Wiesbaden, Mainz & the Rheingau Wine District
Frankfurt is close and convenient to many historic towns and scenic regions in western Germany. On a day trip you can visit the ancient cathedral town of Mainz, the popular spa town of Wiesbaden, and the Rheingau, one of Germany’s great wine-producing areas. The itinerary below is a driving tour—but it can also be done by train.
The itinerary begins in Mainz, about 43.5km (27 miles) southwest of Frankfurt (about 40 min. by train). From Mainz you can continue by car, boat or train to Bingen. If you’re driving from Frankfurt, take the A66.
This ancient city lies on the west bank of the Rhine at its confluence with the Main (the river that flows through Frankfurt). Founded by the Romans around 13 b.c. it played a key role in the empire’s strategic string of forts and defenses along the Rhine. Situated at the intersection of the Rheinhessen and Rheingau wine regions, Mainz today is a bustling wine town that celebrates the grape with annual wine festivals on the first week in August and September. You can pick up a map and at the tourist information center (Brǖckenturm am Rathaus; www.touristic-mainz.de). Put the Altstadt (Old Town) at the top of your sightseeing list and head first to the 11th-century Dom (Cathedral), Marktplatz (www.mainz-dom.de). This venerable red-sandstone edifice, which since the 11th century has served as the church of the Archbishop of Mainz, is the most important Catholic cathedral in Germany after Cologne. Its oldest parts are early Romanesque in style, but, as with the cathedral at Aachen, later Gothic additions obscure some of its great age. After admiring the cathedral, head to the nearby Stephenskirche (Church of St. Stephen) to see the stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall, installed in 1978. The world-changing achievements of native son Johanes Gutenberg, inventer of the movable-type printing press, are chronicled at the Gutenberg Museum (Liebfrauenplatz 5; www.gutenbergmuseum.de). Free admission to cathedral; tours (in German) Mon, Wed, Fri-Sun 2pm, 5€; tours in English by special request at cathedral information kiosk. Mon-Fri 9am-6:30pm (Nov–Feb until 5pm), Sat 9am-4pm, Sun 12:45-3pm and 4-6:30pm (Nov–Feb until 5pm).
From Mainz, take A60 and then A643 across the Rhine to Wiesbaden, 21km (13 miles). It’s a 15-minute train ride (schedules at www.bahn.com), or you can go by boat (schedules at www.k-d.de).
Wiesbaden is one of Germany’s most popular spa towns—second only to Baden-Baden in the Black Forest. To understand just what a German spa experience is all about, head over to the massive, modern Kaiser Friedrich Therme, Langgasse 38–40 (tel. 0611/1729660; www.wiesbaden.de; 10€–23€; daily 8am–10pm), for a relaxing sauna or a swim in one of the several thermal pools. For a good meal—and some fun spa-town people-watching—head over to Käfer’s Bistro, Im Kurhaus (tel. 0611/536200; main courses 14€–24€; daily 11:30am–1am), a popular spot located in the town’s stately Kurhaus (and casino), a long-established center of social life in the spa town. The seasonally changing menu has many healthy choices, including fresh salads, as well as traditional Rhineland cuisine.
From Wiesbaden, head west along the north bank of the Rhine for 50km (31 miles) to Rǖdesheim, described below under “Day Trips from Cologne.” You can also travel this section by train in about 30 minutes. This part of the day trip takes you through the Rhinegau.
This part of the day trip takes you through the Rheingau wine district, a 45km (27-mile) stretch of the Rhine Valley west of Wiesbaden. Vineyards on terraced hllsides have produced wine here since Roman times. The wind-sheltered southern slopes of the Taunus range, on the river’s northern bank, get plenty of sunshine and comparatively little rain, conditions the Romans recognized as perfect for grape-growing. The Rheingau wine grapes produce a delicately fruity wine with a full aroma. Eighty percent of this wine comes from the Riesling grape, and wine fans consider Rheingau Rieslings to be among the best white wines made anywhere.
From Rǖdesheim you can continue north along the Middle Rhine or return to Frankfurt (about 1 hr. by car or train) or Cologne (about 2 hr. by car or train).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.