Situated on the River Main is the large city of Frankfurt, a major hub for finance and trade in Germany. Frankfurt is, without a doubt, a good destination to start your German holiday. It is also a fantastic home base for day trips throughout the region. Whether you’re eager to explore medieval castles or scenic rivers, these day trips from Frankfurt are ideal.
Drive two hours west of Frankfurt and you’ll reach Cochem, a picturesque town that looks like it has been frozen in time. Half timbered houses give a very traditional appearance to Cochem, and the entire town is situated in the Mosel River Valley. Cochem is postcard perfect, but there is more to the town than just its appearance. The Schloss Reichsburg is a castle perched above the town that is more than 1,000 years old. While views from the castle are spectacular, you can also head to Pinnerkreuz Mountain to view the castle in all its glory, and while you’re there you can even do some hiking.
Just two hours away from Frankfurt, you can cross over the border to France and explore the unique city of Strasbourg. Thanks to its location on an international border, the city of Strasbourg is a magnificent blend of culture. Residents speak both French and German, and both country’s cuisines are well represented in the city. If you visit, be sure to check out the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, a striking Gothic church that is undoubtedly the architectural highlight of Strasbourg. Just across the street from the cathedral is a museum with a staggering amount of religious art from the Renaissance and medieval periods.
Hop on an eastbound train from Frankfurt and you’ll reach Wurzburg in just under 90 minutes. Wurzburg is a historic destination known for its incredible palace and one of the oldest churches in the country. The Würzburger Residence is a magnificent palace with more than 300 rooms and an extensive collection of Baroque art. On the premises, you’ll also find a beautiful chapel and carefully manicured gardens that are open to the public. Many people are surprised to learn that the castle’s basement contains a fully functioning winery. Right across the street from the castle, you can pick up a bottle of local wine as a souvenir of your trip.
Northwest of Frankfurt is the major city of Cologne, known to locals as Köln. In the medieval era, Cologne was one of the most important cities for the Holy Roman Empire, and it is still a bustling hub and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany. There is no debating what the biggest attraction in the city is: The Kölner Dom. This enormous cathedral is truly one of a kind. If you’re feeling up for a challenge, take all 500 steps to the top of the South Tower, and you’ll be treated to spectacular views over the city below.
The Schwarzwald, or Black Forest, is a region about 240 km (150 miles) south of Frankfurt. The wooded mountain range is steeped in history, and countless legends and fairy tales have their origins in this forest. If you’re interested in outdoor activities, the Black Forest is the ideal place to explore for a day. Miles of hiking paths are available, and winter sports like skiing are also a great option. For something a little more relaxing, head to the spa resort town of Baden-Baden. This spot is built right over thermal springs, and there are even some remaining Roman baths that you can tour.
The city of Mainz is just 45 minutes outside of Frankfurt, making it an easily accessible spot for a day trip from Frankfurt. Romans settled in Mainz nearly 2,000 years old, giving the city plenty of history and heritage. There are several excellent museums in the city, with the most famous being the Gutenberg Museum. Bibliophiles will love seeing some of the very first Gutenberg bibles as well as a reproduction of his first printing press. In the old town, or Altstadt, you can also tour a number of remarkably well preserved medieval homes known in German as Fachwerkhäuser.
One of the best ways to experience the beauty of the Rhine River Valley, and to see as many destinations as possible in a single day, is with a Rhine Valley cruise. There are countless operators that offer tours from Frankfurt for the day, or you can drive to places like Mainz or Koblenz to see a different area of the river. This is an amazing opportunity to see gorgeous castles and medieval cities from a whole new perspective. Keep in mind that it is impossible to see the entire Rhine River Valley in one day, so choose a stretch of the river that most appeals to you.
Drive one hour south of Frankfurt to visit Heidelberg, a stunning university town located on the Neckar River. Besides a famous castle, Heidelberg is also home to the oldest university in the country, which dates back to the 14th century. You can still visit the Universitätsplatz, which was the original site of the university and now serves as a student center and dining hall. You should also make time for the Heiliggeistkirche, a church that once served as the home to the collection from Germany’s oldest library, or the Bibliotheka Palatina. Take a train to the top of the Königstuhl-Mountain for wonderful views of Heidelberg. On clear days, you can even see all the way to the Black Forest.