Frankfurt has a bit of a reputation for being full of banks and boringness, and while I love an afternoon along the Main sampling biergartens or a wander through the museums, there are so many great places a short drive or train journey away too. It’s such an easy place to fly into, it would be a shame not to use your time there to explore some of the amazing things about western Germany. Here are some great options for day trips from Frankfurt.
It’s on every list, and for good reason. As a Heidelberg resident, I’m not going to disagree! Our little city features the gorgeous castle ruins, of course, but don’t stop there. If you take the historic funicular to the top of the Königstuhl (the castle is only halfway up) you can take in a falconry demonstration, and let the kids burn off some steam at Märchenparadies, a little amusement park in the trees. Our Altstadt, or Old Town, is full of beautiful little streets. I think our favourite thing to do is head down to the Neckarweise to hang out in the playgrounds and splash park. Read my full post on what the locals do around Heidelberg for more ideas. Heidelberg is about 1 hour from Frankfurt by train.
Whenever I post photos of Schwetzingen, people ask me if I’m in Italy. Oh no, this is still Germany! This little town is dominated by the incredible salmon-pink summer palace of the Prince Elector. The manicured gardens go on and on, and the photo opportunities are endless. Mozart visited these gardens at least once, so imagine him wandering through, thinking on his music. Be sure to make your way to the Garden Mosque, it’s my favourite spot. The big draw here is the gardens, the buildings are not open except on guided tours – the only English language ones happen on Sundays at 2:15pm, so plan ahead if you want to see inside. On sunny days, it’s easy to find space at the all the pubs and restaurants that put out tables on the square right in front of the palace. Schwetzingen is about 1 hour from Frankfurt by train.
The Gutenberg Museum is the big reason to visit – you can see one of the original Gutenberg bibles, as well as replicas of the original printing press. A walk around the lovely old town is well worth it. Check out the cathedral dating from the 10th century, and Wood Tower and Iron Tower – medieval structures that used to form part of the old city wall. Mainz is on the Rhine river, so you could catch one of the river cruises from here, or just enjoy a walk along this historic waterway. Mainz is an easy 30-40 minutes by train from Frankfurt. I have a whole post over here on what to do with kids in Mainz for the day.
There are several different ways of seeing this stretch of the Rhine, full to bursting with castles. Take a Rhine river cruise (affiliate link), and relax with a coffee or a glass of wine while you watch the valley goes by. You could rent a car, which allows you to stop off at the littler castles and investigate. Or take the train to Koblenz or Cochem, the bigger towns in the valley, and relax and enjoy the view as the train follows the river. The sides of the valley are nearly all carpeted with vineyards, and it’s a breathtaking sight with castles perched on the hilltops. It’s worth noting that not all the castles are open to visitors.
Hessenpark Open-Air Museum
About an hour on the train from Frankfurt is the glorious Hessenpark. Over 100 historic buildings have been moved to this site over the past 50 years and painstakingly reassembled using appropriate materials. There are shops, restaurants, exhibitions, and interiors set up to show you what life was like in this region 200-400 years ago. There’s even a hotel on-site so you can wake up to the sounds of regional cocks crowing. Open-air museums are terrific with kids, as they can run around and explore at their own speed. There’s a great playground and farm animals all over. Read my full guide to visiting the Hessenpark.