German travel destinations

The Germany is Wunderbar guide

Germany Holidays: Mannheim – where Rhine and Neckar meet

Baden-Württemberg’s second largest city is a shopping haven in squares and more

You probably wouldn’t choose Mannheim as a stand-alone city break in Germany. The city itself, and particularly its immediate surroundings with Ludwigshafen, home of the chemical giant BASF, on the other side of the Rhine, are too industrial. However, if you are in this part of the country, a quick detour will be very worthwhile.

Located at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Neckar, Mannheim offers a magnificent Baroque castle, a beautiful art nouveau ensemble around a water tower, some of the best German shopping and a great choice of cafés and restaurants. That’s why the locals love their Monnem, as it’s called in the local dialect.

Mannheim is particularly famous for its ‘chessboard’ layout. The city centre and its streets between the Neckar and the castle were laid out in a grid formation in the 17th century. Cutting right through it is the popular shopping boulevard Planken, a wide pedestrian zone. At the end – or beginning, whichever way you want to see it – stands the mighty fine art nouveau architectural ensemble, the Friedrichsplatz square. Its water tower, the city’s landmark, was built between 1886 and 1889. Both it and the statue-rich fountains in front of it are particularly spectacular when they are lit up by night.

Go al fresco in art nouveau surroundings

The best way to enjoy all this is sitting al fresco in one of the cafés and bars around the Friedrichsplatz. As soon as the sun comes out, so do Mannheim’s rich and beautiful and the rest as well. Particular favourites amongst the cafés are ‘Dolceamaro’, featuring a baroque-modern interior and Mediterranean-inspired menu, and just next door ‘Café Flo’, a quirky little bistro-type place that is almost as famous in Mannheim as the water tower. And heading towards the Neckar from here, past the city’s green lung Luisenpark, there’s the ‘Bootshaus’, a restaurant and bar above the local rowing club, with a great terrace for a summer evening.

At the centre of Mannheim’s shopping mile is the Engelhorn department store at O5 on the Planken. Still family run, it can easily hold its own next to Berlin’s or Munich’s fashion emporiums. Apart from every possible type of men’s, women’s and kids’ clothing, there’s a fabulous accessories department and coffee bars dotted around on several floors. Right at the top, ‘Faces Lounge’ is a popular café and bar in the evening with a great terrace and views over Mannheim, plus, one floor above, ‘Le Corange’ offers fine dining with equally impressive views.

Perfect for shopping and culture

Mannheim’s cultural scene doesn’t disappoint either with the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, the Technomuseum and the Kunsthalle art gallery as the stand-out locations. The Nationaltheater with its own ensembles for opera, ballet and theatre as well as the Rosengarten concert hall offer a varied programme.

And, of course, there’s the stunning Baroque palace right next to the Planken. It’s the largest of its kind in Germany and partly occupied by the city’s university. The building has been extensively renovated over the past years and is well worth a visit.

Meanwhile the latest urban development to watch out for is the redevelopment of an old granary on the Rhine right opposite Ludwigshafen. The ‘Speicher 7’ complex includes a chic boutique hotel and gourmet restaurant and opened in 2013. So maybe Mannheim is worth a stand-alone city break after all …

More information on Mannheim.

Looking for more? See other destinations in Western Germany

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