It is as if fortune had placed Mannheim in the centre of a perfect circle. The city sits right in the middle of a region marked out by the Rhine and Neckar rivers, Heidelberg, the Palatinate, the Kraichgau and the Odenwald, both areas of outstanding natural beauty. With culture, shopping, gastronomy and nightlife, the city has plenty to offer and makes the ideal base for exploring the Rhine-Neckar region.
Let’s be perfectly frank: Mannheim has masses to offer, but not everything. We have a baroque palace almost as big as Versailles but no Heidelberg Castle and no Old Town. We have the water tower, the art nouveau complex of the Friedrichsplatz and the architectural wonder of the Multihalle – but we don’t have a cathedral like Worms or Speyer. Mannheim is a shopping paradise well known beyond the city limits, but we have no vineyards and wine festivals as they do in the Palatinate. We have the trendy Jungbusch district and a lively nightlife scene, but not the cycling and hiking trails through the Odenwald forest or along the Neckar valley.
But the great thing about Mannheim is — all that and much more is right on our doorstep.
Let's find out what the Rhine-Neckar region has to offer!
Species-rich forests, sunny valley meadows, hiking peaks such as the 672-metre “Kalmit” and historic castles make the biosphere reserve of the Palatinate forest quite unique. Besides, it is Germany’s largest contiguous forest. Among the vineyards that run along the edge of the forest, neatly lined up like a string of pearls, the wine villages of the German Wine Route are irresistible for day trips. Surprising to many people, world-famous vineyards and wineries such as Bürklin-Wolf, Bassermann-Jordan or Reichsrat von Buhl can be found here — just 30 kilometres from Mannheim.
The town of Deidesheim can be easily reached using the local rail network. Visitors are drawn here from far and wide by its Michelin-star restaurants, rustic taverns, annual wine festival or the traditional Christmas market. The world’s largest wine festival, the “Wurstmarkt” (sausage market), is held in the neighbouring town of Bad Dürkheim in September every year. In its famous “Schubkarch” (dialect for “wheelbarrow”) stalls you can indulge yourself in the joie de vivre of the Palatinate. When you’ve eaten and drunk your fill, the Rhein-Haardt Railway will take you safely back to Mannheim in no time.
If you are travelling by car, you can drive southwest from Mannheim via the German Wine Route to the nearby French border in just an hour. The Burgenstraße, one of the most traditional holiday routes in Germany, leaves Mannheim to the east. It leads all the way to Bayreuth and invites you on a journey through time to the four-castle town of Neckarsteinach, just half an hour from the water tower. The village has four medieval castles that rise like a wreath around a loop in the Neckar River, nestled in a hilly landscape that inspires you to wander.
The gardens of the Schwetzingen palace offer magical perspectives. In the 18th century, the vision of Mannheim’s Elector Carl Theodor led to the creation of an enchantingly beautiful park landscape around the palace in the neighbouring town of Schwetzingen. While you’re there, Speyer Cathedral, the largest Romanesque church in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is only 20 minutes away.
Short distances make it possible to explore the entire Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region from Mannheim via cycle routes. Because all paths lead to Rome – and a lot of cycle paths to Mannheim.
The Neckar Valley cycle path runs all the way along the river from Mannheim to the Swabian town of Villingen-Schwenningen – past palaces and castles, forests and meadows, industrial monuments and impressive architecture. You could also take the “Kraut und Rüben” (cabbage and turnip) cycle path and cycle cross-country through Germany’s largest vegetable garden. Or pedal along the German Wine Route to experience the grape harvest. Or even try an adventurous bike tour in the mountain bike park of the Palatinate Forest. You can comfortably start all these tours from Mannheim.
And while you’re at it, feel free to empty your batteries because the outward and return journeys are taken care of. You can easily transport bikes on the local VRN trains.
The Rhine-Neckar region is a veritable paradise for people who are thirsty for knowledge and keen to discover. The Technology Museum Speyer not only houses the largest space exhibition in Europe, but also the only IMAX DOME cinema in Germany. And you can relive the history of the automobile in the Automuseum Dr. Carl Benz in pretty town of Ladenburg, just 14 km to the east of Mannheim.
With its late mediaeval Old Town and settlement remains from Roman times, Ladenburg is also worth a visit if you are interested in history. Anyone seeking even deeper insights into the history of the region will find what they are looking for in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate. The many exhibitions present the history of the region from prehistory through Roman antiquity to modern times.
The Wilhelm-Hack-Museum in the adjacent centre of Ludwigshafen is the most important museum for modern and contemporary art in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Here you can admire works by Wassily Kandinsky, Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.
When you return to your hotel in the evening after a long, active vacation day, you can philosophise about what a trip to Mannheim really is: city break, active holiday or nature experience? The answer is that it’s a bit of everything. Because Mannheim is the Golden Mean in the heart of the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region.
And if you are tempted to travel far away, Mannheim has one more trump card to play: Frankfurt Airport is only one stop from Mannheim by train — you can get there by ICE (inter city express) in just half an hour.