Located close to the center of Germany, historic Frankfurt, the country’s fifth-largest city, is an excellent starting point to explore attractions such as the beautiful Rhine Valley and the Black Forest, each just a few hours away by car or train.
Closer to Frankfurt, you’ll be rewarded with many wonderful day trips and exciting things to do, including a cruise on (or in depth) the River Main, a delight to behold via tour boat. There are also plenty of old towns and cities to explore, including pretty Hanau and Mainz, along with many well-preserved castles, cathedrals and ancient fortifications dating back to Roman times.
1 Historic Hanau: Not So Grimm
The historic old town of Hanau, at the intersection of the Kinzig with the River Main, just 20 kilometers east of central Frankfurt, is an easy and pleasant day trip. In the town’s old Marktplatz stands the New Town Hall (Neustädtisches Rathaus), built in 1733 and notable for its charming carillon and monument to Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the famous Brothers Grimm, who were born here .
It is a band that is celebrated every year with the popular Brothers Grimm Festival. Another city highlight is the Goldsmiths’ House (Goldschmiedehaus), home to a jewelry exhibit and a reproduction of a traditional goldsmith’s workshop. Also of interest, and only four kilometers northwest of Hanau’s old town center, is Schloss Philippsruhe , a fine baroque palace that now houses the Hanau History Museum, with its collections of ceramics, silver, and paintings, as well as numerous artifacts related to the Brothers Grimm, plus a fine sculpture garden.
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2 Mainz Cathedral
Just 44 kilometers west of Frankfurt, on the west bank of the mighty Rhine River, the beautiful old cathedral city of Mainz offers a number of top-notch attractions that add up to a perfect day trip. The city’s rich history is well documented and preserved thanks to its many fine museums, most notably the Museum of Ancient Navigation (see full-scale replicas of Roman ships) and the Romano-Germanic Central Museum.
Also worth a visit is the Gutenberg Museum which celebrates the life of Johannes Gutenberg; the creator of the world’s first movable-type printing technique was born here in 1398. The main attraction, however, is the magnificent Mainzer Dom or Mainz Cathedral. Although the construction of this magnificent six-towered building started in 975 AD, much of the current structure dates from the 11th century, when many of its tombs were added. Be sure to also check out the Cathedral Museum, with its many displays related to the building’s long history.
Address: Domstraße 3, 55116 Mainz
3 The Rhine Valley
Stretching all the way from Switzerland to the Netherlands – a distance of 1,320 kilometers – the Rhine is one of the most impressive sights in Germany. Nowhere is this more true than in the Rhine Valley, a popular tourist area stretching from Koblenz in the north all the way south to Mannheim.
Luckily for those traveling in and around Frankfurt, this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site is easily accessible from the city, by car, public transport or riverboat (various cruise options are available, from day trips taking in one or two major settlements and castles to longer overnight stays that offer more opportunities to explore).
Places of interest include the town of Worms, one of the oldest in the country, famous for its 11th century cathedral. Mannheim is perhaps the easiest city to get to from Frankfurt and is perfect for those just wanting a glimpse of the Rhine. The best way to explore is on foot, starting at the historic Marktplatz with its old town hall (Altes Rathaus) before heading to Planken and Kurpfalzstrasse for some shopping.
4 Baden-Baden and the Black Forest
A scenic 90 minute drive south of Frankfurt along the Rhine is the beautiful spa town of Baden-Baden. Pedestrian-friendly and fun to explore on foot, Baden-Baden has been popular with spa-goers since Roman times thanks to its famous therapeutic waters.
In fact, it seems that everywhere you turn there’s a place to enjoy the city’s thermal springs, including many reasonably priced public baths (for a bit of luxury and pampering, head to the elegant Friedrichsbad, with its Roman-style ). Enjoy a refreshing stroll in the Kurgarten, with its many fine boutiques, art galleries and cafes, as well as the impressive 19th-century castle-style Kurhaus.
Baden-Baden is the gateway to the Black Forest, a beautiful, hilly and forested region dotted with postcard-perfect towns of half-timbered medieval houses. Not far from Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, Esslingen has the largest intact collection of original medieval half-timbered houses in Germany.
Baiersbronn has an impressive collection of its own, but it’s better known as Germany’s gastronomic capital, with seven Michelin stars among its three restaurants. Stop in Triberg to climb past Germany’s highest waterfall or explore the Black Forest on the Black Forest Railway. The Black Forest is home to cuckoo clocks and Black Forest cherry pie. You can get a taste of this beautiful region on an 11-hour trip to the Black Forest and Baden-Baden from Frankfurt,
5 Strasbourg, France
Facing the Black Forest on the French side of the Rhine, Strasbourg is an elegant and cosmopolitan city, capital of Alsace and the headquarters of the European Parliament. The Gothic cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Europe, surrounded by an old quarter with narrow streets and half-timbered houses. La Petite France, the historic center of Strasbourg, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Narrow, flowery canals wind through the city and a boat trip through this city is a delightful way to tour. Strasbourg is also known for its excellent cuisine. You can combine a tour of Strasbourg with a drive through Germany’s beautiful Black Forest on the 10-hour Black Forest and Strasbourg Day Trip from Frankfurt, which also features a walking tour of Baden-Baden.
6 Medieval Rothenburg
A pleasant two-hour drive southeast of Frankfurt brings you to one of the most visited and photographed historic towns in all of Germany: Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Perched high atop the steep banks of the River Tauber, this well-preserved medieval town was once the capital of Bavaria and has numerous architecturally significant buildings, some of which, such as the impressive Old Town Hall (Rathaus), date back as long as the 13th century. A highlight of any visit is to walk along the city’s ancient walls and battlements, untouched since 1618, when they stood up during the Thirty Years’ War.
Other notable structures include the 15th-century Council Chamber (Ratstrinkstube), the Imperial City Museum and the early 17th-century St.-Georgs-Brunnen Fountain. And just when you thought this city couldn’t get any more beautiful, you make your way to Little Square (Plönlein). Like something out of a fairy tale, this tiny square consists of a large, narrow half-timbered building that separates two streets, one leading to the Siebers Tower, the other to the Kobolzeller Tower, both built in the early 13th century.
English-language tours are available at the town’s visitor center. You can combine Rothenburg with one of Germany’s most popular attractions on a Neuschwanstein Castle and Rothenburg Day Trip from Frankfurt. This 14-hour trip includes round-trip transportation from Frankfurt,
7 Romantisch Heidelberg
An easy one-hour drive south of Frankfurt, the beautiful old town of Heidelberg makes a perfect day trip. One of the most romantic cities in Europe due to its attractive riverside location and pristine medieval and Renaissance architecture (Heidelberg was spared the bombings that destroyed many other cities in World War II), Heidelberg is also popular for its warm and pleasant climate, allowing alfresco dining. a definite possibility almost all year round.
It’s easy to get around on foot, thanks to the many pedestrian streets in the center.
A good place to start your walk is Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg’s narrow main street. From here, countless even scarier streets lead to some of the best examples of the city’s architecture, many of the buildings now functioning as shops, galleries and cafes. Stop to see one of the best examples of the city’s fine churches, the 15th-century Church of the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeistkirche), and take the funicular or climb to Heidelberg Castle.
Built in the 16th century, almost 200 meters above the old town, it is one of the most picturesque castle ruins in Germany and offers great views over the surrounding countryside. You won’t miss any of the city’s highlights when you opt for a half-day trip to Heidelberg from Frankfurt, led by a guide who is well versed in local history and architecture. You’ll walk through the old town, visit the university and tour the castle before the short drive back to Frankfurt.
8 Büdingen Castle
About 50 kilometers northeast of Frankfurt, on the southern edge of the Vogelsberg, lies the quaint town of Büdingen. This fun day trip includes pleasant walks along the Old Town’s sprawling 15th-century walls and their round towers, as well as through the Marktplatz.
Here you will find the late Gothic old town hall with museum exhibits about the history and folk traditions of the region, the many old half-timbered houses and the 15th-century Mariakerk (Marienkirche). Also of interest is the nearby village of Grossendorf, home to the Remigius-Kirche, one of the oldest churches in Germany, and the formidable Schloss Büdingen, a 13th-century fortress with many fine state residences, a museum and a Gothic chapel.
9 Darmstadt’s Artistic Heritage
Darmstadt is located only 35 kilometers from Frankfurt, at the end of the Upper Rhine between the foothills of the Odenwald and is the former capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. A top attraction here is the Mathildenhöhe , where Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig founded an artists’ colony in 1899. Here you can admire the many Art Nouveau houses, browse art exhibitions or climb the 48-meter Hochzeitsturm (wedding tower) for views over the city and its many pleasant gardens.
Adjacent are the gilded towers of the Russian Chapel and a short distance away is the Ernst-Ludwig-Haus, home to the German Academy of Language and Literature and the Art Nouveau Museum. Other highlights in Darmstadt include the excellent Schlossmuseumwith its fine collections of portraits, antique furniture and handicrafts. For more history in Darmstadt, visit the Hessisch Landesmuseum , with its artifacts, art galleries, and natural history exhibits.
10 Spas and thermal springs of Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden is another historic city that can be easily reached from Frankfurt. Just a 35-minute drive west of Frankfurt, the capital of the Land of Hesse is famous worldwide for its excellent thermal springs, a major draw, especially among Germans, for their healing properties. nature and many health benefits. A good place to explore this historic city is the wide Marktplatz, from where you can look for the many easy-to-find examples of the city’s long history as a spa.
Perhaps the most famous is the beautiful Fountain Colonnadein Kurbezirk, near the imposing Kurhaus, built in 1907 and famous for its huge portico. Next is the spa town of Aukammtal. Here you will find a number of thermal baths and saunas, the most open to the public, all of which are worth a visit for their relaxing properties. Also notable is the Kochbrunnen, with its 15 hot springs and the 1913 Kaiser Friedrich baths. Be sure to also climb the 245m Neroberg Hill, which is known for its Opel baths (and when you’re done with all the pampering , go to the nearby Biebrich Schloss, a beautiful baroque palace from 1698).
Just a 90-minute drive northwest of Frankfurt, Koblenz offers much for the day tripper to enjoy. Perhaps its greatest claim to fame is the fact that it lies at the junction of the Rhine and Moselle, a point nicknamed German Corner, or Deutsches Eck, where you can stand and watch these two mighty rivers meet (also here is the 37-meter-high monument to Kaiser Wilhelm I).
The city, in fact, straddles both banks of these two rivers, and a great way to see the area is via a fun river cruise. Other highlights include the massive Ehrenbreitstein Fortress, which dominates the right bank of the Rhine and can be reached by cable car. Be prepared to spend at least a few hours exploring the battlements of the fortress, as well as the museums.
Of particular note here is the Koblenz State Museum, home to many interesting exhibits and historical collections, and a fun unique baroque-style dining package as well as music and theatrical productions.