The city of Mainz has a rich and impressive history dating back over 2,000 years when it was first founded by the Roman General Drusus. The Roman soldiers built their fort known as Maguntiacum and as the area grew, Mainz was soon established as an important and busy trading center. This ancient trading center is still carried on today. The Romans built many huge buildings and structures such as the Temple of Isis, the Magna Mater Temple and the colossal Drusus-Theatre, the ruins of which can be seen by train passengers as they approach the city from the south. This structure was in use for plays for over two centuries and was able to seat 10,000 people.
Map of Mainz
Around the mid-700s AD the archbishopric of Mainz was founded and its first archbishop was the English missionary Saint Boniface. The archbishopric was secularized in 1803 but not before it had acquired a great deal of power as well as land while under French control at that time.
The city has had its fair share of disasters in recent years as Mainz, being an important city, was bombed continually during World War Two until it was virtually destroyed. The city was rebuilt after the war, but in 1995 the city suffered severe flooding which caused a huge amount of damage and havoc not only in the city but throughout the whole of north western Europe.
Mainz is situated on the romantic River Rhine and is an ideal location for its lucrative trade center especially in wines. Mainz is the capital of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and is also a popular university city. The city center is known as Old Town and has been created with widespread squares with the half-timbered buildings and Baroque churches all restored back to their former glory giving it its ‘gemuetlich’ or charming character.
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Best time to go to Mainz
Mainz has a relatively comfortable climate during the summer and winter months. Summer temperatures rarely go beyond the 32°C (90°F) while the winter temperatures average around freezing.
With copious amounts of sunshine and the mild climate this makes Mainz an ideal destination for all manner of outdoor and many sporting activities especially for the younger crowd. River trip cruises are extremely popular throughout most months of the year.
A lot of visitors base the timing of their visit to coincide with one or more of the numerous festivals or events booked on to Mainz’s social calendar. This makes their trip a double experience of not only relaxation and enjoyment but also combining it with a cultural or social event.
The nearest major airport to Mainz is Frankfurt am Main Airport which is nearly 40 kms from Mainz city center. This airport serves international airlines as well as domestic flights from Frankfurt. An efficient bus service leaves the airport for Mainz every hour.
The other major airport is Frankfurt-Hahn Airport which is nearly 90 km from the city center. This is also an international airport and from the airport, there are direct bus services to the city center departing about every 90 minutes and will take just over an hour to reach Mainz city center.
There are several train stations in Mainz but the biggest one, Mainz Hauptbahnhof is the only station where the InterCity and InterCityExpress trains stop. This station is on the far western side of the city center. Also a fairly big station is the Mainz Romisches Theater which is in the southern part of the city, and is used for regional and commuter trains. This route is where you can spot the Drusus-Theatre ruins mentioned above.
Most tourists and visitors will arrive at Hauptbahnhof and from this station you will find that the majority of the long distance coaches use it as one of their main destination points along their routes. The station is also the hub for the local bus routes which includes the surrounding areas as well as Wiesbaden. At the bus ticket office you are able to purchase a variety of different ticket options to suit your visit.
As Mainz is situated on the River Rhine, the city has become a major tourist attraction as well as being both termination and departing points for many river cruises being offered by local companies. The majority of boats depart from either Koblenz or Cologne to Mainz or they depart from Mainz and cruise back to Cologne.
The city center itself is relatively small, making it very easy to get around on foot and there is very little chance of getting lost because of the many signposts dotted around the city and maps are also available from many points.
Major Attractions and Sights
There are various guided city tours on offer from the Touristik Centrale Mainz to specific sights of interest which will provide more in-depth explanations of each attraction. They will also arrange excursion trips by bus, train or boat, tickets for mardi gras parties and also provide a copy of the specially arranged Mainz annual program.
Although the city was virtually destroyed during the Second World War there are still some fine old buildings that miraculously survived in and around Mainz.
One of the finest Romanesque building sin the city is the 12th century cathedral which is famed for its beautiful sculpture. This sculpture was created by an unknown prolific artist from the middle ages and he is now known as the Master of Naumberg for his many artworks.
The Gutenberg Museum, well known throughout the world for its fantastic collection of both print and fine printing works was created by the great master, Johannes Gutenberg. In the 15th century he was the first European to print with hand-set type cast using molds and his presses soon made Mainz the focus for printing in Europe. The museum also has one of the last remaining copies of the original Bible printed during the mid-1400s. Visitors are able to have a ‘hands on’ experience by creating and printing their own ‘masterpiece’ of little messages using the exact same methods as Gutenberg. They can then keep these as souvenirs of their visit to the birthplace of Gutenberg’s printing works.
Other museums to visit are the Landsmuseum of Rheinland-Pfalz, easily recognized at the entrance by a statue of a golden stallion. Included in the exhibits are artifacts ranging from the middle ages to the 20th century, Dutch master paintings, and baroque to art nouveau artwork, as well as collections of fine porcelain.
For those interested in ships, then a visit to the Museum fur Antike Schiffahrt (Ancient Shipbuilding) is a must, where you can watch how restoration work was carried out on ancient vessels from various periods that have been discovered over the years.
With Mainz situated on the Rhine and having some of Germany’s most beautiful countryside surrounding the city and an excellent summer climate, it has become a popular point for cyclists and hikers to start their journey into the surrounding areas. In Mainz and Rhine-Hesse, there are lots of cycle tracks including the ‘Romans’ Route’ through Mainz which is 13 km long.
For children there are plenty of open spaces to let off steam or play in various adventure parks and water playgrounds. There are numerous parks and green spaces where you can play sport or perhaps have a barbecue. Another attraction is the Children’s Railway in the Volkspark. But, no matter where you decide to spend your time in the open air, you will not be disappointed as you will find relaxation and peace while breathing in the clean, clear air of Mainz.
For something more quiet, then perhaps a stroll along the banks of the Rhine, the Rose Garden or the City Park.
Beach lovers will love Mainz for its fine sandy beaches where you can stretch out on deck chairs, play beach volleyball and other water sports on offer. For refreshments you will find many sausage bars and beach bars along the beaches.
Shopping in Mainz
Mainz is a shoppers’ paradise and the main shopping area is situated right in the center of the town. This is a pedestrian zone and leads from the Rathau Bridge to the center.
The old Roman passages including about 300 square meters of the Temple of Isis ruins which were discovered while excavating the site, have now been incorporated into the large modern shopping center called Roemerpassage. This building further enhances the shopping and dining experience in this city.
Also in the old part of town, you will find literally hundreds of small, unique shops hidden amongst the alleyways, courtyards and the narrow streets of this medieval part of town. Here you will also discover a vast array of high quality art and craftworks, delicatessens, wine sellers and much, much more for sale at competitive prices.
Every Saturday, the Mainz Market takes place in the heart of the city next to the cathedral. Here you will find farmers selling their fresh local produce and stall holders selling various foods, fish, cheeses, spices, herbs and many other specialties.
Eating Out in Mainz
With so many festivals going on throughout the year it’s no wonder that the locals are very jovial and hospitable people. They love to eat, drink and be merry, and will make a visitor to Mainz feel very welcome and to get them to join in their evening of jollity and fun. From their traditional wine bars to the German taverns, pubs and casual restaurants you will find good wholesome and hearty meals on the menus and washed down with an excellent choice of regional wines and beer.
For a more intimate evening ,there are many elegant restaurants in the city such as the Brasserie in the Mainz Hilton Centre or perhaps a meal in the House of German Wines.
Otherwise for something culturally different, there are numerous informal eating places with a complete mix of ethnic food ranging from Turkish, Indonesian, Spanish, Serbo-Croatian-Slovenian, Greek, Thai, Chinese and Japanese sushi and of course, the ever popular Italian restaurants. No matter what your taste, you will find that Mainz has it all when it comes to food.
Nightlife in Mainz
As Mainz is a university city, it goes without saying that the nightlife in the city is vibrant and comes alive in the evenings with its many nightclubs, singing, dancing and drinking.
On a cultural side, the Staatstheater Mainz holds many performances of ballet, opera, drama and musicals as well performing many contemporary works. The theatre was completely modernized about ten years ago with the installation of the most modern technical equipment and comfortable seating. There is also a fine dining restaurant and many other amenities and public spaces.
Of Local Interest in Mainz
Mainz has an abundance of festivals and events held throughout the year, and in fact there are sometimes over forty festivals, etc. on in a given year and is actually a ‘never ending’ party!
In July, there is the midsummer festival known as ‘Johannisnacht’ in remembrance of Johannes Gutenberg. This is held during the largest fair on the Rhine and is the climax of the festival season in Mainz.
The annual Wine Market takes place in the Rosengarten and Volkspark during the last weekend in August and first weekend in September. Here a variety of white wines and rosé wines from the previous year are offered for sale along with some vintage reds.
Then, December is the time of the Mainz Christmas Fair. This traditional fair goes back to the time of the French Revolution and is a huge draw card for the thousands of visitors worldwide who descend on the city to take part in the celebrations of the brightly illuminated and magical scene which is set against the imposing medieval St Martin Cathedral in the market square. The various scents of gingerbread and spices all mingling together in the crisp winter night air make this a festive experience never to be forgotten. You will find river cruises are extremely full at this time of the year as many cruise boats stop off in Mainz for the visit to the Christmas Fair.