Frankfurt might be one of Germany’s oldest cities, but you’ll be greeted on arrival by the dizzying sight of the city’s futuristic skyline. Frankfurt is a modern hub of commerce, trade, design, and development, and you’re going to love your stay in the city!
Begin your journey with a ride to the top of Main Tower, where you can see the city’s skyscrapers and contemporary architecture from 200 meters (656 feet) above. Head back down to the ground level, and you can visit the cultural trove of galleries and museums that is Frankfurt’s Museumsufer, or Museum Embankment.
This is a city where tradition is hiding among the new, and you can discover Frankfurt’s exalted past with a tour of the Altstadt (Frankfurt’s Old Town). Frankfurt was founded way back in the 8th century AD, and for much of the Medieval era – right up until the 19th century – it was one of the most important cities in the Holy Roman Empire.
Frankfurt’s Altstadt has a lot to see, including the birthplace of the famous writer Goethe, a grand Imperial Cathedral, and in December, the world-renowned Frankfurt Christmas Market!
With so many things to do in Frankfurt, you might not know where to begin. That’s why we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to see in Frankfurt to help you plan your trip. Stick to these fun and unique Frankfurt bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’re going to have an incredible time exploring this gorgeous German city!
Don’t forget to check out our web story: The 15 Best Things to do in Frankfurt, Germany
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15 Fun Things to do in Frankfurt
1. Enjoy the View from Main Tower
What better way to start your Frankfurt sightseeing tour than with a view from above? One of the best things to see in Frankfurt is the panorama from the top of Main Tower. You’re going to love seeing the city arrayed before you in all of its glory!
Frankfurt’s skyline is one of the most spectacular in Germany, so much so that the city is often referred to as Germany’s Manhattan. The Financial District, in particular, is well known for its tall skyscrapers and futuristic building projects, and you’ll see it all from the viewing platforms of Frankfurt’s fourth-tallest building.
The impressive Main Tower stands some 200 meters (656 feet) tall, and you can take the elevator up to the highest observation point in the city. If you’d like to dine with a view, Main Tower is also home to a high-rise restaurant. Book a table at the Main Tower Restaurant and Lounge, and you’ll be dining and drinking on the 53rd floor!
2. Take a Tour of the Altstadt
Frankfurt is a city with centuries of history to uncover, and there’s no better place to begin exploring than the Altstadt. This is Frankfurt’s Old Town, and you can find this collection of traditional buildings, churches, and public squares on the northern banks of the Main River.
Take a walking tour to discover the Altstadt’s hidden history and heritage. Frankfurt is thought to have been founded in the 8th century AD, and as local legend has it, the mighty European Emperor Charlemagne was the founder. The city began to expand from the 14th century onwards when merchant guildhalls and lavish townhouses began to be constructed by the wealthy.
You’ll start your tour in the Altstadt’s most famous location, Romerberg, or Romer Square. The public square was once where Imperial Emperors were crowned, and it’s where you’ll find the impressive Town Hall or “Romer” building. Just north of this square is Paulsplatz, another historic public square, while Frankfurt’s cathedral dominates the Old Town skyline.
But much of the Altstadt – like much of the rest of Frankfurt – was destroyed during bombing raids in World War II. The Old Town that you see today is the result of painstaking restoration work that was carried out in the aftermath of the war. It’s a project that still continues today, with the latest redevelopment being the New Frankfurt Old Town – the area between Romer and the cathedral – where redevelopment only finished in 2018.
3. Explore Frankfurt’s Museumsufer
Frankfurt is home to one of Europe’s densest collections of museums and galleries. You’ll be spoiled for choice if you’re looking to take a step back in time or admire a few masterful works of art during your stay in the city.
In fact, there are so many museums that the city has its own dedicated area known as the Museumsufer – or Museum Embankment – where the best museums and galleries are found.
The Museumsufer is located on both sides of the Main River (and there are a few museums within a short walk of the embankment, too). There have been museums in Frankfurt since the 19th century, but the Museumsufer really began to develop in the 1980s when the city decided to turn many of the old townhouses on the river into new cultural institutions.
The architecture of the Museumsufer is beautiful, and you’ll enjoy simply taking a stroll along the north and south banks of the Main River. You won’t have time to visit every museum on the Museumsufer – at least, not unless you have weeks to spend in Frankfurt!
A few highlights include the Frankfurt Historical Museum, Stadel Museum, Museum fur Moderne Kunst, German Film Museum, Jewish Museum, Communication Museum, Ethnological Museum, and Natural History Museum.
4. Delve into Frankfurt’s Past at the Historical Museum
If you’d love to learn more about Frankfurt’s fascinating past, then the best place to visit is the Frankfurt Historical Museum. This excellent institution is located in the Altstadt, overlooking the northern bank of the Main River. It’s the perfect place to either start or end your journey through Frankfurt’s Old Town.
The museum itself was founded in 1878, and since then, it’s been amassing a vast collection of exhibits that tell the story of Frankfurt’s history. You’ll find a statue of Frankish King Charlemagne outside the entrance, while the museum is located within a fine medieval-style building that was restored after World War II.
The Historical Museum covers a lot of ground. You’ll start far back in the city’s founding days before moving through the Medieval era and into the Imperial age.
There are collections of unique objects that have been donated in the past by Frankfurt’s citizens, there are famous works of art on display that depict the city in bygone eras, and so much more at this interesting museum! The Historical Museum also hosts many temporary exhibitions, which often focus on contemporary histories, such as World War II, so check their website to see what’s on the calendar.
5. Explore the Natural World at Frankfurt’s Naturmuseum Senckenberg
A visit to the Naturmuseum Senckenberg is one of the best things to do in Frankfurt, particularly if you love learning about the natural world!
This is one of Frankfurt’s best museums, and it’s dedicated to natural history. You’ll love the enormous collection of fossils on display, including the skeletons of a diplodocus, a triceratops, and a tyrannosaurus rex.
There are thousands more fossils – collected from around Germany and other parts of the world – so many, in fact, that the Naturmuseum Senckenberg is thought to have the largest collection in Europe!
You can learn all about the natural history of the world when exploring the museum, from the evolution of animal species to the first human beings to walk on the earth. It’s a real treat, and it’s a great day out for families with kids and for anyone with an interest in the world around them.
6. Be Awed by Frankfurt’s Imperial Cathedral
One of the best Frankfurt attractions is the Imperial Cathedral, where you’ll be awed by the magnificent architecture and the hallowed history of the city’s most important religious building. You’ll find the Imperial Cathedral in the heart of the Altstadt, and although its official name is the Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, the locals simply call it the Dom.
The cathedral has gone through many different phases of construction, although the tall spire and Gothic architecture that you see today date back primarily to the 1400s. In many ways, the Imperial Cathedral reflects the history of Frankfurt, and it’s thought that there’s been some form of a church here since the city was first founded in the 8th century AD.
Like the rest of Frankfurt, the Imperial Cathedral was also destroyed during bombings in World War II. The cathedral was reconstructed again after the war and remains an important symbol of the city. You can visit the cathedral’s museum to learn more about the history and to see the collection of unique religious relics that are held here.
7. Admire Thousands of Works of Art at the Stadel Museum
If you’re an art lover, one of the top things to do in Frankfurt is visit the Stadel Museum. This excellent museum holds one of Germany’s most extensive collections of artwork, and you’ll find thousands of works on display.
The Stadel Museum overlooks the Main River, and it’s part of Frankfurt’s well-respected Museum Embankment, where you can find the city’s best cultural and historic institutions. The museum itself dates back to 1815, when the collection began, but the paintings date back as far as the 14th century.
Step inside the Stadel Museum, and you can find beautiful works of art stretching back through European history. You’ll find moody Gothic works from the Medieval era, Renaissance-era paintings and sculptures, a vast array of works of art from the 17th century to the 19th century, and modern photography exhibitions.
The museum estimates that, in total, there are 3,100 paintings to see, alongside 660 sculptures and tens of thousands more drawings and photographs. Name almost any famous European artist, and you’ll find their work here – from Rembrandt and Monet to Picasso and Beckmann!
8. Admire Contemporary Works at the Museum of Modern Art
If you prefer contemporary art over historical artwork, one of the best places to visit in Frankfurt is the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, or the Museum of Modern Art, in English. The unique architecture of the museum has given the building its local nickname, “piece of cake!” Inside, you’ll find around 4,500 works of art dating from the 1960s to the present.
The museum opened in 1991, and since then, it’s become a world-renowned cultural institution and a showcase for modern art. The main exhibits focus on colorful pop art, as well as modern minimalism. They are built around a collection that was originally curated by Karl Stroher, a famous German art collector.
You’ll find an impressive list of the best contemporary artists on display, including works by Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns. In addition to the permanent collection, there are always exciting new exhibitions and intriguing events at the Museum of Modern Art, so check in when you’re planning your trip to find out what’s on!
9. Visit the Birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
If you know your German literature, then you’ll know that Frankfurt was the hometown of legendary German writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Born in 1749, Goethe was most famous for his plays, poetry, and literature, and some consider him to be the greatest of all the German writers.
Goethe was born in the family home in Frankfurt, and the tall townhouse still survives. It’s now a wonderful museum dedicated, of course, to Goethe’s life and work. Goethe spent his early years in the family home in Frankfurt, and much of the furniture and decor has been preserved in the museum.
Visit the Goethe House, and you’ll learn all about the famous author’s early years in Frankfurt and see the home where he wrote his first classics, including Faust and The Sorrows of Young Werther.
After exploring Goethe’s childhood home, you can visit the Goethe Museum next door to the house. Here you’ll find a more extensive collection of artwork and exhibits that tell the story of Goethe and his life’s work in more detail.
10. Get Tropical at Palmengarten
The Palmengarten is one of the coolest things to do in Frankfurt, especially if you’d love to get tropical! The Palmengarten is Frankfurt’s glass-domed botanical garden, and inside you’ll find an extensive collection of flora from around the world.
The Palmengarten was first opened to the public in 1871, and the gardens and greenhouses cover 22 hectares (54 acres) of land next to Frankfurt’s Goethe University. You’ll love how there are thousands of different plants and trees in the gardens.
You can enjoy strolling through the outdoor areas on a sunny summer day or stepping inside into the Tropicarium in the winter. You’ll even find a unique collection of subantarctic plants collected from the world’s most southerly locations.
You can join guided tours of the gardens to learn more about the unique species that are grown here. Plus, throughout the year, the Palmengarten hosts many events, including festivals and concerts. If you need to escape the city without having to actually leave the city, this is the place to go!
11. Take a Cruise on the Main River
Frankfurt is built on the beautiful banks of the Main River, and the city sprawls for miles – both east and west – along this important waterway. The Main River flows for hundreds of miles from the Bavarian Mountains through Germany until it meets with the mighty Rhine River, not too far from Frankfurt.
You can cruise along the stretch of river that flows through Frankfurt to see the city from a completely different perspective. There are several tour companies offering spacious, modern river cruises that – with typical German punctuality – last either 50 minutes, 60 minutes, or 100 minutes.
You’ll see the city’s glorious, futuristic skyline from the water while you cruise past the wide Museum Embankment that’s home to Frankfurt’s best museums. On the longer tours, you’ll also cruise past the more industrial side of Frankfurt (including the local harbors) and then the surrounding countryside.
You can jazz up the tour by booking a nighttime cruise of Frankfurt to see the city spectacularly lit up. You can also reserve a table on a dinner cruise, which we think makes for a suitably romantic Frankfurt excursion!
12. Tackle the Three Castles Hike
If you’d love a fantastic day hike while you’re staying in Frankfurt, then we highly recommend tackling the Three Castles Hike. This beautiful hiking trail is around 7 miles long, and it conveniently starts and ends in Kronberg, a historic town that’s just a 30-minute drive from the city center.
This circular walk will take you through Frankfurt’s gorgeous and often forested countryside, with the goal being to link up with and stop off at the three castles that are in close vicinity. The first castle is Burg Kronberg, a medieval castle that dates back to the 12th century. There’s actually a second “castle” in Kronberg, which is more of a country estate, and which dates back to the 19th century. This is Schlosshotel Kronberg, and it’s a lovely spa retreat you can book for a relaxing weekend getaway.
From Burg Kronberg, you walk through the forest to Burg Falkenstein, following a waymarked trail. There’s some steep walking before you reach this 14th-century castle, but the views are well worth the effort. From Burg Kronberg, you then follow the trail to Konigstein Castle before continuing onwards to end the hike back where you started in Kronberg. The town of Kronberg has good public transport links to Frankfurt, including an S-Bahn stop.
13. Get Festive at Frankfurt’s Christmas Markets
Germany is one of the best places in Europe to visit Christmas markets, and you can rest assured that Frankfurt has more than its fair share of festive markets and events!
The festive season is an exciting time to visit Frankfurt, and the Christmas markets run from the end of November until December 22. The main market is found in Frankfurt’s Old Town squares, including Romerberg, Paulsplatz, and Friedrich-Stoltze Platz.
You’ll be able to enjoy all the classic elements of the traditional German Christmas market, including carol singing and hymns, Christmas lights and decoration, mulled wine, and excellent festive food. Of course, there will be many stalls selling traditional souvenirs and handicrafts, so you can complete your Christmas shopping.
Frankfurt’s Christmas market is thought to be one of the oldest markets in Germany, and historians have traced it back to at least the 14th century. Wrap up warm, order your mulled wine and bratwurst, and embrace the festive season in Frankfurt!
14. Shop and Eat at the Kleinmarkthalle
Frankfurt is famed for its Christmas market, but in the Altstadt, you can also find a permanent marketplace that’s open all year round. The Kleinmarkthalle is packed full of stalls, stands, and shops. Shopping (and eating!) here is one of the most fun things to do in Frankfurt!
There are over 150 different vendors in the Kleinmarkthalle, and you’ll find that the market is the perfect place to pick up those souvenirs you need to take back home for family and friends. The market hall is undercover and spread out over 1,500 square meters (4,921 square feet), so save plenty of time to look around all the stalls.
You’ll find a whole array of different goods for sale in the Kleinmarkthalle, including fresh fruit and veggies, local culinary favorites such as sausages and Frankfurt’s famous “Green Sauce,” and much more to tantalize your taste buds.
The market itself is a bustling, busy place, and it’s frequented by locals as much as tourists. Many of the vendors have been working here for decades, while the market hall itself dates back to the 1950s and has a gloriously retro look.
15. Explore the Trendy Ostend District
To the east of the Altstadt, you’ll find the Ostend (which literally means the East End). This large suburb of Frankfurt is home to seemingly drab industrial buildings and residential apartment blocks, but it’s also the city’s trendiest district!
Ostend is an exciting place to explore. In addition to being home to the Frankfurt Zoo and the stylish European Central Bank, you can discover wonderful theaters and independent galleries, as well as the city’s best bars and restaurants.
This is the place to visit for contemporary culture and excellent food, while there is a collection of hip boutique hotels where you can spend the night. Despite its industrial look, Ostend has a surprising number of green spaces and a lovely waterfront overlooking the Main River.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Frankfurt. What’s your favorite thing to do in Frankfurt?
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