Frankfurt am Main Airport is the 14th busiest airport in the world and a major transit location for 69 million passengers each year going to and from North America, the Middle East, Africa and parts of Asia. Many of our international expat friends travel through Frankfurt, and I recommend taking an extra day to spend some time in Germany to break up the journey. Frankfurt is also a train hub, and if time allows, I would also encourage dropping bags at the station, and heading into town. (It’s only two more stops.)
Keeping teens in mind, I put together a few options for things to do if you decide to extend your German layover by a few hours or even a day. We tend to have visitors pop in for a brief time so these are a few things we do or recommend to them.
Getting To and From the Airport
If you decide to make a long day of your layover, you can store luggage at the airport or at the main train station.
You have three main transportation options into town: Train, taxi or rideshare (Uber). Frankfurt recently brought Uber back (2018) so you now have the option between Uber and a cab. The taxi ride into town will take you about 20-30 minutes and cost approximately 25 Euros. Uber may cost a little more as it ramps back up.
The train may be something your teens want to experience as it’s very Euro, and it’s an easy 20-minute ride from the airport to the main Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (Hbf). A family up to five can purchase a group day ticket for around 16 Euros. You can do this directly from the kiosk at the airport station (English is available). That allows you to take all transportation during they day for all five of you. But you all must travel together.
Where should you ride? If your luggage has been stored, my recommendation is take the train into town, stop briefly to check out the Hauptbahnhof and then jump back on either the U-Bahn or S-Bahn to Hauptwache (they will both get you there). That will take you to the center of town.
A Day in Frankfurt
If you have a good part of a day or a full overnight, I would recommend a walking tour of the city. Frankfurt on Foot offers tours which start every day at 10:30 am and go until 2 pm. This full-length tour will give you all the basics of Frankfurt sights, local customs, history, food, and random tidbits you didn’t think you needed to know. I recently did this tour, and while a little longer than I needed it to be (since I live here), it would be very entertaining for teens and keeping people moving. Walking is good if you have been on a plane for 8 hours.
There is also a free Alternative Walking Tour. My husband and I took this tour without the kids. It does take you through the red-light district and talks to some of Frankfurt’s social issues like drugs and prostitution. So this is only recommended for older teens unless you feel you are ready to discuss these at lunchtime.
I am assuming your kids have watched a ton of movies already on the plane (as this is a layover) so I won’t talk much about the movie theater that offers original version films. If you need something to do that’s indoors, dark, and in front of more screens, Metropolis is the place to go.
I always thought of Frankfurt as dreary and cold, but I’m finding that the weather here—other than in winter—is actually pretty pleasant. Should you luck out with nice weather, a walk along the Main River (pronounced “Mine”) is a great way to soak in the local spirit and get your legs moving. Many weekends you’ll find flea markets (flohmarkt) or other fests and events taking place.
What to See
A walking tour may not fit your family’s style or time frame. Here are the top things I would recommend for families with tweens/teens.
1. Hauptwache. This is the main shopping area of Frankfurt with lots of shops and departments stores. Not exactly “German,” but depending on where you coming from it may be a welcome sight for teens to roam. There is a lovely view of the city from the top of the Galleria Kaufhof. For the most part, this area is very safe and teens could head off on their own. Keep in mind all shopping is closed on Sunday. Don’t forget to stop by the Bären-Treff Gummi store to pick up some sweets. If you’re looking for places to eat, you’ll need to wander down the streets from the main area to find restaurants.
2. The Römerplatz. When you think Germany, this plaza is probably what you had in mind. Since so much of Frankfurt was bombed during World War II, most of the square was rebuilt, but it’s still a lovely place to walk around and gives you all the German “feels.” There is one half-timbered house in the platz just as you’re heading out towards the river and that one is an original.
3. Kleinmarkthalle. Local markets like this one are a great way to get some local flavor and food. You family can browse the stalls filled with sweets, snacks, meats, produce, coffee, fish, etc. The longest line will be the sausage stand, called Schreiber, that sells either beef or pork sausages with a squirt of mustard and a brotchen (small bread). At the back of the market (or front depending on how you enter), is a Hessen Shop where you can pick up local souvenirs.
4. Stolpersteine. This is not necessarily a place to go see, but you will see these brass plates all around town. In approximately 1,200 German cities, including Frankfurt, 50,000 square Stolpersteine brass plates affixed to stone blocks have been placed in front of the former residences of people who were persecuted and murdered during the national socialistic (Nazi) period.
5. Eiserner Steg (Iron Bridge). Locking your love on a bridge seems to be a rapidly growing trend, and Frankfurt is no exception. This pedestrian bridge, reconstructed after the war, is filled with people snapping photos along the skyline, which we call “Mainhattan.”
6. Sachsenhausen. Once you cross over the bridge, keep heading south for a few blocks into the trendier part of Frankfurt that some call the “Brooklyn of Mainhatten.” There you will find galleries, small shops, bars, and some of the best places for local Frankfurt cuisine.
What & Where to Eat
Frankfurt prides itself on being an internationally diverse city, and for the most part, “they” would be correct. Spending 24 hours in Germany? Go ahead and eat the German food. Downtown Frankfurt has plenty of places to get a schnitzel, various types of wurst, all the pork you can imagine, and apfelstrudel.
Frankfurt is known for three local specialties, specific to this region: (all have been tried and approved for consumption!)
Apfelwein (Apple wine). While this only feels like a summer drink to me, you will see locals drinking this year round. It’s served in a tall Schoppen glasses with crisscross etched lines. It tastes a lot like a more drinkable apple cider vinegar. You pour it out of the traditional grey and blue bembel jug and can add sparkling water to it (my preference). Try it if you haven’t as it’s a local favorite. Teens 14 and up may drink beer and wine in the presence of a parent. (16 without a parent). So if they want to taste the Apfelwein, it’s OK by German laws.
Grüne Soße (Green sauce). Frankfurters love their green sauce. You’ll find it on menus around town and in various forms in the grocery store. It’s a mix of herbs and yogurt that’s put on top of eggs and potatoes. But I’ve seen it on top of a million other things too. The deal is they love it. Try it.
Handkäs mit Musik (Hand cheese with music). This sour milk cheese is topped with raw onions. It has a distinct and pungent smell and the joke is the music comes later…..after you eat it. Your teens will love that. Fart jokes are even funnier here. I have tried it. It like it, but it doesn’t really resemble cheese.
Now you know the food basics, where do you go?
Klosterhof: Since 1936, this traditional wood-paneled restaurant is located near the Carmelite monastery. A large menu with large portions of traditional German food will mean your travel teens will not be hungry.
Adolf Wagner: Located in Sachsenhausen, this popular restaurant, with history back to 1931 is a top contender for Apfelwein. Serving very traditional dishes, including Grüne Soße and Handkäs mit Musik, you’ll be able to get all your Frankfurt foods into one visit.
Zum Gemalten Haus: Which translates to “the painted house.” This is one of the oldest and most traditional cider houses in Frankfurt. . Also located in the Sachsenhausen neighborhood, this restaurant offers all the traditional Frankfurter and German specialties that will satisfy your family.
Zu den 12 Aposteln: If Sachsenhausen is not on your path, this restaurant, which is closer to Konstablerwache and Hauptwache, also serves up traditional German (and regional) favorites. They also have a Balkan menu which might be of interest to your family. Many Americans like the 12 Aposteln as it’s a kinda-sorta brewpub.
Various Fests: The Germans love to have a festival for just about anything–asparagus (spargel), wine, apfelwein, Christmas, Easter, museums, fall, spring, etc. If you have happen upon a fest during your layover, there is always a ton of food selection to keep your belly full.
Kleinmarkthalle: If you don’t have time for a full sit-down meal, the Kleinmarkthalle (mentioned above), has 156 stalls selling local favorites and treats to try. Aside from the many regional specialties available, such as Frankfurt’s famous “Green Sauce,” visitors will also find a superb assortment of international delicacies, imported from all over.