Germany's Mainz -- a 2,000-year-old city of leafy squares, timbered medieval buildings, intriguing cobbled alleys, charming restaurants and offbeat shops -- is a highlight of any cruise along the Rhine River, not least because it's so easily explored.
Just a short stroll from the riverside, you'll find two of the city's highlights: the Gutenberg Museum (which celebrates Mainz's role as home of the world's first printing press and its first product, the world-famous Gutenberg Bible), and the wonderfully atmospheric St. Martin's Cathedral, also known as The Dom.
There are also Roman ruins, magnificent Baroque churches and Rococo houses to discover, as well as spectacular stained-glass windows designed by the famous artist Marc Chagall.
But if you've had your fill of sightseeing and museums, just take a stroll around Mainz's charming Old Town, where you can browse antique and art shops, and tuck into delicious German coffee and cake at one of its many street cafes. No doubt you'll consider your day there well spent.
Riverboats moor up alongside the Hilton Hotel; from there, it's a short, pleasant walk to the city center. (Just walk ahead along the riverbank and turn right.)
If you're feeling lazy and just fancy snoozing in the sun and watching one of the world's great rivers roll by, do so at the Mainz-Strand, the "beach" area near the Hilton, where snacks, drinks and deck chairs are available. It's open on sunny days from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., and admission is free. You can grab a cocktail and tuck into snacks like bratwurst and chicken wings.
Per local regulations, it's forbidden to play radios or loud music in public.
You can get to most places on foot, but if you want to zip quickly to St. Stephen's Church and take in the beautiful stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall, pick up a taxi downtown or outside the Hilton.
The official currency is the euro; for the latest exchange rate, visit www.oanda.com or www.xe.com. ATM machines abound in Mainz; just stroll around the Old Town (aka the city center) and you'll find them everywhere.
English is spoken widely in Mainz, but an attempt to speak a few words of German is always appreciated by the locals.
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.)
If you really want to impress the neighbours, take home a page from the Gutenberg Bible, printed on a traditional press as developed by local hero Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. You'll find these for sale in the shop attached to the Gutenberg Museum (see "Don't Miss"). Your best bet may be a page telling the Christmas story, with beautiful illustrations; pick up a page in black and white or full color, either solo or framed.
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.