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Blick auf Mainz, Bild: Circumnavigation / shutterstock

Mainz – old cultural metropolis and Rhenish Athens

Like a mountain range, Mainz Cathedral in its red sandstone robe towers over the roofs of the Rhineland-Palatinate state capital and looks out over a city with a great history. Romans, archbishops, the inventor of the printing press and, last but not least, television – they gave the city its character. Today it is Shrovetide, the Mainzelmännchen and the sparkling wine from the local wineries that provide joie de vivre.

Although the media prominence of today, in Mainz we meet the “metropolis of cities”, the “diadem of the empire” and the “mistress of the nations”. As the seat of the powerful archchancellors and prince-bishops, Mainz was something like the “capital” of the Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Middle Ages. The city looks back on more than 2000 years of history. One thing is certain: The “golden Mainz” has a remarkable history – far more strongly shaped than the few decades of screen conditions.

Mainz remains Mainz, as it sings and laughs

Rhine near Mainz
The Rhine in Mainz, Image: saiko3p / shutterstock

Millions of television viewers on ZDF convince themselves of this every year at carnival time. Once a year, for one evening, Mainz is the navel of the nation. Carnival cheerfulness is shown on television. This is how everyone knows Mainz: In the city on the Rhine, carnival fans reserve their Humba-Tumba-Tätärä hours many weeks in advance, while carnival grouches are looking for escape routes.

A look behind the scenes

On the Lerchenberg, in the southwest of the city, is the ZDF broadcasting center and offers free guided tours. It’s worth taking a look behind the scenes. Others browse the ZDF shop in the city center. On Schöfferstraße, there is everything to do with the Mainzelmännchen – from pencils to bed linen.

From the ancestors to the present

Mainz Cathedral
Mainz Cathedral, Image: saiko3p / shutterstock

Mainz is more than just a stronghold of carnival or broadcasting centre. The city reserved the Middle Rhine for itself. It was here that the first republic on German soil existed – albeit only for a short time. On this stretch of land, the Roman lord dragged a lot of bureaucracy around with him. Soon Boniface, as Archbishop of Germania, took over the Diocese of Mainz. Later, the last Saxon emperor was crowned in the cathedral. The Holy See of Mainz became a secular power. As leaders of the royal elections, the electors and imperial chancellors played a major role in determining the history of the empire. In 1477, Archbishop Diether von Isenburg founded the university.

Last but not least, Johannes Gutenberg enriched the Mainz era. Johannes Gensfleisch is the city’s greatest son. Under the name Gutenberg, he invented printing with movable type in the 15th century. As a tribute to the inventor of the printing press, the citizens of Mainz founded a special museum in 1900. Hardly any Mainz tourist misses the Gutenberg Museum. On an area of 2700 square meters, graphics, typesetting machines, printing presses, historical prints and manuscripts are presented. Afterwards, visitors can make their own personal business card in good old lead typesetting.

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Today, the Gutenberg town is the centre of the Rhenish wine trade, forms the gateway to the Rhine-Main region of the future and is the headquarters of television and radio stations. Among the city’s celebrities are the minstrel Heinrich von Meißen, Carl Zuckmayer and Anna Seghers.

Discoveries in an ancient city

Mainz Christmas Market
The Mainz Christmas market on the market square in front of the cathedral, Image: LaMiaFotografia / shutterstock

On a stroll through the winding old town, visitors can go on a journey of discovery to old buildings that still impress today. In the medieval ambience, surrounded by proud electoral representative buildings, visitors to Mainz are offered a wealth of opportunities for discovery: diverse testimonies of Roman times, fabulous art and natural treasures and impressive sacred art lead to the roots of the West. The market fountain from 1526 is one of the oldest Renaissance fountains in Germany.

In the heart of the city rises the landmark of Mainz: St. Martin’s Cathedral with its six towers. Despite numerous fires and the resulting construction work, Mainz Cathedral is one of the most magnificent Romanesque buildings in Germany.
Augustinerstraße forms the lifeline and shopping mile of the old city centre. On the way you reach the richly decorated Augustinian Church, which has remained intact in its original state.

Modern Mainz is concentrated in the buildings on the banks of the Rhine. There are the town hall, built in 1970-1973, and the state chancellery.

All kinds of interesting facts

  • Known? Mainz is also the last quarters of the robber chief Schinderhannes. No wonder that Carl Zuckmayer from Mainz has taken on Schinderhannes. After all, the legendary robber chief was imprisoned in Mainz. In the wooden tower he ate the executioner’s meal. From the beautifully restored gate tower of the former city fortifications, Schinderhannes began his last walk to the execution site in today’s city park.
  • But Mainz’s Stadtpark is also romantic. The enchanting rose garden with its beautiful arcades attracts not only couples newly in love. A floral scent is in the air.
  • A visit to the Museum of Ancient Shipping is also worthwhile. In 1981, late Roman warships were found in the area of the former port of Mainz. They can be seen in the original and as replicas.
  • How about a fascinating foray into the history of sparkling wine? In the main building of the Kupferberg sparkling wine cellar with the Kupferberg Museum, there are historic champagne and champagne glasses as well as richly decorated oak barrels to admire.
  • The sparkling wine event is followed by the wine pleasure. With a good drop of wine in one of the numerous wine bars, ostrich taverns or at a wine festival, you will not only get to know good wines, but also appreciate Mainz conviviality.
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Tip for a cosy stop in the surrounding area: Who doesn’t want to devote themselves peacefully to a pure Rhine wine? The opportunity to do so is offered on the slopes of the Ebersbach monastery – pure wine “in the name of the rose”. Here, the Hessian state winery came to international honours when its venerable halls and corridors became the filming location for the medieval monastic spectacle “In the Name of the Rose”. Several ships depart from the Mainz berth in summer. A visit is particularly recommended on a sunny autumn day, when the flood of tourists in summer subsides somewhat.

The sports city of Mainz

Mainz 05

For many years, 1. FSV Mainz 05 was considered the gray mouse of the second division. Although the current Bundesliga club knocked on the door of the Bundesliga for the first time in 1997, they lost 5-4 in Wolfsburg on 11 June 1997. In 2001, the club filled the coaching position with Jürgen Klopp. This was followed by promotion to the Bundesliga in 2004. Mainz 05 – who play their home games at the Mewa Arena – are now playing their 17th Bundesliga season.

Other well-known sports clubs in Mainz

In addition to the Bundesliga football club, Mainz is home to several other successful sports clubs.

  • With ASV Mainz 88 and SV Alemannia Nackenheim, two Bundesliga teams in wrestling.
  • The Mainz Athletics became German champions in baseball in 2007 and 2016.
  • The Turngemeinde 1861 e.V. Mainz-Gonsenheim is a successful second division club in men’s volleyball.
  • 1. Mainzer Minigolf-Club e.V. 1964 is 7-time German champion and five-time European Cup winner
  • Niklas Kaul, all-around athlete of the Mainz University Sports Club, surprisingly won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 2019 World Championships
  • The handball players of 1. FSV Mainz 05 will play in the 1st Women’s Handball Bundesliga for the first time in the 2019 / 2020 season
  • The table tennis men of the 1. FSV Mainz 05 won the title in the 2018 / 2019 season in the 2nd Bundesliga, but did not make use of their right of promotion

Interesting museums in Mainz