Presiding over the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar 19km from Heidelberg, MANNHEIM has a big-city feel quite unlike its bookish neighbour. It gained urban status in 1607 under Elector Friedrich IV of the Palatinate, its glory days coming a century later when Elector Carl Philipp transferred his capital from Heidelberg. The industrial revolution affected the city profoundly: Karl Benz founded his motor company in Mannheim in 1883; three years later he tested the world’s first real car here. Mannheim lost much to World War II bombs, but the major landmarks were restored afterwards, the museums are excellent and it remains a good place to see Jugendstil (Art Nouveau). Nowadays it’s one of Germany’s most cosmopolitan cities – a fact reflected in the multiethnic make-up of platinum-selling local R&B group Söhne Mannheims (Sons of Mannheim).

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