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has come a long way

Things worth knowing about Mannheim

Mannheim has done rather well for itself: from a small, insignificant village to the residential city of the Palatinate Electors to the cradle of modern mobility. If you weren’t aware of that, no problem. We have brought together some facts, figures and interesting info about Mannheim for you on this page.

In the Heart of the Palatinate

Mannheim at night.
Mannheim at night. © Northwind Filmagentur GmbH, Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH

Mannheim lies at the confluence of the Rhine and Neckar rivers in the Upper Rhine lowlands. The city is connected to Ludwigshafen-am-Rhein in the Rhineland-Palatinate by two bridges. The world-famous city of Heidelberg is just a stone's throw away. To the north-east, the Mannheim metropolitan area borders the federal state of Hesse.

Mannheim has a population of around 310,000 people. This makes it the third largest city in Baden-Württemberg after Stuttgart and Karlsruhe.

While Mannheim boasts numerous metropolitan qualities, it has managed to retain a touch of small-town charm. The chaos and anonymity of the big city are strangers here.

Today, the former seat of the Palatinate Electors is home to people from around 170 different nations. Diversity, acceptance and cosmopolitanism are values that are actively lived in Mannheim.

Mannheim's Origins

The grid-like street network has been preserved to this day.
The grid-like street network has been preserved to this day. © Stadt Mannheim

The first documented mention of Mannheim dates back to 766 CE and is listed in the Lorsch Codex. At that time, it was still a small village called Mannenheim. It was in 1607 that Mannheim finally received its city privileges. This was preceded by the laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the Friedrichsburg fortress by the then Elector Friedrich IV of the Palatinate.

Mannheim was conceived as a planned city. The design scheme was strongly influenced by military considerations and the ideals of the Renaissance. For this reason, the fortress was laid out in a star shape and the street network in a grid pattern. This resulted in quadrilateral blocks of buildings – the squares. In this respect, Mannheim was and remains unique in Germany.

Today, the fortress has ceased to exist. However, the division of the city centre into blocks of buildings has been preserved to this day and has earned Mannheim the nickname “the city of squares”.

The Story of the Squares

Until 1684, Mannheim’s city centre had street names much like any other German city. When the system of numbering the squares was introduced, the citizens initially stuck to using the old street names.

Mannheim steadily expanded through the course of the 18th century and soon needed a new numbering system that could be scaled to both sides. For this reason, the blocks of buildings have been designated with a combination of letter and number since 1811 – for example D1 or E2. The streets themselves have no names, although Google Maps indicates otherwise. Try our city map instead.

This system of squares may seem complicated at first glance, but the principle behind it is quite simple to understand. You can find out more on the page “What is a city of squares?

Mannheim's Baroque Palace

Mannheim Baroque Palace, view of the main courtyard
Mannheim Baroque Palace, view of the main courtyard © Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH, Achim Mende

The Electors of the Palatinate wanted to make a statement about their power and political position. In this they succeeded rather well with Mannheim’s Baroque Palace, as can be seen impressively to this day. The 440-metre-long showcase façade and the expansive ceremonial courtyard make Mannheim’s Baroque Palace one of the largest of its kind in Europe. In fact, it is the second largest baroque palace in Europe. Only Versailles is bigger.

After the Friedrichsburg had been destroyed in a succession of wars over the decades, the then Elector Carl Philipp laid the foundation stone for a new palace in 1720, which was to have a predominantly ceremonial character. The building was completed in 1760. However, the palace was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, with reconstruction work beginning shortly afterwards. Nevertheless, the restoration of the mansard roof in the central building was not completed until 2007.

Mannheim's Spirit of Invention

Mannheim, Carl Benz Memorial
Mannheim, Carl Benz Memorial © Stadtmarketing Mannheim GmbH, Achim Mende

Even though Mannheim is not among the largest cities in Germany, a number of major inventions have originated here. The people of Mannheim are doers: pragmatic and down-to-earth, but at the same time extremely innovative. Their inventions have moved people and still do today – in the most literal sense of the word.

In 1817, for example, Karl Drais invented the forerunner of the bicycle with his running machine (also known as the “draisine”). In 1880, the Siemens company constructed the world’s first electric lift. It celebrated its public premiere at an agricultural exhibition in Mannheim. Last but not least, it was Carl Benz who invented the world’s first automobile in 1886 in his workshop in the T6 square. In 1888, his wife Bertha drove his rudimentary car from Mannheim to Pforzheim and back. Today, this historic event is commemorated by the Bertha Benz Memorial Route.

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