As the largest town and capital of Rhineland-Palatinate and with rapid transport links to Frankfurt 42km to the northeast, MAINZ has a very different, more urban feel, to the rest of the state. The city has also made a heavyweight contribution to German history: starting as a strategically important settlement at the confluence of the Main and Rhine, by the eighth century it had developed into the main ecclesiastical centre north of the Alps, and its archbishop was one of the most powerful Holy Roman electors. The city also entered the history books when Mainz resident Johannes Gutenberg made their mass production possible with the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth century.
Like much of the Rhineland, Mainz had a spell in French hands as the city of Mayence (1792–93 and 1798–1814), which it survived quite well. It was less fortunate during World War II when bombers pounded a good portion of the city into submission. Nevertheless enough of the half-timbered Altstadt and the Dom, around which the main sights are centred, survived or was rebuilt to make its compact centre attractive to explore. The bustling adjacent Marktplatz is home to the Gutenberg Museum, while the only attractions outside the immediate centre are relatively minor draws, appealing most to those interested in Roman history: the Landesmuseum and the Museum für Antike Schiffarht.
Mainz’s many Weinstuben offer a good place to refresh your palate and rest your legs at the end of the day, while the liveliest time to be in town is during the Carnival – on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – which Mainz celebrates with gusto; and during the late-June Mainzer Johannisnacht when half a million revellers come to a giant Volksfest.