Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, is a German city situated near the mouth of the River Main (where the city derives its name). Founded by the Romans in the first century BC, it is one of Germany’s oldest cities. This is a place where history, culture and commerce combine harmoniously in a beautiful city.
Aside from a rich history spanning nearly 2000 years, Mainz has a long standing winegrowing tradition, along with carnivals, historic buildings and ruins, which gives the intrepid traveller plenty to see and do.
Mainz Best Time To Visit
The climate in Mainz is relatively mild at around the 32°C (90°F) in the spring/summer months. This makes Mainz a great place to visit if you’re into outdoor and sporting activities. The river trips really are something not to be missed, particularly in the warmer months.
So when it comes to the best time to visit Mainz, the late summer months of August to November are ideal. However, this is a city known for its festivals and events, such as the Mainz carnival in early February or the Christmas Market (a big occasion in Mainz) in late November. So, with that in mind, trips to this beautiful city should not be limited to the summer months.
How to get around
It’s fairly straightforward to find your way around Mainz. The city’s street signs are given different colours, making it easy to find your bearings; red is for streets with a right angle and blue for streets that follow along the river. Maps and information on Mains can be picked up from the tourist office on the city side of footbridge from the Rathaus.
The best way to travel around this city would be by foot, since most of the hot spots are fairly accessible. But on the occasions when you need to go further out, or want some quicker than a leisurely stroll, there is the bus. For around €35 you can get a bus ticket for 7 days travel, this can only be purchased at the MVG office.
Another way to take in the sights in Mainz is to rent a bike. This can be done at Jakob-Welder-Weg, one of the bike rental places, where you can choose one of the many second-hand bikes available. This costs about €10 per week along with a returnable deposit.
Take In The Mainz Cathedral (Dom)
For over 1,000 years the Mainz Cathedral has cut an impressive figure across the city skyline. Located central to old town, on the west bank of the Rhine, it is a popular tourist destination and for good reason. Surrounded by a relaxed market place, this huge and very splendid cathedral is nothing short of impressive.
Mainz Cathedral represents a peak point of Germany’s Romanesque cathedral architecture. Although it dates back as far as 975 AD, a lot of what is seen today was rebuilt around the 11th and 13th century. This is evident in the combination of architectural styles which are both Romanesque and Baroque. An impactful building, it survived a bombing in the Second World War, despite it destroying 80% of Mainz.
Within the red sandstone building, the interior is just as appealing as the exterior. The pillars along aisles are adorned with painted sculptures of French and German saints, with elaborately painted high ceilings.
The skill and the artistry continues throughout the building, from the large stained glass windows to the masterful sculptures on the tombs, most of these spanning centuries. The official Dom guide states that “no other German cathedral has such an extensive collection of epitaphs.”
There are certain works of art which are not dedicated to worship and so are kept in the museum. Inside this is a collection of religious art, among which is beautiful monumental monstrance of the procession of the Corpus Christi, chiselled in golden and silver.
There is so much to see in this cathedral that you really need to set aside at least a couple of hours to see everything. The opening hours are 9-6.30 Monday to Friday admission is €5 for adults and €3.50 for children.
In the heart of the market square, you’ll find a lively farmers market. This occurs every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday overlooked by the Mainz Cathedral. Wander through stalls filled with beautiful produce and seasonal vegetables labelled “Deutscher” indicating that they are home grown. There are also flowers, fruits, freshly baked bread and various other goodies on offer.
On warmer days, the Mainzer Winzer sets up a stand right by the cathedral. This is where local winemakers sell wine, beer and sekt. This is great news if the idea of sipping your favourite tipple while you do your shopping appeals to you.
If you feel like grabbing a bite to eat, there are some wonderful take-away vans dotted around the market. The trucks sell specialities like the Leberkasweck (meatloaf on a bun), Fisch Brotchen (herring with bread), and wurst sausages with a selection of spicy and sweet mustard. This can all be washed down with some beer or wine and if it’s too early for that, coffee and hot chocolate are also available in local cafes.
Northeast of the Mainz Cathedral is the Gutenberg Museum. Here the story of the city’s most famous son Johannes Gutenberb is revealed. In homage to the man that invented the printed press, the Guttenberg museum has become world renowned for specialising in the history of the printed word. You can discover how the mass printing of books and pamphlets effectively spread literacy worldwide, along with some of the worlds most prized possessions such as the printing of the bible. This is available as an audio tour which is particularly useful if you can’t speak German.
Sightseeing on the river Rhine River
There are few better ways to take in the legendary Rhine valley than a cruise. The one-day travel ticket (KD Rhine Pass) allows travellers to ride any of the KD ships for the day, as the cruise takes you between Mainz and Cologne.
At a leisurely pace, the river excursion allows you to really take in all the stunning views. All boats are climate controlled and there is an onboard cafe. Among some of the highlights are the enchanting castles and vineyard along with those dynamic city skylines. Best of all, you have the option to getting off the boat at whatever spot you want to explore further. Just don’t get so caught up in the spectacular sights that you miss your return boat back!
Mainz and shopping
From the historic old town of Alstadt, there are plenty of stores to check out. Stores here specialise in all types of goods, such as handicrafts, candles, chocolates and all manner of things that would make excellent gifts or souvenirs.
Just behind the Gutenberg museum is a large shopping centre called AM Brand that has a good selection of shops. This area tends to be good when looking for the bigger brand stores, such as H&M, Zara and other well known high street names.
Where To Eat And Drink In Mainz
If all that shopping has left you feeling a tad peckish, then head to the brew-pub Eisgrub-Brau located in the upper part of the city. The atmosphere is vibrant, young and bustling, attracting both locals and tourists. Here you can get Mainz specialities like the Spundekas, a cream cheese, onion and garlic dip, which comes with a glass of dark or light beer. This and other wholesome German dishes can be found here, most of the dishes costing no more than about €10.
Known as the “wine capital of Germany,” Mainz is the one place you can be assured to get a glass of something good. The Rieslings, for example, is a wine Mainz has particular expertise in. Take a stroll to a restaurant on the bank of the Rhine and experience some truly outstanding wine in one of the many taverns.
If you love a good parade, you’ll be glad to hear that Mainz is known as one of Germany’s best carnival cities. The Mainz carnival, also known as Fastnacht – Mainzer, is a time of colour, music, playfulness, satirical humour and plenty of laughter.
Known as the 5th season, Fastnacht festivals demonstrate why clothes, makeup and hair all come together to reflect the various seasons. It’s an occasion when shop windows, businesses and apartment are adorned with the Fastnacht flags and colours.
This carnival traditionally occurs between 11th November and peaks around Shrove Tuesday. During this time, on any given day of the week, there’s a chance to see parades of people dressed in Napoleonic era uniforms, or find a band marching through the Old City.
The Rose Monday parade is one of the highlights of Fastnacht. This can take up to five hours to pass through the streets, with sweets and other treats thrown into the crowds awaiting hands from floats.
Where To Stay In Mainz
Mainz is not an exceptionally expensive place to stay in, and there are some good deals to be found. The Ibis Budget Mainz Hechtsheim, for example, comes in at around €40 per night and is very convenient at just 10 minutes walk to the city centre. If you want some added luxury, there is the Hyatt Regency Mainz. This is a city centre based hotel that sports a pool, spa and spacious rooms, all priced at around €153 per night.
Mainz Final Thoughts
While Mainz is not as well known as its more famous neighbours, namely Cologne, Stuttgart and Frankfurt, this is a destination that has a lot to offer any traveller. This is a city of exuberance, cuisine, culture, while still offering those quiet walks and lovely sights that make a holiday worthwhile. This is certainly a city that dares you explore deeper and delivers on its promise of being a fascinating experience.