The people of Mainz are known for their way of life, down-to-earth attitude and infectious vitality. The German city at the Rhine River enchants with cozy wine taverns, lively fests and a refreshing young & creative scene. For this article, I wandered through the streets of my hometown to discover with the eyes of a visitor the beauty of Mainz – Germany`s charming wine & carnival capital.
ainz is a vibrant German wine city that borders the great wine rivers of the Rhine and Main River. Located only 20 miles southwest of the financial metropolis Frankfurt, it might be surprising to hear that Mainz and the surrounding “Rheinhessen” area are considered Germany`s largest wine-growing district. When you ask people what makes the special charm of this city, you will get answers like “the down to earth attitude of locals” and their “joyful zest for life”. People here like to celebrate a way of life that greatly enjoys conviviality with eclectic carnival celebrations and cozy wine fests.
“Great Wine Capital”
“Zum Beichtstuhl” (left) serving more than 54 types of wine and “Bacchus” wine tavern (right) named after the Greek God of wine
The historic streets of old town are filled with the charming flair of half-timbered houses, small boutiques and restaurants. In countless wine bars and rustic taverns like “Zum Beichtstuhl” (confessional box), whose name stems from it`s dark wooden colors and narrow shape, Mainzer wine tradition can be enjoyed along with regional delicacies such as “Spundekäs” (a spicy creamed cheese), pretzels and the typical Riesling wine.
In 2008, the city was admitted to the select circle of international “Great Wine Capitals” along with world-famous wine regions like Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Verona and Cape Town. During the year, several vibrant wine fests like the popular Mainzer Wine Market (“Weinmarkt”) in the people`s park and the traditional “Mainzer Johannisfest” take place, where local winemakers are serving their fine wine creations.
Countless wine bars & rustic taverns
“Gasthaus Willems” is a perfect symbiosis of long-rooted tradition and modernity. The kitchen is creating a seasonal menu with delicious interpretations of local ingredients. In the summertime, you can enjoy historic old town flair, when the restaurant sets tables at the square next to St. Ignaz church. Prices are reasonable and the super friendly service creates a pleasant atmosphere.
TIP: Three-Course lunch menu for 14 Euro
The Heart of The City
When you walk up the city`s main street of old town (“Augustinerstraße”), the majestic cathedral blinks through the facades of half-timbered houses. The impressive 1000 year old “Mainzer Dom” is residing over the vibrant market place, which is considered the heart of the city.
The 1000 year old “Mainzer Dom”
Colourful historical house facades are surrounding the atmospheric square, where the weekly farmers market takes place. Every Saturday, from March until November, winemakers invite to the “Mainzer Marktfrühstück”, a traditional Mainzer breakfast that has become a popular institution especially among young people.
The most beautiful breakfast under free sky has achieved cult status for locals and is never enjoyed without the typical “Weck, Woscht und Woi” – Bread roll, meat sausage and wine.
TIP: “Mainzer Marktfrühstück” (Market Breakfast), every Saturday 9am – 4 pm between March and November
“The City and the River”
The city`s location at the Rhine River has greatly shaped living since it`s early days. “Fischtorplatz” (fish gate square) and “Fischergasse” (fisher street) are reminders of the past importance of fishery as a breadwinning. The straightening of the river, however, destroyed natural habitat for many fish species and heralded the end of fishery. Today, only street names and writings on old house facades are hinting to the former significance of the fishermen`s quarter.
The banks of the Rhine River, however, are still an important retreat for locals. Beer gardens, summer lounges like the “Mole” or the popular local ice shop N`Eis are inviting for relaxation on warm summer days. The impressive fireworks & light show “Mainzer Sommer Lichter” is an annual cultural highlight and a unique setting to soak up the beautiful scenery along the river and it`s verging cityscape.
Interesting Fact: The different colours of street signs in Mainz are not chosen randomly. Blue signs are parallel, red signs are orthogonal to the direction of the river. – A helpful orientation for lost visitors (or locals).
Like at Grandma`s
At “Oma Else” (“Grandmother “Else”), you can enjoy traditional home-style German cooking with a modern twist. Enjoy “Maultaschen” (pasta pockets), a hearty breakfast or homemade cakes in a cozy atmosphere – just like grandma`s! Breakfast is served daily until 3 p.m. (for late risers).
“Fastnacht” – The crazy time of the year
Mainz is a manageable city with small town flair. Once every year, however, the town is making itself a name as one of Germany`s biggest centers of carnival. The crazy season of the year is called “Fastnacht”, when parties, masked balls and parades are turning the entire city upside down. Highlight is “Rosenmontag”, a masked parade with more than 500 000 spectators and partying people each year.
If you plan to attend any carnival event in Mainz, make sure you practice the carnival salute “Helau!” that everyone is enthusiastically calling out (not to be confused with “Hello!” as it might sound to English natives). Mainzer love their carnival so much, that they even established a “Fastnachtsbrunnen” (carnival fountain) as one of the city`s landmarks.
“Craftsman and Pioneer of Modern Printing”
Mainz is not only the home of “Fastnacht”, but also of Johannes Gutenberg, who is considered the inventor of moveable type printing that set the stage for modern letterpress & book print. “The Gutenberg City” is proud of its most famous citizen, honouring his legacy with a large monument, the annual “Johannisfest” and the “Johannes Gutenberg University” named after the craftsman & pioneer.
TIP: Follow the traces of Gutenberg at the Gutenberg print workshop and create your own artwork with hand press, letters and paper – An experience for all senses!
The New Town
“Luups” gift shop (left) and “Annabatterie” café (right)
The so called “Neustadt” (“New Town”) does not fall under the most beautiful areas of Mainz, but constitutes a young & dynamic neighbourhood with a colourful blend of students, young families and immigrants. Many creative shops, sustainable eateries and individual cafés have popped up in the past years, especially in the area around “Gartenfeldplatz”, where the vintage-style café Annabatterie enchants with homemade food, beautifully decorated pastries & cupcakes.
At the small gift shop Luups, you can find cool gifts, accessories, craft beer & lemonades with local or regional relevance. “Love your city!” is their mission, which is also instilled in their equally named coupon booklet. Luups, which is also organising cultural events like the popular Science Slam, is definitely a success story for Mainz. I love Mainz, mission accomplished!
“A new Generation of Wine Restaurants”
The tastefully designed restaurant Laurenz represents a new generation of wine taverns that combines wine bar, restaurant and wine shop in a modern way. Enjoy seasonal varying upper scale cuisine with a fine selection of regional wines, which can be sampled also at tastings in the local wine cellar.
TIP: Wine samplings with snacks for 35 Euro per person (check homepage for upcoming dates)
Aug. 23rd – Aug. 26th 2018 (first weekend)
Aug 30th – Sept. 2nd 2018 (second weekend)
“Mainzer Johannisfest” June 22nd – June 25th 2018
“Rosenmontag” Parade February 12th 2018
“Mainzer Sommerlichter” July 27th – July 29th 2018
“Mainzer Marktfrühstück” (Market breakfast) March 4th – November 18th 2017, Saturday “Liebfrauenplatz”, 9am – 4pm
Oma Else Jakobsbergstraße 12, 55116 Mainz
Luups Leibnizstraße 22, 55118 Mainz
Annabatterie Gartenfeldpl. 2, 55118 Mainz
Laurenz Wine Bar Gartenfeldstraße 9, 55118 Mainz
“Heiliggeist” Rentengasse 2, 55116 Mainz
Willems Kapuzinerstraße 29, 55116 Mainz
Gutenberg Print Workshop Liebfrauenplatz 5 55116 Mainz, Monday – Friday: 9am – 7pm, Saturday: 11am – 3pm