This guide gives you tons of details on how to spend one day in Frankfurt, Germany. This is an ideal read for people who are short on time or want to make the best of a long layover.
I know a lot of people use Frankfurt as a transit or layover point. When I visited, I had the option to fly there and move on to my next destination right away.
Nevertheless, a little voice inside kept telling me to spend some time in the city. And, that is what my husband and I did.
That ended up being a fantastic decision. Frankfurt captured me with its sunny weather, cheerful atmosphere, whimsical river views, and the fact that a lot of people walk with a sausage in hand.
Plus, having a German last name (I am a sixth-generation descendant of a German) helped me to fit in with the locals.
This article provides options for those who want to spend one day in Frankfurt (a phenomenal day, by the way). Here are my top recommendations to plan a great Frankfurt itinerary!
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Table of Contents
One Day in Frankfurt: What to See in Frankfurt in One Day
Keep scrolling to discover the best the city has to offer.
Explore the Innerstadt (Inner City)
The Inner City is the central district of the City of Frankfurt. The city’s most famous sights, skyscrapers, and most expensive stores are located within the limits of this district.
It is not easy to determine the boundaries of this district (everybody seems to have a different opinion on this topic) but when visiting the city, this is probably where most time is going to be spent.
Start your exploration of the city by checking out the historic old town. Or, I should say, what is left of the old town. Turns out this part was devastated during World War II. Investments have been made to reconstruct or save pieces of the past.
You cannot leave Frankfurt without taking a look at the colorful, half-timbered houses of the Romer.
In the same square, you are going to find the City Hall and the Alte Nikolaikirche (Old Nicholas Church).
Dig deeper by walking the stretch streets surrounding the Romer. You do not know what treasures you are going to find.
It is time to proceed towards Frankfurt Cathedral (officially called Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, in German, it is called Frankfurter Dom). This pink church with a spiral larger than life will leave you in awe (seriously, how pretty is this church).
North of the Romer, you are going to find Paulsplatz and Paulskirche (Paul’s Plaza and St. Paul’s Church). Once again, I was charmed by the pink exteriors, original lamposts, and buildings covered in mosaics.
Other Sights in the District
Other sights in the district include the Hauptwache, Katharinenkirche, Opera (Alte Oper), Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Borse Frankfurt), and Eschenheimer Tower.
Get your senses prepared because the contrast between old and new is stark in Frankfurt. Some of the oldest buildings are located next to modern structures built with glass and metallic materials. Your brain gets all confused while trying to process all the differences.
RELATED: Vienna’s Old Town
Join a Walking Tour
If you do not have time for research, are pressed for time, or like to sightsee with a guide, you can join a walking tour.
Free and low-cost tours (less than 15 Euros) are available daily. I am a big fan of these tours because you learn a lot, meet great people and get tons of recommendations. Alternative tours (hidden and unusual places) are available too.
Free Tours by Foot offers 2 hours free tours of Frankfurt, Germany (you tip at the bed of the tour). If you prefer not to walk, you can buy a ticket for a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. You can choose a ticket that combines the bus with a river cruise.
See the City from a Free Viewpoint
While in the Hauptwache and Katharinenkirche area, I recommend stopping by the terrace of GALERIA (Kaufhof). As expected, this mall has products (women’s wear, men’s wear, bags, shoes) and services (hair salons, banks, ATMs).
Leonhard’s Restaurant, located on the GALERIA’s 7th floor, has amazing views from its Skylounge panorama platform. You can have a bite or a drink at the restaurant or take the elevator to the terrace for a quick photo.
Eat at the Markets
We talked about the sights but we need to discuss at length Frankfurt’s food situation. The city’s dining scene is bursting with eateries for all palates and budgets.
What is more, food can be found in abundance in the many markets lining the city streets. As a matter of fact, we bumped into a market when we were trying to find our hotel. We dropped our belongings and basically ran to the nearest sausage stall. Our jaws dropped when we saw the many varieties of sausages available.
For those of you who are not passionate about sausages (common people!), I saw stalls selling rotisserie chicken, crepes, steak and frites, Chinese bowls, cheese and charcuterie plates, salads, and much more. Looks like a lot of these markets cater to the people who work in the surrounding offices and skyscrapers. Can we have one of those markets close to where I work?
While walking around, we bumped into another market and a few minutes later another one was in sight. This time we saw Argentinean and grilled salmon stands. Plus, we saw plenty of signs announcing upcoming food-related events.
Kleinmarkthalle is an indoor market with more than 60 vendors selling groceries, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and prepared foods. This is a great option for those who prefer to eat indoors.
And, since we are on the food topic, the section of Kaisserstrabe located close to the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station) is overflowing with restaurants selling delicious food. We indulged in Sichuan-style noodles and monster Australian-style burgers.
Do not forget to look for Frankfurt staples such as green sauce served over hard-boiled eggs and potatoes and Crown Cake. Besides, the most popular beverage in the city is apple wine (you may find it as “Ebbelwei”, “Ebbelwoi”, “Äppler”, “Schoppe,” or “Stöffche”).
Related: 10 Things to do in Old Town Prague
Walk the Main River Banks
If you look at a map, you are going to notice the Main River banks in the Inner District are surrounded by a green band. That means most of the river banks have been designated parks or recreational areas. That is a big advantage to those who are visiting the city since the list of things to do grows because of this fact.
Along the river, you can visit museums (history, art, film, architecture, communications), have a picnic, bike, jog, visit a beer garden or eat in a lovely restaurant with great views. This area made me aware of the high living standards of the city. I felt like staying for a longer period of time in order to absorb the joyful atmosphere.
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Cruise the Main River
A cruise along the Main River was the highlight of my day in the city.
Visitors have the option to do a 50 minutes cruise in one of two directions. We decided to do the two directions at once and our cruising time ended up being close to two hours.
We had the most beautiful day when we did this. Cruises depart near Eiserner Steg (one of the most famous bridges in the city).
While moving towards Gerbermuhle’s direction (upstream), we were able to see the many bridges spanning the river. All of them are very different. My favorite one ended up being the Ignatz Bubis Bridge built in an Art Deco style.
We passed modern buildings such as the Main Plaza and the European Central Bank.
Before turning back, we made it to the port area. We were able to observe gates, cranes, and shipping containers. This is a crucial spot related to the movement of goods from inland Europe to the North Sea and vice versa. A lot of the wealth of the city is associated with shipping activities. It was very interesting to see where such important operations take place.
On our way back, we were able to see why Frankfurt is called “Mainhattan.” The city’s skyline was fully visible from the ship.
Then, it was time to cruise in the Griesheim direction (downstream). I think this direction was even more picturesque than the first one. We were able to observe museums, cafes, stately houses, and even the rowing school.
We saw the Westhafen Tower and more industrial areas.
Once again, we were delighted by the city’s skyline.
What to Do in Frankfurt for a Day (If You Have Additional Time)
The above options should be enough to keep you entertained for 24 hours in Frankfurt. However, if you have more time or are returning to the city, here are some additional options.
The Palmengarter has rave reviews on platforms such as TripAdvisor and Yelp.
Guests experience flora from a variety of climate zones within a park area of over 20 hectares (50 acres). The greenhouses on-site are home to tropical and sub-tropical plants. Rose, rock, and rhododendron gardens can be enjoyed as well.
The Frankfurt Botanical Garden (a different entity) is located across this garden. Take into consideration this attraction is a bit away from the actual center. When planning a visit, take into consideration transit time (and options).
Main Tower Observation Deck
The Main Tower is a 656 ft (200 m) skyscraper with two viewing platforms. It is the 4th tallest building in Frankfurt and in Germany.
The observation decks offer amazing views of the River Main, skyscrapers, and other colorful buildings. Once at the top, you can stop by the restaurant or lounge. I am including this option here because the entrance fee is less than 8 Euros which in my book is pretty reasonable.
RELATED: Day Trip to Neuschwanstein
Visit a Museum
Frankfurt has 30 to 35 museums (the exact number changes frequently). Yes, my friends, you read that right. The city has a lot to offer with regards to this aspect.
That means culture vultures can spend a day in Frankfurt museum hopping.
Now, keep in mind this article targets people with limited time in the city. Because of that, I recommend heading to the Museum Embankment, an area full of riverside museums. To be specific, here are the institutions you will find next to the River Main:
- Stadel Museum – Features one of the most important art collections in Germany. This is one of the top attractions in Frankfurt.
- Museum of Applied Art (Museum Angewandte Kunst)
- Archeological Museum
- German Architecture Museum (Deutsches Architekturmuseum)
- Museum Giersch – Art gallery hosting different and rotating exhibitions
- Historical Museum – Specializes in the history of the city
- Icon Museum – As the name implies, the museum has a permanent collection of religious icons
- Museum of Communication
- Jewish Museum
- Museum of Ancient Sculpture
- Museum of World Cultures
- German Film Museum
In the city center, you are going to find the Museum of Comic Art (Caricatura), Frankfurt Cathedral Museum, and Schirn Kunsthalle, an institution presenting impressive modern art exhibitions in a building with a gorgeous glass dome (highly recommended).
The Goethe House is the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, a well-known writer, and poet. The original house was destroyed in WWII but has been restored to resemble the 18th century. It features exhibitions about Goethe’s career and legacy.
Another outstanding museum I need to mention is the Senckenberg Natural History Museum. The institution is known for its dinosaur skeletons but it offers way more than that. This is a great place to visit with kids. Since it is located a bit away from the city center it can be combined with visits to the EXPERIMINTA Science Center and Palmengarten.
There are plenty of stores in the city center catering to visitor’s needs. You can find everyday-use items, souvenirs, and regional goods.
For a mall experience, head to GALERIA (Kaufhof), Shopping Center MyZeil, and Solingen Shopping Center.
Frankfurt Christmas Market (Seasonal)
The Frankfurt Christmas Market is a big affair. It pretty much takes all the open spaces in the Innenstadt or Inner City (Romerberg, Paulsplatz, Friedrich-Stoltze-Platz, for example).
With over 600 years of history, the market offers over 200 stalls selling art, dishes and drinks, decorations, lights, music, and more.
The market operates from mid-November to a few days before Christmas day.
How to Reach Frankfurt
Frankfurt is a major transportation hub. Those are good news to visitors since flights and bus tickets are sold at competitive prices.
The Frankfurt International Airport is located 9 miles (14 km) from the city center. A train (light rail) can be taken to Frankfurt’s main train station (Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof). For a cost of under 5 Euros, you can be in the center in 10 to 15 minutes.
Frankfurt’s main train station (Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof) is located less than 3 miles from the city center. From there, you can walk, take a taxi or connect to the public transportation system (subways, trams, and buses).
Frankfurt’s Central Bus Station is located across the main train station. Notice major bus companies (like Flixbus) may have some of their routes departing or arriving from other points in the city.
Best Time to Visit Frankfurt
As with other European cities, Frankfurt has cold/wet winters and hot/dry summers.
Because of this, April, May, September, and October have the best temperatures to visit (daily maximums oscillate between 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit). I have visited during May and the weather was excellent.
If you visit during summer, be ready for temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. These are a little bit hotter but still within a manageable range. Plus, the city booms with activities (outdoor markets, beer gardens, festivals) during this time.
Sightseeing Gear For 1 Day in Frankfurt
Get ready for a day of sightseeing by bringing the right gear. Here is a list of the items I would pack to spend a day in Frankfurt, Germany:
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. I recommend investing in a good pair. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Anti-Theft Bag – Keep your belongings safe by keeping them in an anti-theft bag. The ones manufactured by Travelon have a 5-points security system including an RFID blocking pocket. >>Check out their crossbody bag here If you prefer a backpack, this one is a good option
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this excellent option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Hand Sanitizer – Do not forget to pack hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on trips (more if you are taking pictures, posting on social media, and navigating). Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions I am asked about spending a day in Frankfurt.
How long to stay in Frankfurt, Germany?
Or, how many days to spend in Frankfurt?
I spent two days in Frankfurt. The first day, I arrived in the city around 10:00 a.m. and was able to complete all the activities delineated in the first part of this article (What to see in Frankfurt in one day). The second day I went on a day trip. Based on my experience, I will say you can spend 2-3 days in the city and its surroundings with plenty of options in terms of what to see and do. If you are short on time, Frankfurt in 1 day will do the trick
What are the best day trips from Frankfurt?
Best day trips from Frankfurt include Heidelberg, Mainz, Wiesbaden, Worms, Speyer, and several towns in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley.
Day-long excursions can be taken to Baden-Baden, Rothenburg, and Strasburg.
Where would you go if you can only do a one day trip from Frankfurt?
Wow! I find it hard to answer this question. Without a doubt, you should visit Heidelberg. It is a lovely town with tons to do and see.
But, the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is fantastic as well. You can take a train to Rudesheim, cruise part of the Valley, see another charming town and go back to Frankfurt.
Is Frankfurt a good place to visit?
Or, is Frankfurt worth visiting? or, Why visit Frankfurt?
Most definitely! There are a lot of beautiful places to visit in Germany. Because of this, I know people tend to choose other destinations over Frankfurt.
However, given Frankfurt’s importance, centricity and size, you may pass by at one point or another. Take the city to get to know the city. I am sure you will enjoy your time there.
What if I have less than a day in Frankfurt?
You can cut short your Frankfurt itinerary by spending time around the City Center. I have provided ideas on what to see in this area at the beginning of the article. Of course, you want to have a great meal in the city as well. Walking around the center and having a meal can be done in 3 to 4 hours (or less).
How long of a layover do I need to get out of the Frankfurt Airport?
I think your layover should be longer than 4 hours if you intend to get out of the Frankfurt Airport. Six hours or more is even better.
I want to finish this article by saying that Frankfurt is the largest financial center in Europe. As such, it is a city full of cultural, shopping, and gastronomic experiences. This article targets people who are expecting to stay in the city for a short period of time. The intention is not to diminish the position of the city (by no means I am suggesting one day is enough to see the city).
Frankfurt left a great impression on me and I would like to be back in the future. I can’t wait to discover more of its many offerings.
How would you spend one day in Frankfurt?
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