Food and Drink in Mainz
The people of Mainz are proud of their local wines and beers, and they like hearty food to go with them. Specialties in the local bierkellers include spunde cheese with pretzels; open sandwiches made with local hams; sausage and cheese salad with fried potatoes; and traditional breaded-pork wiener schnitzel with fried potatoes and side salad. (Yes, that diet will definitely have to wait!)
Good for Italiaphiles: Il Mondo offers excellent -- and authentic -- Northern Italian fare in the heart of Germany. Options include homemade gnocchi stuffed with veal, speck, mozzarella and Parmigiano, in fresh tomato sauce; and grilled swordfish with vegetables and rosemary potatoes. (Kurmainzstrasse 24, 55126, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 60 43 52; open Tuesday through Sunday from noon to 2:30 p.m. (last orders at 2 p.m., no lunch service on Saturday) and for dinner from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. (last orders at 10:30 p.m.))
Good for diners with cosmopolitan tastes: Bellpepper will take you around the world (or Europe, at least) in two or three courses. Main courses include the Italian classic saltimbocca and Germany's Geschmorte Rinderroulade (braised beef roulade stuffed with chorizo, figs and pine nuts, potato and leek puree, chanterelle mushrooms and braised onions). Desserts include rhubarb creme brulee and organic Swiss cheeses served with fig mustard and fruit bread. (Malakoff-Terrasse 1, 55116, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 73 12 34; open daily from noon to 2:30 pm, and 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.)
Good for veggies appalled by all that ham: Moehren Milieu Eco Cafe was the first vegan restaurant to open in Mainz and offers tasty snack foods including veggie burgers, veggie pizzas, sandwiches and cakes. It also has an outdoor area for al fresco eating on sunny days. (Adam-Karrillon Strade 5, Mainz; 49 0 61 31 89 00 842; open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
Best Cocktail in Mainz
Situated at the heart of the Rheinhessen wine region (and within an hour's drive of seven other wine districts),Mainz is known as Germany's wine capital. So the fruit of the vine, particularly Riesling, is the must-try local drink. If you've a head for stronger stuff, you should also try Mainzer Lehmann Chen, a popular wine-based liqueur.
Don't Miss in Mainz
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.