The Dom is Mainz's famous and fabulous 11th-century cathedral. Dedicated to St. Martin and built with glowing deep red sandstone in Romanesque style, it features magnificent bronze doors with leonine knockers. Inside are more statues of lions, and of some of the many bishops buried within its walls. The cloisters, lined with ancient statues (one of which is literally holding its head in its hands), are atmospheric and delightfully spooky, as is the cathedral's history: It has witnessed seven coronations, and it actually burned down on the very day of its original consecration in 1009 and was not completed again until 1036. The Dom is in the Marktplatz and dominates the center of the Old Town. (Markt 10, 55116, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 25 34 12; open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 1 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.; free admission)
See the glorious blue stained-glass windows designed by Jewish artist Marc Chagall at St. Stephen's Church, a 990 AD building that was nearly destroyed during World War II. A beautiful cloister remains, though, containing nine windows designed by Chagall in the late 1970s as a mark of post-war Judeo-Christian unity and understanding. (Weissgasse 12, 55116, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 23 16 40; open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.; free admission)
The fascinating Gutenberg Museum features examples of printing presses through the ages, and a collection of rare (and priceless) original 15th-century bibles. Demonstrations of how Johannes Gutenberg worked and the description of his materials (such as soot and linseed oil ink, spread on the presses using poreless dogskin) are a must for literature- and history-lovers. (Liebfrauenplatz 5, 55116, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 12 26 40; open Tuesday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; nominal entry fee)
Enjoy a walk along Augustinerstrasse, Old Town's main shopping street, which is dominated by the beautiful Baroque St. Augustine's Church. Known locally as the "strollers mile," it's regarded by locals as their city's answer to the Champs-Elysees. Lovers of unusual shops will find more of them in the Kirschgarten, Schoenbornstrasse or Grebenstrasse; look out for unusual jewelry, handmade wooden toys, striking artwork, offbeat leather goods and fine wines.
The Landesmuseum Mainz, one of the oldest museums in Germany, houses an astounding collection that includes Roman artifacts dating from the 1st century, exquisite Art Nouveau items and 20th century paintings, Baroque furnishings and Renaissance artwork. (Grosse Bleiche 49-51, 55116, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 28 570; open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; free for ages 17 and younger)
If you like to do your own thing, try a DIY walking tour of Mainz, based on free information offered online by the tourist office. (See "For More Information.") There are four walking tours available starting from the Schillerplatz, one of Mainz's main squares. Details and maps can be downloaded ahead of your visit.
Options include "Romans, Fools and Elector Princes"(2.5 to 3 hours), whichtakes in the spectacular Carnival Fountain, the bronze Fool's Tower sculpture and the city's Roman Gate, among other attractions. "Museums, Churches and Palaces" (2.5 to 3 hours) also covers the Carnival Fountain but then goes to St. Stephen's Church and the lovely Kirschgarden area of Old Town, notable for its fine timbered houses and 18th-century St. Augustine's Church. Two one-hour tours -- "Tracing Gutenberg's Footsteps" and "Compressed Mainz" -- which guides you around the area near The Dom -- are also available, and they're a good option if time is at a premium or you'd like to get a quick overview and then spend time enjoying the cafes and shops of Augustinerstrasse.