Riverboats depart frequently from Frankfurt for day-trip excursions and pleasure cruises on the Main and Rhine River in Germany.
Pleasure cruises on the Main and Rhine rivers are easy to enjoy from Frankfurt am Main. Primus and KD boats have several sightseeing cruises on the Main River – often with meals or after-work drinks – allowing passengers to enjoy views of the skyscrapers of Germany’s top banks and financial institutions. Longer day-trip cruises go to other destinations on the Main River and even on the Rhine. Buy tickets online for Primus or KD panorama one-hour cruises in Frankfurt.
Although it is possible to cruise to the Middle Rhine and the Loreley Valley from Frankfurt am Main, many visitors may find taking the train to Rüdesheim or other Rhine towns a better option. See By Train to Day Cruises on the Rhine River from Frankfurt for details.
River Boat Cruises from Frankfurt am Main
Frankfurt is a popular departure point for riverboat cruises – both for multiple-day cruises and shorter day excursions. Several cruise lines call at Frankfurt but the biggest operators of day-trip cruises are Primus Lines and KD. It is generally easiest to stick to the line with the most departures, as prices are very similar.
Cruises on the Main River from Frankfurt are possible year-round — even a few times in January and February. The main cruise season is from April to October when cruises depart daily. During winter, except for the Advent Christmas market period, cruises are very limited and mostly on weekends only.
Day-trip excursion boats depart mostly from the northern shores of the Main River near the Eiserner Steg (pedestrian bridge). It is a short walk from the Römer square at the heart of Frankfurt’s old town.
Day-trip pleasure cruises from Frankfurt may be divided into four basic groups:
- Short circular sightseeing or panorama cruises beginning and ending in Frankfurt lasting generally an hour or two. (Very frequent)
- Half or full-day cruises on the Main River mostly to destinations upriver from Frankfurt. (A few times per month)
- Full-day cruises from Frankfurt to destinations on the Rhine River. (Very limited — using the train is a better option)
- Event and theme cruises (reservations are usually essential).
Circular Sightseeing Panorama Pleasure Cruises from Frankfurt
The classic Frankfurt am Main circular sightseeing panorama cruise trips are 50 minutes upriver turning back near Gerbermühle or downriver turning at the Griesheim Schleuse (lock). Combining the upriver (Mainaufwärtz) and downriver (Mainabwärtz) cruises is hardly more expensive than a solo trip.
From April to October, these cruise boats depart daily at least seven times (more on Sundays). In March, boats depart on most weekends as well.
A similar hour-long cruise departs a few times per month late at night as Sky-Light Tours to show off the lights of Mainhatten (Main + Skyscrapers reminding of New York + a lot of wishful thinking!). Departure times range from 20:30 to 22:00 depending on the time of sunset.
Day-Trip River Cruise Excursions on the Main from Frankfurt
A few times per month, day-trip excursions are possible from Frankfurt am Main upriver to Seligenstadt and even all the way to Aschaffenburg.
Seligenstadt is closely associated with Charlemagne and the main sight here is the Romanesque basilica that dates partly back to 830. Aschaffenburg is much larger and more interesting. Top sights in Aschaffenburg include the largest Renaissance castle in Germany, the Pompejanum (a copy of a Roman villa from Pompeii), and a collegiate church.
Cruise times from Frankfurt are around 3h30 to Seligenstadt and five hours to Aschaffenburg (slightly faster coming back). Combination tickets are available to do one leg of the journey by train.
The ship usually returns from Seligenstadt and Aschaffenburg two hours after arriving. In between, the riverboat offers local circular sightseeing cruises on the Main.
Day-Trip Cruises to the Rhine from Frankfurt am Main
A few times per year, it is also possible to cruise from Frankfurt am Main to Rhine River destinations including Rüdesheim, the Loreley Valley, Mainz, Wiesbaden, and occasionally Heidelberg on the Neckar River. Often, for these excursions, a bus is used one way.
The most frequent cruise is from Frankfurt down the Main River to Mainz and then on the Rhine River to Wiesbaden and Rüdesheim, returning a few hours later to Frankfurt. It is usually possible to change to another boat in Rüdesheim to cruise down the Loreley Valley and return by train from St Goarhausen.
Cruising times from Frankfurt am Main is around 3h to Mainz, 3h30 to Wiesbaden-Biebrich, and 5h to Rüdesheim. The upriver returns are slightly slower.
On the whole, most travelers may find it better value (both time and money-wise) to take the train from Frankfurt to Rüdesheim and cruise on the more interesting part of the Rhein from Rüdesheim rather than take the boat down the Main.
Special Event and Theme Cruises from Frankfurt
In addition to the regular circular sightseeing and scheduled cruises, many special events and theme cruises also depart from Frankfurt. Reservations are usually required.
Special event cruises are available year-round including New Year’s Eve cruises, cruises to see firework displays, theater, and music performances. Meal cruises often celebrate the start of a new harvest season.
After Work Shipping cruises depart a few times per week with drinks and a disco. Similar cruises are occasionally also available for departures from Mainz and Wiesbaden-Biebrich.
Tickets & Deals on River Cruises from Frankfurt am Main
Primus Lines sells only return tickets – this means that the price is usually the same whether returning by boat or by train to Frankfurt (but around €4 more expensive from Aschaffenburg or St Goarhausen, where an additional ticket must be bought at the station). Indicate at the time of purchase whether the return will be by boat or train.
Ticket prices for Primus Lines and KD in Frankfurt often differ only by a few cents making it hardly worth waiting for a later boat if cruising spontaneously.
Combinations tickets (RMV Kombitickets) allow one leg of the journey by train, which is faster and allows travelers to stay longer at a destination than the boat does. If the RMV Kombiticket is bought in advance from Primus Lines, passengers can take the train to the destination, cruise back to Frankfurt, and continue to use public transportation from the Main to home. Alternatively, buy the combination ticket with the boat ticket to return after the cruise by train.
Reservations for regular circular and scheduled cruises on the Main and Rhine are usually not necessary but it is easy to buy tickets online for Primus and KD panorama cruises. Special event cruises usually require reservations, although available tickets are sold until the boat departs.
Children under 6 years (4 for KD) cruise free (maximum three children per paying adult) and children 6 to 14 pay half price.
Dogs and bicycles are mostly transported for free. Primus does not have a free-cruise-on-birthday policy – for such savings try KD lines. KD also has a more generous discount policy for seniors – starting at 60 years rather than 63 as on Primus – and for students up to 27 years old.
More on the Rhine River in Germany
Day-Trip Excursions and Pleasure Cruises on the Rhine River:
- Middle Rhine (Loreley Valley) — UNESCO World Cultural Heritage-listed Area and the best part of the Rhine River for short and all-day boat cruises:
- Lower Rhine — Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn to Linz
- Special events: Cruises to Rhine in Flames Fireworks, Christmas and New Year’s Cruises in Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, and Rüdesheim
- Moselle River Cruises (Cochem, Bernkastel-Kues, Trier, Koblenz, Burg Eltz)
- Cruises on the Main River in Frankfurt (or better By Train from Frankfurt to the Best Rhine Cruises)
- Cruises from Worms, Mannheim, Heidelberg (on the Neckar River)
- Cruises from Speyer
- Rhinefalls (Rhine Waterfalls, Schaffhausen, Stein am Rhein, Kreuzlingen) in Switzerland
Tips and Savings on Day-Trip Rhine Cruises