So, you got Heidelberg, Munich and Berlin on your list of tour stops when visiting Germany? You will have a guided tour at Eagles Nest, and you will visit Neuschwanstein? You are up for a Moselle or Rhine river cruise? Have beers at the Hofbräuhaus? With that programme, why make time and take a tour-stop in Mainz, this lesser-known mid-sized city nestled in a bend of the River Rhine?
Here are 5 good reasons for you to spend a day or two in the city we love:
1. Mainz is located close to everything – a perfect spot to start or end your Tour de Germany!
You land or depart from Frankfurt Airport? The city of Mainz is almost closer than Frankfurt proper. It takes 20 to 30 minutes by train or taxi to reach Mainz center, so, given its reasonable size, Mainz is not only perfectly suited to start or end your Germany experience, but lends itself also nicely to spend time during long layovers.
Anything is close from Mainz: Heading west travellers will reach the entrance to the romantic Rhine River valley… and northbound, up the scenic route along the Rhine, access to the beauties of Moselle is just 90 minutes away. Or follow the Rhine southwards, and you will soon hit the outer ranges of the Schwarzwald on one side and the rolling hills of the Palatinate and its vineyards to the other. Eastbound travellers can follow the River Main cutting right through Frankfurt and on towards Franconia and northern Bavaria.
Whether Mainz marks the start, the end or a stop on your tour of Germany, count at least full day to enjoy its historic sites.
2. A city of religion and war
Founded as a garrison 2000 years ago, Mainz has for its longest time been a city involved in wars and religion. Mainz was ruled by the church as much as by worldly leaders and neither did hesitate to use brute force when deemed necessary to enforce its interests. Given its tremendous strategic position and its riches the Main got involved in countless conflicts over the past centuries. While those times are luckily over, the citadel of Mainz, the cathedral and many churches, as well as a colourful hodge-podge of historic and new buildings bear reminders of Mainz’s turbulent history – many of them very well worth a visit.
The 1,000+ years old St Martins Cathedral and the Church St Stefan for instance are must-visits (later one also for its unique Chagall designed windows) – both played major roles in protecting parts of the city in times of war and crisis. Check with your Mainz tour guide how much of the gorgeous old town owes its survival to the cathedral…
Today’s Mainz is a quaint, safe and peaceful city with powerful reminders of its illustrious history.
3. No Mainz. No Printing. No Books.
Imagine the world without internet. Now imagine the world without books and newspapers… Print mass media has its roots in Mainz! Some people go as far as saying the invention of book printing by Johannes von Gutenberg in 1450 set the foundation for the modern times humanity. Whether one agrees or disagrees, the exhibits and information at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz make very strong points. Amongst the thousands of invaluable exhibits visitors will also find some of the world’s oldest books and bibles, many of those beautifully hand-written and -ornate over a thousand years ago.
4 Mainz parties. Anytime. Even in the worst season of the year.
The original Mainzer will not let go of any chance to get together for a party. It’s probably the DNA of a city that celebrates carnival annually since more than half a millennium - loud, raucous, sometimes political, sometimes just silly – in the last months of winter! With the tone set at the carnival processions in usually miserable February, the rest of the year continues with open air parties, such as the Johannisfest, the Mainzer Weinmarkt, the Christmas market and the many festivities in between. All of them graciously fuelled by copious amounts of great local wines. Which brings us to the last point:
5. Mainz loves Wine!
Mainz is a must-stop for any wine-lover on tour! Wine culture reaches back over 2000 years and is closely intertwined with the city’s rise in the middle ages. While the economic importance of wine has scaled back over the last century (though there still are 20 winemakers active within the city boundaries!) wine makes a huge part of the culture of Mainz, aka Great Wine Capital of Germany.
There are few weekends only without a Weinfest, a public tasting, a wine fair, or outings into the surrounding vineyards. If you happen to be in Mainz on a Saturday – do visit the farmers market: the area called Marktfrühstück (‘market breakfast’) is where you can taste local specialties and wines.
And if you like to see vineyards, take a day tour into Rheingau, Nahe, Rheinhessen, Mittelrhein or Pfalz and visit some wineries – you’ll be in for a great wine tasting experience.
If that’s not enough reasons to visit Mainz… we agree there are plenty of other great sights and cities to explore on your tour to Germany – you’ll be just missing our favourite one.
Full disclosure: the author is from Mainz and loves Mainz.