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Tips For Exploring Frankfurt Airport On A Layover

by on January 24, 2014 · 26 comments

in TPG Contributors

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Earlier this week, TPG Contributor Jason Steele walked us through Tips for Booking Lufthansa First Class Award Tickets and Tips for Flying With Kids in First Class. Today he shares his tips on what to do during a layover in Frankfurt, Lufthansa’s main hub and a major transfer point in Europe, especially for Star Alliance flyers. Here are his tips on things to do in the airport and during a quick trip into the nearby city.

Frankfurt's airport is a major transit hub.

Frankfurt’s airport is a major transit hub.

Frankfurt is an important business city, but it is not an especially popular tourist destination. But what few travelers may realize is that the Frankfurt airport is actually one piece of an enormous complex that includes malls, hotels, offices, train stations, and even supermarkets. In fact, there is so much to see and do in the Frankfurt airport, that travelers might consider purposely extending their layovers to explore it.

The Airport

In 2012, the Frankfurt airport saw over 57 million passengers, making it the 11th busiest in the world. To put this in perspective, it handled slightly more than Denver, but not quite as many as Dallas-Fort Worth. Yet the Frankfurt Airport couldn’t be more different than these vast American airfields built far from the cities they serve.

The Frankfurt Airport has two main terminals that are connected airside (within security). Terminal 1 is used by Lufthansa, its Star Alliance partners, and several unaffiliated carriers.. Terminal 2 is used by primarily Oneworld and SkyTeam carriers as well as the German carrier TUIfly. The terminals are also connected by a SkyLine people mover system that is free of charge.

Available airport lounges include:

  • LUXX lounge. Which is part of the Priority Pass and Lounge Club networks. It is located outside of security in Terminal 1, between concourses B and C – gallery level, next to the Travel Market.
  • SKY lounge. Which is part of the Priority Pass and Lounge Club networks. It is located in Terminal 2, Concourse D, 3rd Floor Transit Area, opposite Gate D8.
  • Air Canada. Terminal 1, Transit area B, Level 1
  • Air France. Terminal 2, Level 2, after the security checkpoint, between gates D26 and D27
  • Cathay Pacific. Terminal 2, Level 3, after the security checkpoint, across from gate E7
  • Emirates. Terminal 2, Level 3, after the security checkpoint, between gates E5 and E6
  • Etihad. Terminal 2, level 3, opposite gate E9 (before the security checkpoint)
  • Iberia.  Terminal 2, across from gates D26 and D27
  • Japan Airlines. Terminal 2, Level 3, after the security checkpoint, near gate D4
  • Lufthansa Senator.  There are four Senator lounges throughout Terminal 1.
  • Lufthansa Business. There are six Lufthansa Business lounges in Terminal 1.
  • Lufthansa First Class. There are two Lufthansa First Class lounges in Terminal 1, as well as the Lufthansa First Class terminal that is outside of the main terminal.
  • Lufthansa Welcome Lounge. This is an arrivals lounge in Terminal 1, Hall B-East, right behind the luggage claim area at Arrivals.

Airport City Mall

While many American airports offer little more than ground transportation outside of the security area, the Frankfurt airport opens up into an enormous business, transportation, and shopping center.

Just below street level outside of Terminal 1, travelers will find themselves in the Airport City Mall which includes the services you might expect to find in an airport such as a car rental center, banks, restaurants, and newsstands. Yet I was surprised to discover many other businesses here including a hair salon, dry cleaners, upscale clothing and jewelry retailers, and even a grocery store! Personally, I enjoyed this Lego model of an A380.

a380

The Train Station

A pedestrian bridge connects Terminal 1 to a large train station where you can connect to the city’s commuter rail service or to one of Germany’s high speed ICE (Inter-City Express) trains. The S-Bahn commuter rail lines depart about every 15 minutes for a 15-minute ride to the Frankfurt Central Station.

The Sheraton is one of the hotels in the airport.

The Sheraton is one of the hotels in the airport.

Sheraton Hotel

Adjoining the train station and Terminal 1 is the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel and conference center. This is an SPG category 4 hotel requiring 10,000 points per night with over 1,000 rooms and suites. On a recent stay, I found it to be exceptionally quiet, clean, and convenient, the essential qualities of an airport hotel. The hotel is also adjacent to the Frankfurt Airport Centers 1 and 2 which are home to office space and conference facilities.

The lobby of the airport Sheraton.

The lobby of the airport Sheraton.

The Squaire

Proceed beyond the entrance to the train station, and you will find yourself in a remarkable complex called The Squaire (meaning Square + Air), which was built on top of the existing train station and opened in 2011. At six stories high and over seven American football fields in length, this futuristic looking structure is actually the largest office building in Germany. For travelers, this building is more than just an office building; it contains stores, restaurants, hotels, and yet another grocery store.

The exterior of the Squaire complex at the airport.

The exterior of the futuristic Squaire complex at the airport.

Looking for some authentic German food rather than eat the fast food found in the terminal, I was given a recommendation to visit the Paulaner Restaurant which specializes in Bavarian cuisine. I can’t comment on its authenticity, but I enjoyed a dish called jagerschnitzel, which is breaded pork escalope, served with mushrooms in cream, buttered Swabian noodles and small salad for 13.50 EUR. Many of the other restaurants in the Squaire seemed offer a more traditional dining experience and a decidedly more relaxed atmosphere than what is offered in the terminals.

The Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn are part of the Squaire.

The Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn are part of the Squaire.

In addition, there are two hotels in the Squaire, a Hilton and a Hilton Garden Inn. The Hilton Frankfurt Airport is a HHonors category 8 hotel (40,000 to 80,000 points per night) that features a 24 hour fitness center and  a business center.

The Hilton Garden Inn is a category 6 hotel (30,000 – 50,000 points per night) that also offers a fitness room and several other business services.

Activities in the Airport

If you have a few hours and are tired of waiting in a lounge (or don’t have lounge access), I would strongly recommend exploring the entire airport complex. Go shopping, treat yourself to a nice meal, or just peruse some unique treats that are to be found in a foreign grocery store. Everything I have described is reachable from the terminals by indoor pedestrian passageways.

Get a breath of fresh air and check out the jumbo jets on the Visitors Terrace.

Get a breath of fresh air and check out the jumbo jets on the Visitors Terrace.

Another option is to take an airport tour. Frankfurt is the only international airport that I am aware of that offers travelers daily tours of the facility, including field operations where you can gaze at all of the jumbo jets. There are several tours available including a 45-minute “mini-tour“, a 90-minute “maxi-tour,” a 120-minute night/sunset tour, and even a 105-minute fire department tour. Prices start at 8 Euro for adults on the mini-tour, reduced prices are available for children and families, and children under six are free. There is also an observation deck available as well. Tickets and information are available at a kiosk in the Airport City Mall, and this brochure has all the details.

As amazing as it is, travelers who want to get out of the airport can easily take the train to the center of Frankfurt. I recommend visiting Fressgrass district, which is a pedestrian area between Opernplatz and Börsenstraße which is officially called ‘Große Bockenheimer Straße’. Fressgrass translates roughly to “Eat Street” and is a great place to indulge in German cuisine. And of course, tourists flock to the medieval-style Romer town square. Although rebuilt after its destruction during the Second World War, it is a picturesque representation of what once was. If weather permits, visitors can take a stroll along the Rhine river on the popular pedestrian path.

Frankfurt's beautifully reconstructed main square with the famous Romer buildings.

Frankfurt’s beautifully reconstructed main square with the famous Romer buildings.

Finally, travelers can rent a car and exploring the surrounding region. When doing so, an incredibly fun and affordable option is renting a Porsche for an afternoon, an experience I will explore in the final article in this series. For more details on Frankfurt itself and sights in surrounding towns like Mainz and Ruedesheim, stay tuned for a future Destination of the Week on the city.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • http://theholidaybakerman.blogspot.com/ncr Holiday Baker Man

    some of the best duty free shopping around… one of the only places left in the world where the prices are truly duty free

  • RakSiam

    Mainz is also nearby and just a short train ride away. The city is very walkable and has some great sights including the Gutenberg Museum which I loved and several beautiful old churches.

  • Roy H

    when will you have the last [porsche] article posted? I have a hefty layover in FRA on feb 6th and was thinking of taking advantage of that and the 1st class terminal. Great info so far!! Excited for LH F on the 748.

  • ZeTsherman

    Great post – I’m from the area and fly into Frankfurt a couple of times a year and my dad usually forgets to pick me up in time. Now I have a couple of things on my to-do list to help spend the time! A few minor points though, if only to confirm the stereotype of the anal German: If you use the German alphabet with its umlauts and ß like in “Börsenstraße” please use it consistently: “Jägerschnitzel”, “Römer”, “Rüdesheim”, and “Freßgass”. Also, note that it’s “Freßgass” not “Fressgrass” and Frankfurt is on the Main river, not the Rhine river (hence Frankfurt a.M., as opposed to Frankfurt (Oder), which is on the border to Poland).

  • Ven

    Great Article. I have a 10 hour layover in Frankfurt coming up and needed some ideas!

  • PatMcPSU

    We should probably mention that Frankfurt has the most confusing layout ever. Domestic passengers get screened immediately after ticketing but
    those departing internationally don’t get screened until boarding. The
    two groups (screened and unscreened) share the same terminals, but are
    segregated by their own intertwining labyrinths, which creates
    frustrating situations where you can see food courts but can’t access
    them because they belong to “the others”. Also, if you accidentally go to the wrong baggage claim, you get stuck there because the doors lock behind you as you enter it (reason unknown).

  • FRA

    We had an awful experience in FRA. We were in transit and both the flights were parked offsite and we had to literally take a bus crammed and slammed with people. Was pretty difficult to navigate since we had a baby with us. Also, once we entered the secure zone, we couldn’t find a medical shop. Attendants mentioned they were outside but not in the secure zone. So, for someone transiting in FRA, this is not a good option. So, my advice..if you are transiting in FRA, ensure you have everything you need.

  • JMSL

    I’ve got a 12-hour layover in FRA coming up this summer. Thanks for this post! Definitely interested in learning more about the Porsche rental idea…

  • Dale M

    Last summer we had a 10 hr layover in FRA. Took the train downtown and took a river cruise. Nice way to see the river Main. We then took a walking tour based on a quick bit of online research. There are a couple of highly rated walking tours, but we found out too late to book . . . next time. Finished out the day in the first class terminal. It is simply amazing (do look up reviews).

  • Lauren

    I have a 6.5 hour layover coming up April. Is that enough time to head to the city? Or should we just hang out in the airport? What is the best lounge for us to use? I have a Lounge Club card and we are flying LH business class.

  • Jeff

    This is great! I passed FRA once or twice but will look to try some of these if the routing permits.

    I do have a question though. I have a connection from BKK-CDG on TG and then have 45 mins to catch a flight CDG-FRA on LH and then have 1 hr to catch another from FRA-DFW. Do you think I will make it both at CDG and FRA? I am very nervous here.

  • Kyle Duren

    Awesome article, I have a work trip to Frankfurt in a week, def have time for a airport tour!

  • Jason Steele

    You could spend a couple hours in the city, but I would just take an airport tour rather than stress out about finding trains and missing a flight.

  • Jason Steele

    It depends on what passport you have. With a US passport, it was no problem leaving the secure zone. In fact, we arrived via another EU country and it was like arriving on a domestic flight in the US, no passport control at all.

  • Jason Steele

    Good to know!

  • Jason Steele

    Thanks for the pointers. I don’t speak German, so I was copying the spelling that I saw somewhere..

  • Jason Steele

    It should be up in the next few days, in time for your trip.

  • Jason Steele

    Thanks!, I wish I had known that beforehand, you will see why when you read the Porsche article soon!

  • http://first2board.com/thedealmommy Dia (The Deal Mommy)

    Jason,
    This is great info..pinning now! I would also add Weisbaden as an easy possible outing from FRA airport. Take the train in the opposite direction from Frankfurt city about 15 minutes. Lovely town, especially if the weather is nice, and a great old fashioned European Casino. Side note: I won a sweepstakes years ago that included a stay at the Sheraton FRA. We stayed there over Easter and they gave guests an Easter basket with pastries, hard boiled colored eggs and a chocolate bunny!

  • Joe S

    I looked at alcohol, maybe it was because of the Euro, but nothing was cheaper than in the US.

  • JustSaying

    I have a five hour layover in June returning to SFO…….I go into FRA on LH in Business Class and leave FRA on UA FC……..my understanding is that I will not have access to the LH FC Terminal but I will have access to the Senator FC lounge? Is that right? Thanks for the writeup as I am now torn between the Porsche rental and the airport tour………..

  • ABC

    Access to Hauptbahnhof is really straight forward.20min by train and you’re there. Done it many times. 6h is plenty. Frankfurt is a fairly small city, so easy access to everything, even the red light district!

  • Joseph Alberts

    just an FYI for anyone reading–only the extended, 105-minute airport tour is available in languages other than german

  • Jake J.

    The LH business class lounge in Terminal 1 is awesome. I’m sitting in it right now. It’s the one near the “Z” gates. (As listed above, there are a bunch of LH lounges) It says business and senator on the entrance. Really nice showers, refreshments, etc. FAR better than an Admirals Club. Don’t worry about using the lounge card.

  • mason066

    I am taking a missions group next month and they are all mid 20′s in age. I am a bit worried about getting lost and a language barrier if we decided to go out to eat, outside of the airport. Anyone have any thoughts or insight into this? Thanks

  • Rohit

    I will be travelling from India to Canada for study purposes with a 19 hrs long layover at Frankfurt airport. Connecting flights will be arriving at and leaving from the same terminal i.e Terminal 1. I do not have schengen visa and can only stay in international transit area. Can anybody please tell me if it is feasible to stay at Frankfurt airport for such a long time.

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