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Layovers

The Layover Guide to Frankfurt

Christie Dietz
By 
Christie Dietz
Freelance Writer
7 min read
Last updated 
March 9, 2021

Home to the German stock exchange and the European Central Bank, this central German city is most well known as a major financial hub. However, Frankfurt’s reputation as a characterless banker city completely overlooks the fascinating history and culture that this vibrant, international city has to offer. Against a glittering backdrop of modern skyscrapers, Frankfurt is home to charming cobbled streets and half-timbered medieval buildings, gorgeous green spaces and world-class museums and galleries, plus eating and drinking options to suit every taste and budget.

With such a short transfer time from the airport to the heart of the city, a large pedestrianized downtown and a wealth of centrally located museums and historic sights, you’ll be able to make great use of even a short layover to explore Germany’s financial capital.

  • VISA REQUIRED: No
  • MINIMUM CONNECTION TIME, INTERNATIONAL TO DOMESTIC: 45 minutes
  • MINIMUM CONNECTION TIME, INTERNATIONAL TO INTERNATIONAL: 45 minutes
  • MINIMUM CONNECTION TIME TO LEAVE THE AIRPORT: 5 hours
Frankfurt Old Town.

Visa info 

As part of the European Union’s Schengen Zone, citizens of many countries including the United States are permitted to visit Germany without a visa for a period of up to 90 days. 

Minimum layover times

To make an international to domestic connection: 45 minutes

Frankfurt Airport is Europe’s fourth-busiest airport, and the busiest airport in Germany. Both terminals, 1 and 2, host domestic and international flights, so unless both of your connecting flights are with Lufthansa and/or one of its partners, all of whose flights operate out of Terminal 1, it’s not unlikely you will have to transit between them. 

Navigating your way around Frankfurt’s very large airport can be confusing, especially if you’re in a rush, however there is clear overhead signage in both German and English to help direct passengers through the airport. Blue signs will help you find your way between concourses and to gates; gray signage offers directions to passenger services. Screens in both terminals list not just current flight data, but also the time it will take you to walk to your departure gate.

Terminals 1 and 2 are located adjacent to one another and are connected by the free SkyLine monorail, which leaves every 2-3 minutes from both the public and transit areas, as well as free shuttle buses that circulate between the terminals every 10 minutes from 5:30am to 11:30pm. Travel between the two terminals is quick and smooth, and though travelers should be prepared to queue for the SkyLine at peak times, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to wait for more than one train. Be prepared for lengthy walks in Terminal 1, but longer distances can be covered using moving walkways.

Your checked luggage will most likely be automatically forwarded to your final destination but if not, you’ll need to pick it up at the baggage claim and then recheck it. Whether or not you need to clear a passport check depends on whether the airport you have arrived from and your destination are within or outside the Schengen Area. In most cases, however, you will need to clear security checks on your way through the airport. Lines tend to move at a reasonable pace, but expected wait times are displayed on screens and if you are in a rush to catch a connecting flight, so-called Fast Lanes at security checkpoints can be used on a priority basis by those travelers whose flight is listed on the monitors.

To make an international to international connection: 45 minutes

Airport guidelines also suggest a minimum of 45 minutes for international connections, but given the size of the airport, allowing 60-90 minutes would provide a more comfortable buffer. In most cases, you must clear security checks on your way through the airport, but your checked luggage will most likely be automatically forwarded to your final destination.

To leave the airport and explore for part of the day: 5 hours

It should take you no more than around 30 minutes to reach the center of Frankfurt by train or taxi. A five-hour daytime layover will give you sufficient time to travel to the city centre and spend a couple of hours wandering around Frankfurt’s medieval old town and along the river before heading back to the airport. Seven hours will afford you ample time to see some of the centrally located city sights and sit down for a bite to eat, or to spend a few hours in a museum.

  • 1 hour to deplane and go through immigration and customs (Frankfurt Airport is large and sprawling, so this will depend on your arrival gate as well as factors such as the length of queues at immigration, and whether or not you need to collect and store/recheck luggage)
  • 30 mins to transit via taxi to downtown, depending on traffic, or up to 30 minutes by train including ticket purchase
  • 2 hours to explore
  • Up to 30 minutes to return to airport
  • 1 hour to go back through security, get to your gate, and board the plane (longer if you need to check in luggage and/or pick up a boarding pass for your connecting flight).

Getting from the airport to the city center 

  • TAXI: 25 mins
  • TRAIN: 17 minutes

Frankfurt Airport is located approximately 12 km (7.5 miles) southwest of Frankfurt. Taxis to the city center (ask for Hauptwache) cost approximately €25-30 and can be found at ranks outside the first level of Terminal 1 and the ground level of Terminal 2. Large-capacity taxis for up to seven people are also available; always check with the driver first as to whether or not they accept credit cards. Uber is also available. Allow extra time for the ride during peak times, when commuter traffic may be heavy.

Frankfurt Airport has two train stations, one for long distance travel and the other for regional trains. The regional train station (Regionalbahnhof, Terminal 1, Area B, Level 0) offers frequent connections to Frankfurt’s Hauptwache metro station via its S8 and S9 commuter services (direction Offenbach or Hanau). An adult single fare costs €5 and a child fare €2,95, however day tickets including group tickets for up to five people (€16,70) are also available. 

Tickets can be bought at the multilingual machines on the regional train station concourse, which take both cash and credit/debit cards. Trains run approximately every 15 minutes, and the journey itself takes 17 minutes.

How to spend a short layover at the airport

There are plentiful options for food and drink at both terminals, from fast food outlets to bars and restaurants; being larger, Terminal 1 offers a broader choice. Frankfurt Airport is known as a hotspot for high-end shopping; travelers should head to Terminal 1 for designer stores such as Burberry, Loewe, Longchamp, and Hermes. 

Terminal 1 also offers a whole host of free post-security amenities including three Movie Worlds offering family-friendly movies, documentaries, and series, and two Gaming Worlds. If you’d prefer a calmer layover, you’ll find quiet zones, prayer rooms, and fully equipped yoga rooms as well as various airline lounges. Those traveling with children can make use of play areas and a stroller rental service. There are also shower facilities available for a small fee.

If you have luggage with you on your layover, carts are available at dispensers around both terminals for a €1 fee, payable by credit or debit card. Alternatively, you can temporarily store any luggage for a fee at one of the storage facilities at Terminal 1, between Concourses B and C, Level 2 (Departures) or Concourse B, Level 1 (Arrivals), or Terminal 2, Concourse D, Level 2 (Arrivals). 

How to spend a short layover outside the airport

Taking the train or a taxi to Hauptwache will bring you right to the heart of the city. A seven-minute walk from Hauptwache metro station is Frankfurt’s historical old town center, the Römerberg, home to ornate original and reconstructed half-timbered houses including the 700-year-old City Hall and the medieval Lutheran Old St Nicholas Church. A cobbled lane along the north side of the plaza will take you directly into Frankfurt’s “New Old Town”, a historic quarter completed in 2019 that was reconstructed to original plans. In short walking distance from here, you will also stumble across the 14th-century Catholic Church of St. Leonard, and Frankfurt Cathedral. During the run up to Christmas, the Romerberg and its surrounding streets and squares is where you’ll find the city’s sprawling Christmas market. 

If you’d keen to spend your layover at a museum, you’ll be spoilt for choice, as Frankfurt is home to a wealth of excellent museums, many of which are situated centrally along both sides of the River Main. Cross the river using the love lock-covered Eisener Steg bridge and head to the world-class Städel Museum, home to 700 years of art from the Middle Ages to the present, for artwork by Picasso, Francis Bacon, and Gerhard Richter. If you’re traveling with kids, the Junges Museum back at the Römerberg is a great family-friendly option instead.

Frankfurt has plenty of gorgeous green spaces, so if the weather is good and you’d prefer to spend your layover enjoying some fresh air and sunshine, pick up a coffee or a bite to eat at the weekly farmers market by the Konstablerwache metro stop and stroll through the Bethmannpark, a veritable oasis complete with a Chinese Garden and a playground for younger travelers. In the summer, the grassy areas on either side of the river Main also make for lovely spots for a casual stroll.

How to spend an overnight layover in Frankfurt

Since the city is so close to the airport, you can make the most of Frankfurt’s evening offerings by staying overnight there if your layover allows. Take an early-evening boat ride down the River Main and enjoy impressive views of Frankfurt from the water, watching the sun set over the city’s famous skyline. Fans of musical theatre should book tickets online in advance and head to the Alte Oper (Old Opera House) or more modern Oper Frankfurt, one of Europe’s leading opera houses, for a concert or musical recital. 

From Malaysian curries to French-Japanese patisserie and Michelin-starred vegan menus, you won’t be short of dinner options in Frankfurt. To experience the city’s much-loved traditional cider culture, book a table at one of the city’s Apfelwein (cider) pubs in the riverside Sachsenhausen quarter and enjoy a glass or two of Frankfurt’s favourite apple drink with the locals. The buzzing Bahnhofsviertel, an area close to the main train station, is where you’ll find Frankfurt’s hippest bars. It is also the city’s red light district, however, and although it’s become increasingly gentrified in recent years, it’s best to avoid the quarter’s grittiest bits, by keeping to Münchener Straße and Kaiserstraße.

As a trade fair city, Frankfurt is home to countless hotels, most of which are located close to public transport services. There are high-end central options, well-known chains close to the congress center, and a couple of hip hotels as well as plenty of budget options close to the main train station. Traveling back to the airport may be quick and easy, but if you have an early flight on a weekday, when commuter traffic might cause issues with timings, it might be best to book a room at an airport hotel instead.

Need to Know 

  • CURRENCY: Euro 
  • LANGUAGE: German 
  • SAFETY: B-
  • COST: $$$ (out of $$$$$)
  • BEST TIME TO GO: May-October

Currency

Germany’s official currency is the euro (€). Most larger restaurants, bars, and stores accept debit and major credit cards, however cash is king here and smaller and/or more traditional eating and drinking establishments as well as food stalls at markets may still only take cash. It’s a good idea to carry a small amount with you just in case.

Cost

Frankfurt is Germany’s second most expensive city, but it’s just as easy to spend your layover time here on a budget as it is to splash out and treat yourself. Meal costs in Frankfurt vary widely, but depending on the number of courses, the cost of a mid-range dinner is around €20 per person, excluding drinks. A 0,3L glass of Apfelwein will set you back around €2,30.

Frankfurt has a busy annual calendar of trade shows and festivals, meaning the city is well catered for with accommodation options, but that prices do also fluctuate regularly. The average three-star hotel stay costs around €70 per night, but this might increase dramatically during, for example, the Frankfurt Book Fair in October.

Weather & Best Time to Go 

Spring and Autumn are mild in Frankfurt, with daily high temperatures in the region of 68ºF (20ºC). The former offers pretty spring flowers and blossoming trees; the latter a beautiful golden-orange hue across the city as the leaves on the trees begin to change color. 

Summers in Frankfurt are generally sunny and warm, with daily temperatures averaging around 77ºF (30ºC). During the summer months, locals embrace outdoor life at cafés, in parks and on the banks of the river, and at the various food, drink and cultural festivals that take place. The city center can get very busy with tourists, however, and those who like to keep cool should note that air-conditioning here remains relatively rare.

Frankfurt’s winters are cold and dry—snow is uncommon—with the lowest temperature generally averaging 30ºF (-1ºC). This time of year can be busy too, with locals and visitors enjoying the festivities at Frankfurt’s Christmas market, which is one of Germany’s largest.

skyscrapers in Frankfurt.

Safety

Germany was ranked 16th on the 2020 Global Peace Index and although Frankfurt has one of the highest crime rates in the country, it’s considerably less dangerous than many other metropolitan cities around the world. Violent crime is uncommon, and you will feel safe here as long as you practice common sense and remain vigilant for pickpockets in crowded, touristy areas and train stations, particularly at night.

Transport

Frankfurt’s well-organized public transport system comprises U-Bahn (underground) and S-Bahn (commuter trains) as well as trams and buses; services are generally punctual and efficient, and allow visitors to move quickly and easily around the city. Train station entrances are accessible and most but not all stations have escalators and elevators. Note that tickets are time-stamped and don’t require validation prior to travel, but plainclothes ticket controllers may check for tickets at any time. There’s a €60 fine for anyone caught traveling without a (or with an incorrect) ticket.

With an excellent network of bike lanes as well as plentiful bike rental stations throughout the city, bicycles are another great way to get around—and see more of—the city. Download Deutsche Bahn’s Call A Bike app before your arrival and you can hop on and off as you please.

Food & Drink

Frankfurt’s traditional food culture can be experienced in its lively, rustic Apfelwein (the local sour, flat cider) pubs. Food portion sizes here tend to be generous: hungry meat eaters might like to try Frankfurter Rippchen (cured pork chops) served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut or a pair of the city’s famous Frankfurter sausages with a potato salad. Grüne Soße, or Grie Soß in local dialect, is a lighter vegetarian option, a fresh herb sauce most commonly served with boiled eggs and potatoes. 

If you don’t need to be back at the airport in a hurry, a glass of potent Apfelwein is traditionally drunk alongside; you can also order it as a sweet or sour spritzer, watered down with soda water or lemonade. Every local has their own favorite Apfelwein pub, but Zum Gemalten Haus and Daheim im Lorsbacher Thal are both atmospheric, centrally-located options that serve good food.

With more than half of Frankfurt’s population comprising immigrants from over 180 countries, there’s also a wide variety of international cuisines on offer here. Cafés and restaurants in Frankfurt cater for every budget, from street snacks to Michelin-starred meals.

Language

The local language is German, often spoken with a thick Frankfurt dialect, but it’s a very international city and you won’t have any trouble getting by in English.

Don’t miss

The city’s iconic indoor market, the Kleinmarkthalle, is a must-visit for foodies: there’s everything on offer from Frankfurt specialties such as Fleischwurst, a regional sausage served with a bread roll and mustard, to oysters, local pastries and tapas.

Don’t bother

Frankfurt is well known for its shopping, from the high-end boutiques and luxury labels on Goethestraße to the department stores and chains along its shopping mile, the Zeil. On Sundays, however, stores are closed, so don’t dash into the city hoping to shop until you drop.

Last Updated 
March 2, 2021
The Layover Guide to Frankfurt
Christie Dietz
Freelance Writer

Christie Dietz is an award-winning food and travel writer from London who moved to Germany in 2010. She is a regular contributor to National Geographic Traveller Food (UK), and has also written for publications including Food and Travel (UK), Fodor’s, The Guardian, Time Out and The Spruce Eats. Christie is International Coordinator for the UK’s Guild of Food Writers.

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