Fodor's Germany - Fodor's (2016)
The Pfalz and Rhine Terrace
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Top Reasons to Go | Getting Oriented | What’s Where | Planning | Driving the German Wine Road
Updated by Christie Dietz
Pfalz and wine go hand in hand. This region of vineyards and picturesque villages is the home of the German Wine Road and the country’s greatest wine festival at Bad Dürkheim. Six of Germany’s 13 wine-growing regions are in the area.
The Pfalz has a mild, sunny climate, and that seems to affect the mood here, too. Vines carpet the foothills of the thickly forested Haardt Mountains, an extension of the Alsatian Vosges. The Pfälzerwald (Palatinate Forest) with its pine and chestnut trees is the region’s other natural attraction. Hiking and cycling trails lead through the vineyards, the woods, and up to castles on the heights.
The border between the Pfalz and Rheinhessen is invisible, but you begin to get a sense of Rheinhessen’s character soon after crossing it. It’s a region of gentle, rolling hills and expansive farmland, where grapes are but one of many crops; vineyards are often scattered miles apart. The slopes overlooking the Rhine between Worms and Mainz—the so-called Rhine Terrace—are a notable exception, with a nearly uninterrupted ribbon of vines, including the famous vineyards of Oppenheim, Nierstein, and Nackenheim on the outskirts of Mainz.
TOP REASONS TO GO
Wine: German Rieslings are some of the most versatile white wines in the world. If you’ve only tried the sweet style, the rest may be a revelation.
Festivals: Wine is a great excuse for merrymaking, and wine festivals take place in almost every town and village across the region from May through October. The largest wine festival in the world takes place in the town of Bad Dürkheim, in front of a wine barrel the size of a building.
Pfälzerwald: The Palatinate Forest is a paradise for hiking and cycling. Even a short stroll under the beautiful pine and chestnut trees is a relaxing and way to spend an afternoon.
Castles: Burg Trifels and Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe contrast strikingly in style, inside and out. Both are wonderful settings for concerts.
Cathedrals: The cathedrals in Speyer, Worms, and Mainz are the finest examples of grand-scale Rhenish Romanesque architecture in Germany.
If you’re arriving from the dramatic stretch of the river Rhine centered on the Loreley and Koblenz to the north, you’ll notice that the landscape here is far gentler. So, too, is the climate: this region, guarded at its northern edge by the medieval city of Mainz and touching the French border at its southern extreme, is one of Germany’s warmest. This helps the land give birth to plentiful fruits such as apricots and figs, and to some of Germany’s greatest wines.
The German Wine Road. The picturesque Deutsche Weinstrasse (German Wine Road) weaves through the valleys and among the lower slopes of the Haardt Mountains. Along its length is a string of pretty half-timber wine-producing villages, each more inviting than the last.
The Rhine Terrace. Rheinhessen, or the “Rhine Terrace,” is a broad, fertile river valley, where grapes are but one of many crops. Here the medieval cities of Mainz, Worms, and Speyer all bear testament to the great power and wealth brought by the important trading route created by the mighty Rhine itself.
WHEN TO GO
After countless celebrations of the Mandelblüten (blossoming of the almond trees) along the Wine Road in March, the wine festival season picks up in May and continues through October. The landscape alters dramatically in May as the vines’ tender shoots and leaves begin to appear, and as the wine harvest progresses in September and October, foliage takes on reddish-golden hues.
Attending a wine festival is a fun and memorable part of any vacation in wine country. You can sample local food and wine inexpensively, and meet winegrowers at their stands without making an appointment. Wine, Sekt (sparkling wine), and Weinschorlen (wine spritzers) flow freely at festivals all over the region, from tiny villages to the larger towns. The bigger events often involve live music, parades, fireworks, and rides. See www.germanwines.de for an events calendar with an up-to-date overview of the many smaller, local wine festivals that take place in virtually every village.
Brezelfest (Pretzel Festival).
Beer and pretzels are central to this annual six-day celebration held in Speyer over the second weekend in July. Other highlights include carnival rides and games, fireworks, and a grand parade. | Festpl. | Speyer | www.brezelfest-speyer.de.
For 10 days in August, the wine town of Deidesheim fills up with stalls where visitors can sample local wines and hearty cuisine. Deidesheim’s wineries also stay open late, offering live entertainment most nights during the festival. | Marktpl. | Deidesheim.
Deutsches Weinlesefest (German Wine Harvest Festival).
In Neustadt, the German Wine Queen is crowned during this 10-day wine festival in early October. The festival includes wine tastings, the largest wine festival parade in Germany, and a huge fireworks display on the final night. | Various locations including the Saalbau, Heztelpl., and Bahnhofsvorpl. | Neustadt | www.neustadt.eu/.
Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt (Sausage Market).
The Pfalz is home to the world’s largest wine festival, held in Bad Dürkheim in mid-September in front of the world’s largest wine barrel. Some 400,000 pounds of sausage are consumed during eight days of merrymaking. | Sankt-Michaels-Allee 1 | Bad Dürkheim | www.duerkheimer-wurstmarkt.de.
Mainzer Johannisnacht (The Mainz Midsummer St. John’s Night Festival).
In addition to carnival rides, a craft market, fireworks, and plenty of food and drink, live performances from local and international bands, as well as theater and cabaret performances, take place on six stages in the city center in late June. Since the festival is at least nominally in honor of Johannes Gutenberg, printers’ apprentices are dunked in water in front of the Gutenberg Museum as part of a “printers’ baptism” ceremony. | Various locations | Mainz | www.johannisnacht.de.
Wormser Backfischfest (Fried Fish Festival).
Carnival rides, traditional folk music and dance, jousting on the Rhine, and fireworks create a jovial atmosphere at this annual festival, starting in late August, which honors the city’s fishermen. Don’t pass up the chance to taste more than 400 wines at the festival’s Wonnegauer Wine Cellar. | Festpl. | Worms | www.backfischfest.de | Late Aug.-early Sept.
PLANNING YOUR TIME
Central hubs such as Bad Dürkheim or Neustadt make good bases for exploring the region; smaller towns such as St. Martin, Deidesheim, and Gleiszellen are worth an overnight stay because of their charm. Driving the Wine Road takes longer than you might expect, and will probably involve spur-of-the-moment stops, so you may want to consider a stopover in one of the many country inns en route.
When traveling with children, Neustadt and Worms are convenient bases from which to explore nearby Holiday Park.
Frankfurt-Main is the closest major international airport for the entire Rhineland. International airports in Stuttgart and France’s Strasbourg are closer to the southern end of the German Wine Road. If you’re traveling from within Europe, the frequently disparaged Ryanair hub in the remote Frankfurt suburb of Hahn is actually a convenient jumping-off point for a tour of the region, with bus services to Mainz, Koblenz, Heidelberg, and Karlsruhe.
There’s no charge for transporting bicycles on local trains throughout Rheinland-Pfalz; carriages suitable for traveling with them are indicated by stickers depicting bicycles. For maps, suggested routes, bike-rental locations, and details on Pauschalangebote (package deals) or Gepäcktransport (luggage-forwarding service), contact the Pfalz or Rhine Terrace tourist service centers.
It’s 162 km (100 miles) between Schweigen-Rechtenbach and Mainz, the southern- and northernmost points of this region. The main route is the Deutsche Weinstrasse, which is a Bundesstrasse, abbreviated “B,” as in B-38, B-48, and B-271. The route from Worms to Mainz is the B-9.
Mainz is on the high-speed ICE (InterCity Express) train route linking Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, and Dresden, and so forms a convenient gateway to the region. The excellent networks of public transportation called the Rheinland-Pfalz-Takt and Rhein-Main Verkehrsverbund operate throughout the region with well-coordinated RegioLinie (buses) and Nahverkehrszüge (local trains). Regional trains link Mainz with other towns along the Rhine Terrace, including Worms and Speyer, while local branch lines serve key hubs along the Wine Road such as Neustadt and Bad Dürkheim. Smaller towns and villages connect with these hubs by an excellent network of local buses.
TIP The Rheinland-Pfalz Ticket is a great value if you plan to travel on the train. The ticket costs €24 for the first person and €4 for each additional person, up to five people. It’s valid for a whole day, beginning at 9 am on weekdays and midnight on weekends and holidays, until 3 am the following morning. It can be used on all regional trains and buses, but not the high-speed ICE trains; ensure you write your name on your ticket after purchase.
Lunch in this region is generally served from noon until 2 or 2:30, dinner from 6 until 9:30 or 10. Credit cards have gained a foothold, but many restaurants will accept only cash or debit cards issued by a German bank. Casual attire is typically acceptable at restaurants here, and reservations are generally not needed.
Book in advance if your visit coincides with a large festival. Bed-and-breakfasts abound. Look for signs reading “Fremdenzimmer” or “Zimmer frei” (rooms available). A Ferienwohnung (holiday apartment), abbreviated FeWo in tourist brochures, is an economical option if you plan to stay in one location for several nights.
Pfalz.Touristik. | Martin-Luther-Str. 69 | Neustadt | 06321/39160 | www.pfalz.de.
Rheinhessen-Touristik. | Friedrich-Ebert-Str. 17 | Ingelheim am Rhein | 06731/9510-7440 info hotline: Mon.-Thurs. 8:30-4:30, Fri. 8:30-12:30 | www.rheinhessen.de.
Rheinland-Pfalz Tourismus. | 01805/915-200 info hotline, € 0.14/min, mobile max €0.42/min | www.gastlandschaften.de.Südliche Weinstrasse.
| An der Kreuzmühle 2 | Landau | 06341/940-407 | www.suedlicheweinstrasse.de.
The Wines of Rheinland-Pfalz
The Romans planted the first Rhineland vineyards 2,000 years ago, finding the mild, wet climate hospitable to grape growing. By the Middle Ages viticulture was flourishing and a bustling wine trade had developed. Wine making and splendid Romanesque cathedrals are the legacies of the bishops and emperors of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz. This region, now the state of Rheinland-Pfalz (Rhineland Palatinate), remains a major wine center, with two of the largest wine districts in the country, Rheinhessen and the Pfalz.
In the Pfalz, you can follow the Deutsche Weinstrasse as it winds its way north from the French border. Idyllic wine villages beckon with flower-draped facades and courtyards full of palms, oleanders, and fig trees. “Weinverkauf” (wine for sale) and “Weinprobe” (wine-tasting) signs are posted everywhere—an invitation to stop in to sample the wines.
Most of the wines from both Pfalz and Rheinhessen are white, and the ones from Rheinhessen are often fragrant and sweeter than their counterparts from the Pfalz. Many are sold as offene Weine (wines by the glass). The classic white varieties are Riesling, Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau (also called Rivaner), Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc). Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir), Dornfelder, and Portugieser are the most popular red wines. The word Weissherbst, after the grape variety, indicates a rosé wine.
Riesling is the king of German grapes. It produces wines that range widely in quality and character: Rieslings are noted for their strong acidity, sometimes-flowery aroma, and often mineral-tasting notes—all reflections of the soil in which they’re grown. Riesling made its name throughout the world as a sweet (lieblich) wine, but many Germans (and, increasingly, others) prefer dry (trocken) or semi-dry (halbtrocken) versions. Importers, especially in the United States, have tended not to bring over many dry Rieslings, so take the opportunity to sample some while in Germany.
DRIVING THE GERMAN WINE ROAD
Due to its sunny skies, warm weather, and fertile fields, many Germans consider the Pfalz their version of Tuscany. In addition to vineyards, the mild climate fosters fig, lemon, and chestnut trees.
The best time for a drive is early spring, when the route is awash with pink and white almond blossoms, or early fall, when you can sample sweet young wines. The Deutsche Weinstrasse begins in Schweigen-Rechtenbach and runs alongside the Bundesstrassen (highways) B-38 and B-271. Yellow signs depicting a cluster of grapes guide visitors along a picturesque path of villages and vineyards north, to the end of the route at the “House of the German Wine Road” in Bockenheim. The entire road is just a little more than 50 miles and can be driven in a few hours. However, it can easily turn into a two-day drive (or longer!) if you stop to sample the local food and wines. Get an early start and allow yourself to get lost in the charming villages along the way, leaving time for a hike (or a bike ride) among the beautiful vines.
DRINKING AND DRIVING
Germany has strict laws against driving (and biking) under the influence, so if you’re planning to take advantage of the numerous Weinprobe (wine samples) offered along the route, make sure you have a designated driver. Alternatively, just let the vintner know what you like, and he can help you pick a bottle to enjoy when you reach your final destination.
The entire route is scenic, but if you’re short on time, the stretch between Gleiszellen and Bad Dürkheim is particularly rich with castles, vineyards, and vistas. If you opt to start at Schweigen-Rechtenbach on the French border, the southernmost point of the route, you can begin by snapping a photo in front of the Deutsches Weintor (German Wine Gate). Otherwise, pick up the route in Gleiszellen, where you should stop to savor a glass of the hard-to-find Muskateller wine, with its distinctly sweet aroma. Weinstube Wissing has a homey atmosphere and offers Muskateller in red, yellow, and rosé varieties.
Depending on the time of year, your trip may coincide with a local wine or produce festival—as you drive, keep your eyes peeled for signs advertising “Weinfest.” Summer is the best time for festivals, but the seasons are celebrated with roadside stands selling local produce all year round. When you arrive in Edenkoben, stretch your legs at the Pompeian-style palace Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe, then continue uphill via the Rietburgbahn chairlift to the vantage point at the Rietburg Castle Ruins. During the summer months, early evening is a lovely time for the journey, and the chairlift is even open until midnight when the castle festival is on, the pathway lit by Chinese lanterns. If you plan to split your drive into two days, the neighboring village of St. Martin is approximately halfway through the journey, making it an ideal place to overnight. Spend the next morning exploring the winding streets of this charming village on foot.
Continue north, stopping for lunch in the picturesque town of Deidesheim, home to three of the region’s most famous wineries and some of its very best restaurants. Drive leisurely through the vineyards of Forst, stop off at the imposing ruins of Burgruine Hardenburg (Hardenburg Fortress), and end your day with a visit to the world’s biggest wine barrel in Bad Dürkheim.
Consulat des Weines.
Oenophiles won’t want to miss this Vinothek in the charming village of St. Martin. It offers more than 80 varieties of wine from its vineyards in St. Martin and nearby Edenkoben (cash only). The sheer variety makes it easy to overindulge—good thing there’s a hotel and restaurant on-site. There’s a second location, also on Maikammerer Strasse near the St. Martiner Castell hotel (closed Sundays). | Maikammerer Str. 44 | St. Martin | 06323/8040 | www.consulat-des-weins.de | Closed Sun. after noon.
If you’re in Bad Dürkheim on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, head to the farmers’ market for flowers, bread, wine, meats, cheeses, and vinegars. | Am Obermarkt | Bad Dürkheim | 06323/8040 | www.wochenmarkt-duerkheim.de | Wed. and Sat. 7 am-1 pm.
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Schweigen-Rechtenbach | Bad Bergzabern | Gleiszellen | Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe | St. Martin | Neustadt | Speyer | Deidesheim | Bad Dürkheim
The Wine Road spans the length of the Pfalz wine region, north to south, and makes for a memorable road trip in either direction. Given its central location, the Pfalz is convenient to visit before or after a trip to the Black Forest, Heidelberg, or the northern Rhineland.
21 km (13 miles) southwest of Landau on B-38.
The southernmost wine village of the Pfalz lies on the French border. During the economically depressed 1930s, local vintners established a route through the vineyards to promote tourism. The German Wine Road was inaugurated in 1935; a year later the massive stone Deutsches Weintor (German Wine Gate) was erected to add visual impact to the marketing concept. Halfway up the gateway is a platform that offers a fine view of the vineyards—to the south, French, to the north, German. Schweigen’s 1-km (½-mile) Weinlehrpfad (educational wine path) wanders through the vineyards and, with signs and exhibits, explains the history of viticulture from Roman times to the present.
10 km (6 miles) north of Schweigen-Rechtenbach on B-38.
The landmark of this little spa town is the baroque Schloss (palace) of the dukes of Zweibrücken. The Gasthaus Zum Engel (Königstrasse 45) is an impressive Renaissance house with elaborate scrolled gables and decorative oriels. TIP Visit Café Herzog (Marktstrasse 48) for scrumptious, homemade chocolates, cakes, and ice creams made with unexpected ingredients, such as wine, pepper, cardamom, curry, thyme, or fig vinegar. The café is closed Mondays.
Getting Here and Around
From Landau, you can take the regional train to Bad Bergzabern, which takes about 30 minutes and requires a change in Winden (Pfalz). Bus No. 543 also connects Bad Bergzabern along the Wine Road to Schweigen, over the French border to Wissembourg. The Rheinland-Pfalz ticket is valid on both train and bus until the French border.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | Behind a simple facade is this inn, with modern facilities, upscale and tasteful furnishings, an open fireplace perfect for cold winters, and, above all, a warm welcome from the Kuntz family. In the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, chef Karl-Emil Kuntz prepares a set menu with French/Mediterranean touches ($$$, reservations essential). Terrines and parfaits are favorites, as is the homemade goat cheese. The same kitchen team also serves regional specialties at the Pfälzer Stube ($$-$$$). The wine list is excellent. The hotel’s in Hayna, a suburb of Herxheim 20 km (12 miles) east of Bad Bergzabern via B-427. Pros: quiet location; friendly atmosphere; great food; free Wi-Fi. Cons: a detour off the Wine Road (about a half-hour drive); not many activities in the surrounding area. | Rooms from: €135 | Hauptstr. 62-64 | Hayna | 07276/5080 | www.hotelkrone.de | Restaurant Zur Krone closed Mon. and Tues., 1st 2 wks in Jan., and 3 wks in Aug. No lunch. | 60 rooms, 6 suites | Breakfast.
4 km (2½ miles) north of Bad Bergzabern on B-48.
Gleiszellen’s Winzergasse (Vintners’ Lane) is a little vine-canopied street lined with a beautiful ensemble of half-timber houses. Try a glass of the town’s specialty: spicy, aromatic Muskateller wine, a rarity seldom found even elsewhere in Germany.
Getting Here and Around
Gleiszellen is on the No. 543 bus line that runs from Landau to the French border town of Wissembourg. The bus runs hourly.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH: Burg Trifels.
Burg Trifels is on the highest of three sandstone bluffs overlooking Annweiler, which is 15 km (9 miles) northwest of Gleiszellen. Celts, Romans, and Salians all had settlements on this site, but it was under the Hohenstaufen emperors (12th and 13th centuries) that Trifels was built on a grand scale. It housed the crown jewels from 1125 to 1274 (replicas are on display today). It was also an imperial prison, perhaps where Richard the Lion-Hearted was held captive in 1193-94.
Although it was never conquered, the fortress was severely damaged by lightning in 1602. Reconstruction began in 1938, shaped by visions of grandeur to create a national shrine to the imperial past. Accordingly, the monumental proportions of some parts of today’s castle bear no resemblance to those of the original Romanesque structure. The imperial hall is a grand setting for the Serenaden (concerts) held in summer.
Arriving on foot: From the main train station in Annweiler, follow the local signs for Burg Trifels. The hike is about an hour. Arriving by car: Follow the A-65 direction Karl-Ludwigshafen, take exit Landau-Sued, then B-10 to Annweiler west. From there follow the local signs. Parking is at the foot of the fortress, a 20-minute walk from the top. | Burg Trifels | Annweiler | 06346/8470 | www.burgen-rlp.de | €3 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct., Nov., and Jan.-Mar., daily 9-5.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
$ | WINE BAR | Friendly service and a homey atmosphere await guests at this restaurant. Wines, fine spirits, and regional delicacies are offered in the former premises of the family-owned distillery. Don’t miss a chance to sample their fruity Muskateller wine, and you might also want to pick up a bottle of their fresh red or white Pfälzer Traubensaft (grape juice) as a tasty souvenir. | Average main: €13 | Winzerg. 34 | 06343/4711 | www.weingut-wissing.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch Wed.-Sat. Check website for summer holiday closure.
Fodor’s Choice | Gasthof Zum Lam.
$ | B&B/INN | Flowers cascade from the windowsills of this 250-year-old half-timber inn in the heart of town, where the good rates include free Wi-Fi and an enjoyable breakfast buffet. Exposed beams add rustic charm to the airy rooms, while the bright bathrooms are modern. The inviting restaurant ($) has a dome-shape tile stove and natural stone walls. A courtyard and a vine-shaded terrace provide outdoor seating. Pros: quiet location; charming courtyard; beautiful old building. Cons: no elevator; no air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €90 | Winzerg. 37 | 06343/939-212 | www.zum-lam.de | Restaurant closed Wed. No lunch Nov.-Mar. | 20 double rooms | Breakfast.
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SCHLOSS VILLA LUDWIGSHÖHE
24 km (15 miles) north of Annweiler, slightly west of Edenkoben on the Wine Road.
For a cultural break from all that wine tasting, head to this Pompeian-style palace, the former summer residence of King Ludwig I, which overlooks what he described as “the most beautiful square mile of my realm,” where the Palatinate vineyards end and the forests begin. The layout and decor of the neoclassical palace—Pompeian-style murals, splendid parquet floors, and Biedermeier and Empire furnishings—are quite a contrast to those of medieval castles elsewhere in the Pfalz. Follow up your visit with a chairlift ride to the vantage point of the Rietburg Castle Ruins, or get your heart racing by following the example of the hardy German tourists who can often be seen hiking uphill between the two sights.
Rietburg Castle Ruins.
From Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe you can hike (30 minutes) or ride the Rietburgbahn chairlift (10 minutes) up to the Rietburg ruins for a sweeping view of the Pfalz. During a festive Lampionfahrt in July and August (dates vary each year), the chairlift operates until midnight on Saturdays, and the route is lit by dozens of Chinese lanterns. A restaurant, game park, and playground are on the grounds. | Villastr. 67 | Edenkoben | 06323/1800 | www.rietburgbahn-edenkoben.de | Chairlift €7 round-trip, €4.50 one way | Mar., Sun. 9-5; Apr. and May, weekdays 9-5, weekends 9-6; June-Oct., weekdays 9-5:30, weekends 9-6; Nov. 1-8, daily 9-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe.
Bavaria’s King Ludwig I’s Italian-style villa sits on the slopes overlooking Edenkoben and Rhodt unter Rietburg. The house is now used as a space for art exhibitions and musical events: the former dining room is used for classical concerts; the cellars house exhibitions of 20th-century ceramics; and an extensive collection of paintings and prints by the leading German impressionist Max Slevogt (1868-1932) is also on display. Hourly tours are included in the admission fee.
Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe is reachable by car, bus, or foot; the 506 Palatina bus goes directly from Edenkoben on Sundays and holidays. If you opt to walk, the Weinlehrpfad (educational trailpath) takes about 45 minutes. Historical winepresses and vintners’ tools are displayed at intervals along the path, which starts at the corner of Landauer Strasse and Villa Strasse in Edenkoben. | Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe, Villastr. 64 | Edenkoben | 06323/93016 | www.schloss-villa-ludwigshoehe.de | €6 | Apr.-Sept., daily 9-6; Oct., Nov., and Jan.-Mar., daily 10-5.
Eating Well in the Pfalz
Wine has a big influence on the cuisine here, turning up both in dishes and as an accompaniment to them. Weinkraut is sauerkraut braised in white wine; Dippe-Has’ is hare and pork belly baked in red wine; and Backes Grumbeere is scalloped potatoes cooked with bacon, sour cream, white wine, and a layer of pork. Among the regional dishes well suited to wine is the Pfälzer Teller, a platter of bratwurst, Leberknödel (liver dumplings), and slices of Saumagen (a spicy meat-and-potato mixture cooked in a sow’s stomach) with Kartoffelpüree (mashed potatoes) on the side. Seasonal favorites include Spargel (white asparagus), Wild (game), Maronen (chestnuts), and mushrooms, particularly Pfifferlinge (chanterelles) and Steinpilz (porcini). During the grape harvest, from September through November, try a slice of Zwiebelkuchen (onion tart) with a glass of Federweisser, fermenting young grape juice—just drink it slowly as it tastes nonalcoholic but can be very potent.
WHERE TO STAY
$$$ | HOTEL | Fireside seating in the lobby lounge and spacious rooms (all with a balcony) make for a pleasant, peaceful stay in this former Rebschule (vine nursery) on the edge of the forest. The price includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, and use of the sauna, steam room, pool, and gym. The restaurant ($$) serves light, seasonal cuisine with Mediterranean accents. Themed excursions (wine, culture, nature) are available, as are health and wellness treatments. Rhodt proper is a 15-minute walk from the hotel. Be sure to take a stroll along Theresienstrasse with its venerable old chestnut trees. It’s one of the most picturesque lanes of the Pfalz. Pros: beautiful vineyard views; quiet. Cons: room decor a bit old-fashioned. | Rooms from: €196 | 3 km (2 miles) west of Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe, Theresienstr. 200 | Rhodt unter Rietburg | 06323/70440 | www.alte-rebschule.de | 34 rooms, 3 suites | Breakfast.
26 km (16 miles) north of Annweiler, slightly west of the Wine Road. Turn left at the northern edge of Edenkoben.
This is one of the most charming wine villages in the Pfalz. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined by historic half-timber houses that are now home to inns, restaurants, and wineshops, making the compact, historically preserved Altstadt (Old Town) a pleasure to stroll.
Getting Here and Around
The easiest way to reach St. Martin is by car. There’s no train station, but Bus Nos. 500 and 501 connect St. Martin with Neustadt and Edenkoben. The trip takes about 20 minutes from Neustadt, a further five to Edenkoben in the same direction, and the buses run approximately every half hour. Alight at “St. Martin, Ort.”
Katholische Pfarrkirche St. Martin (Catholic church of St. Martin).
Perched dramatically on the northern edge of St. Martin against a backdrop of vineyards, this late-Gothic church was thought to have been built around 1200 (the interior was renovated in the mid-1980s). Renaissance tombstones and a Madonna sculpture carved from a single piece of oak are among the intriguing artworks found inside. | Kirchg. 6 | 06323/5100.
Now romantic ruins, this castle was originally constructed in the early 13th century and used by the bishops of Speyer; during the 15th to the 19th centuries, the Knights of Dalberg resided there. You can see Schloss Kropsburg from the hills above St. Martin. It’s not open to the public, but if you hike up to the castle’s outskirts, you can enjoy a traditional sausage lunch at the charming inn and restaurant Burgschänke an der Kropsburg ($, closed on Tuesdays) while admiring the views. | Kropsburg | Restaurant closed on Tues. No dinner.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | B&B/INN | This bright, modern house in the midst of the vineyards outside of St. Martin has stylish rooms decorated with both antiques and modern furnishings, and is close enough to walk into town. Some rooms have balconies with a view of the Hambacher Schloss. Pros: excellent-value rooms; quiet location; free Wi-Fi. Cons: rooms are very simple; extra charge for breakfast (€10) and daily room cleaning (€12) for apartments. | Rooms from: €94 | Riedweg 1 | 06323/94270 | www.landhaus-christmann.de | 6 rooms, 3 apartments | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | St. Martiner Castell.
$$ | HOTEL | The Mücke family transformed a simple vintner’s house into a fine, family-friendly hotel and restaurant, retaining many of the original features, such as exposed beams and an old winepress. Though it’s in the center of town, the hotel is peaceful, particularly the rooms with balconies overlooking the garden. A native of the Loire Valley, Frau Mücke includes French influences in the menu ($$-$$$). The wine list offers a good selection of bottles from a neighboring estate, Altes Schlösschen. Pros: beautiful old house; free Wi-Fi in rooms; free parking; breakfast included. Cons: can be noisy; fee charged for cots (€9.50) and extra beds (€13-€26). | Rooms from: €115 | Maikammerer Str. 2 | 06323/9510 | www.martinercastell.de | Restaurant closed Tues. | 22 rooms, 2 suites | Breakfast.
Schloss Villa Ludwigshöhe, Kloster Heilsbruck (a former Cistercian convent near Edenkoben), and Schloss Edesheim serve as backdrops for concerts and theater in summer. For a calendar of events, contact the Südliche Weinstrasse regional tourist office in Landau (06341/940-407 | www.suedlicheweinstrasse.de).
Artist Georg Wiedemann is responsible for both the contents and the design of the containers at Germany’s premier wine-vinegar estate, Doktorenhof. Vinegar tastings and cellar tours take place on Saturday mornings (90 minutes, €25); pick up a gift in the shop afterwards (cash only). The estate’s in Venningen, 2 km (1 mile) east of Edenkoben. | Raiffeisenstr. 5 | Venningen | 06323/5505 | www.doktorenhof.de | Mon., Tues., Thurs., and Fri. 8-4, Wed. 8-6, Sat. 9-2.
EN ROUTE: Hambacher Schloss.
On the Wine Road, it’s a brief drive to the Neustadt suburb of Hambach. The sturdy block of Hambacher Schloss is considered the cradle of German democracy. It was here, on May 27, 1832, that 30,000 patriots demonstrated for German unity, raising the German colors for the first time. Inside there are exhibits about the uprising and the history of the castle. The French destroyed the 11th-century imperial fortress in 1688. Reconstruction finally began after World War II, in neo-Gothic style, and the castle is now an impressive setting for theater and concerts. On a clear day, you can see the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral and the northern fringe of the Black Forest from the terrace restaurant.
Group tours can be booked in advance; audio guides are available. | Hambacher Schloss | Neustadt | 06321/926-290 | www.hambacher-schloss.de | €4.50 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-6; Nov. and Dec., daily 11-5.
8 km (5 miles) north of St. Martin, 5 km (3 miles) north of Hambach on the Wine Road.
Neustadt and its nine wine suburbs are at the midpoint of the Wine Road and the edge of the district known as Deutsche Weinstrasse-Mittelhaardt. With around 5,000 acres of vines, they together make up Germany’s largest winemaking community.
Getting Here and Around
Regular trains connect Neustadt with Ludwigshafen (which connects further to Worms and Mainz). Coming from Speyer, change in Schifferstadt. Local buses connect Neustadt to other towns along the Wine Road. Once you’re in Neustadt, the best way to get around is on foot.
Tourist-Information. | Tourist-Information, Hetzelpl. 1 | 06321/926-892 | www.neustadt.pfalz.com.
Thirty historic train engines and railway cars are on display at the Eisenbahn Museum behind the main train station. Take a ride through the Palatinate Forest on one of the museum’s historic steam trains, the Kuckucksbähnel (€14 round-trip), which departs from Track 5 around 10:45 am some Sundays and Wednesdays between Easter and mid-October (check the website for the latest schedule). It takes a little over an hour to cover the 13-km (8-mile) stretch from Neustadt to Elmstein. | Neustadt train station, close to the Schillerstr. entrance | 06321/30390 | www.eisenbahnmuseum-neustadt.de | €2 | Mar.-Dec. 23, Tues.-Fri. 10-1, weekends 10-4; Dec. 24-Feb., Sat. 10-4. Closed some holidays.
While in the Pfalz, keep your eyes peeled for the elusive Elwetritschen—mythical, birdlike creatures rumored to roam the forest and vineyards at night. Hunting the creatures is something of a local prank. Sculptor Gernot Rumpf has immortalized the Elwetrischen in a fountain (Brunnen) on Marstallplatz. Near the market square, search for the one that “escaped” from its misty home. | Marstallpl.
Biking, Hiking, and Walking
Country roads and traffic-free vineyard paths make the area perfect for cyclists. There are also well-marked cycling trails, such as the Radwanderweg Deutsche Weinstrasse, which runs parallel to its namesake from the French border to Bockenheim, and the Radweg (cycling trail) along the Rhine between Worms and Mainz. The Palatinate Forest, Germany’s largest single tract of woods, has more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles) of paths.
The Wanderweg Deutsche Weinstrasse, a walking route that traverses vineyards, woods, and wine villages, covers the length of the Pfalz. It connects with many trails in the Palatinate Forest that lead to Celtic and Roman landmarks and dozens of castles dating primarily from the 11th to 13th century. In Rheinhessen, you can hike two marked trails parallel to the Rhine: the Rheinterrassenwanderweg and the Rheinhöhenweg along the heights.
Marktplatz (Market square).
The Marktplatz is the focal point of the Old Town and a beehive of activity when farmers come to sell their wares on Tuesdays and Saturdays, plus Thursdays from April to October. The square itself is ringed by baroque and Renaissance buildings (Nos. 1, 4, 8, and 11) and the Gothic Stiftskirche (Collegiate Church), built as a burial church for the Palatinate counts. In summer, concerts take place in the church (Saturday 11:30-noon). Afterward, you can ascend the southern tower (187 feet) for a bird’s-eye view of the town. The world’s largest cast-iron bell—weighing more than 17 tons—hangs in the northern tower. Indoors, see the elaborate tombstones near the choir and the fanciful grotesque figures carved into the baldachins and corbels. | Marktpl. | www.stiftskirche-nw.de.
QUICK BITES: Café Sixt.
For the best coffee, cake, and handcrafted truffles and pralines in town, head to Café Sixt. The Pfälzer Kirschtorte (cherry torte) is a favorite. They also offer breakfasts, a small daily lunch menu, and can cater for some allergies. | Hauptstr. 3 | 06321/2192 | www.cafesixt.de.
Otto Dill Museum.
The impressionist painter Otto Dill (1884-1957), a native of Neustadt, is known for his powerful animal portraits (especially lions, tigers, and horses) and vivid landscapes. The Otto Dill Museum displays some 100 oil paintings and 50 drawings and watercolors from the Manfred Vetter collection. | Bachgängel 8, Ecke Rathausstr. 12 | 06321/398-321 | www.otto-dill-museum.de | €2.50 | Tues.-Fri. 2-5, weekends 11-5.
WHERE TO EAT
Altstadtkeller bei Jürgen.
$$ | GERMAN | Tucked behind a wooden portal on a cobblestone street, this vaulted sandstone “cellar” (it’s actually on the ground floor) feels very cozy. Equally inviting is the Tuscan-style terrace, with its citrus, olive, palm, and fig trees. The regular menu includes a number of salads and a good selection of fish and steaks. Owner Jürgen Reis is a wine enthusiast, and his well-chosen list shows it. | Average main: €18 | Kunigundenstr. 2 | 06321/32320 | www.altstadtkeller-neustadt.de | Closed Sun. and Mon.
Fodor’s Choice | NETTS Restaurant-Weinbar.
$$$ | GERMAN | Susanne and Daniel Nett operate a chic wine restaurant-bar filled with modern art within a 16th-century vaulted stone cellar at Weingut A. Christmann, a top wine estate. The short, seasonal menu has a Mediterranean influence, offering dishes such as green gazpacho with prawns, and cod wrapped in courgette with a sweet potato torte and fennel foam; and there’s also a children’s menu. The thoughtful wine list includes lots of Pfälzer wines by the glass, including those from the Christmann winery. Dining in the intimate courtyard overlooking the vineyards is a romantic option in summer, when they also open their garden for coffee, cake, and Flammkuchen (a thin-crust, rectangular pizza covered in crème fraîche and various toppings). The Netts also offer seven rooms ($) for overnight guests, each with hardwood floors and Wi-Fi. | Average main: €23 | Meerspinnstr. 46 | Gimmeldingen | 06321/60175 | www.nettsrestaurant.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and Tues. No lunch.
Fodor’s Choice | Urgestein.
$$$$ | GERMAN | Dine inside the cozy brick-lined former horse stables or outside on the lovely patio at this restaurant inside the historic stone houses of the Steinhauser Hof hotel. The ambitious tasting menus highlight local produce and are best paired with one of the 350 Pfalz wines on the wine list. There’s no à la carte ordering: try the €85 four-course or €100 five-course menus (wine is extra) featuring dishes such as miso cod with roast fennel salad, or egg yolk with truffle, or splurge on the six-course surprise menu for €140 (including wine pairings). There’s also a vegetarian menu. Leave room for the tasty desserts, which include rhubarb with nougat ganache and hazlenuts. | Average main: €100 | Rathausstr. 6 | 06321/489-060 | www.restaurant-urgestein.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch.
$ | WINE BAR | The Esel (donkey) lends its name to his wine pub and one of its specialties, Eselssuppe, a hearty soup of pork, beef, and vegetables. The season dictates the menu here, and it’s popular with regulars throughout the year. In summer, savor top Pfälzer wines in the flower-filled courtyard, or in the warmth of an open hearth in winter. From October to April, try the Schlachtfest (meat and sausages from freshly slaughtered pigs; check with restaurant for dates). | Average main: €14 | Kurpfalzstr. 62 | 06321/66984 | www.eselsburg.de | Closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch, except during Schlachtfest.
WHERE TO STAY
$ | B&B/INN | This 17th-century stone guesthouse has a beautiful cobblestone courtyard and magnificent fig tree; all the rooms have blond-wood furnishings, and some have kitchenettes. Wine tastings and vineyard hikes can be arranged, and cycling fans can rent bikes at a shop around the corner. Neustadt proper is 5 km (3 miles) north. A winter garden, wine café, and Vinothek have been added to the courtyard. Pros: quiet; friendly; rustic location. Cons: light from street lamp may bother light sleepers; additional fee for baby bed/room charge for children. | Rooms from: €79 | Kreuzstr. 11 | Diedesfeld | 06321/484-060 | www.rebstoeckel.eu | No credit cards | 5 rooms | Breakfast.
$ | HOTEL | This architectural gem dates back to 1276 and is one of the oldest preserved stone mansions in Rhineland-Palatinate. The rooms are on the small side and have few frills, but are a good value for the prime location in the center of the Altstadt. A jazz club attached to the handsome restaurant draws in German and international musicians several times a month. Though there’s no parking on-site, it’s available in a public lot a couple blocks away. Breakfast (€8.50) costs extra. Pros: beautiful old building; central location; friendly staff; renowned restaurant; free Wi-Fi. Cons: basic rooms; some street noise; no elevator. | Rooms from: €82 | Rathausstr. 6 | 06321/489-060 | www.steinhaeuserhof.de | Restaurant closed Sun. and Mon. No lunch. | 6 rooms | No meals.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Concerts, art exhibits, and wine festivals are held at the Herrenhof in the suburb of Mussbach. Owned by the Johanniter-Orden (Order of the Knights of St. John) from the 13th to 18th century, it’s the oldest wine estate in the Pfalz, also home to a wine museum that displays 19th- and 20th-century winemaking equipment (open Sundays 2-6, April-October). Contact the Neustadt tourist office for event program details and tickets. | An der Eselshaut 18 | 06321/963-9990 | www.herrenhof-mussbach.de.
The Saalbau, opposite the train station, is Neustadt’s convention center and main venue for concerts, theater, and events. | Bahnhofstr. 1 | 06321/926-812.
In summer there’s open-air theater at Villa Böhm, which also houses the city’s history museum. | Villenstr. 16b, Maximilianstr. 25 | 06321/855-540 | www.stadtmuseum-neustadt.de | Museum: Wed. and Fri. 4-6; weekends 11-1 and 3-6.
Keramik-Atelier Ingrid Zinkgraf.
After seeing the water-spewing Elwetritschen fountain in action, you might want to take one home. Workshop, gallery, and pottery store Keramik-Atelier Ingrid Zinkgraf has amusing ceramic renditions of the mythical birds, as well as modern and traditional pottery and sculptures. | Weinstr. 1, Am Klemmhof | 06345/942-143 | www.keramikatelier-zinkgraf.de | Apr.-Oct., Wed.-Sat. 2.30-6; Nov.-Mar. by appt. only.
EN ROUTE: Holiday Park.
The Holiday Park, in Hassloch, 10 km (6 miles) east of Neustadt, is one of Europe’s largest amusement parks. The admission fee covers all attractions, shows, special events, and the children’s world. The free-fall tower, hell barrels, and Thunder River rafting are long-standing favorites, and Expedition GeForce is one of the largest roller coasters in Europe, with a steep drop of 82 degrees. For a great panoramic view of the surroundings, whirl through the air on Lighthouse-Tower, Germany’s tallest carousel (265 feet). On Friday and Saturday in summer, the “Summer Nights” spectacular features live music and an outdoor laser light show. | Holiday Parkstr. 1-5 | 06324/59930 | www.holidaypark.de | €28.45 | Irregular hrs: see website.
25 km (15 miles) east of Neustadt via B-39, 22 km (14 miles) south of Mannheim via B-9 and B-44.
Speyer is a picturesque and easily walkable town filled with interesting sights and a wonderful Christmas market in the winter. It’s also a must-visit for those who like to eat well: there’s a huge choice of traditional German restaurants and pretty beer gardens, and in summer, the main street (Maximilianstrasse) is packed with the tables and chairs of the plethora of cafés that line it. It was one of the great cities of the Holy Roman Empire, founded in pre-Celtic times, taken over by the Romans, and expanded in the 11th century by the Salian emperors. Between 1294, when it was declared a Free Imperial City, and 1570, no fewer than 50 imperial diets were convened here. The term “Protestant” derives from the Diet of 1529, referring to those who protested when the religious freedom granted to evangelicals at the Diet of 1526 was revoked and a return to Catholicism was decreed. The neo-Gothic Gedächtniskirche on Bartolomäus-Weltz-Platz commemorates those 16th-century Protestants.
Getting Here and Around
Speyer is a little way off the German Wine Road. It is served by regular trains from Mannheim (takes around 30 minutes) and Mainz (approximately 1 hour). Buses go down the main street, but the center is compact enough that getting around on foot is not a problem.
Speyer. | Tourist Office, Maximilianstr. 13 | 06232/142-392 | www.speyer.de.
Ascend the Altpörtel, the impressive town gate, for a grand view of Maximilianstrasse, the now busy shopping street that once led kings and emperors straight to the cathedral. | Postpl. | €1.50 | Apr.-Oct., weekdays 10-noon and 2-4, weekends 10-5.
Historisches Museum der Pfalz (Palatinate Historical Museum).
Opposite the cathedral, the museum houses the Domschatz (Cathedral Treasury). Other collections chronicle the art and cultural history of Speyer and the Pfalz from the Stone Age to modern times. Don’t miss the “Golden Hat of Schifferstadt,” a Bronze Age headdress used in religious ceremonies dating back to approximately 1300 BC. The Wine Museum houses the world’s oldest bottle of wine, which is still liquid and dates to circa AD 300. The giant 35-foot-long wooden winepress from 1727 is also worth a look. | Dompl. 4 | 06232/620-222 service point, 06232/13250 general office | www.museum.speyer.de | €7; additional fee for special exhibitions | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Fodor’s Choice | Jewish Quarter.
Speyer was an important medieval Jewish cultural center. Behind the Palatinate Historical Museum is the Jewish quarter, where you’ll find synagogue remains from 1104; Germany’s oldest (circa 1126) ritual baths, the 33-foot-deep Mikwe; and the Museum SchPIRA, which displays objects such as gravestones and coins from the Middle Ages . | Kleine Pfaffeng. 21, near Judeng. | 06232/291-971 | €3 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-4.
Fodor’s Choice | Kaiserdom (Imperial Cathedral).
The Kaiserdom, one of the finest Romanesque cathedrals in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site, conveys the pomp and majesty of the early Holy Roman emperors. It was built between 1030 and 1061 by the emperors Konrad II, Henry III, and Henry IV. The last replaced the flat ceiling with groin vaults in the late 11th century, an innovative feat in its day. A restoration program in the 1950s returned the building to almost exactly its original condition. There’s a fine view of the east end of the structure from the park by the Rhine. Much of the architectural detail, including the dwarf galleries and ornamental capitals, was inspired and executed by stonemasons from Lombardy, which belonged to the German Empire at the time. The four towers symbolize the four seasons and the idea that the power of the empire extends in all four directions. Look up as you enter the nearly 100-foot-high portal; it’s richly carved with mythical creatures. In contrast to Gothic cathedrals, whose walls are supported externally by flying buttresses, allowing for a minimum of masonry and a maximum of light, at Speyer the columns supporting the roof are massive. The Krypta (crypt, €3.50, audio guide available) lies beneath the chancel. It’s the largest crypt in Germany and is strikingly beautiful in its simplicity. Four emperors, four kings, and three empresses are buried here. | Edith-Stein-Pl. | 06232/102-118 | Donation requested | Apr.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 9-7, Sun. noon-6; Nov.-Mar., Mon.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. noon-6; closed during services.
Fodor’s Choice | Technik Museum (The Technical Museum of Speyer).
Built on the site of a former aircraft works just outside the city center (about a 10-minute walk from the Kaiserdom), the Technik Museum houses 300 exhibits including space suits, a landing capsule, and an original Russian BURAN space shuttle as part of Europe’s largest aerospace exhibition. In addition, there are walk-in exhibits including a Boeing 747 and a 46-meter-long U9 submarine; and there’s also a collection of vintage cars, ships, locomotives, and motorcycles. While you’re here, don’t miss one of the world’s biggest collections of mechanical musical instruments at the Wilhelmsbau Museum (entry included in ticket price) or a movie on the curved screen of the IMAX DOME theater. Allow at least three hours to visit this extensive museum, which covers several large buildings. | Am Technik Museum 1 | 06232/67080 | speyer.technik-museum.de/de/ | €14 | Weekdays 9-6, weekends and holidays 9-7.
From April to October, you can take a short river cruise through the network of branching arms of the river to the north or south of Speyer to discover the idyllic landscape of the ancient, forested islands along the Altrhein, the original course of the Rhine. The islands are home to rare flora, fauna, and many birds; and there are grand views of the cathedral from the boat.
From March to November, boat tours depart from just outside the Sea Life Aquarium at noon, 2, and 4. The trip lasts about 1½ hours and offers a unique look at Speyer’s old harbor and its fascinating network of rivers. | Hafenstr. 22 | 06232/291-150 | www.ms-sealife.de | €10.
Enjoy a peaceful tour of the Speyer harbor and its surrounding river network on a ship built for 200 passengers. Homemade cakes and drinks are available on board. Tuesday through Friday, 1½-hour tours depart at 1 and 3, on Saturday at 1:30, 3, and 5 and on Sunday at 1, 3, and 5. The pickup and drop-off point is on the Leinpfad. | Dock: Leinpfad [via Rheinallee], on the Rhine riverbank, Rheinalle 2 | 06232/71366 | www.personenschifffahrt-streib.de | €10.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | A pleasant 15-minute stroll through the gardens behind the cathedral will bring you to the oldest beer garden in Speyer, opened in 1919, where the portions of rustic, regional fare are enormous. Try the regional specialty Maultaschen (ground-beef ravioli) or their special (but not entirely traditional) “WuPo,”, Wurstsalat mit Pommes, a salad made from strips of bologna sausage, onions, and gherkins, dressed with oil and vinegar and served with fries. Service is quick and friendly, and, in summer, the popular, leafy riverside beer garden is a pleasant spot to pass the afternoon. | Average main: €12 | Leinpfad 1c | 06232/75539 | www.alter-hammer.de | No credit cards.
$$ | GERMAN | Friendly service and fresh seasonal dishes make for an enjoyable dining experience in the town hall’s vaulted cellar (1578). The frequently changing menu offers creative soups and other starters (pretzel soup, Tuscan bread soup) and entrées such as Sauerbraten nach Grossmutters Art (sour beef pot roast the way grandma used to make it) or Bachsaibling (brook trout) in a red-wine-butter sauce. Wines from the Pfalz predominate, with many available by the glass. Small plates and drinks are served in the courtyard May through September. | Average main: €15 | Maximilianstr. 12 | 06232/78612 | www.ratskeller-speyer.de | Closed Mon. No dinner Sun.
$ | GERMAN | It’s small and often packed with local families, but the rustic cooking in this cozy restaurant is worth the wait. Hearty portions of regional specialties will delight both your mouth and your wallet. The Leberknoedel (liver dumplings) and Rumpsteak (rump steak) are both excellent, and there’s also a nice selection of fresh salads. In the summer months, the patio seating is great for people-watching. | Average main: €10.50 | Korng. 5 | 06232/623-857 | www.weinstube-rabennest.de | No credit cards | Closed Sun.
Wirtschaft Zum Alten Engel.
$$ | GERMAN | This 200-year-old vaulted brick cellar has rustic wood furnishings and cozy niches. Seasonal dishes made from local ingredients supplement the large selection of Pfälzer and Alsatian specialties, such as Maultaschen (large ravioli), Blutwurst (blood sausage), and the Winzerteller (“vintner’s dish,” a platter of bratwurst, Saumagen, and Leberknödel with sauerkraut and home-fried potatoes). The drinks menu features a large collection of Pfälzer, European, and New World wines plus a selection of fruit brandies and German liqueurs | Average main: €18 | Mühlturmstr. 7 | 06232/70914 | www.zumaltenengel.de | No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | Positioned a very short walk from the cathedral end of Maximilianstrasse, the Domhof makes for an ideal base for exploring the town. Pros: very central; breakfast can be eaten on the terrace in summer. Cons: the cathedral bells may disturb light sleepers. | Rooms from: €125 | Bauhof 3 | 06232/13290 | www.domhof.de | 49 rooms | Breakfast.
Hotel Goldener Engel.
$ | HOTEL | A scant two blocks west of the Altpörtel is the “Golden Angel,” a friendly, family-run hotel that has recently renovated rooms all individually furnished with antiques and innovative metal-and-wood designer furniture. Paintings by contemporary artists and striking photos of Namibia and the Yukon line the walls—the photos a tribute to proprietor Paul Schäfer’s wanderlust. The hotel reception is directly opposite the entrance to Zum Alten Engel, a stone’s throw away. Some parking is available in the courtyard (€2 per day), otherwise at the parking lot opposite. Pros: friendly; good location; free Wi-Fi. Cons: some rooms are a little small; no air-conditioning; a small amount of noise from the main street may disturb light sleepers. | Rooms from: €92 | Mühlturmstr. 5-7 | 06232/13260 | www.goldener-engel-speyer.de | 44 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
City highlights for music lovers are Orgelfrühling, the organ concerts in the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) in spring, the jazz festival in mid-August, and the concerts in the cathedral during September’s Internationale Musiktage. Contact the Speyer tourist office for program details and tickets.
Walk into the town-hall courtyard to enter the Kulturhof Flachsgasse, home of the city’s art collection and special exhibitions. | Flachsg. 3 | 06232/142-399 | Free | Thurs.-Sun. 11-6.
8 km (5 miles) north of Neustadt via the Wine Road, B-271.
The immaculately preserved half-timber houses and historical facades lining its narrow streets fit perfectly with Deidesheim’s reputation as one of the most renowned wine towns in the Pfalz. The grapes have made winemakers here a great deal of money over the centuries, and it shows: despite its size, it’s a town that boasts Michelin-starred restaurants and world-class hotels owned by each of its biggest wine producers, Bassermann, Buhl, and Bürklin-Wolf. Sites of interest include the Gothic Church of St. Ulrich, the Rathaus, and the elegant Hotel Deidesheimer Hof. In August, the Deidesheim Weinkerwe (wine festival) begins at the Marktplatz, and in December, it’s the site of a lively Christmas market. The main reason to visit, however, remains the opportunity to taste some of the best wines the Pfalz has to offer. Most of the local Weingüter (wineries) lining the streets are open to visitors year-round.
Deidesheim. | Tourist Service Center, Bahnhofstr. 5 | 06326/96770 | www.deidesheim.de.
Church of St. Ulrich.
A Gothic gem inside and out, this is the only 15th-century church in the Palatinate region whose walls have been entirely preserved, though the interior has changed according to the style of the times. Despite having been looted during the French Revolution and turned first into a wine warehouse and later a military prison, the basic exterior structure of the church hasn’t been altered. The interior includes stained glass that dates from the Middle Ages and wooden figures from around 1500. | Marktpl. | 06326/345 | www.st-ulrich-deidesheim.de | Closed during services.
Rathaus und Museum für Weinkultur (Town Hall and Museum of Viniculture).
The old Rathaus, whose doorway is crowned by a baldachin and baroque dome, is at the Marktplatz. The attractive open staircase leading up to the entrance is the site of the festive Geissbock-Versteigerung (billy-goat auction) every Pentecost Tuesday, followed by a parade and folk dancing. The goat is the tribute neighboring Lambrecht has paid Deidesheim since 1404 for grazing rights. Inside, in addition to a richly appointed Ratssaal (council chamber), is a museum of wine culture, which examines the importance of wine throughout history. There’s also a wine bar where you can taste and buy wines from the area. | Historisches Rathaus, Marktpl. 9 | 06326/981-561 | www.weinkultur-deidesheim.de | Donation requested | Mar.-Dec., Wed.-Sun. and holidays 4-6.
Vines, flowers, and fig trees cloak the houses behind St. Ulrich on Heumarktstrasse and its extension, Deichelgasse (nicknamed Feigengasse because of its Feigenbäume—fig trees). To see the workshops and ateliers of about a dozen local artists, sculptors, and goldsmiths, follow the Künstler-Rundweg, a signposted trail (black on yellow signs). The tourist office has a brochure with a map and opening hours. Cross the Wine Road to reach the grounds of Schloss Deidesheim, now a pub. The bishops of Speyer built a moated castle on the site in the 13th century. Twice destroyed and rebuilt, the present castle dates from 1817, and the moats have been converted into gardens. | Schlossstr. 4 | 06326/96690 | www.schloss-deidesheim.de | Pub: Apr.-Oct., closed Tues. and Wed. and no lunch Mon. or Thurs.; Nov. and Dec., no lunch Fri.-Sun.
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
Gasthaus Zur Kanne.
$$$ | GERMAN | This friendly family-run restaurant, with its outdoor stone-walled patio hidden inside a lovely courtyard, has been a guesthouse of some sort since 1160. The short but smart menu changes daily, focusing on local, seasonal ingredients and listing the origin of every product; the Pfalz-focused wine list is organized by the towns where the bottles were produced. The set menu of three courses for €30 is a good deal and if they’re available, the venison meatballs and chanterelles with dumplings are both delicious regional options. | Average main: €21 | Weinstr. 31 | 06326/96600 | www.gasthauszurkanne.de | No credit cards | Closed Mon. and Tues.
Fodor’s Choice | L.A. Jordan im Ketschauer Hof.
$$$$ | FUSION | An 18th-century complex is the home to the Bassermann-Jordan wine estate and an elegant restaurant, which has one Michelin star. Choose to sit in the sleek new conservatory or the more formal restaurant, where elements of the original structures harmonize with modern, minimalist decor. Pick your own five- or seven-course menu from the selection of Mediterranean-influenced Asian dishes or order à la carte; and select a wine from over 500 bottles from all over the world. The restaurant is also open for lunch Thursday-Saturday from May to September. | Average main: €33 | Ketschauerhofstr. 1 | 06326/70000 | www.ketschauer-hof.com | Restaurant closed Sun. and Mon. Check website for annual holiday.
Restaurant St. Urban.
$$$ | GERMAN | Named after the patron saint of the wine industry, this upscale restaurant offers traditional Palatinate cuisine and what is probably the best wine list in the region, featuring the wines of more than 50 local wineries. If the weather is good, sit at a table on the market square with a glass of Riesling and pick from the affordable lunch menu, which features dishes such as a taster board of local meats and cheeses known as a Vesperbrett. Downstairs, the Michelin-starred Schwarzer Hahn ($$$$, dinner only, Wednesday-Saturday) has served its elaborate regional haute cuisine to royal and political figures from around the globe. | Average main: €21 | Hotel Deidesheimer Hof, Marktpl. 1 | 06326/96870 | www.deidesheimerhof.de | Check website for annual holidays.
Fodor’s Choice | Hotel Deidesheimer Hof.
$$ | HOTEL | Despite the glamour of some of its clientele—heads of state, entertainers, and sports stars line the guest book—this hotel retains its country charm and friendly service. Rooms are luxurious, and several have baths with round tubs or whirlpools. Half the rooms have modern decor; others still have an old-fashioned, rustic appearance. Parking costs €8 per day. Pros: some rooms have whirlpool baths; friendly staff; central location on the Marktplatz. Cons: breakfast costs an impressive €21. | Rooms from: €125 | Marktpl. 1 | 06326/96870 | www.deidesheimerhof.de | Check website for annual holiday closing | 24 rooms, 4 suites | No meals.
Hotel Ketschauer Hof.
$$$$ | HOTEL | This sleek, sophisticated former manor house, one of the few modern design hotels in the region, attracts a discerning crowd. Rooms are decorated in soothing neutral colors and bedecked with funky chandeliers; some of the glass-enclosed bathrooms feature luxurious oversized tubs. There’s also a small but inviting wellness area, which offers beauty treatments in addition to a steam room and sauna. Bistro 1798 ($$-$$$), with its sunny terrace, and the L.A. Jordan restaurant and bar in the same complex, provide dining options on-site; the included breakfast is à la carte. Pros: high-speed Wi-Fi included; close to the center of town; friendly service. Cons: expensive, and breakfast costs €25 extra; few public spaces in the hotel. | Rooms from: €200 | Ketschauerhofstr. 1 | 06326/70000 | www.ketschauer-hof.com | 5 rooms, 13 suites | No meals.
Fodor’s Choice | Kaisergarten.
$$ | HOTEL | At the younger, trendier sister of the nearby Ketschauer Hof, the ambience is relaxed but classy. Pros: free high-speed Wi-Fi; use of gym, spa, and pool included; all rooms are air-conditioned; elevator. Cons: breakfast costs €19; parking costs extra. | Rooms from: €140 | Weinstr. 12 | 06326/700-077 | www.kaisergarten-deidesheim.com | 77 rooms, 8 suites | No meals.
$ | HOTEL | The beautifully decorated, modern guest rooms are named after famous vineyards in Forst, and six have balconies—the Pechstein room is particularly nice. You can enjoy excellent wines in the tasting room, beneath a shady pergola in the courtyard, or in the privacy of your room (the refrigerator in the breakfast room is stocked for guests). The pubs in Forst’s Old Town are a three-minute walk away. Pros: quiet location; friendly; good value. Cons: far from the sights; difficult to reach without a car; no Wi-Fi. | Rooms from: €92 | Wiesenweg 1a | Forst | 06326/336 | www.lucashof.de | No credit cards | Closed Christmas.-Feb. | 7 rooms | Breakfast.
EN ROUTE: Forst and Wachenheim, both a few minutes’ drive north of Deidesheim, complete the trio of famous wine villages. As you approach Forst, depart briefly from B-271 (take the left fork in the road) to see the Old Town and its vine- and ivy-clad sandstone and half-timber vintners’ mansions. Peek through the large portals to see the lush courtyards. Many estates on this lane have pubs, as does the town’s Winzerverein (cooperative winery). Wachenheim is another 2 km (1 mile) down the road. Its cooperative, Wachtenburg Winzer (with a good restaurant), is on the left at the entrance to town; walk towards the town center from there and you’ll pass Sektkellerei Schloss Wachenheim on the left, which produces some of Germany’s best Sekt. Head for the Wachtenburg (castle) ruins up on the hill for a glass of wine overlooking the vineyards. The Burgschänke (castle pub) is open if the flag is flying.
6 km (4 miles) north of Deidesheim on B-271.
This pretty spa town is nestled into the hills at the edge of the Palatinate Forest and ringed by vineyards. The saline springs discovered here in 1338 are the source of today’s drinking and bathing cures, and at harvest time there’s a detoxifying Traubenkur (grape-juice cure). The town is the site of the Dürkheimer Wurstmarkt, the world’s largest wine festival, held in mid-September. Legendary quantities of Weck, Worscht, und Woi (dialect for bread rolls, sausage, and wine) are consumed at the fair, including enough wine to fill half a million Schoppen, the region’s traditional glasses, which hold a half liter (about a pint). The festival grounds are also the site of the world’s largest wine cask, the Dürkheimer Riesenfass, with a capacity of 450,000 gallons. Built in 1934 by an ambitious cooper, the cask is now a restaurant that can seat more than 450 people.
Getting Here and Around
Regional trains link Bad Dürkheim with Freinsheim and Neustadt. Once in town, all the hotels and restaurants are within easy walking distance.
Bad Dürkheim Tourist Information. | Tourist Information, Kurbrunnenstr. 14 | 06322/935-140 | www.bad-duerkheim.com.
Burgruine Hardenburg (Hardenburg Castle Ruins).
The massive ruins of 13th-century Hardenburg Castle lie 3 km (2 miles) west of Kloster Limburg (via B-37). In its heyday, it was inhabited by more than 200 people, but it burned down in 1794. In the visitor center there’s an exhibit about the fascinating history of the castle, and various events are held here throughout the year, including a medieval market in September. | Kaiserslauterer Str. | 06322/7530 | www.schloss-hardenburg.de | €3 | Jan.-Mar., Oct., and Nov., Tues.-Sun. 9-4:30; Apr.-Sept., Tues.-Sun. 9-6.
Heidenmauer (Heathen Wall).
One kilometer (½ mile) northwest of town lies the Heidenmauer, the remains of an ancient Celtic ring wall more than 2 km (1 mile) in circumference and up to 20 feet thick in parts. The remnants are on the Kastanienberg, above the quarry. Nearby are the rock drawings at Kriemhildenstuhl, an old Roman quarry where the legionnaires of Mainz excavated sandstone. | Bad Dürkheim.
Kloster Limburg (Limburg Abbey).
Overlooking the suburb of Grethen are the ruins of Kloster Limburg. Emperor Konrad II laid the cornerstone in 1030, supposedly on the same day that he laid the cornerstone of the Kaiserdom in Speyer. The monastery was never completely rebuilt after a fire in 1504, but it’s a majestic backdrop for open-air performances in summer. On the tree-shaded terrace of the adjacent restaurant Spötzl’s Klosterschänke Limburg ($-$$, closed Monday and Tuesday, no lunch Wednesday-Saturday), you can combine good food and wine with a great view. | Luitpoldweg 1 | 06322/935-140 | www.klosterschaenkelimburg.de | €1 for tower visit | Nov.-Easter, Fri.-Sun. and holidays from 11:30; Easter-Oct., Tues.-Thurs. 11:30-6, Fri and Sat. 11:30-9, Sun. and holidays 11:30-7.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Sure, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but then again, how often do you get the chance to eat in the world’s biggest wine barrel? The two-story “giant cask” is divided into various rooms and niches with rustic wood furnishings. Venture upstairs to see the impressive Festsaal mit Empore (banquet hall with gallery). There’s also extensive outdoor seating if the weather’s nice. Regional wines, Pfälzer specialties, and international dishes are served year-round. | Average main: €14 | St. Michael Allee 1 | 06322/2143 | www.duerkheimer-fass.de.
$$ | GERMAN | Behind a group of lush, potted plants and a sign on a pink-and-white house reading “Bier- und Weinstube Tenne” is Petersilie, a traditional wine tavern that stands out from the many other cafés and eateries on Römerplatz. Patio seating is great for people-watching; indoors is warm and cozy, with rustic wooden tables, beamed ceilings, and pillow-lined benches. The menu offers both homey Pfälzer fare and international cuisine. | Average main: €15 | Römerpl. 12 | 06322/4394 | www.weinstube-petersilie.de | No credit cards.
WHERE TO STAY
Mercure Hotel Bad Dürkheim an den Salinen.
$$ | HOTEL | Within walking distance to the center of town, this well-maintained chain hotel offers free admission to the Salinarium water park and spa next door, where there are indoor and outdoor pools and wellness treatments. Rooms are rather basic but comfortable, and the superior guestrooms have pleasant balconies. Pros: free Wi-Fi; plenty of free parking; three restaurants and two bars in the hotel. Cons: not a lot of character. | Rooms from: €130 | Kurbrunnenstr. 30-32 | 06322/6010 | www.mercure.com | 100 rooms | Breakfast.
$$ | B&B/INN | At the Fitz-Ritter wine estate there are two different places to stay: a centuries-old stone cottage that sleeps up to four people and has its own pool on the parklike grounds, and a suite that sleeps four, plus four further rooms with shared bathroom and kitchen facilities in a courtyard full of oleanders, palms, fig trees, and nesting swallows. There are concerts and festivals in the garden, courtyard, and vaulted cellars. You can also taste the Fitz-Ritter wines in a wine bar and shop. Pros: quiet location amid the vines; friendly staff; short walk to the town center; free Wi-Fi. Cons: minimum stay in the cottage is seven nights; on weekends Apr.-Oct., all four rooms need to be rented together; no breakfast. | Rooms from: €100 | Weinstr. Nord 51 | 06322/5389 | www.fitz-ritter.de | 1 cottage, 4 rooms, 1 suite | No meals.
Weingut und Gästehaus Ernst Karst und Sohn.
$ | B&B/INN | Rooms at this cheerful guesthouse in the middle of the vineyards are airy and furnished mostly in pine; all of them have splendid views of the countryside, which you are invited to explore on bikes that you can borrow. The guesthouse is next to the Karst family’s wine estate, and tastings and cellar tours are available (Tuesday-Saturday 10-noon and 2-6; Sunday and holidays by appointment). Pros: quiet vineyard location; friendly staff. Cons: rooms include breakfast, but apartments don’t; far from the sights. | Rooms from: €80 | In den Almen 15 | 06322/2862 | www.weingut-karst.de | No credit cards | Closed Nov.-Feb. | 4 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
This casino is open daily at 11 am for the slot machines, 2 pm for roulette and poker, and 6 pm for blackjack; jacket and tie are no longer required, but tennis shoes, T-shirts, and shorts are not allowed. Be certain to bring your passport for identification; the minimum age is 18. | Kurparkhotel, Schlosspl. 6 | www.casino-bad-duerkheim.de | Check website for holiday closing times.
Several hundred wines from Bad Dürkheim and the vicinity can be sampled and purchased at this shop next to the Dürkheimer Riesenfass. The shop also sells other grape products and accessories. | St.-Michaels-Allee 10 | 06322/949-222 | www.weindom.de | Daily 10-6.
EN ROUTE: Römisches Weingut Weilberg (Roman wine estate Weilberg).
When the vineyards of Ungstein, a suburb north of Bad Dürkheim, were modernized in 1981, a Roman wine estate was unearthed. Among the finds was an ancient Kelterhaus (pressing house). Since it’s alongside the road, you can view the ancient, open-air wine estate at any time, but you can only see the winepress at work during an annual summer wine festival. To get here, look for signs to Villa Weilberg, to the left of the Wine Road (B-271). | Weinstr. | 06322/935-140.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
The Kurhaus Staatsbad houses all kinds of bathing facilities, including thermal baths, herbal steam baths, a sauna, and a hammam (Turkish bath). | Kurbrunnenstr. 14 | 06322/9640 | www.kurzentrum-bad-duerkheim.de | Mon., Tues., Thurs., Fri. 9-8, Wed. 8-8, Sat. 9-5, Sun. 9-2:30.
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Worms | Oppenheim | Nierstein | Nackenheim | Mainz
Like Speyer, the cities of Worms and Mainz were Free Imperial Cities and major centers of Christian and Jewish culture in the Middle Ages. Germany’s first synagogue and Europe’s oldest surviving Jewish cemetery, both from the 11th century, are in Worms. The imperial diets of Worms and Speyer in 1521 and 1529 stormed around Martin Luther (1483-1546) and the rise of Protestantism. In 1455 Johannes Gutenberg (1400-68), the inventor of the printing press and of movable type in Europe, printed the first Gutenberg Bible in Mainz.
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15 km (9 miles) east of Bockenheim via B-47 from Monsheim, 45 km (28 miles) south of Mainz on B-9.
In addition to having a great Romanesque cathedral, Worms is a center of the wine trade, as well as one of the most storied cities in Germany, with a history going back some 6,000 years. Settled by the Romans, Worms (pronounced vawrms) later became one of the imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire. More than 100 Imperial diets (assemblies) were held here, including the 1521 meeting where Martin Luther pleaded his cause.
Worms developed into an important garrison town under the Romans, but it’s better known for its greatest legend, the Nibelungenlied, derived from the short-lived kingdom established by Gunther and his Burgundian tribe in the early 5th century. The complex and sprawling story was given its final shape in the 12th century and tells of love, betrayal, greed, war, and death. It ends when Attila the Hun defeats the Nibelungen (Burgundians), who find their court destroyed, their treasure lost, and their heroes dead. One of the most famous incidents tells how Hagen, treacherous and scheming, hurls the court riches into the Rhine. Near the Nibelungen Bridge there’s a bronze statue of him caught in the act. The Nibelungenlied may be legend, but the story is based on fact. A Queen Brunhilda, for example, is said to have lived here. It’s also known that a Burgundian tribe was defeated in 436 by Attila the Hun in what is present-day Hungary.
Not until Charlemagne resettled Worms almost 400 years later, making it one of the major cities of his empire, did the city prosper again. Worms was more than an administrative and commercial center—it was a great ecclesiastical city as well. The first expression of this religious importance was the original cathedral, consecrated in 1018. Between 1130 and 1181 it was rebuilt in three phases into the church you see today.
Getting Here and Around
Worms can be reached by direct trains from both Mannheim and Mainz (approximately 30 minutes from each). The city center is quite compact and negotiable on foot.
Tourist Information. | Neumarkt 14 | 06241/853-7306 | www.worms.de.
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An imperial palace once stood in this park just north of the cathedral. It was the site of the fateful 1521 meeting between Luther and Emperor Charles V that ultimately led to the Reformation. Luther refused to recant his theses demanding Church reforms and went into exile in Eisenach, where he translated the New Testament in 1521 and 1522. | Stephansg. 9.
Judenfriedhof Heiliger Sand (Holy Sand Jewish Cemetery).
This is the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe and also one of the most atmospheric and picturesque. The oldest of some 2,000 tombstones date from 1076. Entry is via the gate on Willy-Brandt-Ring. | Andreasstr. and Willy-Brandt-Ring | Summer, daily 8-8; winter, daily 8-sunset (except Jewish holidays).
Fodor’s Choice | Kunsthaus Heylshof (Heylshof Art Gallery).
Located in the Heylshofgarten, this is one of the leading art museums of the region. It has an exquisite collection of German, Dutch, and French paintings as well as stained glass, glassware, porcelain, and ceramics dating from the 15th to the 19th century. | Stephansg. 9 | 06241/22000 | www.heylshof.de | €3.50 | Mar.-Dec., Tues.-Sat. 2-5, Sun. and holidays 11-5.
Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
This twin-towered Gothic church is set amid vineyards on the northern outskirts of Worms. It’s the namesake of the popular, sweet white wine Liebfraumilch, literally, the “Milk of Our Lady.” The wine (Blue Nun is the most well known brand) was originally made from the grapes of the small vineyard surrounding the church, but today it’s produced throughout Rheinhessen, the Pfalz, the Nahe, and the Rheingau wine regions. | Liebfrauenring 21 | www.liebfrauen-worms.de | Closed during services.
This monument commemorates Luther’s appearance at the Diet of Worms. He ended his speech with the words: “Here I stand. I have no choice. God help me. Amen.” The 19th-century monument includes a large statue of Luther ringed by other figures from the Reformation. It’s set in a small park on the street named Lutherring. | Lutherpl./Lutherring.
This stunning sight-and-sound exhibition is dedicated to Das Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs), the epic German poem dating to around 1200. Cleverly installed in two medieval towers and the portion of the Old Town wall between them, the exhibition brings to life the saga of the dragon slayer Siegfried. The architecture of the structure itself is also fascinating, and the rampart provides a wonderful view of the town. The tour script (via headphones and printed matter) is offered in English. Allow 1½ hours for a thorough visit. | Fischerpförtchen 10 | 06241/202-120 | www.nibelungen-museum.de | €5.50 | Tues.-Fri. 10-5, weekends and holidays 10-6. Check website for summer holiday closing time.
This first synagogue in Worms was built in 1034, rebuilt in 1175, and expanded in 1213 with a synagogue for women. Destroyed in 1938, it was rebuilt in 1961 using as much of the original masonry as had survived. It is located in the Jewish quarter, which is along the town wall between Martinspforte and Friesenspitze and between Judengasse and Hintere Judengasse. | Synagogenpl. | 06241/853-4700 | Apr.-Oct., daily 10-12:30 and 1:30-5; Nov.-Mar., daily 10-noon and 2-4; closed during services.
Fodor’s Choice | Wormser Dom St. Peter (Cathedral of St. Peter).
In contrast to Speyer’s Romanesque cathedral, the Worms Cathedral of St. Peter is much more Gothic. In part this is simply a matter of chronology, since Speyer Cathedral was finished in 1061, nearly 70 years before the one in Worms was even begun—and long before the lighter, more vertical lines of the Gothic style evolved. In addition, Speyer Cathedral was left largely untouched, but the Worms Cathedral underwent frequent remodeling. The Gothic influence here can be seen both inside and out, from the elaborate tympanum with biblical scenes over the southern portal (today’s entrance) to the great rose window in the west choir and the five sculptures in the north aisle recounting the life of Christ. The cathedral was gutted by fire in 1689 in the War of the Palatinate Succession. For this reason many of the furnishings are baroque, including the magnificent gilt high altar from 1742, designed by the master architect Balthasar Neumann (1687-1753). The choir stalls are no less decorative. They were built between 1755 and 1759 in rococo style. Walk around the building to see the artistic detail of the exterior. | Lutherring 9 | 06241/6115 | www.wormser-dom.de | Donation requested | Summer, daily 9-6; winter, daily 10-5. Closed during services.
Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Church of the Holy Trinity).
This Lutheran church is across the square from the Heylshofgarten. Remodeling during the 19th and 20th centuries produced today’s austere interior, although the facade and tower are still joyfully baroque. | Marktpl. 12 | http://www.dreifaltigkeitskirche-worms.de | Weds. and Sat. 10:30-4, Fri. and Sun. 2-5. Closed during services.
Museum der Stadt Worms (Municipal Museum).
To find out more about the history of Worms, visit this museum, housed in the cloisters of a Romanesque church in the Andreasstift. The collection includes artifacts from the Roman period (it features one of the largest collections of Roman glass in Germany), all the way up to local art from the 20th century. | Weckerlingpl. 7 | 06241/946-390 | €3 | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Next door to the city’s synagogue, this former study hall, dance hall, and Jewish home for the elderly now houses the city archives and the Jewish Museum. The well-written illustrated booklet Jewish Worms chronicles a millennium of Jewish history in Worms. The scholar Rashi (Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac of Troyes [1040-1105]) studied at the Worms Talmud academy circa 1060. | Hintere Judeng. 6 | 06241/853-4707, 06241/853-4701 | €1.50 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Sun. 10-12:30 and 1:30-5; Nov.-Mar., Tues.-Sun. 10-12:30 and 1:30-4:30.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | Located a little to the west of the center, by the banks of the Rhine, this house brewery serves a good range of classic German dishes such as meatloaf with Spätzle (egg noodles) as well as regional specialties. Service and decor are bright and cheery, and you will be surrounded by copper vats and oak barrels as you dine. The summer terrace by the river is a chance to enjoy a brew with a view. | Average main: €12 | Am Rhein 3 | 06241/921-100 | www.hagenbraeu.de | Closed Mon. and Tues. Nov.-Feb.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | The appeal of this hotel, with comfortable if somewhat bland rooms, lies in its friendly staff and its terrific location in the heart of the pedestrian zone (a parking garage is available for free). Its spacious conference rooms make it a popular choice for those in town on business. Pros: central location; breakfast included; free Wi-Fi. Cons: building design doesn’t have much charm; hotel in need of a refresh. | Rooms from: €105 | Obermarkt 10 | 06241/9070 | www.dom-hotel.de | 53 rooms, 2 apartments | Breakfast.
Land- und Winzerhotel Bechtel.
$ | HOTEL | The friendly Bechtel family, winegrowers and proud parents of a former German Wine Queen, offer very pleasant accommodations on the grounds of their wine estate in the suburb of Heppenheim, about 10 km (6 miles) west of Worms. The rooms all have balconies. You can enjoy country cooking (daily specials) as well as more refined fare with the estate’s wines in the restaurant ($-$$). Wine tastings in the vaulted cellars are also possible. To get here, leave Worms on Speyerer Strasse, an extension of Valckenbergstrasse, which runs parallel to the east side of the Dom. Pros: quiet location; excellent value; rooms have balconies. Cons: far from the sights; extra charge for breakfast; checkout is on the early side, at 10 am. | Rooms from: €65 | Pfälzer Waldstr. 100 | 06241/506-1332 | www.landhotel-bechtel.de | Restaurant closed Tues. No lunch Mon.-Sat. | 11 rooms | No meals.
Landhotel Zum Schwanen.
$ | HOTEL | Bärbel Berkes runs this lovingly restored country inn in Osthofen, 10 km (6 miles) northwest of Worms. You can linger over a meal or a glass of wine in its pretty courtyard, the hub of the 18th-century estate. Like the rooms, the restaurant ($-$$) is light, airy, and furnished with sleek, contemporary furniture. Regional favorites are served as well as dishes with international touches. The selection of local wines is exemplary. The beer garden is also inviting. Pros: quiet location; friendly staff; free Wi-Fi in rooms. Cons: far from the sights; no elevator. | Rooms from: €98 | Friedrich-Ebert-Str. 40, west of B-9| Osthofen | 06242/9140 | www.zum-schwanen-osthofen.de | Restaurant closed Sun. No lunch Sat. | 30 rooms | Breakfast.
Eat, drink and shop: this store and restaurant specializes in culinary items, including gift baskets, from Rheinhessen, Odenwald, and Pfalz. They also offer wine tastings and city tours. | Kammererstr. 60 | 06241/269-796 | www.starregion.de | Closed Sun.
26 km (16 miles) north of Worms, 23 km (14 miles) south of Mainz on B-9.
Oppenheim is slightly off the beaten path, making it an ideal destination if you’re looking to avoid the hordes of tourists that often descend on the Wine Road in midsummer. It’s a steep walk from the train station up to the picturesque old town and market square, but worth the effort to reach the Katharinenkirche, Oppenheim’s obvious crown, and the town’s mysterious hidden gem: the Oppenheimer Kellerlabyrinth.
Getting Here and Around
An excellent network of regional trains connect Oppenheim with Mainz and Worms. Both journeys take about 20 minutes, and trains depart every half hour. Nierstein is just one stop away on the same regional train.
Oppenheim Tourist Office. | Merianstr. 2 | 06133/490-919, 06133/490-914 | www.stadt-oppenheim.de/ | Nov.-Mar., daily 10-5; Oct.-Apr., weekends 10-5.
Deutsches Weinbaumuseum (German Viticultural Museum).
Oppenheim and its neighbors to the north, Nierstein and Nackenheim, are home to some of Rheinhessen’s best-known vineyards. The Deutsches Weinbaumuseum has wine-related artifacts that chronicle the region’s 2,000-year-old wine-making tradition, not to mention the world’s largest collection of mousetraps and more than 2,000 corkscrews. | Wormser Str. 49 | 06133/2544 | www.dwb-museum.de | €4 | Apr.-Oct., Tues.-Fri. 2-5, weekends and holidays 10-5.
Katharinenkirche (St. Catherine’s Church).
On the way to Oppenheim, the vine-covered hills parallel to the Rhine gradually steepen. Then, unexpectedly, the spires of Oppenheim’s Gothic St. Catherine’s Church come into view. The contrast of its pink sandstone facade against a bright blue sky is striking. Built between 1225 and 1439, it’s the most important Gothic church between Strasbourg and Köln. The interior affords a rare opportunity to admire magnificent original 14th-century stained-glass windows including two rose windows, the Lily Window and the Oppenheim Rose. The church houses masterfully carved tombstones, and the chapel behind it has a Beinhaus (charnel house) containing the bones of 20,000 citizens and soldiers from the 15th to 18th century. | Katharinenstr. 1 | 06133/579-217 or 2381 | www.katharinen-kirche.de | Apr.-Oct., daily 8-6; Nov.-Mar., daily 9-5.
Fodor’s Choice | Oppenheimer Kellerlabyrinth (Oppenheim cellar labyrinth).
Beneath Oppenheim’s surface, there are five layers of cellars, tunnels, and stairways. Thought to have been built in the 14th century, their purpose remains unknown. Of the 40 km (24 miles) of complex underground passageways, today ¾ km (½ mile) is open to the public; contact the Oppenheim tourist office to arrange a tour. | Merianstr. 2a | 06133/490-921 | www.stadt-oppenheim.de/ | €7.50.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
During the Oppenheim Festival, from the end of August till the end of September, concerts are held at St. Catherine’s, and open-air theater takes place in the Burgruine Landskron, the 12th-century imperial fortress ruins. From here, there’s a wonderful view of the town and the vineyards, extending all the way to Mannheim and Frankfurt on a clear day. The castle ruins are northwest of the church. Follow Dalbergerstrasse north; from there it’s a short, steep walk up to the ruins. For tickets to the open-air theater performances contact the Oppenheim tourist office. | Oppenheim.
3 km (2 miles) north of Oppenheim on B-9.
Surrounded by 2,700 acres of vines, Nierstein is a small, quaint town that’s home to the largest wine-growing community on the Rhine. It is also home to Glöck, Germany’s oldest documented vineyard (AD 742), which surrounds St. Kilian’s Church.
Getting Here and Around
Regional trains leave every 30 minutes between Nierstein and both Mainz and Worms. The journey takes about 20 minutes.
The Winzergenossenschaft can be the starting point of an easy hike or drive to the vineyard heights and the vantage point at the Wartturm (watchtower). In the summer, the Niersteiner Weinwanderung (wine walk) takes place along the roten Hang, or “red slope” of the vineyards—the soil here has a lot of red clay in it—with food and wine-tasting stands set up along the way. From up there, there’s a stunning view of the Rhine. | Karolingerstr. 6 | 06133/971-720 | www.roter-hang.de.
WHERE TO STAY
Best Western Wein & Parkhotel.
$$ | HOTEL | Spacious, light rooms decorated in warm shades of ochre, chic bathrooms, and an inviting lounge and terrace make for comfortable, relaxing quarters here. Quiet elegance and Mediterranean influences mark this centrally located inn; it’s convenient to the sights of Nierstein and the surrounding Rhinehessen vineyards. The restaurant Am Heyl’schen Garten ($$) serves barbecue on the terrace in summer, as well as well-prepared regional specialties year-round. The first Sunday of the month, lunch is a generous family buffet ($$$). The staff is exceptionally cheerful and competent. Pros: friendly; quiet location; free Wi-Fi throughout hotel. Cons: a chain hotel with few surprises; not all rooms are nonsmoking. | Rooms from: €150 | An der Kaiserlinde 1 | 06133/5080 | www.weinhotel.bestwestern.de | 55 rooms | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Jordan’s Untermühle.
$ | B&B/INN | The spacious grounds of an old mill are home to a country inn, a restaurant, and a Vinothek (wine store). The upper two stories of the inn have dormer rooms with wooden floors and furnishings; those in the newer building are bright and modern. The restaurant and leafy beer garden serve excellent food, including upmarket twists on traditional local fare and modern, international dishes. Pros: beautiful buildings; great value; very quiet; the suite has its own sauna. Cons: a long way from anywhere; difficult to reach without a car. | Rooms from: €57.50 | Ausserhalb 1 | Köngernheim | West of B-9, at Nierstein turn left on B-420 (toward Wörrstadt), drive through Köngernheim and turn right toward Selzen | 06737/71000 | www.jordans-untermuehle.de | 25 rooms, 4 studios, 1 suite | Breakfast.
5 km (3 miles) north of Nierstein on B-9.
This wine village is the birthplace of the writer Carl Zuckmayer (1896-1977), who immortalized the town in his farce Der fröhliche Weinberg (The Merry Vineyard) in 1925. He described Rheinhessen wine as “the wine of laughter … charming and appealing.” You can put his words to the test the last weekend of July, when wine festival stands are set up between the half-timber town hall on Carl-Zuckmayer-Platz and the baroque Church of St. Gereon. The church’s scrolled gables, belfry, and elaborate altars are worth seeing.
Getting Here and Around
This wine village lies slightly to the west of B-9: from the south, turn left and cross the railroad tracks (opposite the tip of the island in the Rhine) to reach the town center, 2 km (1 mile) down the country road. Regional trains arrive from Mainz (a 14-minute trip) and Worms (about a 25-minute journey).
WHERE TO STAY
St. Gereon Restaurant and Landhotel.
$ | HOTEL | The modern rooms in this half-timber country inn have blond-wood floors and light-color furnishings. Stone walls and light pine furniture on terra-cotta tiles give the restaurant ($$) a warm, rustic look, too. The menu features German classics as well as international dishes; hearty regional specialties and Flammkuchen are served in the Weinstube ($) in the vaulted cellar Thursday-Sunday in autumn and winter. The selection of local wines is excellent. Pros: friendly; quiet. Cons: some rooms on the small side. | Rooms from: €88 | Carl-Zuckmayer-Pl. 3 | 06135/704-590 | www.landhotel-st-gereon.com | No lunch Mon. (restaurant only) | 15 rooms | Breakfast.
SPORTS AND THE OUTDOORS
The old towpath along the riverbank is an ideal cycling trail to Mainz or Worms, and the vineyard paths are well suited for exploring the countryside.
Enjoy the views from the vineyard heights on the Rheinhöhenweg trail. Allow three hours to hike the 10-km (6-mile) stretch between Nackenheim, Nierstein, and Oppenheim. Start at the corner of Weinbergstrasse and Johann-Winkler-Strasse. The educational wine path through the St. Alban vineyard is a pleasant walk in Bodenheim (4 km [2½ miles] northwest of Nackenheim).
14 km (9 miles) north of Nackenheim, 45 km (28 miles) north of Worms on B-9, and 42 km (26 miles) west of Frankfurt on A-3.
Mainz is the capital of the state of Rheinland-Pfalz. It’s a lively university town with friendly locals renowned for their community spirit, whether it be in supporting the local soccer team, Mainz 05, enjoying wine tavern culture in the cobbled Old Town, or partying at Karneval (carnival). Today’s city was built on the site of a Roman citadel dating back to 38 BC, and given its central location at the confluence of the Main and Rhine rivers, it’s not surprising that Mainz has always been an important trading center, rebuilt time and again in the wake of wars.
Getting Here and Around
As the regional hub, Mainz is well served by trains, with fast connections to Frankfurt (40 minutes) and Köln (1 hour, 40 minutes). The station is a short walk west of the center. A comprehensive network of local buses makes getting around the city a breeze (route maps and timetables are posted at bus stops), while the upper areas of town are also served by trams. Although the sights are fairly spread out, they’re manageable on foot if you’re in reasonably good shape.
Discounts and Deals
TIP Head to the Tourist Service Center to pick up a mainzcardplus for €9.95, or €25 for up to five people. The card covers 48 hours of unlimited public transportation in the specified area, free entry to museums and the casino, free walking tours, plus discounts on theater tickets and trips with the Koln-Düsseldorf Rheinschiffahrt and Gutenberg-Express sightseeing train.
Tourist Service Center.
Mainz offers year-round tours of the city, including its Roman and medieval areas, the cathedral, and the modern city center, departing Saturday at 2 pm from outside the Tourist Service Center. Drop in to ask about arranging a personalized tour at a different time or a guided visit to the Gutenberg Museum or St. Stephen’s Church. | Tourist Service Center, Brückenturm am Rathaus, Rheinstr. 55 | 06131/242-888 | www.mainz-tourismus.com | Weekdays 9-5, Sat. 10-4, Sun. and holidays 11-3.
Fodor’s Choice | Dom (St Martin’s Cathedral).
This cathedral’s interior is a virtual sculpture gallery of elaborate monuments and tombstones of archbishops, bishops, and canons, many of which are significant artworks in their own right. Emperor Otto II began building the oldest of the Rhineland’s trio of grand Romanesque cathedrals in 975, the year in which he named Willigis archbishop and chancellor of the empire. Henry II, the last Saxon emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was crowned here in 1002, as was his successor, Konrad II, the first Salian emperor, in 1024. In 1009, on the very day of its consecration, the cathedral burned to the ground. It was the first of seven fires the Dom has endured. Today’s cathedral dates mostly from the 11th to 13th century. During the Gothic period, remodeling diluted the Romanesque identity of the original; an imposing baroque spire was added in the 18th century. Nevertheless, the building remains essentially Romanesque, and its floor plan demonstrates a clear link to the cathedrals in Speyer and Worms. Individual and group tours can be arranged through the Tourist Service Center. | Domstr. 3 | On the Marktplatz | 06131/253-412 | www.mainz-dom.de/ | Donations requested | Mar.-Oct., weekdays 9-6:30, Sat. 9-4, Sun. 12:45-3 and 4-6:30; Nov.-Feb., weekdays 9-5, Sat. 9-4, Sun. 12:45-3 and 4-5; closed during services.
Dom und Diözesanmuseum.
From the Middle Ages until secularization in the early 19th century, the archbishops of Mainz, who numbered among the imperial electors, were extremely influential politicians and property owners. The wealth of religious art treasures they left behind can be viewed in the cathedral cloisters. | Domstr. 3 | 06131/253-344 | www.dommuseum-mainz.de | €5 | Tues.-Fri. 10-5, weekends 11-6.
Opposite the east end of the cathedral (closest to the Rhine) stands this fascinating museum, which is devoted to the history of writing, printing, and books. Exhibits include historical printing presses, incunabula (books printed in Europe before 1501), and medieval manuscripts with illuminated letters, as well as two precious 42-line Gutenberg bibles printed circa 1455. A replica workshop demonstrates how Gutenberg implemented his invention of movable type. | Liebfrauenpl. 5 | 06131/122-640 | www.gutenberg-museum.de | €5 | Tues.-Sat. 9-5, Sun. 11-5.
These hillside sparkling wine cellars were built in 1850 on a site where the Romans had cultivated vines and cellared wine. The Kupferberg family expanded them to create 60 seven-story-deep vaulted cellars—the deepest in the world. The winery has a splendid collection of glassware; posters from the belle epoque period (1898-1914); richly carved casks from the 18th and 19th centuries; and the Traubensaal (Grape Hall), a tremendous example of the art nouveau style. Tours of the cellars and museum last one hour plus time for a sparkling wine tasting. Reservations are required, either online at the Kupferberg Terrasse website or by telephone with the Tourist Service Center. The Kupferberg Terrassen restaurant ($$$) here is a lovely place to dine before or after your tour. | Kupferbergterrasse 17-19 | 06131/9230 | www.kupferbergterrasse.com | From €9 for tour plus 1 glass sparkling wine | Weekdays 11-4.
The various collections of the Museum of the State of Rheinland-Pfalz are in the former electors’ stables, easily recognized by the statue of a golden stallion over the entrance. Exhibits range from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. Among the highlights are paintings by Dutch masters, artworks from the baroque to art-nouveau period, and collections of porcelain and faience. | Grosse Bleiche 49-51 | 06131/28570 | www.landesmuseum-mainz.de | €6 | Tues. 10-8, Wed.-Sun. 10-5.
The wonderful collection here chronicles cultural developments in the area up to the early Middle Ages. One of the highlights is a tiny Celtic glass dog from the 1st or 2nd century BC. The entrance for the museum, which is in the Kurfürstliches Schloss (Electoral Palace), is around the back, on the river (east) side of the building. | Ernst-Ludwig-Pl. 2 | 06131/91240 | www.rgzm.de | Free | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
Fodor’s Choice | St. Stephanskirche (St. Stephen’s Church).
It’s just a short walk up Gaustrasse from Schillerplatz to the church, which affords a hilltop view of the city. Nearly 200,000 people make the trip each year to see the nine magnificent blue stained-glass windows designed by the Russian-born artist Marc Chagall. | Kleine Weissg. 12, via Gaustr. | 06131/231-640 | www.st-stephan-mainz.de | Mar.-Oct., Mon.-Sat. 10-5, Sun. noon-5; Nov.-Feb., Mon.-Sat. 10-4:30, Sun. noon-4:30. Closed during services.
Gutenberg: The Father of Modern Printing
His invention—printing with movable type—transformed the art of communication, yet much about the life and work of Johannes Gutenberg is undocumented, starting with his year of birth. It’s conjectured that he was born in Mainz circa 1400, into a patrician family that supplied the city mint with metal for coining. Gutenberg’s later accomplishments attest to his own skill in working with metals. Details about his education are unclear, but he probably helped finance his studies by copying manuscripts in a monastic scriptorium. He moved to Strasbourg around 1434, where he was a goldsmith by day and an inventor by night. It was here that he worked—in great secrecy—to create movable type and develop a press suitable for printing by adapting the screw press conventionally used for making wine. By 1448, Gutenberg had returned to Mainz. Loans from a wealthy businessman enabled him to set up a printer’s workshop and print the famous 42-line Bible. The lines of text are in black ink, yet each of the original 180 Bibles printed from 1452 to 1455 is unique, thanks to the artistry of the hand-painted illuminated letters.
Despite its significance, Gutenberg’s invention was not a financial success. His quest for perfection rather than profit led to a legal battle during which his creditor was awarded the workshop and the Bible type. Gutenberg’s attempts to set up another print shop in Mainz failed, but from 1465 until his death in 1468 he received an allowance for service to the archbishop of Mainz, which spared the “father of modern printing” from dying in poverty.
The area around the cathedral and the adjacent Höfchen (little courtyard) is the focal point of the city. The Marktplatz (market place) is especially colorful on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, from 7 am to 2 pm, when farmers, butchers, cheesemongers, and florists set up stands to sell their produce. On Saturdays at 9 am from March to November join friendly Mainzers in the adjoining Liebfrauenplatz for the Mainzer Marktfrühstuck (Mainz Market Breakfast), where you can sample local wines alongside a traditional local breakfast of Fleischwurst (German bologna sausage) with mustard and a crusty bread roll. | Marktpl.
Museum für Antike Schiffahrt (Museum of Ancient Navigation).
The main attractions at this bright, airy museum are the fascinating remains of five 4th-century wooden Roman warships, on display with two full-size replicas. The remains were unearthed in 1981, when the foundation for an expansion to the Hilton hotel was dug. For more than a decade, the wood was injected with a water-and-paraffin mixture to restore its stability. There’s also an extensive exhibit dedicated to the history of shipbuilding and an educational area for children. To arrange a tour, contact the service office. | Neutorstr. 2b | 06131/912-4170 service office (for tours) | web.rgzm.de/ | Free | Tues.-Sun. 10-6.
The animals here may all be stuffed and mounted, but these lifelike groups can demonstrate the relationships among various families of fauna better than any zoo. Fossils and geological exhibits show the evolution of the region’s plants, animals, and soils. The museum also holds events especially for kids, including guided tours and movie nights. | Reichklarastr. 10 | 06131/122-646 | www.mainz.de/nhm | €4.50 | Tues. 10-8, Wed. 10-2, Thurs.-Sat. 10-5.
This square, lined by a number of beautiful baroque aristocratic houses, is the site of a memorial to the 18th-century German writer and philosopher Friedrich Schiller as well as the ebullient Fastnachtsbrunnen (Carnival Fountain), which features 200 figures related to Mainz’s “fifth season” of the year. | Schillerpl.
Carnival in Mainz
Carnival season runs from November 11 at 11:11 am to Ash Wednesday. There are dozens of costume balls, parties, and political cabaret sessions during this period, but the heavy celebrating doesn’t begin until Weiberfastnacht, the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday. The “fifth season” ends with a huge parade of colorful floats and marching bands through downtown on the Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), the Monday before Lent.
A visit to Mainz during carnival week isn’t for the faint-hearted: Mainzers—and the half million or so visitors who come for the Rosenmontag parade—party nonstop all week in every corner of the town, so a quiet meal out or a gentle stroll to take in the sights simply isn’t an option. If you’re brave enough to throw yourself into the celebrations, however, carnival in Mainz is an experience not to be missed.
WHERE TO EAT
$ | GERMAN | It’s loud, it’s busy, and the small selection of high-quality beer is brewed on-site in a labyrinth of vaulted cellars. The menu offers regional snacks such as Handkäs’ mit Musik (hand-formed sour-milk cheese with chopped onions, caraway, and vinegar) as well as hearty Bavarian fare, from Schweinehaxen (pork knuckle) to sauerkraut . During the week, there’s a lunch special for €6.90. Brewery tours are free, but must be arranged in advance. It’s open most days from 11:30 am-midnight, and on Friday and Saturday until 1 am. | Average main: €12 | Weisslilieng. 1a | 06131/221-104 | www.eisgrub.de.
$$$ | GERMAN | Gebert’s smart yet traditional wine tavern serves refined versions of regional favorites and modern European cuisine using fresh, seasonal ingredients. The geeister Kaffee (coffee ice cream and a chocolate praline in a cup of coffee) uses delicious, handmade chocolate pralines. German wines, from the Rhine Terrace in particular, dominate the excellent wine list. You can also dine outside in the appealing courtyard. | Average main: €21 | Frauenlobstr. 94 | 06131/611-619 | www.geberts-weinstuben.de | Closed Mon. and Tues. and for 3 wks during July and Aug.
$$ | MEDITERRANEAN | This lively café-bistro-bar serves elaborate salad platters, creatively spiced fish and meat dishes, and the house specialty, Croustarte, an upscale version of pizza. Choose from an extensive drinks menu that includes a crowd-pleasing cocktail list: in summer, do as the locals do and sit out in the beer garden with a refreshing Hugo (Prosecco with mint, elderflower, soda, and lime). Heiliggeist’s modern, minimal decor is a striking contrast to the historic vaulted ceilings in this former almshouse and hospital church, which was built in 1236. | Average main: €16 | Mailandsg. 11 | 06131/225-757 | www.heiliggeist-mainz.de | No credit cards | No lunch weekdays | Reservations not accepted.
Fodor’s Choice | Weinhaus Schreiner.
$$ | GERMAN | It’s one of the more formal Mainz wine taverns, yet Schreiner still attracts a mixed, jovial clientele who come to enjoy excellent local wines and delicious, refined takes on traditional German cuisine. The compact, seasonal menu offers regional favorites such as Saumagen (sliced stuffed pig’s stomach) as well as lighter dishes with a Mediterranean twist. In winter, the succulent roast goose with red cabbage and dumplings is not to be missed. During periods of warm weather, the garden is open from 5 pm weekdays and from 11:30 am Saturday. | Average main: €17 | Rheinstr. 38 | 06131/225-720 | www.weinhausschreiner.de | Closed Sun. | No credit cards.
Weinstube zum Bacchus.
$ | GERMAN | A tiny wine tavern with a narrow, rickety staircase up to a tightly packed, wood-paneled room in addition to the cozy space downstairs, Bacchus offers traditional Mainzer appetizers such as Handkäs’ mit Musik as well as mains such as salads, baked potatoes, Flammkuchen, and elegant versions of classic seasonal German dishes, from schnitzel with green sauce in the spring, to goose with dumplings at Christmastime. From the international selection, the curried dishes are always good. In addition to local wines, they also offer a small selection of German craft beers. | Average main: €12 | Jakobsbergstr. 7 | 06131/487-5548 | www.weinstube-zum-bacchus.de | No lunch.
$ | GERMAN | This cozy wine tavern offers simple, traditional German fare, from pickled herrings with sour cream, apple, and vinegar to schnitzel with fried potatoes and mushroom sauce, as well as a handful of international dishes. Pick a glass of Riesling from their wine list and enjoy a leisurely summer’s evening in the popular walled beer garden, which sits in the shade of an enormous tree lit with fairy lights. | Average main: €14 | Kartäuserstr. 3 | 06131/236-576 | www.zum-goldstein.de/ | No lunch.
WHERE TO STAY
$$ | HOTEL | Mainz’s city park is a lush setting for this amenity-filled hotel about a half hour away from the Old Town. The rooms are quite comfortable, and there are wellness facilities and a rooftop sundeck with a Jacuzzi and enclosed gym. The one-Michelin-star restaurant Favorite ($$$$) serves international cuisine (lobster is a specialty); more casual dining is available in the hotel’s three other restaurants ($$-$$$). The on-site beer garden, which has Rhine views, is a favorite in summer. Pros: quiet location; friendly staff; good views. Cons: a bit far from the sights; you can hear the train from some rooms; standard rooms do not have air-conditioning. | Rooms from: €145 | Karl-Weiser-Str. 1 | 06131/80150 | www.favorite-mainz.de | Favorite restaurant closed Mon. and Tues. | 115 rooms, 7 suites | Breakfast.
Fodor’s Choice | Hyatt Regency Mainz.
$$$$ | HOTEL | From the spacious atrium lobby to the luxurious rooms and spa, everything is sleek, modern, and comfortable at this award-winning hotel. Contemporary art and architecture is beautifully integrated with the old stone walls of Fort Malakoff, and recent renovations have left the rooms immaculate and well equipped for modern needs. The Bell Pepper restaurant offers an open kitchen and riverside terrace; a beer garden on the Rhine serves regional snacks; and cocktails are served in the lively Malakoff Bar and its leafy courtyard. The boutiques and wine taverns of the Old Town are a 5- to 10-minute walk away. Pros: grand public spaces; friendly staff; riverside location; 24-hour room service. Cons: expensive; breakfast costs €29. | Rooms from: €229 | Malakoff-Terrasse 1 | 06131/731-234 | www.mainz.regency.hyatt.com | 265 rooms, 3 suites | No meals.
Ibis Mainz City.
$ | HOTEL | Here you’ll find modern and functional rooms and a great location on the edge of the Old Town. Ask about the various discount rates that may be available. Pros: central location; good rates and deals; air-conditioning in all rooms; free Wi-Fi. Cons: chain hotel lacking in character; €9 per night for garage parking (when space is available). | Rooms from: €58 | Holzhofstr. 2 | 06131/2470 | www.ibishotel.com | 144 rooms | Breakfast.
NIGHTLIFE AND PERFORMING ARTS
Mainz supports a broad spectrum of cultural events—classical as well as avant-garde music, dance, opera, and theater performances—at many venues throughout the city. Music lovers can attend concerts in venues ranging from the cathedral and the Rathaus to the market square and historic churches.
Nightlife centers on its numerous Weinstuben (wine taverns). Rustic and cozy, they’re packed with locals who come to enjoy a meal or snack with a glass (or more) of local wine—expect to share your table when they’re busy. Most are on the Old Town’s main street, Augustinerstrasse, and its side streets (Grebenstrasse, Kirschgarten, Kartäuserstrasse, Jakobsbergstrasse).
It offers a full menu of regional favorites, but this friendly Weinstube, with its small, leafy courtyard, is more of a pub than the other wine taverns in town, so there’s no pressure to order dinner and there’s a good selection of beers as well as wines. However, a dish of tasty Spundekäs (cream cheese with onions, paprika, and garlic) with crunchy pretzels goes down very well with a tall glass of beer. | Kirschgarten 21 | 06131/234-170.
The Frankfurter Hof hosts international artists, musical events, and dance parties. Tickets can be purchased at various locations including the Tourist Office, as well as online. | Augustinerstr. 55 | 06131/220-438 | www.frankfurter-hof-mainz.de.
KUZ (Kulturzentrum Mainz).
KUZ is the alternative music venue in Mainz. The venue and its beer garden (open May to late September) are used for international rock, jazz, and pop concerts. They also have a large screen to show games during international soccer tournaments. | Dagobertstr. 20b | 06131/286-860 | www.kuz.de.
The Staatstheater Mainz comprises two halls, the Grosses (great) Haus and the Kleines (small) Haus; together they offer opera, drama, and ballet from national and international performers. Beneath them, the U17 stage offers performances from Mainz’s youth theater group. | Gutenbergpl. 7 | 06131/28510, 06131/285-1222 box office | www.staatstheater-mainz.com | Check website for annual summer closing.
A state-funded foundation for young European musicians, this is also a traditional setting for chamber music concerts, just a short walk up the hill from the main train station. | Auf der Bastei 3 | 06131/925-1800 | www.villamusica.de.
Over 120 years old, this tiny, wood-paneled pub close to the river is a favorite with postcollegiates, who come to enjoy glasses of local wine while nibbling on traditional sausage and cheeses or heartier fare such as fried pork steak with onions, or, in spring, schnitzel with white asparagus. | Rheinstr. 53 | 06131/224-949 | www.weinhaus-wilhelmi.de | No lunch.
The Old Town is full of boutiques selling clothes, jewelry, and gifts, and the shopping district stretches between Schillerplatz, the Marktplatz, Höfchen, and Am Brand, an ancient marketplace that is now a pedestrian zone full of clothes stores.
Fodor’s Choice | Gutenberg-Shop.
The Gutenberg-Shop in the building of the local newspaper, Allgemeine Zeitung Mainz, offers splendid souvenirs and gifts, including pages from the Bible, books, posters, pens, and stationery. The friendly staff will also arrange to ship your purchases outside the country. There’s a similar selection at the shop in the Gutenberg Museum. | Markt 17 | 06131/143-666 | www.gutenberg-shop.de | Closed Sun.
Antiques and perhaps a few hidden treasures await the patient shopper at Krempelmarkt. The flea market is on the banks of the Rhine (Rheinufer) between the Hilton hotel and Kaiserstrasse. At the Theodor Heuss Bridge is the children’s flea market, where the youngest sellers offer clothes, toys, and books. | Rheinufer.
This city-center shopping mall offers a standard selection of German chain stores, cafés, and kiosks, but if you’re a keen chef then go upstairs to kitchen store cookmal! to pick up excellent-quality cooking utensils or a traditional German clay cooking pot (a Römertopf). The Römerpassage also houses the remains of a Roman temple (AD 1) discovered in 1999 during the construction of the mall. The temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Isis and Magna Mater, is in the basement and can be visited during mall opening times (donation requested). | Adolf-Kolping-Str. 4 | 06131/600-7100 | www.roemerpassage.com | Closed Sun.