10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Mainz
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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. Thanks to this important heritage, Mainz has retained its importance as 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 the Mainz Carnival (Mainzer Fastnacht). This popular 19th-century carnival draws crowds of up to half a million spectators over the winter months.
To learn more about these and other fun things to do in this historic city, be sure to read our list of the top tourist attractions in Mainz, Germany.
See also: Where to Stay in Mainz
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Church of St. Stephan
The 14th-century Gothic Collegiate Church of St. Stephan (St. Stephan zu Mainz, or Stephanskirche) can trace its roots as far back as AD 990. It was then that 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 - except for its beautiful windows, which had been irreparably damaged.
The replacement windows you see today were designed by artist Marc Chagall, and consist of a series of nine tall stained-glass windows representing scenes from the Old Testament. The effect is stunning as 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: Kleine Weißgasse 12, 55116 Mainz
2. Mainz Cathedral
Standing tall in the center of Mainz is the spectacular six-towered catholic Cathedral of St. Martin and St. Stephen (Mainzer Dom). Mainz Cathedral ranks along with the cathedrals of Speyer and Worms as one of the supreme achievements of Romanesque religious architecture on the Upper Rhine. While construction was started in AD 975, most of the building dates from the 11th to the 13th centuries.
Highlights of a visit include the chance to view 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. Among its fascinating collections are numerous artifacts and documents relating to the building's rich history. (Visitors are invited to participate in regular mass services.)
Address: Markt 10, 55116 Mainz
3. The Gutenberg Museum
At the northeast corner of the Domplätze in Mainz is the Gutenberg Museu. Set in the beautiful old Zum Römischen Kaiser house dating from 1664, the museum is dedicated to the world of printing and is the largest of its kind in the world. This important attraction, in fact, takes its name from Johannnes 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, as well as a copy of the famous Gutenberg Bible. There's also a faithful reproduction of the original printing house, where visitors can try their hand (literally!) at traditional typesetting. Of particular interest is a collection of printed material from smaller publishing houses.
Self-guided English-language audio tours are available, and there's a well-stocked gift shop on the premises.
Address: Liebfrauenplatz 5, 55116 Mainz
Official site: www.gutenberg-museum.de/index.php?id=29&L=1
The central square of Mainz, in front of the cathedral, is known as the Marktplatz, or marketplace. Surrounded by beautiful painted and half-timbered buildings, it's among the most picturesque spots in the city.
Attending the market here on Saturdays is one of the popular things to do in Mainz. The square comes alive with colorful stalls selling fresh produce and flowers, as well as locally made products and crafts.
A wonderful time to visit is in December, when the square is filled with the bustling Mainz Christmas Market. During the festive season, more than 100 booths line the square, and the shopping experience is accompanied by carol singing and other entertainment. And in good weather, cafés spill out onto the plaza, with beautiful views of the cathedral.
5. Museum of Ancient Seafaring
With a focus on the art of sailing through the centuries, the Museum of Ancient Sefaring (Museum für antike Schifffahrt) 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 paddleboats to larger Roman galleons.
Other highlights include letters and documents related to the life of Roman sailors tasked with guarding the Rhine, and numerous models of seafaring vessels.
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 St. Augustine's Church (Augustinerkirche) might escape your notice, as it is sandwiched between other buildings. Step inside, though, and you'll 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.
Address: 55116 Mainz
8. Roman-Germanic Central Museum
Just downstream from the Theodor Heuss Bridge is the old 17th-century Electoral Palace. This attractive red-painted edifice is 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.
Holzturm, the Wood Tower, was named after the wood stored next to it on the banks of the Rhine, and 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. Mainz Botanical Garden
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
Official site: https://www.botgarden.uni-mainz.de/
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: This 5-star luxury hotel overlooks the Rhine River and features a light-filled restaurant, a day spa, an indoor pool and sauna, and a modern gym.
- Hilton Mainz City: Popular for its mid-range pricing, this 4-star hotel is located near the central train station and boasts modern room decor and a restaurant with an outdoor courtyard.
- TOP Hotel Hammer: This 3-star hotel features sleek furnishings, double-glazed windows, and an excellent breakfast.
- Ibis Mainz City: A good choice of budget hotel, Ibis Mainz City is set in a convenient location, with tea- and coffee-making facilities and multilingual staff.