Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Frankfurt for a day? Look no further! I’ve got you covered with this guide to five unforgettable (and easy!) day trips from Frankfurt.
From picturesque towns to stunning landscapes, this list has something for everyone. Explore the enchanting medieval town of Braubach, or immerse yourself in the fairytale-like charm of Eltz Castle. If you’re a nature enthusiast, embark on a journey to the idyllic Rhine Valley and enjoy breathtaking views of medieval castles, charming villages and sprawling vineyards from the the mighty Rhine River.
Ready to plan some day trips from Frankfurt? With so many hidden gems waiting to be discovered, let’s dive in and create some memories that will last a lifetime!
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Where is Frankfurt Located?
Frankfurt am Main sits on the Main River in the heart of the Rhine-Main metropolitan region in western Germany. It’s the largest city in the German state of Hesse and one of the most populous cities in Germany.
Frankfurt is a global hub for commerce, culture, finance, education, tourism and transportation and is culturally, ethnically and religiously diverse. It’s also home to many global and European corporate headquarters, several large commercial banks and an extensive network of expatriates and foreign nationals.
A Broad Recommendation: There are plenty of great things to do in Frankfurt, especially if you’re using the city as a home base. Be sure to plan at least one day here to explore some of the best things this city has to offer!
Transportation for Your Day Trips from Frankfurt
All of the day trips from Frankfurt included in this post are easily accessible by train or have transportation already included.
If you’re planning to explore the Rhine Valley on your own and have a group of up to five people, be sure to get yourself a Hessenticket. The cost was €32.50 during our visit in September 2023, and the ticket is valid for one day of travel on all public transportation in the federal state of Hesse. Note that the ticket is not valid on the long-distance trains of the Deutsche Bahn AG (IC, EC or ICE) nor is it transferable, as you have to input the name of all travelers prior to using the ticket.
A Broad Recommendation: Check train schedules in advance to make the most of your time. We learned this the hard way and ended up wasting some time waiting for trains, especially in the small towns like Braubach.
If you’re planning to explore the Rhine Valley by boat, consider purchasing a KD Rhine River One-Day Pass to hop on and off the ferries at various towns. We didn’t use this ourselves because we booked a Rhine Valley Day Trip from Frankfurt through GetYourGuide, which included transportation.
5 Easy Day Trips from Frankfurt
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to day trips from Frankfurt, but here are the five that we did and can say we truly loved and recommend!
Rhine Valley Cruise
No visit to Frankfurt is complete without a day trip to the Rhine Valley, so let’s start here!
The Rhine Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Germany’s most scenic areas. The Rhine River has been an important trade route since prehistoric times, and a string of small settlements has grown up along the banks, many of which retain a historic feel today.
As the area grew in wealth, around 40 hilltop castles were built here, and the valley became the heart of the Holy Roman Empire. The most beautiful section is the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a 40-mile stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, which is often referred to as the Rhine Gorge or the Romantic Rhine Valley.
We booked a 7-hour Rhine Valley Day Trip from Frankfurt and had an amazing time! First, we made our way to the stunning Rhine Valley via coach, then hopped on a boat and toured the area from the Rhine River. Along the way, we saw lots of medieval castles, massive vineyards and charming towns and villages.
We also saw the legendary ‘Lorelei’, a large rock that once posed a serious challenge to sailors and inspired the German legend of Lorelei, a beautiful siren who sang to lure sailors to their doom.
After our river cruise, we enjoyed a traditional German lunch and a quick wine tasting at Zum Anker in Assmannshausen. Note that our meals were included in the price of the tour, but drinks were not.
Then, we made our way to the Niederwald Monument, which commemorates the Unification of Germany. From here, we also had some epic, panoramic views of the Rhine Valley below.
As you can probably tell from the photos, we all had a ton of fun on this tour and definitely recommend adding this to your list of day trips from Frankfurt!
A Broad Recommendation: During your visit, be sure to try a sweet, white Riesling, the wine that this region is most well-known for. And, if you have more time, come back to this area on your own to explore more of the towns, go inside a castle or two (like Rheinfels or Marksburg), or even spend a night in one of the castles!
- Hours: Tour starts at 11:15 am
- Cost: Prices vary by date, but we paid $162 per person
- Time to Visit: 7-8 hours
Just a 2 hour or so train ride from Frankfurt is Brühl, a town in the Rhineland that is home to the Brühl Palaces, Augustusburg and Falkenlust, and another one of the best day trips from Frankfurt.
Built in the early 18th century, the palaces and adjoining gardens are considered masterpieces of early rococo architecture and were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
From 1567 on, the city of Brühl served as the official residence of the Prince Bishops of Cologne. In 1725, Prince Bishop Clemens August built the Augustusburg Palace on the foundations of a medieval castle.
A few years later, the Falkenlust hunting lodge was built just southeast of the palace for Clemens August to practice falconry. The site was chosen in accordance with the flight path of the herons, a favorite prey, and the lodge was completed in 1740.
The elaborate gardens surrounding the palace were designed with a strong French influence and are reminiscent of the gardens in Versailles. They also serve as one of the most authentic examples of 18th century European garden design.
Until 1990, Augustusburg Palace was used to receive foreign heads of states visiting West Germany. Now, you can visit both Augustusburg Palace and Falkenlust.
A Broad Recommendation: Time your visit accordingly, as visits to Augustusburg Palace are by guided tour only. The tour is included in the price of your ticket and is in German, though English speaking guests are given a hand-held audio guide to try to follow along with. Visits to Falkenlust are at your own pace.
- Hours: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
- Cost: €9.50 for Augustusburg Palace, €7.00 for Falkenlust, or €15.00 for a Combi Ticket
- Time to Visit: 1 hour & 30 minutes
Other things to see in Brühl include the Max Ernst Museum of Modern Art, which displays sculptures and paintings from surrealist artist Max Ernst, and Phantasialand, a theme park and hotel resort that attracts more than 2 million visitors each year and is consistently voted one of the world’s best theme parks.
Less than an hour’s train ride from Frankfurt, Köln, or Cologne, was once one of the largest European cities in medieval and renaissance times. Now, it’s the largest city in the North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s 4th largest city and another one of the best day trips from Frankfurt.
Though 95% of Cologne was destroyed by bombings during WWII, the city has since become a bustling commercial and cultural center and is home to more than 30 museums, hundreds of galleries, and many institutions of higher education, meaning that there are lots of things to do here! Here are some of the things we did in Cologne.
Go Inside Cologne Cathedral
The Cologne Cathedral is the tallest cathedral in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a must-see when visiting Cologne. It’s Germany’s most visited landmark and a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture.
That being said, you really can’t miss it! You’ll be amazed by the cathedral’s beauty and grandeur right when you leave the train station. It’s free to go inside, and it’s definitely worth taking a peek. Give yourself around 30 minutes to explore and to take in the beauty of the interior.
Some key highlights include the Gero Crucifix, which is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ north of the Alps and the earliest known Western depiction of Christ on the cross while dead; the Madonna of Milan, which depicts Mary and the child Jesus and is considered to work miracles; and the Shrine of the Three Kings, which is believed to contain the bones of the Three Wise Men.
Next-door to the Cologne Cathedral are the remains of a Roman cellar from the 2nd or 3rd century AD. The cellar was part of a private Roman house and was one of the largest private cellars in Cologne.
- Hours: 6:00 am – 8:00 pm
- Cost: Free
- Time to Visit: 30 minutes
Walk Across the Hohenzollern Bridge
If you’re a fan of The Amazing Race like I am, you may recognize this one right away!
The Hohenzollern Bridge, along with the Cologne Cathedral and the Rhine River, shapes the cityscape of Cologne. It’s Cologne’s oldest bridge and the only bridge in Cologne that wasn’t destroyed during the WWII bombings.
Originally both a railway and road bridge, the 1,300-foot-long structure stretches across the Rhine River and serves as pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare, as well as Germany’s busiest railway bridge, with more than 1,500 train crossings a day.
Since 2008, couples have affixed padlocks to a fence on the bridge and thrown the keys into the river below as a sign of their love and commitment. In 2011, an estimated 40,000 padlocks adorned the bridge, but that number is believed to have exceeded several hundred thousand now – wow!
Don’t worry, though! Locks are regularly removed to ensure the bridge’s safety. So, you shouldn’t be weary about crossing it.
- Hours: N/A
- Cost: Free
- Time to Visit: 10 minutes
Go to the Top of KölnTriangle
KölnTriangle is a 339-foot-tall building whose top floor observation deck offers incredible 360º views of Cologne, in particular the Cologne Cathedral, which sits directly opposite the Rhine River.
A Broad Recommendation: If you’re planning to stay in Cologne for the night, plan your visit to the KölnTriangle around sunset. But, be sure to get there early, as it does get crowded!
- Hours: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm
- Cost: €5
- Time to Visit: 30 minutes
Other Things to Do in Cologne
Cologne is a big city, so you won’t be able to see and do everything here in just one day. If you end up with more time in Cologne, here are some other activities you may want to try:
- Explore the Old Town (Altstadt) – Specifically, check out the Alter Markt, which includes the Old Town Hall and other beautiful Renaissance buildings, the Heumarkt, which was a hay market in the Middle Ages and hosts a statue of Friedrich Wilhem III, and the Rhine Promenade, a great place to have lunch, sip on a beer, and photograph the Hohenzollern Bridge
- Try a Kölsch – Kölsch is both the dialect spoken here, as well as a local beer that is only brewed in Cologne
- Track down the old city gates – There were once 12 gates built into Cologne’s medieval city wall, and three remain today: the Hahnen, the Eigelstein and the Severins
- Window shop in the Belgian Quarter – This neighborhood is brimming with cafes, boutiques and charming streets to get lost in
- Pop into a few churches like the Great St. Martin Church, the Dominican Church of St. Andrew or the Church of St. Ursula
Hidden in the hillside of the Moselle Valley, Burg Eltz, or Eltz Castle, is one of the most beautiful castles in Europe and one of the most Instagrammable castles in the world. It’s also my favorite of the five day trips from Frankfurt I’ve included here.
The medieval castle sits upon a 230-foot-high rock above the Moselle between Koblenz and Trier, and has a history that spans nine centuries. It’s owned by a branch of House of Eltz, who have lived there since the 12th century, and along with Bürresheim Castle and Lissingen Castle, Eltz Castle is one of the only castles in the Eifel region that has never been destroyed.
Eltz Castle is surrounded by lush, dense forests, which have been declared a nature reserve by Flora-Fauna-Habitat and Natura 2000. The hiking trails around the castle are free to wander and provide beautiful views of both the forest and the castle.
The tour of Eltz Castle takes visitors on a journey through 900 years of German architecture and culture and is very informative! During the tour, visitors will see a wide range of medieval and early modern architecture, as well as artwork, crafts and weapons of European, national and regional significance.
Entrance tickets include the tour, as well as a visit to the Armoury and Treasury.
- Hours: April – October: 9:30 am – 5:30 pm (last entry at 5 pm); get there early to avoid the crowds
- Cost: €14
- Time to Visit: 4-6 hours, depending on how much hiking you plan to do here
A Broad Recommendation: Round out your visit to the under-appreciated Moselle Valley with a stop at the nearby Geierlay Suspension Bridge, Germany’s longest suspension bridge.
Located near the northern end of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, just south of the city of Koblenz, Braubach is a quintessential Romantic Rhine Valley town and another one of my favorite day trips from Frankfurt.
Exploring Braubach is like stepping back in time or into the scenes of a fairytale. The town is home to several intact examples of medieval architecture, including portions of the town wall and the mighty Marksburg Castle. And, it’s one of the best places in Europe to see half-timbered houses, many of which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Sitting above the town of Braubach, Marksburg Castle is one of the most beautiful of all the Rhine castles and is the only surviving medieval castle on the Rhine.
Originally called Braubach Castle (up until the 16th century), it was used for protection rather than as a royal residence. Because of its commanding position, nearly 300 feet above the town, it was never attacked, and of the 40 hill castles between Bingen am Rhein and Koblenz, it’s the only one that’s never fallen into disrepair.
Marksburg Castle is now a museum and can be visited as part of a guided tour. The tour takes visitors on a journey through 800 years of history, while exploring buildings from the 13th to 15th centuries and admiring the interiors of the castle kitchen, knights’ hall, chapel, armory, wine cellar, tower rooms and more. Tours are offered in English every day in the summer season at 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm and last about 50 minutes.
- April – October: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm; last tour at 5:00 pm
- November – March: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm; last tour at 4:00 pm
- Cost: €11
- Time to Visit: 1 hour
A Broad Recommendation: Unfortunately, we didn’t make it in time to tour the castle. Instead, we hiked up to Kerkertser Platte, a scenic viewpoint that offers the best views of the castle, the town and the valley below. Whether you plan to tour the castle or not, I definitely recommend a visit to this viewpoint – especially at sunset!
During our visit, we also stumbled upon the Braubach Traditional Wine Festival, which was a nice surprise! The event has been taking place since 1925, making it one of the oldest and best-known folk festivals on the Middle Rhine.
During the first weekend of October each year, Braubach welcomes locals and visitors alike to enjoy fine wines and to socialize in Braubach’s historic old town. Note that the 2023 festival took place in the Rhine Complex due to ongoing renovations of the old town.
While waiting for your train, after another one of your great day trips from Frankfurt, be sure to turn back to see the spectacular Marksburg Castle illuminated at night. It sure is a wondrous sight to see!
Tips for Successful Day Trips from Frankfurt
Getting excited to embark on some day trips from Frankfurt? Before you go, here are some things to keep in mind to make the most of your day trips from Frankfurt.
- Wake up early and get a head start on your day
- Bring snacks and a reusable water bottle
- Dress in layers and carry a rain jacket, especially if you’re visiting in the cooler months
- Wear comfortable walking shoes
- Carry some cash just in case you come across a restaurant or souvenir shop that’s cash-only
- Bring noise canceling headphones for the trains
- Be sure to try local wines and cuisine everywhere you go
Well, there you have it! Hopefully I’ve given you plenty to think about in regards to planning your day trips from Frankfurt, and I hope that you have a great time exploring this beautiful area!
XOXO Sara at Travel A-Broads