Whether you’re galavanting across Europe for fun or for work, Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) is an excellent major hub. And if you’re looking to maximize your 4-7 hour layover here, you’ve found the right place.
As an airline pilot, I frequently find myself either laying over in Frankfurt or connecting onwards to another international destination. Luckily, I find myself enjoying each layover more than the last. It’s as if there’s always something new to discover.
Frankfurt International Airport itself is massive and features plenty of lounges, restaurants, and shopping options. So if you’re looking to stay in the airport, you’re in luck.
But if you’re looking to go outside and get some fresh air, you’ll find great options for any length of layover. FRA is very well connected with many local towns (not just limited to Frankfurt am Main), and features such walking paths to the surrounding forested area straight out the airport.
In This Guide:
- Best things to do inside Frankfurt International Airport (FRA)
- Awesome places you can visit outside Frankfurt (FRA) on a short layover
- How long it takes to get from FRA airport to downtown Frankfurt (hint: it’s one minute)
- Need a nap? Here are Frankfurt FRA day rooms you can book
- A beautiful walking distance park for fresh air on a short FRA layover
- Just how long it takes to get through security at FRA Airport
How to keep yourself entertained on a short layover inside Frankfurt International Airport (FRA for 3-7 hours)
Frankfurt International Airport is, well, huge. There’s a lot to do inside the airport, including what can only be described as a mini shopping mall. Bring your grocery list.
There are numerous lounges, including 4 accessible for free if you are a Priority Pass member. Last time I passed through, I was extremely thankful for the showers at the Priority Lounge in Terminal 2. I needed it.
You’ll be happy to find a rooftop sky deck, lots of art, and even a museum!
Lounge Access at Frankfurt Airport
After a long flight, it makes a lot of sense to head to a lounge. Decent food, refreshments, and showers will absolve many of your cravings. And having a place to relax is good for your health, of course.
There are number of free lounges included with a priority pass membership. These include:
- LuxxLounge (T1)
- Air France Lounge (T2)
- Priority Lounge (T2)
- PrimeClass Lounge (T2)
You can also pay (usually around 45€) to enter all of these except the Air France lounge.
Though I had to pay extra to shower, I found the Priority Lounge my favorite in T2. (I did not have access to the Air France Lounge as it is for Schengen flights only.)
There are many other lounges for those flying first or business class, mainly Lufthansa lounges. Other business class lounges include:
- Air Canada
- Air France/KLM
- Japan Airlines
- Lufthansa (7 lounges)
- Plaza Premier (can pay 36€ to enter or use your AmEx Platinum)
Though there is a little bit of shopping to be done inside security, you’ll find the better and more expansive shopping can be done outside security.
Much of it is on the lower level near parking garages and transportation options. This is called the Airport Reisemarkt. I find FRA quite confusing, even as an airline pilot, so you may need to ask for directions.
You’ll find a bunch of restaurants, grocery stores, and a few boutique stores. Overall, it’s a decent place to pass time without exiting the airport.
As a massive hub, FRA is naturally a huge airport and perfect for getting those steps in.
My favorite aspect of walking around FRA is witnessing the magic of jumbo 747s and A380s taking off and landing at any moment.
There are also:
- Quiet rooms to relax
- All sorts of prayer rooms
- Public showers (for 6€)
- Free WiFi
Outside of security, you can actually walk rather easily between Terminals 2 and 3 – inside or out. There is a tunnel filled with restaurants and stores that connects the two.
Get some fresh air and a tan at the rooftop deck
If you’re lucky enough to be leaving out of Terminal 1, follow signs to an epic rooftop deck (named the Visitor’s Terrace) for expansive views over FRA airport and some (probably) much needed fresh air.
Best part, it’s free! Great views included.
Keep your mind active
Want to keep busy on your layover at FRA? Check out the Flight Simulator at the AiRail checkin area next to the Fraport AG counter. It’s a full size Boeing 737 cockpit.
Visit “The Evolution of Flight” Exhibit on level 4 (near the SkyLine station) of Terminal 2 with gigantic rotating models of pterosaurs, and learn about how flying today is similar to the flight of dinosaurs in the distant past.
What to do outside Frankfurt International Airport on a short layover (connection <5 hours)
Last time I was connecting at FRA, I only had about a 4 hour layover. Though I contemplating kicking it in and just staying in a Priority Pass lounge for free, the nice weather was calling my name. After a long transatlantic flight, it feels phenomenal to get outside.
Luckily, I didn’t have any checked baggage. But even if I did, getting through customs was super efficient (thanks Germany!) and I’m sure I wouldn’t have waited long for my bags.
In my experience, security at FRA takes a long time (outbound). They are meticulous - especially when it comes to liquids and the sort. Plan extra time to go through security - 3 hours or more.
I looked for a nearby park to get some fresh air and sunlight. I needed somewhere close enough I could walk to, but with some sort of transportation available back in case I needed to get back in a pinch.
Much to my chagrin, I quickly found one: Gateway Gardens. And even better, it was relatively easy to get there.
An awesome place to relax outside JUST outside FRA Airport
As close at Gateway Gardens is to Frankfurt International Airport, it’s such an epic place to relax. Wide park benches, large green yards, and cool shade from tall pine trees make the air smell so tangibly fresh.
There is a small cafe with coffees and snacks across the street, but they only take Euros. However, the park is surrounded by hotels, most of which have some sort of onsite restaurant if you’re hungry.
And in any case, the lower level of FRA airport is most basically described as a very long mall with takeaway food, dine in restaurants, grocery stores, and even pharmacies. You could grab something on the way out or back in.
How to walk to Gateway Gardens from FRA
I let Google Maps take me to this haven of a park, and it was super easy from Terminal 2. And if you’re lucky enough to be connecting from Terminal 3, it’s an easy 10 minute walk (or short bus ride) from Terminal 3 to 2.
Taking public transportation to Gateway Gardens
Another option is to catch a hotel shuttle to the Hampton Inn located right next to Gateway Gardens. There is a shuttle that runs to/from the Hampton Inn, though there is a nominal charge each way.
It is also possible to take the train here for about 2€ each way.
Catching a nap at a day room at FRA
You may also find yourself just plane exhausted, especially after a long overnight flight.
So why not treat yourself to a nice nap in a cozy bed in a comfortable hotel room? Plus a nice shower to top it all off.
Many hotels around FRA airport offer day rooms starting as low as 50€, such as:
You can find those special rates on dayuse.com.
What to do outside Frankfurt International Airport on a longer layover (connection 5-7+ hours)
German engineering and ingenuity mean that Frankfurt International Airport, as the massive hub it deserves to be, is extremely well connected to its surrounding cities and towns.
In fact, it’ll take you ONE whole minute to get to downtown Frankfurt. One! Hopefully that gives you a bit of confidence to head out and make use of your layover in this impressively cute region of Germany.
But if the big city isn’t your idea of fun, you’ll be relieved to know there are a few extremely cute smaller towns laying just around the corner.
Normally in my layover guides (such as Athens, Greece (ATH) and Atlanta Airport (ATL), I also suggest renting a car. For a layover in Frankfur, it’s not necessary.
Taking a one minute (!) train ride to downtown Frankfurt
Frankly (pun intended), downtown Frankfurt is nice – but it’s not the cutest place to visit. However, for those into shopping, there’s an incredible array of high end fashion and boutique stores to devour.
There’s a lovely river walk lined with bars, restaurants, riverbank relaxation parks, museums, and bike paths.
You can also find a decently cute Old Town Frankfurt (Römerberg) with old, colorful buildings and restaurants offering huge patios and excellent German beer.
Some of my favorite restaurants and cafes in downtown Frankfurt include:
- We Love Cupcakes, obviously for the cupcakes (and also excellent companion coffee)
- Azalye Cafe, for its delicious and healthy food
- Freigut Frankfurt | Summer Lounge for its riverfront location and awesome cocktails, totally chill vibes
- Seven Swans for high end vegan delights
- Nihonryori KEN 日本料理 謙 Japanisches Kaiseki-Restaurant for ridiculously good sushi
There are also interesting museums, like that of World Cultures, the Goethe Haus, and the Frankfurt Archaeological Museum.
Rent a car and explore the German countryside
There’s no better way to enjoy the local scenery – hills, medieval villages, riverfront towns – than by renting a car and getting out there.
I find Hertz is the quickest option – particularly as a Gold member; you can walk right out and pick up your car without waiting in line!
Exploring the much cuter towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden
Just up the river in the opposite direction of downtown Frankfurt are two more local and authentic towns of Mainz and Wiesbaden.
Both of these towns are a little more charming, quaint, and welcoming than downtown Frankfurt. The shopping, however, isn’t as expansive.
Mainz is especially known for its old town (altstadt), with half-timbered houses and intricate medieval market squares. Marktbrunnen, in the center, offers a gorgeous red Renaissance fountain.
Nearby, a distinctive deep red sandstone octagonal tower tops the Romanesque Mainz Cathedral. And for those seeking a bit of history, the Gutenberg Museum honors the inventor of the printing press, and even houses 2 of his original bibles.
In Wiesbaden, there’s a pretty cool mountain cable car (Nerobergbahn), but you’ll need a little extra time as Wiesbaden is farther from FRA and the cable car could have lines. Otherwise, the town has cathedrals, palaces, abbeys, and even an amusement park to visit.
How long do I need to get through security at Frankfurt International (FRA)?
Consider reading: 10 Ultimate Tricks Airline Pilots Use to Pass Customs – FAST
A very important aspect to mention is making sure that, if you are exiting the secure area, you should make sure to have extra time to head through security.
As you may have heard in the news, Europe is still facing staffing shortages due to Covid-19. Germany is particularly hard hit, and since Frankfurt is the busiest airport in the country, you should plan to arrive:
- 3 hours early if you are checking in a bag or unable to obtain a digital boarding pass
- 2-2.5 hours early if you can check in online and obtain a boarding pass, don’t need to check in any bags, and head straight through security
- 1.5-2 hours early for Schengen flights assuming you’re checked in online and don’t need to check in any bags or obtain a boarding pass
Generally, passport control is quick – especially for those with EU passports. However, enhanced digital screening is quickly growing and allowing more nationalities to skip the long lines. This means even American passport holders can rejoice in sharing the “fast lane”, so to speak.
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