Frankfurt is Germany’s busiest international airport. This might give travellers the opportunity to explore the city on a layover. Therefore, I’ve put together a perfect itinerary for up to 24 hours in Frankfurt.
This special category on my blog is designated to transform a layover into a short extra-vacation.
Frankfurt has 730,000 inhabitants and is Germany’s fifth-largest city. The financial center is located in the federal country of Hesse, and its Airport is Germany’s aviation hub. Many parks and the long promenades along the river Main as well as a large number of fantastic museums and galleries make it a pleasant destination to be explored on a day trip or for a couple of hours during a layover.
Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.18 US$ (March 2021) / current rate
Fire Department 112
Frankfurt Airport / IATA-Code: FRA
Tourist Info Online and Onsite
Bahnhofshalle / Station Concourse
60329 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone + 49 – 69 – 21 23 88 00
Getting Downtown and Back
The easiest and fastest way to get from the airport to the main station is the ‘S-Bahn’, a local train, that takes you there for less than 5 € in less than 15 minutes.
If you have luggage, you can store it at the lockers at the main station.
The train station is just minutes away from the river Main, so strolling downtown along the water is a pleasant start of your sunny day. If you walk on the South bank, you get a good glance at Frankfurt’s onetime wealth and bourgeoisie’s villas: Museum Giersch, Liebighaus, the palace that hosts the Städel Museum.
Walk along what’s called the ‘Museumsufer’, the museum bank, since in fact there are around a dozen of museums like beaded one next to the other.
Cross the Main at the ‘Eiserner Steg’, the iron footbridge, firstly constructed in 1868. Today’s bridge is from 1946, reconstructed after WWII.
From the bridge keep walking straight and you reach the heart – and the belly – of Frankfurt, the ‘Römer’ square. The townhall ‘Römer’ dates back to the 15th century and is, together with the other historical buildings, stemming from many different art epochs, Frankfurt’s most picturesque, yet most touristy, spot.
To learn more about Frankfurt’s history, just walk back towards the Main and on the left-hand side, you’ll find the “Historisches Museum”, the history museum.
It’s raining? Good for you, since Frankfurt has an incredibly high number of first-rate museums. In one day, you can only see the most important ones, but actually you could spend days just walking from exhibition to exhibition.
If you intend to visit the four suggested museums (or more), the Museumsufer Ticket, the museum embankment ticket, is perfect for you: For € 21 you have free entrance to 37 museums on two consecutive days! Another great option is the Frankfurt Card since here public transport is included. You get it for € 11, but you still have to pay mostly 50% of the museums’ entrance fee.
The Most Famous One
The first venue to visit is the Städel Museum.
If the weather is not too bad, you can walk the distance of less than a mile from the main station. This way you get a glance at the river Main and the lovely park on the banks. If it’s raining too hard, take the bus No. 46 towards Mühlberg and get off at the Städel.
The Städel hosts a superb collection from every epoch since the Gothic to contemporary in the basement (don’t miss it!) and organizes interesting special exhibits.
Now you can walk about 600 meters / less than half a mile to the ‘Museum Angewandte Kunst’, the museum of applied arts.
If it’s raining too hard, hop on the bus No. 46 again – it takes you there in one (!) minute. This museum complex consisting of an architecturally interesting modern building and the historic villa Metzler (permanent collection of furniture and artefacts) hosts a variety of unusual exhibitions often dealing with controversial topics. Highly recommendable!
Museum Angewandte Kunst
Phone: +49 – 69 – 21 23 12 86
Both museums are – like most museums in Europe – closed on Monday!
It’s quite complicated to get from the museum to the Römerberg by public transport. I recommend to just cross the bridge over the river Main – it’s about 5 minutes.
When travelling, I love to sample local food, even if I find it rather…special than tasty.
Good for you, the most famous of Frankfurt’s traditional dishes are not very exotic, but really yummy: Frankfurter ‘Grie Soß’ – Grüne Soße resp. green sauce, a fine composition of seven herbs.
One of the classics is to eat it with boiled eggs and potatoes.
A restaurant serving local delicacies is the “Schwarzer Stern” located at the ‘Römer’ square, which is good since you have to see this town’s landmark, anyway.
The restaurant is open daily from 11.30 a.m. till midnight.
Note: At this moment – March 2021 – the Schwarzer Stern is temporarily closed for renovation.
Until then, you might wanna try out the traditional Weinstube am Römer, Römerberg 19.
Now that you’ve eaten, let’s walk again. Go back to the river Main, but stay on the North bank and walk about ten minutes till you reach the ‘Äquatorialsonnenuhr’, the equatorial sundial, that at its inauguration in 1951 was the largest of its kind in the world.
After checking the time you leave the bank and walk one of the streets across the road “Schöne Aussicht” up North – just check the map below – till you get to the “Museum Judengasse”.
Putting together this itinerary for a sunny day, I tried to avoid museums. But getting informed on Frankfurt’s vast Jewish history should be crucial, so pay this museum, which shows the excavations of the early Jewish quarter and the cemetery and is a memorial for the deported Jews, a visit.
Back to outdoor activities – walk up North till you reach the Bethmannpark.
At this park named after the wealthy Bethmann-family, in 1989 the Chinese Garden and the Square of the Heavenly Peace was installed.
The last stop of this afternoon walk is the historical fortification with the casemates. If you are really into history, you should definitely visit the “Historisches Museum”, the very complete history museum which is located just around the corner from the ‘Römer’ where you had lunch, so that you can adjust this itinerary thusly.
The next venue is located just a few steps from the restaurant ‘Schwarzer Stern’.
It’s the Schirn Art Gallery that has no permanent collection but organizes outstanding exhibitions from the Classic Modern to contemporary art.
The next museum – the Museum of Modern Art (MMK) – is also less than five minutes away, and therefore it’s not possible to get there by public transport. The MMK actually consists of three venues – the MMK1 at the Domstraße, the MMK3 across the street, and the MMK2 – which actually is my favorite, but to get there is quite a walk since it’s located way up high in the ‘Taunus Tower’ – see the ‘Nightcap’-picture below.
So let’s focus on the MMK1. The outside of the building looks like a dull ministry from the 1970s and nobody would expect something appealing inside.
But don’t judge a building by its facade – their permanent collection is good and their special exhibits even awesome!
And again: All the museums are closed on Monday!
If you still have time before dinner, I recommend you walk about five minutes to the Museum Judengasse (see the program part for sunny days above).
It’s possible to get there by public transport (streetcar No. 11 towards Schießhüttenstraße, get off at the stop Börneplatz/Stoltzestraße), but it doesn’t make really sense since you have to walk all the way back to the Römer square to catch the streetcar.
You had a typical regional lunch, so at night you might want to experience Frankfurt’s multicultural side and enjoy an exotic dinner. Whether you’re coming from the museum at Judengasse or from the ancient fortification, you’ll get to the Eritrean restaurant “Savanna” in five to ten minutes.
The restaurant is open from Sunday to Thursday from 5 p.m. to midnight and on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
After dinner, you can stroll across the commercial center along with all sorts of stores and specialty shops towards the financial center.
There, you go up the Main Tower to the 53rd floor, where the Restaurant and Lounge are located, to enjoy a (costly) drink while overlooking the whole city and its outskirts.
The Lounge is open Tuesday to Thursday from 9 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. and closed on Sunday and Monday.
Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to the main station is crucial. Unfortunately, the hotels in that – partly a bit sketchy – neighborhood are either a tad run-down or quite costly.
A pleasant alternative is the Five Elements Hostel* that caters not only to backpackers, but also offers private rooms with shared or private bathrooms at a very reasonable price.
Here you can check out the Five Elements Hostel‘s availability and rates.*
Map – sunny day itinerary
Map – rainy day itinerary
If you have more time to spend in Frankfurt, check out this more comprehensive post.
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Note: I am completing, editing, and updating this post regularly – last in May 2021.
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