The central German city of Frankfurt, located on the river Main, is often referred to as the Gateway to Europe, but there’s actually a whole lot going on in the city itself.
It’s a charming place to wander round, what with its impressive Gothic architecture and futuristic skyline, and there are plenty of museums and galleries to pique the interest.
As the business and transport hub of Germany, Frankfurt is also a diversely peopled city, with everyone from wealthy bankers to student dropouts populating its streets.
It’s a very interesting destination for a visit, and there are also some really great day trip options available further afield, due to its great location.
Arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Germany, Heidelberg is an excellent day trip option, what with its imposing castle ruins and prestigious university.
Travel along the Neckar River to reach the city, and once there allow yourself plenty of time to wander among its beautiful buildings, spanning across historic periods from the Renaissance to the Gothic.
From the castle you can experience some fantastic views from the terrace, and spot one of the largest wine barrels in the world.
The town centre is full of gems too: the Knight’s House, the Old Bridge, and the Church of the Holy Spirit are all intriguing.
Plus, the cramped lanes lined with half-timbered houses are a sight in themselves.
The Rhine Valley is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it’s easy to see why.
Skirted with postcard-perfect villages, and packed full of castles at the highest density in the world, the valley is a gorgeous place to spend the day.
Exploring by boat is a great option, as you’ll get to see all its glory from the tranquillity of the water.
If it’s summertime, you can take a ride on the cable car down into the valley, before you grab lunch on the banks of the river.
There are also some excellent wine options available – try the tavern in Rüdesheim.
3. Wertheim Village
If shopping is on your mind, the Wertheim Village is absolutely the only place to do it from Frankfurt.
Over 110 luxury boutiques populate the area, including Versace, Tumi and Ralph Lauren – and this is a great way to save a bunch on the top brands.
Only an hour away from the city, this is a truly indulgent place to visit: spend time wandering the shops, eating at the on-site establishments, and hopefully going home satisfied with your purchases.
With savings of up to 60% it just might be the best trip you take.
The well-preserved medieval town of Rothenburg is a very popular place to visit from Frankfurt.
On your way there you’ll pass along the Romantic Road, worth the trip in itself, and once you arrive in Rothenburg you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Take a guided tour around the historic centre, and learn about the intricacies of its history, from the half-timbered houses, to the church, the town hall and the turrets of the city gates.
You can also visit the intriguing Kriminalmuseum.
5. Eltz Castle
Perched on the Moselle River, Eltz Castle is an impressing sight, rising out of the trees with its turrets and spires.
Over 850 years of history awaits you in this perfectly preserved historic site, and much of the furnishings are original too.
Inside you can explore the various rooms of the castle, including a medieval kitchen and the knight’s hall, as well as all of the weaponry, armour, hangings and paintings lining the walls.
In the treasury you’ll find still greater intrigue, in over 500 pieces of precious art.
6. Neuschwanstein Castle
A fairy tale castle like no other, Neuschwanstein Castle is on many people’s bucket lists, so it’s a fantastic place to visit from Frankfurt.
Perched on the top of a hill near the village of Hohenschwangau, this 19th Century Romanesque Revival castle is visited by more than 1.3 million people a year.
It was originally commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria as an homage to Richard Wagner, and paid for using his own fortune.
This is truly an impressive site, and is also thought to have been the inspiration behind the Disney film, Sleeping Beauty.
7. Baden-Baden and the Black Forest
So good they named it twice, the spa town of Baden-Baden lies a mere 90-minute drive away from Frankfurt along the river.
The main attraction here is of course a soak in its therapeutic thermal springs, whether in the cheaper public baths or from a more exclusive resort location.
There’s also lots to explore on foot, from boutique shops, to the chateau-like Kurhaus, dating back to the 19th century.
While you’re here, it would be remiss of you to miss the chance to explore the gorgeous Black Forest, one of Germany’s main highlights.
Its rolling hills and dense forest are dotted with picturesque villages, and there are plenty of options for hiking around, including a trip to the highest waterfall in Germany.
The picturesque old town of Hanau sits just 20 kilometres away from central Frankfurt, making it an easy place for a day trip.
Not only is it chock full of pretty buildings, it also has an excellent claim to fame, in being the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, the authors of many well-known fairy tales.
If you can, time your visit to coincide with the Brothers Grimm Festival.
Aside from the fairy tale connection, there’s a marketplace, the impressive new town hall, and the goldsmith’s house with some stunning jewellery on display.
If you run out of things to do, there’s also a Baroque palace located just a few kilometres out of town, which is home to the Hanau Historical Museum.
The richly historical city of Mainz is located on the west bank of the Rhine, only 44 kilometres from Frankfurt.
This cathedral city has a whole host of attractions to be explored, including several excellent museums, and of course, its impressive cathedral.
The cathedral began being constructed in 975 AD, though many of the tombs were added in the 11th century, and it towers above the city with its six spires.
Museums of note include the Roman-Germanic Central museum and the Museum of Ancient Navigation, which houses full-scale replicas of Roman ships.
Located just the other side of the Black Forest lies the perfect opportunity to spend the day in another country: France.
Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace, and its old quarter is delightfully dotted with half-timbered buildings and cobblestone streets.
The town centre is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Strasbourg is also a very cosmopolitan city, what with it being the location of the headquarters of the European Parliament, and is also home to many excellent cuisine options.
La Petit France, as Strasbourg is also known, is a canal city, meaning you can take the chance to hop on a boat and explore by water.
11. Schloss Büdingen
The old town of Büdingen is a more than a pleasant place to spend the day, with plenty of historical attractions to whet the appetite.
Even the walls of the town itself date back to the 15th century.
Stroll along to the market place, where you’ll spot the old town hall from the Late Gothic period, which also houses an excellent museum exploring the folk traditions of the area.
The Schloss Büdingen nearby is also well worth a visit.
Built in the 13th century it also hosts a museum and a Gothic chapel.
For something a bit different from quaint houses and Gothic architecture, a trip to Darmstadt is an excellent option.
Art Nouveau is the theme of many buildings here, and it’s certainly obvious from the moment you step through its quiet streets.
In 1899 Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig founded an artists’ colony in Darmstadt, in the impressive Mathildenhöhe.
There are heaps of art exhibitions throughout, and several museums can be visited throughout the city.
For a good view, climb the Hochzeitsturm.
Another option for a spa-based day trip, if one wasn’t quite enough for you, is the pretty town of Wiesbaden.
You can spend the day hopping from bath to bath quite easily, though if you feel like working for your pampering, you can climb up nearby Neroberg hill, who’s Opel Baths sit on top.
Start the day from the market square, from which you can wander in almost any direction and find suitable relaxation.
The Fountain Colonnade is perhaps the most well-known, but there’s also the Aukammtal district, the Kochbrunnen, and the Kaiser Friedrich baths.
14. Frankenstein Castle
Spoiler alert: this castle is exactly what it sounds like.
English author Mary Shelley visited the area in 1814, and it is thought that this castle is part of what inspired the gothic story of Frankenstein, which was released two years after her visit.
It’s got an excellent haunted history, with stories ranging from ghosts, to witches, to crazy alchemists, who are all supposed to have inhabited the place throughout the centuries.
More than 750 years old, and starting to crumble, this is a fascinating spot to visit.
The second largest city in Bavaria is certainly worth a stop on your itinerary around Frankfurt.
Its long history begins in the Middle Ages, but nowadays it is most often spoken of for its importance in the Nazi regime.
You can explore this side of its history in the Documentation Centre, but if you want to steer clear of that tragic era, there’s the castle to visit, nightlife and cuisine to be sampled, and if you time your visit for the right time of year, some fantastic Christmas markets to be explored.