The Best Reasons to Visit Frankfurt for a Weekend

Is Frankfurt worth visiting? Frankfurt may not be the first city in Germany that comes to mind for a weekend citybreak in Europe, but it's worth considering given Frankfurt’s excellent air and rail connections and day trip possibilities. We spend the October Irish Bank Holiday weekend in Frankfurt and the surrounding area exploring local history and attractions. We found that Frankfurt completely exceeded our expectations. Read on and discover the best reasons to visit Frankfurt for a weekend and all the best things to do.
Visit Frankfurt: Old Town Frankfurt

Where to Stay When You Visit Frankfurt

We stayed central at the Hotel Europa Life near the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. Hotel Europa was just a five minute walk from the Frankfurt main train station and was reasonably priced at less than 100 euro a night including breakfast. Most hotels raise prices if there is a convention in town but we were fortunate to be visiting on a non-convention weekend. The stairwells featured a creative paint job and chain mail around the windows! Our room looked out on a quiet courtyard centered around a large tree that was bright yellow with autumn foliage.
Is Frankfurt Worth Visiting? Frankfurt Main Station

Explore Frankfurt City Centre

We took a walk from our hotel around Frankfurt's central train station (Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof) and made our way toward the historic city center. En route, we passed ornate buildings housing everyday businesses. Frankfurt has a thriving red light district which is perfectly safe to walk through during the day. Neon signs offering all sorts of experiences screamed at those passing by. Just beyond, the skyscrapers of Frankfurt's central business district towered above us. I loved the contrast between the glass and steel skyscrapers and the beautiful parks at their base. The parks themselves were resplendent in Fall colors. We spotted a variety of sculptures in the park adding to the charm. It was actually quite windy during our visit, so after a while, we made our way to the Main Tower in anticipation of panoramic views around the city.
Things to do in Frankfurt Germany: view of Frankfurt City Centre from above

Visit Frankfurt Main Tower

The Frankfurt Main Tower offers the opportunity to view sweeping panoramas around Frankfurt for just 6.50 EUR at the time of our visit. We took the elevator up to the top and enjoyed the sights. A large red and white antenna emerges from the top of the building and seems to touch the clouds. We admired the Europaturm in the distance. We could see the Fall foliage dotting the landscape. In one direction, skyscrapers surrounded us. In the other, we could see the River Main and the spires of Old Town Frankfurt. If the weather is nice, it's definitely worth a jaunt to the top of the Main Tower for the views.

Admire Frankfurt’s Alter Oper

After our visit to the top of Frankfurt's Main Tower, we set off on foot toward the Alter Oper (old opera house) and Hauptwache. We ambled through the park which was surrounded by a 'concrete jungle'. Inside the park, we spotted newly planted trees braced for growth. We also spotted colorful sculptures and even a bubbling fountain.

Stroll Pedestrian Frankfurt

The Alter Oper is the gateway to Frankfurt’s pedestrian shopping area (Große Bockenheimer Straße). We admired the stately Alter Oper building and then went in search of a bite for lunch. We dined al fresco at Ebert's Suppenstube where we enjoyed hearty soup and bread. Continuing on, we took a moment to enjoy the scene around Hauptwache, the main square and popular meeting point in Frankfurt.

Die Kleinmarkthalle

We love visiting various food halls when we travel so we made a special effort to visit Die Kleinmarkthalle during our weekend citybreak to Frankfurt. Die Kleinmarkthalle is one of the best food markets in Europe. The rows were lined with all sorts of fresh produce. Ornately carved pumpkins hinted that Halloween was just around the corner (we visited Frankfurt in October). A hipster coffee shop stood in the very center of the market. A well-crafted cappuccino was just what we needed to keep our energy up for the rest of the day. The obligatory butcher stall helped locals pick out something for dinner. We climbed above the bustle of the market to the second story. We surveyed the scene from above. We soon discovered a lovely wine bar tucked away on the upper story of the Kleinmarkthalle. We dove into a couple glasses of white wine and whiled away a bit more of the afternoon. What a perfect afternoon!
Things to do in Frankfurt: Visit Kleinmarkthalle

Frankfurt’s Bornheim Neighborhood

We love to take semi-random walks around the cities we visit. We set our sights on the Bornheim neighborhood of Frankfurt. More of a locals' spot, we expected to find some fun shops and places to eat. En route, we chanced upon St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche). The church is surrounded by the atmospheric St. Peter's Cemetery where the dead of the city of Frankfurt were buried until 1828. Emerging from the opposite side of the churchyard, we discovered a delightful mural on the 3yüz building. Fallen leaves were scattered along the sidewalk. We passed through a residential neighborhood and admired the older and newer apartment buildings. Flowers and greenery seemed to spill from every balcony! Once again, the foliage was spectacular in Frankfurt in October. A local playground made use of an old shipping container painted bright blue. We passed Bäckerei-Konditorei-Cafe-Klein and were mesmerized by the gorgeous display of rotating cakes. We just had to stop in and sit down for a slice of 'neopolitan' cake before heading back to our hotel on the S-Bahn to get ready for dinner with old friends.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for advice on other great cities to visit in Germany? You might consider:

Dinner at Sachsenhäuser Warte

I love traveling in general but even more so when we have the opportunity to connect with old friends. One of my old friends from graduate school lives just outside Frankfurt. It's hard to believe we've know each other for 20 years and that we've managed to keep in touch this long! Amazing. Our friends picked us up at our hotel and took up to Sachsenhäuser Warte, a traditional German restaurant serving Frankfurt’s local specialty, apfelwein (apple wine). Apfelwein is a bit like British cider just not as sweet. We really enjoyed it. It tastes extra special as it is served in glasses specifically designed for it with a gold rim. We really enjoyed our meal which started off with butternut squash soup. We tried pork medallions with brussel sprouts and spätzle and another local speciality, Frankfurter Schnitzel, served with green sauce. The atmosphere in the restaurant was really charming despite the sparse crowd. By the time we'd emerged a couple hours later under the spotlighted tower, our bellies were full and we were fully caught up on what had been happening with our old friends over the last couple years.
Things to do in Frankfurt: Drink Apfelwein

Eat at an Apfelwein Tavern

One one of the nights during our visit to Frankfurt, we sought out an Apfelwein Tavern. After window shopping through a few places, we settled on Atschel which appeared to be clean and buzzing with a cool atmosphere. The menu was posted in German outside the restaurant and we were enticed by a number of the choices. We enjoyed 2 glasses of Apfelwein: one that we ordered, and the other offered to placate our disappointment that a number of entrees were no longer available. The butternut soup was spicy and divine. We also ordered a sausage platter and pork smothered in gravy which was served with a generous side salad. On the way back to our hotel, we admired the Frankfurt skyline in lights. The city was bathed in mist and fog as we crossed the river and set our destination to the Europa Hotel.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: There are so many great places in Europe that you can get to on Ryanair. Check out our favorite Ryanair weekend destinations for different seasons.

Pay a Visit to Palmengarten

We walked through a colorful neighborhood of posh houses en route to the Palmengarten, Frankfurt's centrally located Botanical Gardens. An old church spire stood in the foreground while the skyscrapers of the financial district peeked out in the distance. We finally arrived at the Palmengarten and after a few confused minutes figured out where the entrance was. It was quite windy in the park and leaves kept falling from the trees and swirling around. The foliage was just as striking as it was elsewhere in the city. A greenhouse featured exhibits from various climates around the world. I wouldn't want to encounter some of these plants in the wild! They looked quite sharp and vicious. In one exhibit, a guide noted a plant which only grows in the Namibian desert and can live to be several hundred years old. We visited Frankfurt in October (definitely late in the season) but the flower beds were still wildly blooming. I liked how the skyscrapers in the Financial District towered in the distance in sharp contrast to the open green space in the gardens. We finished our tour and walked under an impressive canopy on the way back to the main road. We were surprised to find a field of blue sheep on the main street running between PalmenGarten and Alter Oper but then realized this was all just part of Frankfurt's surprisingly quirky charm.
Things to do in Frankfurt: Visit Palmengarten

Summarizing 3 Days in Frankfurt in October

Our three days in Frankfurt simply flew by. We quickly learned that despite its reputation, visiting Frankfurt is not 'all business'. Amazing green spaces line the city framed by tall offices. Countless cafes like Zarges offer delectable sweets and coffee in a stunning setting. Galeria Kaufhof offers an array of foods and drinks for lunch. We tried a chicken platter and a big by-the-pound salad washed down with apfelwein. The views from the terrace were stunning and sat right at the junction of historic and modern. On our way back to the bus station for our return home, we stopped in front of the European Central Bank and had some fun posing in front of the giant euro sign. This last scene remains etched on my mind because it turns out that we lingered about 5 minutes too long. We arrived to meet the bus to Frankfurt Hahn Airport about 20 minutes before it was supposed to depart. We soon learned that the schedule posted on the website was wrong and we'd missed the bus! The next one was too late to get us to our flight on time. Fortunately, we didn't panic and surveyed both train, bus, and other flight options before realizing that a 150 EUR cab ride to the airport was our cheapest and best option. Lesson learned, always double-check the schedule on the day or day before departure.
Things to see in Frankfurt: Giant euro sign

Day Trips from Frankfurt

No Frankfurt visit is complete without exploring nearby day trip opportunities. What are you day trip options when you visit Frankfurt?

Day Trip to Heidelberg

From Frankfurt, Heidelberg is an easy day trip. We hopped on the train at Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof and emerged almost exactly an hour later in Heidelberg. We were greeted by a modern winged horse sculpture just outside the train station. It was about a 15 minute walk from the train station to the heart of Old Town Heidelberg. We admired the stately buildings along the way. We detoured into a hospital complex which also featured striking buildings. As in Frankfurt, the Fall foliage was in full swing at the end of October during our visit. Even Berlin's famous Ampelmann made an appearance in Heidelberg as we were crossing the street. It was Sunday but locals were still out in force.

I'm trained as a chemist so got a little giddy when I saw a statue of Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, creator of the infamous burner used by chemistry students around the world. We stopped to admire the stately building that Bunsen was facing which also had jaunty accents. We couldn't resist popping into Strohauer's when we saw an amazing list of cakes on offer. The Viktoria-Tarte was an obvious choice - it looked beautiful as well as delicious. We also sampled two coffees with milk and a piece of apple tarte mit sahne. Full of sugar, I felt justified viewing the town of Heidelberg in ultra-vivid mode on my camera. It just seemed to better capture the mood of the place. Apparently, we were in town on race day as a ton of runners passed through town on a circuit that included the Heidelberg Castle grounds. Just beyond, we encountered a square with amazing views of Heidelberg Castle. A row of trees seemed to be pointing us towards the funicular that would take us up to the castle. It was definitely time for a visit!
Day trips from Frankfurt: Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle

Heidelberg Castle (Schloss Heidelberg) sits perched on the hill above Heidelberg town and is accessible by funicular. Still fueled from our trip to the bakery, I continued to view the landscape in ultra-vivid mode. The views and Fall foliage were stunning. Heidelberg Castle itself was partially in ruins. However, a good portion is still intact and available to visit. We passed under a tower and into the courtyard of the castle complex. Regal statues (some in outfits that seem ridiculous today...) lined the outside of the castle wall. The castle walls really seemed to pop against the dappled blue sky. Inside, we were greeted by a huge wine barrel. Characters lined the wall imbibing the drink. We toured the apothecary museum and the recreated shops from various periods. After our tour, we decided to explore the gardens of Heidelberg Castle and then walk back down into town. The views of the castle from the gardens were stunning. Some stately homes sat among the thick foliage on the opposite side of the river. A steep winding path led back to town. We were careful not to impede the progress of the runners making their way toward the finish line in the heart of the old town.

Speyer Stopover

It is possible to visit Speyer as on a day trip from Frankfurt to Heidelberg. We boarded the S-Bahn in Heidelberg and arrived in Speyer within an hour. It took 15 minutes to walk from the Speyer train station to Old Town Speyer. Speyer Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage site and anchored one end of the pedestrian shopping street. We could see Speyer's clock tower anchoring the other end of the shopping strip. Even though it was Sunday, many of the shops in Speyer were open (and up to 8 pm at that!) This was a total surprise for a German city! We stopped at a local vendor to pick up an extra-large pretzel. We walked up to the Speyer Cathedral and took a moment to admire the architecture both inside and out. The decorations inside Speyer Cathedral were quite sedate and sparse. We walked through Old Town Speyer, soaking in the ambiance. Speyer seemed to glow as the lights came on in the evening.
Day Trips from Frankfurt: Speyer

We found a local wine pub tucked away on a quiet street in Speyer and stopped in for a glass of German wine. The inside of the pub was dark and charming. After dallying a bit too long over our glass of wine, we hurried back toward the Speyer train station for our timed return to Frankfurt. However, I couldn't help crossing the street to check out a unicorn statue en route. This definitely confirms that it was a magical day trip to Speyer. We arrived at the train station in Speyer with a few minutes to spare and were whisked back to Frankfurt for a good night's sleep.

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Christmas is a great time of year to visit Germany. Have you considered spending Christmas in Stuttgart? How about spending a weekend at the Christmas Markets of North Rhine-Westphalia?

Day Trip to Mainz in Winter

One one visit, we flew through Frankfurt on our way back to Dublin from San Francisco. We had a 6 hour layover and decided to seize the moment and take the train to Mainz. It was a snowy day in Germany and the 30 minute ride was scenic. We spent our brief time in Mainz exploring the local Christmas Market. We also took a look around the town's cathedral. It's over 1000 years old. Back in the market, we were excited to see schneeballen (sweet, sweet 'snowballs'). We also tried Gluehwein -- hot mulled wine served from a steaming cauldron. We enjoyed an oversized bratwurst. We walked on and checked out the local weekend market. I especially liked the popcorn filled animals tempting passersby. We passed the statue of Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, who was born in Mainz. We stopped into Lebkuchen Schmidt, a local bakery, to get some holiday gingerbread cookies. After this brief tour, we had to rush back to the train station to return to the airport. We're so glad we took the time to travel to Mainz rather than killing time in the Frankfurt Airport. It's amazing how much you can do with even a few hours to spare.

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: The Best Reasons to Visit Frankfurt for a Weekend
The Best Reasons to Visit Frankfurt for a Weekend
Find out: is Frankfurt worth visiting? Explore things to do in Frankfurt Germany. Discover day trips from Frankfurt. Enjoy Frankfurt for a weekend.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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