10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Mainz
Mainz, capital of the Land of Rhineland-Palatinate and an old university town, lies on the left bank of the Rhine, opposite the mouth of the River Main (hence its name). One of the oldest cities in Europe, Mainz can trace its roots back to the 1st century AD, when the Romans built a fortress here. Mainz is known the world over as Gutenberg's city, where the first movable metal type printing press was created, and it remains a hub for some of Germany's oldest publishing houses. The city also has a rich cultural history, and is home to a number of internationally-renowned festivals, including Fassnacht, a 19th-century carnival that draws crowds of up to half a million spectators.
See also: Where to Stay in Mainz
1 St. Stephen's Church
The 14th-century Gothic church of St. Stephen (Stephanskirche) can trace its roots as far back as AD 990, when a church was ordered built here by the leaders of the Holy Roman Empire. After major damage during WWII, it was rebuilt exactly as it was, but the windows had been irreparably damaged. Artist Marc Chagall designed the replacements, a series of nine tall stained glass windows representing scenes from the Old Testament. The predominantly blue glass bathes the light sandstone walls in soft color. Begun in 1973, the windows were completed in 1985, only months before Chagall's death at age 98. Other notable features of the interior are its 13th-century altar table and a large early 16th-century tabernacle.
Address: Weißgasse 12, 55116 Mainz
2 Mainz Cathedral
In the center of Mainz stands Mainzer Dom, the spectacular six-towered catholic Cathedral of St. Martin and St. Stephen, ranking along with the cathedrals of Speyer and Worms as one of the supreme achievements of Romanesque religious architecture on the Upper Rhine. While the cathedral was started in AD 975, most of the building dates from the 11th to the 13th centuries. Highlights include the many tombs and monuments of once powerful princes and archbishops, as well as many centuries-old religious artworks. The Cathedral Museum is also worth visiting and contains numerous artifacts and documents relating to the building.
Address: Markt 10, 55116 Mainz
3 The Gutenberg Museum
At the northeast corner of the Domplätze in Mainz is the Gutenberg Museum in the beautiful old Zum Römischen Kaiser house dating from 1664. Dedicated to the world of printing, the museum - the largest of its kind in the world - takes its name from Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of the moveable metal type printing technique that revolutionized publishing in the 15th century. The museum's important collections include printing equipment and printed materials, a copy of the famous Gutenberg Bible, and a faithful reproduction of the original printing house. Self-guided audio tours are available.
Address: Liebfrauenplatz 5, 55116 Mainz
The central square of Mainz, in front of the cathedral, is surrounded by beautiful painted and half-timbered buildings, among the most picturesque in the city. Attending the market here on Saturdays is one of the popular things to do in Mainz, when colorful stalls fill the square selling fresh produce and flowers, as well as locally made products. In December, the square is filled with the Christmas market, and in good weather, cafés spill out onto the plaza, with beautiful views of the cathedral.
5 Museum of Ancient Navigation
With a focus on the art of sailing through the centuries, the Museum of Ancient Navigation in Mainz is a wonderful learning experience for all ages. Opened in 1994, this boat-themed tourist attraction introduces visitors to six full-scale replicas from various periods of history, from simple paddle boats to larger Roman galleons. Other highlights include letters and documents related to the life of Roman sailors tasked with guarding the Rhine.
Address: Neutorstraße 2b, D-55116 Mainz
6 Mainz State Museum
The Mainz State Museum (Landesmuseum Mainz) dates back to 1803, when Napoleon donated a large personal art collection to the city. Now located in the old stables of the former Electoral Palace, the collection has grown to include many fine antiquities and artworks from across Europe. The prehistoric collection features a 25,000-year-old statue and stone age tools. Other highlights are its medieval department, with items made of ivory and many old paintings, as well as its Renaissance and Baroque collections, with works from France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy.
Address: Große Bleiche 49-51, D-55116 Mainz
7 St. Augustine's Church
In the Altstadt, Mainz's old city center, the 18th-century Augustinerkirche might escape your notice, as it is sandwiched between other buildings. Step inside to be astonished at the ornate Baroque interior. The highly decorated altar and the organ are impressive, but the crowning glory is the church's magnificent ceiling. Intricately painted biblical scenes are bordered by golden scrollwork frames, and the surrounding interior is richly carved and decorated. The celestial effect is heightened by the large windows, which flood the interior with light. Undamaged in the bombings that destroyed much of its surroundings, the church is a rare surviving relic of prewar Mainz.
8 Roman-Germanic Central Museum
Just downstream from the Theodor Heuss Bridge is the old 17th-century Electoral Palace, now home to the Roman-Germanic Central Museum (Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum). Founded in 1852, the museum deals with German history as far back as the Stone Age and features collections of prehistoric and Roman antiquities, as well as material from the early historical period. Its broad collections are displayed in two major exhibits: the Roman exhibition, focusing on the military expansion of the Roman Empire and its dealings with other cultures, and including a replica of a Roman organ; and the Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Period, which deals with Roman relations with Pagan religions and Christianity. Also of interest are the Römersteine, the remains of a 1st-century Roman aqueduct near the university.
Address: Ernst-Ludwig-Platz 2, D-55116 Mainz
9 The Iron and Wood Towers
In Rheingoldstrasse are two old towers that once formed part of the town's fortifications. The oldest of these, the Eisenturm (Iron Tower), was built in 1240 and took its name from the former Iron Market (Eisenmarkt) held nearby. Built as a watchtower and gateway into the city - it also served as a prison - it's now used for art exhibitions and community events. The Wood Tower (Holzturm), named after the wood stored next to it on the banks of the Rhine, was a more recent addition; its current Gothic appearance harks back to the 15th century. It also served as a watchtower, and today is home to a variety of community groups.
10 Botanischer Garten Mainz
Covering nearly 25 acres, Botanischer Garten Mainz - the Mainz Botanic Gardens - is part of the University of Mainz. Created in 1946 on a former military training ground, the garden now includes 8,500 species of plants, from regional species to tropical varieties housed in a series of greenhouses. Highlights include a large arboretum and an alpine garden (tours are available). The city also has numerous other attractive green spaces, including the town center itself, with many of its old city squares transformed each spring with countless colorful blossoms. A little further afield, between the suburbs of Mombach and Gonsenheim, the Mainzer Sand nature reserve has a collection of interesting steppe flora.
Address: Anselm-Franz-von-Bentzel-Weg 9 b, D-55128 Mainz
Where to Stay in Mainz for Sightseeing
We recommend these convenient hotels in Mainz near the Rhine River and the Old Town:
- Hyatt Regency Mainz: 5-star luxury, overlooking the Rhine River, light-filled restaurant, day spa, indoor pool and sauna, modern gym.
- Hilton Mainz City: mid-range pricing, 4-star hotel, near the central train station, modern room decor, restaurant with outdoor courtyard.
- TOP Hotel Hammer: 3-star hotel, sleek furnishings, double-glazed windows, excellent breakfast.
- Ibis Mainz City: budget hotel, convenient location, tea and coffee making facilities, multilingual staff.