If you’re like many veteran travellers to Europe, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself wandering around Frankfurt Airport more than a couple times. And, to many, that’s where their experience in the financial capital of Germany ends.
Although it’s hard to justify spending much time here while visiting Germany on a time-crunch, there are plenty of things to do in Frankfurt that defy its wishy-washy reputation among most travellers.
Discover what this unexpectedly interesting German city has to offer with this quick guide to what to do in Frankfurt…
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What to do in Frankfurt: The top attractions & best places to visit
Wander around Römerberg
If you’ve got less than 24 hours in Frankfurt, your first stop simply has to be Römerberg, the city’s historical heart. Even when I find myself with a multi-hour layover, I can’t help but take the 20-minute train ride into central Frankfurt to get swept away by this lovely square.
Römerberg is famous for its traditional German half-timbered merchant houses, collectively, and unsurprisingly, called the Römer. Three distinctive gabled buildings stand out as particularly eye-catching, the middle of which has hosted Frankfurt’s Rathaus (City Hall) since the early days of 15th century.
As lovely as this square is all year round, perhaps the best time to check out Römerberg is in the winter. Time your visit with Frankfurt’s famous Christmas Market to experience the festive spirit that makes Germany one of Europe’s top Christmas destinations!
Sip on some apfelwein in Sachsenhausen
While Frankfurt’s modern skyline, the most impressive of its kind in Europe (well, at least west of Moscow), might leave you to draw a quick conclusion about what the city’s all about, the historic district of Sachsenhausen will quickly have you second-guessing yourself.
Located on the southern banks of the Main River, Sachsenhausen was once a separate town from the rest of Frankfurt. Much like pockets of Frankfurt’s Altstadt to the north, the narrow cobblestoned streets of Sachsenhausen burst with that traditional small-town German charm that we’ve all come to love. (Thanks to its enchanting atmosphere, it’s also one of the top choices for where to stay in Frankfurt.)
Aside from simply enjoying the atmosphere, Sachsenhausen is famous for its apple cider taverns (Apfelweinkneipe). Don’t miss a chance to slip into an 18th-century pub in Sachsenhausen to sip on some crisp & satisfying local apfelwein and some traditional Hessen culinary specialities.
Relax in the Palmengarten
If you thought Frankfurt was all metal and glass, whisk away to a different world with a visit to the Palmengarten, a massive 54-acre botanical garden that’s the largest in all of Germany. Completed in 1871, this famous park assembles a dream team of over six thousand plant species from all around the world.
Ranging between rainforests and desert, nearly every ecosystem is covered among the Palmengarten’s open-air and greenhouse exhibits. The Palmengarten is also one of the top places to visit in Frankfurt with kids thanks to its children’s playground, boat rides around the lake, and the Palmengarten Express, a small train that journeys through the park.
Marvel at the Senckenberg Natural History Museum
You don’t have to be travelling with young ones to get a kick out of the Senckenberg Natural History Museum, one of the best museums of its kind on the whole continent. The (quite literally) big attraction here is the museum’s exhibition of dinosaurs ranging from life-size replicas to full-scale reassembled fossils.
Even if dinosaurs aren’t your thing, the Senckenberg Natural History Museum features a whole slew of other interesting exhibits ranging from the world’s largest stuffed-bird collection to a cast of Lucy, a pre-human skeleton found in Ethiopia in 1974 that dates back 3.2 million years.
Peer onto Frankfurt from above at the Main Tower
When Germany’s half-timbered historical façades start to blur into one another, get a little taste of the city’s present and future at Main Tower, a 656-foot skyscraper peering upon the city northeast of Altstadt (Old Town).
Main Tower features the financial district’s only observation deck open to the public. Hanging out the 55th floor, the views from it are, unsurprisingly, quite spectacular. One of the best, yet busiest, times to visit is at sunrise when crowds gather to admire the sun dipping below Frankfurt’s skyline.
After checking out the observation deck, the 53rd-floor Main Tower Restaurant & Lounge is a superb place to enjoy dinner or a drink to similarly incredible Frankfurt city vistas.
Dazzle at Frankfurt Cathedral
Moving from one of the city’s modern wonders to one of its medieval ones, don’t miss out on checking out the sandy red Gothic spires of Frankfurt Cathedral. This 16th-century masterpiece stood as an Imperial Cathedral (Kaiserdom) during the days of the Holy Roman Empire and was a coronation site for emperors, making it a integral place in German history.
Although much of the church was destroyed during WWII, its 1950s reconstructions are no less impressive than the original. Inside, you’ll discover a multitude of important German historical treasures such as the 15th-century Mara-Schlaf-Altar in the Marienkapelle and the 16th-century Crucifixion sculpture by Hans Backoffen.
Like so many of the top churches in Germany though, one of the absolute best things to see at Frankfurt Cathedral is the view from the tower. Between April and October, ascend the over 300 stairs to the top for a unforgettable vista of Altstadt and beyond.