The beating heart of Mainz - A walk through the old town

Even the name ‘Kirschgarten’, literally ‘cherry garden’, is enticing. Boasting cobbled streets of pristine half-timbered houses with white render and dark red beams topped off with grey slate-covered gabled roofs, the little square is a real jewel in the Mainz old town

“The old town of Mainz has been gradually restored since the 80s, exposing the half-timbering in the process. This section of town was largely undamaged by the 1945 bombing. The same cannot be said for the rest of Mainz.” Guide Renate Michel tells of the darkest chapter in the history of Mainz, when 80 per cent of the city was destroyed on 27 February that year.

And a stroll through the old town is a walk through the changing history of Mainz. The story began in 13 BC with the establishment of a Roman legionary camp.

The oldest half-timbered house in Mainz is the Gothic Haus zum Aschaffenberg, which dates back to the medieval period in the middle of the 15th century. Who knows, maybe Johannes Gutenberg watched on as it was built. After all, the great inventor of modern letterpress printing lived in Mainz at the same time.

The "Kirschgarten" in Mainz old town, Rhinehesse

The "Kirschgarten" in Mainz old town, Rhinehesse

Then or now, there is no other building that typifies the skyline quite as impressively as St Martin's Cathedral, standing proud and steadfast over the city. And it has seen a lot, having stood there for more than 1,000 years. Devastating fires, wars and destruction, but the people of Mainz have always rebuilt it, altered and made it even more magnificent and beautiful.

“This will not to be outdone by fate reflects the typical character of the Mainz people. Accept things, yes! But then make the best of them,” explains Renate Michel.

The mighty red sandstone cathedral is not only the impressive centrepiece of the old town. On market days, it also provides a backdrop for the lively goings-on on the cathedral squares. The lovely fountains and columns and brightly-coloured houses seem almost to disappear amongst the smart market stalls.

A special view of St. Martin's Cathedral, Rhinehesse

A special view of St. Martin's Cathedral, Rhinehesse

Strolling around the market in Mainz, Rhinehesse

Strolling around the market in Mainz, Rhinehesse

If the cathedral is the heart of the old town, then Augustinerstrasse is its main artery. It is cheerful, friendly and lively, and full of charming little shops and cafés. There is simply nothing better than enjoying a coffee and a slice of cake, and watching the world go by.

But while on Augustinerstrasse, you should also cast your eyes upwards to admire the façades of the magnificent Gründerzeit town houses and the baroque Augustinerkirche. Its fabulous white and gold Rococo interior boasts some wonderful paintings. It is another spot where you can enjoy the calm for a while before heading back out to the cheerful bustle of the old town streets.

The people of Mainz are famous for their friendliness, approachability and cheer, and the best place to observe this is in its charming wine bars.

You can hear the friendly chatter and laughter throughout the winding streets of the old town. If you come in, they will make space, and if it is still too full, they will just budge up and share a table.

“The people of Mainz learned their friendly tolerance from the Romans, who brought wine with them. And their legionaries came from all sorts of countries. So multiculturalism was built in from the start. And this made them very open people.”

Guide Renate Michel is convinced that this is the case.

Augustinerstrasse and the Augustinerkirche, Rhinehesse

Augustinerstrasse and the Augustinerkirche, Rhinehesse

More recommended excursions for culture lovers in Mainz:

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