Mainz: Enjoy culture, commerce and cuisine
Stars and Stripes March 30, 2012
Mainz has the three Cs needed to make a trip there fully worth your while: culture, commerce and cuisine.
The city in southwest Germany, on the banks of the Rhine River, is one of Germany’s oldest, founded by the Romans in the first century B.C.
After the fall of the empire, most things Roman disappeared, and the ruins and artifacts from the era that can be seen today were discovered during construction in the city.
Although Mainz is a sprawling city, plenty of the Cs can be found right in the old town center.
At its heart is St. Martin’s Cathedral, known simply to local residents as the Dom. Construction on it started in 975, but it burned down the day it was to open in 1009. Reconstruction started immediately and the cathedral has remained the town’s centerpiece for more than a millennium.
The cathedral museum, housed in the Gothic cloister, is worth a visit with its collection of Christian art.
Northeast of the Dom, across Liebfrauenplatz, is a museum dedicated to the city’s most famous son, Henne Gensfleisch zur Laden, better known as Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the moveable type printing press.
The museum features a replica of his press, old books, the history of printing and, of course, his masterpiece, the Gutenberg Bible.
Commerce starts at the foot of the cathedral with small shops, many selling religious souvenirs and books, lining the church’s walls.
Behind the museum is Am Brand, a large shopping center with good shops, but otherwise a rather modern eyesore.
The city’s premiere pedestrian shopping street is just south of the Dom, the shop-lined Augustinerstrasse with Leichhof and Kirchgarten squares. Books, jewelry, art, fashion, wine and leather goods are among the many things that can be found here.
West of the cathedral, from the market square to Schillerplatz, there are plenty of places to spend money or just window shop. You will also pass the state theater and a large statue of Gutenberg on the square that bears his name.
If culture and commerce have made you hungry, Mainz has many places to quell those pangs.
It starts right on the Markt, where two of the city’s popular cafes, Café Extrablatt and Figaro, cater to tourists and local residents alike. The latter’s balcony offers a great view of the cathedral and market square — if you can get a seat.
On Leichhof square, the Cafe Rizzelli, serving pizza and pasta, is popular, especially when the weather is fine. Good food and wine can be found at Weinhaus Horn’s bistro on Augustinerstrasse.
Mainz, with its location between two of Germany’s big wine-producing areas — Rheinhessen and Rheingau — has many wine taverns to go along with its cafes, bars and restaurants. One of them, Weinhaus zum Spiegel, is housed in a grand old half-timbered house on Augustinerstrasse.
Carnival plays a major role in Mainz, and another of the city’s popular sights, the Fastnachtsbrunnen, a fantastic fountain adorned with carnival figures, stands on Schillerplatz. Here, of course, are more cafes where you can watch Mainz city life pass by.
From the southeast (including Heidelberg, Mannheim or Stuttgart), follow autobahn A60. Take the Mainz-Innenstadt exit and follow signs to the city center. From Wiesbaden, follow the above directions or cross the Theodor Heuss Bridge from Mainz-Kastel. From Kaiserslautern, stay on autobahn A63 until you reach the city center.
You can also take the train to Mainz. From the main train station to the city center is about a 10-minute walk.
Any time is good to visit, but we recommend a sunny day Tuesday through Saturday. Many museums, including the Gutenberg-Museum and the Dommuseum, are closed Mondays, and the stores are closed on Sundays.
Admission to the Gutenberg-Museum is 5 euros for adults and 2 euros for children. Dommuseum is 5 euros for adults and 3.50 euros for children, or 10 euros for a family ticket.
Parking in downtown Mainz is not cheap: 80 euro cents for the first half-hour and 90 euro cents for the second and one euro for every 30 minutes after that. We paid 11.50 euros for the whole day at Fort Malakoff Park garage, a shopping/office center near the Rhine River.
There are plenty of cafes and restaurants in the city center, in a variety of price ranges.
The city’s website is mainz.de, with an English version, though not as detailed as the German version.