Mainz and Wiesbaden – two cities, one amazing weekend getaway

Author Carina Klein
· 8 min read · 9 comments

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Travel guide for your vacation in Wiesbaden, Hesse, and Mainz, Rhineland Palatine – two capitals which can be easily combined in one trip. With typical local food, public transport options, activities and everything you need to do a self-guided walking tour – including a map!

We spent last weekend exploring the two beautiful but very different cities Mainz and Wiesbaden. Right next to each other, on opposite sites of the Rhein River, they are the perfect combination for a long weekend or simply two day trips from Frankfurt am Main. We'll give you an itinerary that starts with an overview of both cities, a map to do a self-guided walking tour, and our favourite restaurant and bar options to make your holiday in this German region perfect. As a bonus, we introduce the Taunus mountains as a getaway from the getaway.

Good to know before you go

How to get there

Wiesbaden is the capital of the German Bundesland (or federal state) Hesse, Mainz is the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate. Hence, the atmosphere and food are quite different although they are less than a 30-minute drive apart. They are both parts of the same public transport system, the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV). You can travel between the cities for 2.90 € or buy a daily ticket for only 5.80 € (July 2021).

You'll probably reach this area via Frankfurt am Main – be it via flight or train. From there, it's quick, easy and cheap to take the S Bahn – a single ride costs as little as 8.80 €!

Should you base yourself in Wiesbaden or Mainz?

We chose to base ourselves in Wiesbaden but in our honest opinion, both choices are equally appealing. We can't tell you which city is "better" or which city to chose if you only have one day. Yes, the centre of Wiesbaden is more optically pleasing because it was less destroyed during World War II and they have a long history of being a spa town behind them. But Mainz is closer to the River Rhein, which offers a great opportunity for some relaxing walks. We found nice restaurants and bars in both towns and the price level is similar. Visit both cities and decide for yourself which one you prefer!



When you arrive in Wiesbaden, the historic trolley Thermine is a great way to get an overview of the city of Wiesbaden with its history and stories. They leave several times a day from Castle Square and the tour is also offered in English. You'll learn about Wiesbaden's history as a spa town, about some of its famous inhabitants (both historical and recent) and see the most famous sights.

Hop off at the Nerobergbahn, Germany’s oldest water-powered funicular railway. The tramway is a sight in itself but there's also the Neroberg at the top with some amazing views over Wiesbaden. Make your way to the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth with its amazing golden towers. Here, you can hop back on the train Thermine and finish the tour.

Picture of Thermine trolley, Wiesbaden
Thermine train

City centre

There are two main areas with sights in the city centre: The Kur or spa area and the Schlossplatz or Castle Square area.

You enter spa area via the Bowling Green, a nice green area with a fountain, lined with columns on both sides. Of course, it is a must to visit the Kurhaus or spa building itself. The interior is just splendid. It also houses the casino, which we didn't check out ourselves. On the right side, you'll find the neo-baroque Hessisches Staatstheater, the theatre. The Kurpark or spa park is behind the spa building. It features lakes, where you can rent boats, open green spaces and flowers on an area of 75.000 m² (810,000 square feet). In general, you'll find many lovely parks in Wiesbaden.

Along Castle Square, you can find the neo-Gothic Marktkirche (Market Church), the Marktbrunnen (Market Fountain), and the old and new town hall. Additionally, there is the Wiesbaden City Palace with the Hessischer Landtag, the government of Hesse.

Other noteworthy mentions in Wiesbaden's city centre are 1) the largest Cuckoo clock in the world (technically the second largest, because they built a bigger one in the Black Forest), 2) the oldest building in Wiesbaden, the Heidenmauer with the Römertor (Roman Gate), built in 370 A.D. by the Romans 3) the Kochbrunnen (Boil Fountain), a sodium chloride hot spring with a water temperature of about 66 °C (151° F) – if you bring a cup you can taste this water (we thought it tasted like rusty saltwater 😅).

Picture of Bowling Green, Wiesbaden
Bowling Green, Wiesbaden

Food and drink

The most popular drink in Wiesbaden and all of Hesse is Apfelwein (apple wine). You can drink it pure or "gespritzt", either sour (with sparkling water) or sweet (with lemonade). Additionally, Wiesbaden is next to the Rheingau wine region. You should definitely taste some of their white wines like Riesling!

Famous dishes are Handkäs (hand cheese), a sour milk cheese (similar to Harzer) and Frankfurter Grüne Soße (green sauce) – a cold sauce with finely chopped herbs, served with eggs and potatoes.

We decided to try our traditional foods in the restaurant Bäckerbrunnen in the city centre. For drinks, Scotch 'N Soda is an excellent choice. We based ourselves in the Business Hostel Wiesbaden PRIME, which has a lovely rooftop terrace, where can bring your own drinks and enjoy a cheap nightcap!

Picture of Frankfurter Grüne Soße, Wiesbaden
Frankfurter Grüne Soße


River Rhein

Rather than taking the train to Mainz main station, it might be nice to drive to Mainz-Kastel. You can check out the old Reduit with the Museum Castellum and learn about 2000 years of history or simply relax on the banks of the River Rhein – there's even a beach bar. Make your way over to the Theodor-Heuss-Bridge to the city centre of Mainz. You'll have great views over the Rhein and can see where the Main joins the Rhein in the distance.

On the other side of the bridge is the Deutschhaus, the seat of the Rhineland Palatinate Landtag, the government of Rhineland Palatinate and the Kurfürstliches Schloss (Electoral Palace). Again, you'll have plenty of opportunities to stroll the promenade along the Rhein and there's a lovely beach bar.

Picture of the Rhein River from Mainz-Kastel
Rhein view

City centre

The highlight of the city centre is the market square. Make sure to come on a Tuesday, Friday or Saturday between 7 am and 2 pm to start your day in style. A big part of Mainz culture is the Marktfrühstück (market breakfast) with "Weck, Worscht und Woi" (buns, sausages and wine). Revitalized by the delicious food, you can explore the other highlights on the market square like the Marktbunnen (market fountain) and the Nagelsäule monument. Another highlight is the Mainz Cathedral. During the Middle Ages, many German kings and queens were crowned here.

The cityscape of Mainz is rather odd. 2000 years of history are very visible with Roman ruins like the Isis temple underneath the Römerpassage, the Roman theatre, or the Drususstein in the Citadel. During World War II, 80 % of the city were destroyed by bombings. Therefore, the city centre is a mixture of modern and historic buildings. A beautiful historic area can be visited around the Ballplatz with the Älterer Dalberger Hof, the Osteiner Hof, and the Marienkapelle.

Another big part of the Mainz culture is the carnival called Fastnacht. If you're not in town for this particular season, you can visit the Fastnachtbrunnen (carnival fountain) and the Fastnachtmuseum (carnival museum) all year round.

Picture of market square in Mainz
Market square, Mainz

Food and drink

The Mainz equivalent to Handkäs is the Spundekäs, cream cheese with curd, seasoned with pepper, salt and paprika powder as well as onions.

My favourite dish in this area is the Saumagen or sow's stomach. It is literally a pig's stomach filled with sausage meat and other goodies like chestnuts, similar to sausages or the Scottish Haggis. While it doesn't sound too appealing, I find it unique and delicious.

Of course, wine is the drink of choice in Mainz, as it's part of the wine region Rheinhessen. Different than in Wiesbaden, you cannot only find white wines like Silvaner, Müller-Thurgau, or Weißburgunder. Red wines like Dornfelder, Spätburgunder, and Blauer Portugieser are also delicious.

We had our dinner at the Weinhaus Ehrenfels right in the city centre and I must say the food and service were amazing. For after-dinner drinks we went to the Zenz Wirtshaus, where we had a typical Mainzer Schoppe, a huge glass of white wine spritzer.

Picture of Saumagen, Mainz
Saumagen, Mainz

Bonus: Taunus mountains

If you are looking for even more of a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the cities, check out the Taunus mountains. They are rather rolling hills than mountains, their highest peak is the Feldberg with only 878 m (2880 ft). Most places can be decently reached via public transport and they are a true hiker's paradise. We found the views with the meadows and hills to be rather unique.

If you are looking for even more relaxation, this area is also known for its geothermal springs and mineral waters. In places like the Kneipp Spa town Bad Schwalbach you'll find plenty of wellness options with a long spa history.

Picture of the hills of the Taunus
Taunus mountains

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Bernie and Jess Watt

15.07.2021, 20:56

It's a shame that so much of the town was bombed. I am literally salivating over those food shots!

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

21.07.2021, 11:36

Thank you! I think it was even more delicious than it looks!


14.07.2021, 08:02

I was actually only last night searching through a map of Germany for some nice small towns exactly like this. Mostly I was just dreaming about travel and wishing I could visit Germany again, but I'll have to check these out more now. I like the sound of the Roman history in Mainz, definitely something I'm interested in

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 09:15

To me all the Roman history is super fascinating as well because I grew up north of the Limes and Roman ruins always give me a holiday vibe.

Vanessa Shields

13.07.2021, 20:11

Both are such lovely towns! I’ve spent a good amount of time in Wiesbaden as I had family that lived there. It’s been years but I’d love to go back as I remember it being a charming town and great food. I don’t think I visited the Taunus Mountains so I’d make sure to add that next time!

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 08:54

Amazing that you know Wiesbaden! The spa architecture is super pretty right? Did you ever make it over to Mainz?

Travel for a while

13.07.2021, 19:49

This is an area of Germany I knew nothing about. I would love to spend a long weekend there and visit both Wiesbaden and Mainz, maybe even do some hiking in the Taunus mountains. Thanks for sharing these places.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 08:35

Thank you! It's a really great area for a weekend getaway and quite unique in Germany!

Smalltownplussize Tom

13.07.2021, 17:16

Hi Carina. I would love to see the world’s largest (or 2nd) Cuckoo clock. We’d like to explore Mainz more, especially the market. Before now, we only knew it as where Jurgen Klopp played and coached.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 09:09

We explored to biggest Cuckoo clock in the world last year and I must say it was a bit overrated :D I'm the worst German in the world. I did not know that about Jürgen Klopp. But then again I barely know anything about football...

Chalk and cheese travels

13.07.2021, 17:01

Love this insight to these 2 places.
Was intrigued by the Nerobergbahn and its water-powered funicular railway. I had to look at there site looks amazing. Wasn't to sure on the Saumagen but after seeing the picture looks great.

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Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 08:59

There's a story in Wiesbaden about a group of farmers who were too heavy to be pulled up only by the weight of the water^^ Philipp didn't dare to try the Saumagen but it's one of my regional German favorites which is rather hard to get in Berlin.

John Quinn

13.07.2021, 16:29

I’d definitely give the pigs stomach a go. Sounds like exactly the kind of food I like to try on trip. Both towns sound really interesting, not just for the food. My Germany list grows ever longer.

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 08:43

The pigs stomach seems to be a readers favorite. I think a "unique German foods" blogpost is in order soon!


13.07.2021, 14:07

Another area of Germany I’ve never been to or heard of. The Saumagen caught my eye. I never knew there was a German equivalent of haggis! Regional cuisines are the best :)

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 08:48

I love how the regional cuisines in Germany are so super varied! I didn't realize that Saumagen is similar to Haggis before writing this blogpost.

Stefan (BerkeleySqB)

13.07.2021, 10:10

Great post. First time I hear of a water-powered funicular anywhere, really, very interesting. Ever since Helmut made the Saumagen popular around the world (not that I'm a fan of his or his politics) I decided I must try some, but failed to do so to this day. I think I'd like the taste.

Carina | Bucketlist2Life

15.07.2021, 09:18

Actually, Helmut was the reason I tried my first Saumagen back in the day. I thought it would be a gimmicky one timer but it turns out that it's one my favorite regional German dishes.