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Things to Do in Mainz

Once a year, on the Monday preceding Ash Wednesday, the streets of Mainz erupt into a riotous celebration of spring, accompanied by a vibrant procession of glittering floats, costumed dancers and marching bands. This is the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) parade, the dramatic culmination of the Mainz Fastnacht or Carnival, which draws thousands of spectators to the historic city to join in the biggest party of the year.

Even if you aren’t in town for the carnival, there are plenty of good reasons to visit Mainz and the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate makes a popular base camp for tours and boat cruises into the Rhine Valley. The heart of the city is the Old Town, preserving much of its medieval character in its timber-fronted houses, narrow laneways and traditional Weinstuben (wine bars), set on the banks of the picturesque Rhine River.

First settled back in Roman times, a walking tour of modern-day Mainz unearths a number of historic sights, most notably the ornate Mainz Cathedral, a Romanesque masterpiece dating back to the 11th century. Nearby is the Marktbrunnen, one Germany’s largest Renaissance fountains and the Gothic St Stephen’s Church, famous for its exquisite stained glass windows, the handiwork of Russian artist Marc Chagall. The Gutenberg Museum is also here – devoted to the city’s most famous 15th-century resident, Johannes Gutenberg, the inspired creator of the moveable type printing press, largely credited with spearheading the Information Age.

Mainz is also home to one of the oldest universities in the country and the annual influx of German and international students add to the city’s lively party atmosphere. Along with the annual weeklong carnival, Mainz hosts the Mainzer Johannisnacht in June, the traditional Mainz Midsummer Night Festival and the summertime Mainz Wine Festival. But while there’s no doubting Mainz knows how to throw a good party, the city still manages to keep its laid-back, small-town vibe, making it one of West Germany’s most effortlessly charming cities.
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