Mainz, Germany has a storied history that covers millennia and is probably most well-known as the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press. Tucked away in the southwest of Germany, close to wine country, Mainz is one of the oldest cities in Europe dating back to the 1st century A.D.Mainz has much to offer from superb food and drink, to is its 1,000-year-old Roman Catholic Cathedral. Discover one of Germany's oldest cities and the many things to do in Mainz that have kept people coming for thousands of years.
Shop at the Market
Mainz is an intellectual city with a visionary son and a historic university, but that doesn't make it stuffy. Join the residents of Mainz in the pedestrian-only part of town for a lively farmers' market in the center of the city. Market Square is largest square in town, surrounding the cathedral, and the market takes place every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. The market has been happening here since the cathedral was built in the 10th century.
Along with the throngs of market-goers, there is You can also go in for a closer look at the Marktbrunnen (Market Fountain), a fanciful Renaissance fountain donated by the Elector of Brandenburg in 1526. Also in the center of the square is the Heunensäule, a sandstone column that was carved for the reconstruction of the cathedral after it burnt down in 1009. The 42 columns were never used and only eight survive today.
Appreciate the Printed Word
A visit to Mainz is not complete with paying homage to Johannes Gutenberg, whose invention changed the world. The city's illustrious history in literature has ensured that it is still the home of several of Germany's oldest publishing houses.
The Gutenberg Museum honors Gutenberg and his miraculous invention. Opened in 1900 on the 500th anniversary of Johannes Gutenberg’s birth, it still welcomes thousands of visitors each year. Visitors enjoy a hands-on experience in traditional typesetting in the printing house, guide themselves via an English-language audio tour, and can shop at the well-curated gift shop. Among its star features are the earliest known example of woodblock printing and two of the 29 remaining copies of the Gutenberg bible, the first work that Gutenberg published.
Walk Through 1,000-Year-Old Doors
Construction on Mainzer Dom (Mainz's cathedral) began all the way back in 975. Its immense sandstone walls have been periodically destroyed, but also rebuilt to withstand more than a millennium of history.
The mostly Romanesque structure also has touches of gothic and baroque design and the cathedral has been the burial place of ruling Prince Archbishops for centuries. The cathedral museum contains important documents and objects that make up the story of the cathedral. Today, visitors can walk through its weighty bronze doors to a sight that is much the same as when they first opened.
Travel the Ancient Seas via Museum
Mainz's long history includes an archive of well-preserved Roman warships from the 4th century on display in the Museum of Ancient Seafaring. Discovered in the early 1980s during construction work by the Rhine, full-sized replicas of the impressive ships display in full regalia what they looked like 1,700 years ago. There are also illustrations and artifacts from as far back as the 200s AD.
Lounge Around the Fountain
Besides the Markt, there are a number of squares in which to relax and enjoy the scenery in Mainz. The elegantly tree-lined Schillerplatz has a history dating back to the Roman era and was also a marketplace in the Middle Ages. The many stately buildings surrounding it are baroque and rococo palaces that now hold government offices and a bronze statue dedicated to poet and playwright Friedrich Schiller also resides here. But the most eye-catching feature is the towering Mainzer Fastnachtsbrunnen, a fountain bedecked with 200 bronze figures and dedicated to the city's famed carnival celebrations.
Take a Riverside Stroll
The Rhine River is a defining element of the city's geography and the Ufer that runs alongside it is the ideal place to observe both water and land. The section by the Altstadt, Stresemann-Ufer, provides spectacular views of the cathedral and Baroque fortifications. Continuing toward the Neustadt (new city), the tree-lined path is dotted with biergartens and ice cream stands in warmer weather. On the water, innumerable boat tours trundle past, taking visitors along the Rhine into the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley filled with castles.
Find the City's Medieval Towers
Only a few remainders of Mainz’s defensive walls have lasted through to modern times. Luckily, the two towers known as Holzturm and Eisenturm (Wooden Tower and Iron Tower) are among the remnants. Built in the 1200s, the towers have lasted through numerous battles. Used as both gatehouses, watchtowers and prisons, the wooden tower once held the famous outlaw, Schinderhannes.
Dine on Wine and Cheese
Rheinhessen—where Mainz is located—is the largest of 13 German wine regions and produces top-quality white wine, particularly Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, and Silvaner. Wine shops abound and each restaurant has an impressive wine list to choose from.
To pair with your drinks, Mainz also has a platter of traditional delicacies like local favorite spundekas. Served as a creamy paste, the disk is made from cream cheese and quark with seasonings like pepper, salt, and sweet paprika, then topped with chopped onion. Different variations may include butter, egg yolk, sour cream, or creme fraiche, with garlic, caraway seeds, mustard or capers added in some versions.
Stop and Smell the Roses
The Mainz Botanical Garden is a refuge from city life. It is part of the University of Mainz and covers about 25 acres. Once a military training ground, it now blooms with more than 8,500 species of plants. Visitors may walk the tranquil grounds or examine more exotic plant species in the greenhouses.
Cologne firmly claims the title of top Carnival city in Germany, but Mainz also knows how to have a good time. The city celebrates Rhenish traditions before Lent begins with a week of festivities, including a celebratory Mainzer Rosenmontagszug (Shrove Monday parade). The parade is always televised with plenty of silly costumes and pointed political humor. Prepare for crowds as up to 500,000 spectators can line the streets for the parade.