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Mainz is many things – the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the wine capital of Germany and a vibrant university city. A day trip is enough to cover the highlights, which involve a peek inside the city’s beautiful churches, wandering around the medieval old town and sampling some of Germany’s award-winning Rieslings. Here’s our itinerary for 24 hours in Mainz.
Kick off the day with a yummy breakfast at Wilma Wunder. The charming café is situated in the heart of the Old Town, just across the plaza from Mainz Cathedral. The interior décor is bright and modern and best described as a crossover between an English country house and a modern American diner. Neon letters welcome you with ‘Hello my dear’ into the high-ceiling room of white-tiled walls, plum-cushioned benches, wooden tables and flowery wallpaper glued to the ceiling. The smell of fresh coffee and bread is promising, and a quick look at the breakfast menu reveals all kinds of goodies – German-style sandwiches, muesli and granola, pancakes and Belgian waffles. Fuel up before you start your tour of the Old Town and its sights.
One of Mainz’ main attractions is just ahead of you. Dating back to 975, the cathedral is one the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the country. The ancient walls protect the final resting place of princes and archbishops, and the Treasury holds a precious collection of ecclesial artworks. If you’re interested in the history, the cathedral museum is worth visiting.
Next on the list is the Gutenberg Museum, which is dedicated to 4,000 years of literate culture. One of the key players was the Mainz-born blacksmith and inventor Johannes Gutenberg. In the 1450s, he originated the method of printing from movable type. The revolutionary technique was a milestone in the culture of writing, and his technique was virtually unaltered until the 20th century. A reconstruction of his workshop and two of his original bibles from the 15th century are the highlights of the exhibition.
Mainz was severely damaged during the Allied bombing raids of the Second World War, and St Stephen’s church was no exception. Years of meticulous reconstruction and restoration followed, and in 1979, the world-renowned Jewish artist Marc Chagall designed the beautiful stained-glass windows as a symbol of reconciliation. The artist primarily worked with shades of blue, and the interior shines in a mystical azure light as a result. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the city’s highest hill every year to witness the unique atmosphere.
Make your way back to the city centre and the main square where you started from earlier. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, stalls and huts populate the square for what’s arguably Germany’s most idyllic farmer’s market. Wedged in between the façades of historic townhouses and the imposing Cathedral, vendors sell fresh produce, dairy products, baked goods and delicacies. The market is a great place to grab a quick lunch. You’ll find all kinds of snacks, from fresh buns topped with herring or Leberkäse, sausages and sweet pastries.
Take some time to explore the web of winding cobblestoned streets and browse the shops, boutiques and specialty stores that occupy the half-timbered houses of the Old Town. Augustinerstraße is particularly charming, but make sure you don’t miss out on Römerpassage. While the upper levels house familiar high street shops, head down to the basement. Twelve years ago, construction work in the area unearthed the remains of a Roman temple underneath the mall, which is now accessible to the public for free.
Given that Mainz is the wine capital of Germany, your trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at one of the authentic taverns in the Old Town. The vineyards around Mainz produce award-winning Rieslings of varying types and grades – lieblich (sweet), trocken (dry), full-bodied or light-bodied, the staff at Weinstube Rote Kopf will happily tell you about the differences. The wine bar not only serves around 50 wines by the glass but also has a must-try speciality on the menu: spundekäs, a spicy fresh cheese which is served with pretzels. But don’t overeat, it’s almost time for dinner.
Round off the day with dinner. If you had enough of local food by now, you’d be pleased to hear that Mainz offers myriad of restaurants and cuisines from which to choose. You can, of course, head to another traditional eatery, such as Weinstube Hottum or the much trendier Eisgrub-Bär pub to sample more of the hearty German cuisine. Alternatives are Bellpepper, an upscale restaurant that draws diners in with truffle risotto, beef tartare and salmon ravioli. Ha Noi is dedicated to serving authentic Vietnamese food, and Kamin Flammkuchen treats guests to sweet and savoury pizza-like flatbreads, called Flammkuchen.