Mainz is the proclaimed ‘wine capital of Germany’.
Did you know?
Well, chances are even very accomplished wine travelers have never come across the name. Especially those from outside of Germany.
However, If you want to explore Germany’s wines and wine growing regions but have limited time, Mainz is an awesome place to start.
Mainz is considered to be the gateway to the largest German wine growing region Rheinhessen.
Wine has played an important role in the city ever since the Romans started to plant the first vines as a supply for their troops.
Today, Mainz is home to the German Wine Institute and the vineyards of Rheinhessen are a mere 20 kilometres from the city.
How to get to Mainz
Mainz, the capital city of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate is located on the west bank of the Rhine River at the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers, about 40 kilometres from Frankfurt.
The city has excellent public transport connections linking it to Frankfurt and several other major German cities. Taking the underground train (S8) from Frankfurt central station takes you about 40 minutes, the same connection from Frankfurt Airport takes around 30 minutes.
Several of the ICE fast train connections across Germany also stop at Mainz central station.
How much time do you need to explore Mainz
Mainz is a fairly small city with around 220,000 inhabitants.
The most interesting parts of the city worth exploring are all concentrated in and around the old town, an area that is absolutely easy to navigate and totally walkable.
You can explore the main attraction comfortably in a day, thus Mainz is also a great location for a day trip from one of the nearby cities, in particular Frankfurt.
That said, there is enough to do and see here to extend your visit for another day or two. This way, you can also dive into the city’s many wine attractions and perhaps include a trip down the Rhine into the nearby wine-growing area of Rheinhessen.
Top things to do and see in Mainz
Mainz looks back of a history that spans more than 2,000 years. The city was founded by Roman general Drusus around 13 BC as Roman outpost Mogontiacum and later it became the provincial capital of Germania Superior (Upper Germania).
Today the gorgeous old town centre spots many half-timbered houses and small winding cobble-stoned streets.
One of the most beautiful corners is Kirschgarten, a small square just off Augustinerstraße. The square itself dates back to the late 1320s whilst the houses here were built between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Also located on the central Augustinerstraße in the old town, the beautiful baroque-style St Augustine Church (Augustinerkirsche) dates back to 1771. It was built by Augustinian hermits and replaces a gothic church that was built at the same site by the same fraternity in 1260.
Turning from Augustinerstraße into Kapuzinerstraße you will find the stunning church of St. Ignaz, built between 1763 und 1775, spotting a style featuring the transition from rococo to classicism.
Across the old town are more than 100 fountains which date back to various eras. The oldest one – called the market square fountain – is sitting directly in front of the impressive cathedral.
A relatively recent but nonetheless locally already very famous one is the carnival fountain. Mainz is one of the hotspots of Germany’s carnival festivities and the fountain is a year-round remainder of this tradition featuring more than 200 figures related to the carnival.
The carnival fountain is located on Schillerplatz and some might debate that it’s not the fountain but the grand historic mansions, the Osteiner Hof and Bassenheimer Hof, are the real attraction here.
Personally, I think the combination of the two together actually makes for a striking composition.
St. Martin’s Cathedral is looking back at more than 1,000 years; it is one of three imperial cathedrals along the river Rhine and over time has seen the coronation of seven kings. The imposing structure has gone through various renovations and extensions and today spots a mixture of historic styles from gothic to romanesque and baroque.
The large Domplatz (cathedral’s square) in front of St. Martin’s Cathedral is home to a lively farmers market taking place on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday from 7 am to 2 pm. The market is regarded as one of the oldest and perhaps most beautiful farmers markets across Germany and definitely worth spending some time.
Mainz is the birthplace of the printing press. Yes indeed. It was here that Johannes Gutenberg back in the 15th century invented the printing press with movable types; and with it single-handedly changed the history of writing, printing and bookselling. Head to the Gutenberg Museum just across the square of the cathedral, where you can see two of the first books ever printed – two 15th century Gutenberg bibles.
Located on Stefansberg (Stefan’s hill) is the Church of St Stephan, which is famous for its bright blue stain glass windows. Whilst the current church building itself was built between about 1290 and 1338, the windows were designed by no one less than Marc Chagall between 1978 and 1985.
A nice spot overlooking the city is Kupferbergterrasse. It is a popular locations of Mainz, home to Kupferbergterrasse Restaurant and Sektkellerei Kupferberg (a sparkling wine producer). The winery built one of the deepest caves in the world at this location at the end of the 1880s.
Today the building is home to a museum featuring more than 2,000 year old amphora, mugs and drinking cups from Roman and medieval times. In addition, there is one of the world’s largest collections of champagne glasses.
Another beautiful spot not to be missed in Mainz is the beautiful boardwalk along the Rhine river, the Rheinpromenade.
As many other cities across Europe, Mainz also has its own beach in the summer, and what better location could there be than the huge boardwalk directly at the shores of the river. Mainzstrand (Mainz beach) just behind Theodor-Heuss-Bridge offers an almost Caribbean like felling. It’s open from mid April onwards until the weather turns too cold.
Along the boardwalk you will find the beautiful Schlosstor (castle door) one of the few remnants of the former river fortifications built together with the large promenade starting in 1873.
Nestled on the shores of the river along Rheinpromenade just opposite Schlosstor is the impressive renaissance Electoral Palace, the former city residence of the Archbishop of Mainz. Today, it is home to the Roman-Germanic Central Museum.
Mainz – a Great Wine Capital of the World
Representing the wine-growing region of Rheinhessen, Mainz has been a member of the Great Wine Capitals of the World network since 2008. The network currently represents nine member cities across the world, all of which represent internationally renowned wine regions; and wine has an important part in each cities cultural life and the economy.
Wine is indeed a very important part of Mainz.
The city is the gateway to Germany’s largest wine growing region, Rheinhessen.
In the past not always regarded a region producing quality wines, Rheinhessen today is regarded as a quality producer of Riesling as well as Silvaner whilst the acreage of red-wine plantings has doubled in recent years.
Of all the 13 official wine-growing regions, Rheinhessen is also considered to be ahead in terms of organic viticulture with many of the local wineries now operating on a strictly organic basis.
The local winemakers are also strongly connected to the city Mainz and there are many events taking place throughout the city to promote Rheinhessen wines all year round. Therefore, if you do not have the time to head further out into the Rheinhessen area along the Middle Rhine Valley, the city of Mainz is your perfect starting point to sample and learn more about local wines.
Read on to learn about the many different wine related activities in the city of Mainz.
Wine related activities in Mainz
In a country of beer enthusiasts, Mainz is looking back at a long history of wine culture. In particular the old town is full of small wine taverns, wine bars and wine shops.
Whilst you can drink / taste wine in all of them, the cute wine taverns are the best place to combine wine and local food. These traditional locations serve local wines along with typical food from the area.
Some of the best wine taverns are the historic Zur Kanzel, located in a more then 250 year old just off Augustinerstraße, Augustinerkeller built into an old cave, Weinbar Marlene which offers wine tastings or Weinbar Laurenz.
For many, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Or at least that’s what many Germans would tell you if you ask. Yours truly excluded, but that’s another story.
Whether you agree or not, an event not to be missed is the Mainz Market Breakfast (Mainzer Marktfrühstück). Taking place each Saturday morning from late March to mid-November on the weekly farmers-market located at Liebfrauenplatz directly in front of Guttenberg Museum and the chathedral.
Each week a different vintner from the Rheinhessen region will be the host of the ‘breakfast’ where you can taste the wines of this specific winery.
It is an event that has achieved cult status and especially over the warmer summer months attracts a huge number of visitors from the city and further afield.
Don’t expect to be offered a real breakfast though. Though you can buy food at other stalls, and some sell bread and charcuterie, which make the ingredients of a typical German breakfast, no stalls will serve a regular breakfast.
The wine breakfast is part of the wider Mainzer Winzer initiative, a group of 26 vintners from the region promoting their wines and wine tourism offers in the city. Among the activities taking place in Mainz throughout the year are:
- Mainz Wine Days: Taking place over four days at the end of April / beginning of May directly at the shores of the river Rhine on the huge promenade. Along with local wines and food, there will be life music too.
- Wine marathon in April; no worries no running required. It is an event where the participating wineries offer a large selection of their wines at three locations throughout Mainz: Schillerplatz, Platz an der Deutschen Bank and Guttenbergplatz.
- Mainzer Wine Walk: A guided evening tour through Mainz on different routes. Each route includes three stops involving wine tasting and food.
- Wine bar: From around April to October a moveable wine bar is located on Rheinpromenade. Open during the weekends (Sat 11 am – 9 pm and Sun 1 pm – 8pm) there will be a different winery each week serving wines by the glass.
Visiting Mainzer Weinmarkt
The most important wine event in the city, the annual Mainzer Weinmarkt (wine market) takes place over two long weekends at the end of August and first week in September.
Don’t be fooled by the name. It is not a market, this is a veritable wine festival with all the opportunities to drink wine (sold by the glass) and eat lots of delicious street foot in the beautiful Stadtpark, an urban park close to the shores of the Rhine river.
The event spots many stalls offering a large range of wines from vintners of the nearby Rheinhessen along with other German and international wineries.
Integrated in the Weinmarkt is a sparkling wine festival and the arts market located in the beautiful rose garden.
If you come to the festival to taste a couple of wines (who would not, after all that’s the reason to attend) you might consider purchasing the Schlenderweinprobenticket. OK, that is a particular difficult German word and not even straightforward for a German. In short, it is a ticket that allows you to sample one wine of your choosing from eight participating wineries. The wineries are listed on the ticket and the ticket is valid for the all days of the festival over both weekends, so you do not have to drink eight wines at the same day.
Thursday: 6 pm – 11 pm
Friday: 5 pm – 1 am
Saturday: 3 pm – 1 am
Sunday: 1 pm – 11 pm
Have you been to Mainz and one of the city’s amazing wine events yet? Let me know about your experience.