From gorges to Gothic churches: 4 amazing day trips from Frankfurt
While Frankfurt’s attractions can keep you busy for days, it’s well worth leaving the city limits for a day trip. From fairytale riverside views to relaxing spa experiences, there are many great options to choose from in the area. Here are four of our favorite trips from Frankfurt, all easily accessible by train or car.
Heidelberg: Fall in love with Germany’s most romantic city
Follow in the footsteps of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, William Turner and Mark Twain who all lost their heart to the university town of Heidelberg, one of the most popular places to visit near Frankfurt. Tucked into a forested valley on the Neckar river, this compact city is perfect to explore on foot: mosey around its cobblestone streets lined with Baroque mansions, cross the photogenic Old Bridge, overlooked by a perhaps even more photogenic castle, and soak up the laid-back atmosphere.
If you only do one thing: Climb or ride the funicular called Bergbahn up to Heidelberg’s iconic, half-ruined castle. The entry ticket includes a visit to the courtyard, the quirky German Pharmacy Museum as well as a cellar containing the world’s largest wine barrel with a capacity of 220,000 liters. Who’s thirsty?
PLAY to the fullest: To continue with the superlatives, head to Heidelberg University, the oldest in the country, founded in 1386. Make sure to visit the Alte Universität, housing the magnificent Great Hall and a graffiti-covered student prison, where errant students were punished up until 1914.
How to get there: Located 90 kilometers south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg is easy to get to by train or car, with journey time around an hour.
Middle Rhine Valley: Take a cruise in storybook Germany
The perfect excuse to book a flight to Frankfurt, the most dramatic stretch of the river Rhine is the 65-kilometer-long gorge that winds between Bingen, Rüdesheim and Koblenz. In this dreamy World Heritage Site, turret-studded castles and Gothic church spires rise above half-timbered houses, with rugged cliffs and steep, terraced vineyards providing a backdrop. The valley is best appreciated from the water, but a delight to explore on two or four wheels, too.
If you only do one thing: Admire the storied Loreley Rock, jutting out into the Rhine at the gorge’s narrowest point, near the town of St Goarshausen. Legend has it that a beautiful siren sits atop it, luring sailors to their doom with her enchanting songs.
PLAY to the fullest: Visit Bacharach, one of the valley’s most charming little towns, filled with gingerbread-looking buildings, many of them housing cozy bars that serve the famous local Wein (try the Riesling!). Top tip: walk along the town’s medieval wall for lovely views.
How to get there: Both Bingen (70 km) and Koblenz (120 km) can be reached from Frankfurt by car or train in less than two hours. There are also trains running on either side of the Rhine.
Wiesbaden: Relax in one of Europe’s oldest spa towns
True to its name meaning “meadow baths,” Wiesbaden draws visitors with its vast expanses of greenery and a spa culture dating back to Roman times. Sitting on the bank of the Rhine, the state capital of Hesse is a small, wealthy city with tree-lined avenues, elegant architecture, well-kept parks and 14 mineral-rich hot springs. Need some R&R? Look no further.
If you only do one thing: Go for a soak in a public bath. Choose between the Roman-inspired Kaiser-Friedrich Therme, a traditional (read: you’ll be taking the waters naked) downtown bathhouse with pillared rooms and frescoes, and Thermalbad Aukammtal, a modern spa complex set in landscaped gardens, offering indoor and outdoor pools.
PLAY to the fullest: Hop on the city’s water-powered funicular, Nerobergbahn, for the best view of the area. This being Wiesbaden, there’s also a Bauhaus-style outdoor swimming pool on the hilltop to complete the experience.
How to get there: Wiesbaden is located just 40 kilometers west of Frankfurt, with frequent S-Bahn and regional trains connecting the two cities. This makes it one of the easiest day trips from Frankfurt by train.
Strasbourg: Experience Franco-German culture at its best
Sitting right on the French-German border, Strasbourg is a city with a double identity, having been ping-ponged between the two countries for centuries. Being the official seat of the European Parliament, it’s also a fascinating city with one foot in its medieval past, with its half-timbered houses, meandering canals and cobbled alleyways, and the other in Europe’s future. Strasbourg exemplifies reconciliation and unification in the best possible sense.
If you only do one thing: Take a stroll in the city’s charming old town and visit the pink-sandstone Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. Do climb the 332 steps to the Gothic spire’s viewing platform – the panorama will more than make up for the effort.
PLAY to the fullest: Sample the quintessential Alsatian dish known as choucroute – basically sauerkraut with a twist, made with white wine and juniper berries and served with bacon, sausages and/or ham hocks.
How to get there: Located about 220 kilometers southwest of Frankfurt, Strasbourg is also easily reachable if you’re in the mood for a bit of country-hopping. The high-speed train from Frankfurt to Strasbourg takes just short of two hours, while the average driving time is between two and three hours. A word to the wise: while doable as a day trip, Strasbourg may be better explored over two or three days.
Give yourself plenty of time to explore the wonderful city that is Frankfurt but be sure to check out the German gems in close vicinity if you have ample time for your travels.
Have your day trips planned out? Check out our one-day itinerary to make sure you’ve got all your Frankfurt basics covered. Visiting during the holiday season? Here’s our essential guide to the Frankfurt Christmas Market for your Glühwine-sipping pleasure.