lots of bars. As the locations are ever changing, I will here just refer to Taiwanfun, which is a pretty good source for all sorts of restaurants, pubs and clubs.

Gong Bao Chicken

My absolute favorite restaurant is Kiki – veeeery spicy Sichuan style food at a few different locations. Order some – or all – of these dishes:

  • 宮保雞丁 (“gongbao chicken” – spicy)
  • 麻婆豆腐 (“mapo tofu” – spicy)
  • 蒼蠅頭 (“fly heads” – no insects are harmed in the preparation of this dish… it’s just minced meat… veeeery spicy! Order enough rice!)
  • 老皮嫩肉 (”old skin, tender meat” – contrary to what the name suggests, a very mild vegetarian dish, made from tofu)

Even more popular, but serving food a lot more mild is the Din Tai Fung restaurant. Go to their original store on XinYi road and enjoy the best dumplings in the world!

Above the rooftops of DanShui, you’ll find the “Red Castle restaurant“… this restaurant is not inside the castle itself, but five minutes down the road and then up the hill… nice view, good coffee, good food.

If you’re craving some Italian food, go to Diamond Tony in Tian Mu, right next to Häagen Dazs. German bread? Sauerkraut? Biergarten? Go to Wendel’s Bakery & Bistro in Tian Mu!

For a real Taiwanese experience check out one of the night markets – most favorably ShiLin Night Market, close to the MRT’s red line JianTan station! As a guideline, order at least three kinds of food of which you have no clue what they actually are.

Museums

The National Palace Museum holds treasures of over 3,000 years of Chinese culture… great for a rainy day. The Taipei Fine Arts Museum always features a good mixture of Eastern and Western exhibitions. While ticket prices are low anyway, entrance is free on Saturday evenings between 5:30 and 8:30… a great way to start your evening!

Taipei Fine Arts Museum

I really like the building that Moca Taipei is located in – a former Japanese school, about 10 minutes walk away from Zhong Shan MRT station (red line). Exhibitions are often more on the local side, but I have never been disappointed. As the museum is rather small, it’s suited if you just have 1-2 hours to spend.

The Juming Museum is about an hour north of Taipei and great in the autumn, when it’s not too hot, as the most interesting sculptures are located outside.

On the opposite side of Dan Shui at the mouth of the Dan Shui River one finds the Shisanhang Museum of Archeology… it’s interesting, but a little far out and resembles more an entertainment park on the weekends with thousands of kids visiting and a night-market like atmosphere around the building.

Performances

Taipei Eye is a show that is sponsored by he CEO of Taiwan’s National Cement and Construction Company, whose passion is to promote Chinese performing arts. Chinese opera, Taiwanese aboriginal performances and puppet shows are performed and explained with English and Japanese sub(side)titles. While the ambiente is a bit cheesy and far from “authentic Chinese” Taipei Eye offers a great introduction to performing arts in the Far East. It’s a 10 minute walk north east from Shuang Lian MRT station (red line) at the corner of Zhong Shan North Road and Jinzhou Street.

National Taiwan Concert Hall has program that probably cannot compare with European cities, but offers a great mix of local Taiwanese, Asian and international performances… check out their program – I never regretted a visit!

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is an internationally acclaimed dance group that blends Eastern and Western culture in a truly beautiful way… I’ve seen about half a dozen of their performances over the past years and never left without being deeply impressed.

U-Theatre has amazing performances that combine martial arts, dance, traditional Chinese music and confucianism into one amazing new experience… performances are rare, though.

Visit Red House for a taste of Japanese colonial architecture and some smaller shows.

Movies

If you’re up for your major Hollywood entertainment, you can go to Vieshow (formerly Warner Village) in the Xin Yi district, Living Mall Theatres (in a mall that is shaped like a giant sphere) or  Miramar Cinemas in Tian Mu / Da Zhi. Unfortunately it seems that Taipei is getting less accessible to foreigners, as some of the theaters don’t have an English website anymore.

I like the Spot movie theater (Taipei Film House) close to Zhong Shan MRT station. It is located in the former US Embassy on Zhong Shan North Road, has a nice coffee shop and a good selection of foreign non-Hollywood movies. Make sure to check with the staff whether non-English movies come with English subtitles. If you happen to be in town during the Golden Horse Film Festival, make sure to catch some arthouse films, and if not,

Live Music

The Wall is one of my favorite places in Taipei for Live Music. Riverside has a rather small stage, with mostly lesser known bands, but the quality of performances is usually very good. Even smaller is the German-owned Witchhouse that also offers an okay dinner before or during the performances.

Hiking

The Yang Ming Shan National Park is just a 20-minute bus ride away from Taipei City. Take bus “Red 5”, that leaves Jian Tan MRT station every 20 minutes or so for the Park Entrance. You can ask in any hotel for maps or download relatively good bilingual ones here.

Yang Ming Shan National Park

There are really easy trails like Qing Tian Gang… essentially just a few meadows that offer a nice view on Taipei City or more difficult ones for example to Mt Qi Xing, where you’ll have to climb more than 500m… I loved it up there in Yang Ming Shan, no matter if biking or hiking.

Souvenirs

I always found it difficult to bring something “truly Taiwanese” back home… below are four places where you might find what you’re looking for.

The Jade Market (and Flower Market) are whimsically located underneath an overpass at the intersection of RenAi Road and JianGuo Road (sometimes romanized as ChienKuo or similar).

What they are offering might be a bit on the cheesy side – check out this website for an overview.

At the Wu Fen Pu Garment District you can buy all sorts of crazy clothes for veeeery little money. Here is a good English introduction (that also talks about Shi Lin Night Market), this is an “how to get there” guide and also a brief intro to Xi Men Ding Shopping Area (西門町商圈) below. Some pictures of Wu Fen Pu here.

The Xi Men Ding Shopping Area is where the kids hang out. It reminds very much of Tokyo’s Harajuku district and has lots of “KTV’s” (karaoke clubs), eateries, fashion, music and toy stores. It’s best to get there by taking the MRT – Xi Men Station is right after Taipei Main Station.

Xi Men Ding Shopping Area

Shi Lin Night Market is the biggest and best-known night market in Taipei – see some photos here. If you decide to go there, look out for “$10 Stores” (10元)… they’ve always got crazy shit in there… take the MRT to Dan Shui, exit at Jian Tan Station and follow the signs or ask the kids…

Shi Lin Night Market

Well… this list could obviously be a lot longer and maybe one day I’ll get around to extending it!

Taipei, Seoul, Seattle, Portland

Posted on Jul 28, 2008 in Opinion, Travel

Well… I did quite a bit of travelling these past few days. While on Saturday night I was still in Taipei and after having a quick stopover in Seoul on Sunday morning, I touched ground in Seattle yesterday afternoon, just to take off again today for a one-day business trip to Portland.
While I have taken that tour quite a bit in past months, it was – until now – by car or standard scheduled flights.
Prior to today’s trip we discovered a new airline in town, though: SeaPort Airlines, that offers direct flights between Boeing Field and Portland’s PDX airport, with the former being a lot closer to downtown Seattle than SeaTac International airport in Tacoma and – in combination with the omission of security screenings – decreasing the overall commute from 4 to 3 hours.
In addition to the shorter travel, a ride in SeaPort Air’s 10-seater Pilatus PC-12 Turboprop also makes for an unusual and really cool flying experience!
With all this travelling though, it is needless to say that I was pretty jetlagged at the end of the day – from my trip to Asia that is, not from the one to Oregon – and I fell asleep at around 9pm. Fortunately, there’ll be a few weeks time until I’ll be embarking on my next intercontinental flight…

Frankfurt Tour Guide

Posted on Oct 15, 2006 in Opinion, Travel

I think I can consider myself lucky that I could combine my trip to speak at Bayreuth Design Engineer Day with some personal activities… through a happy coincidence, I was able to attend two weddings: Sandie’s and Daniele’s at Lago di Como and Regina’s and Kay’s in my hometown Darmstadt.

061015_RoemerbergHello from Frankfurt!

And there was even time for more: showing Evelyn around in Frankfurt a bit, she thought I was a pretty good tour guide in the city. Since I’ll have some colleagues visit Frankfurt soon, I wanted to write down a few things to see and do in Frankfurt. So here goes…

Things to see

061015_RathausRömerberg

Frankfurt is the city of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany’s most famous writer and poet. Visit his birthplace, the Goethe-Haus and walk around the area a bit. In its vicinity you’ll find three other important buildings: „Der Römer” (Frankfurt’s City Hall), Paulskirche (St. Paul’s Church, where the German Weimar Republic was founded) and the “Frankfurter St. Bartholomäus Dom” (Frankfurt St. Bartholomew Cathedral). Frankfurt’s city center is very walkable and this map gives many more hints at what to do and where to go…

061015_MainMain River

Museumsufer (literally “Museum Riverbank”) has 8 museums located at the Main River. Some of the more interesting ones are: Museum für Moderne Kunst (Museum for Modern Art), Deutsches Architektur-Museum (German Architecture Museum), Deutsches Film-Museum (German Movie Museum) and Schirn Kunsthalle (Schirn Art Gallery – has a great bookstore inside).

061015_MAKMuseum für Angewandte Kunst “MAK”

Shopping

Frankfurt isn’t all that great for shopping, but “Die Zeil” offers a lively (and often crowded) city center pedestrian area.

Wining and Dining

An absolute must for the visitor of Frankfurt is a trip to the old “Sachsenhausen” city center. Go there on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and try the local “Ebbelwoi” (that’s Hassian dialect for “Apfelwein” – apple cider). The real thing in terms of “Ebbelwoi” is the restaurant called “Zum Gemalten Haus” (The painted house).

061015_Zum_Gemalten_HausRippchen mit Kraut

You can eat very good (and not too expensive) traditional food from the area. Order “Rippchen mit Kraut und Kartoffelpüree” (pork-ribs with sauerkraut and meshed potatoes) if you’re hungry or Frankfurter Würstchen mit Kraut und Brot (Frankfurter sausages with sauerkraut and bread). Drink either Apfelwein (Applewine, cider), süßgespritzter Apfelwein (cider mixed with lemonade) or sauergespritzter Apfelwein (cider mixed with sparkling mineral water).

For some fine dining, very good wine, and nice ambiance in Sachsenhausen, visit Lobster“.

If you are in Frankfurt’s pedestrian area “Die Zeil”, I suggest you eat at the “Fressgass” (literally “Grazing Alley”) nearby. I recommend Apfelwein Klaus in the Kaiserhofkeller (Cesar’s cellar). Order any “Schnitzel” (pork steak) you like or “Schweinshaxe” (pork chops). All salads are very good and rich.

If you happen to be in Frankfurt’s Eastern part, have a quick lunch outside at Gref-Völsings butcher shop. Order Rindswurst & Kartoffelsalat (beef sausage & potato-salad… yummy!!!

Looking for a good “cup of joe”? You’ll find nice cafes, bars and restaurants on Berger Straße (from the city center to Frankfurt Bornheim).

Party

Go to “Stereo Bar” (not before 11:00pm) – around the corner between Lobster and the Ebbelwoi bars. Very nice place, very good music, and relaxed people… for a more mainstream night, visit DJ Sven Väth’s club U60311 in an old underground station. Not the hippest of places, but cool architecture and good parties.

Well… and that’s about it for now… having been away from home for six years now, some of the places that I used to visit are no longer in existence and my knowledge of the town seems to get thinner by the day.

But let me know if you’re visiting and I’ll see if I can find out for you “what’s hot” in Frankfurt these days…

Safe travels!