Mannheim is one of the largest and most significant industrial and commercial cities in northern Baden-Württemburg. It holds a strategic position at the confluence of the Rhein and Neckar Rivers, two major German waterways. With its sister city Ludwigshafen on the west bank, Mannheim boasts massive ports and lots of activity. Although it won't beckon as a tourist haven, Mannheim's modernization has produced a living environment that has attracted large numbers of working immigrants from Europe and the world. It's a decent place to live if you like the city, and the surrounding areas are nice and accessible (for example, a lot of people in the Heidelberg area go to Mannheim to work but visit Heidelberg's parking garages on any given Saturday and you'll see a lot of Mannheim license plates). But if you are visiting, what is there to do in Mannheim?
For starters, Mannheim's huge downtown is a great starting point for shoppers and sightseers. For example, when one travels to Mannheim from the east, the monument there to greet him is the Wasserturm, shown in the first photo. The Wasserturm is Mannheim most recognized and accessible structure, surrounded by a huge park inside a traffic circle on top of one of the city's main parking garages. This permits the Wasserturm to be used as the centerpiece for Mannheim's annual Christmas Market. The surrounding park, with its massive fountain and large vine-covered walkways, will often be used for weddings and other functions.
Going further west is Mannheim's downtown shopping district. It is arranged in a 'T' shape with the Wasserturm sitting at the 'bottom' of the T. The cross of the T is the Paradeplatz, one of the downtown's two main squares. The Paradeplatz is line on all sides by large cafés and restaurants, the city library, and many large department stores. I have also witnessed it used as a place for political demonstrations (something that seems to occur routinely at Mannheim).
At the right edge of the T is the Marktplatz, shown in the second photo. The Marktplatz is where the traditional Saturday markets take place, under the red sandstone Altes Rathaus (or Old Town Hall). Every Saturday morning until about 2PM, these market stands set up, selling fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses, and a wide variety of ethnic specialties.
At the left edge of the 'T' is the Mannheim Palace, shown in the third photo. Unlike most of the other palaces in the area, this one is mostly closed to the public and used for offices and the local university. It does have a Catholic church on one wing that's normally open, and a museum that I haven't yet visited).
Many of the more touristy attactions are on the eastern side of Mannheim, outside the downtown area. The greatest among them is the Luisenpark, probably one of the largest urban parks in southwest Germany. Luisenpark contains a wide range of attractions that surround a huge open grassy field for people to go and relax. These include a boat ride along about a kilometer's worth of artificial canals, a huge bird sanctuary, a petting zoo with cows and donkeys and other animals, a rose garden, and a Chinese garden (seen in the fourth photo). The Chinese garden is the park's most recent addition, with oriental buildings and rock gardens with artificial waterfalls, and a teahouse featuring a host of Asian flavors.
The district around the Luisenpark has several museums, including Mannheim's industrial museum, and a planetarium. Nearby is Carl-Benz Stadion, where the Mannheim soccer club plays (which had made the second professional division [2. Bundesliga] while I was there but by 2003 dropped back to the senior amateur ranks).
Continuing on with sports -- in the downtown's northwest is the Eisstadion, home of the Adler Mannheim ice hockey team (the Mannheim Eagles), champions of the German Bundesliga from 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2001. The Eisstadion is the only open-air ice hockey rink I've ever seen. There is a roof, but there are no walls, which means it can handle a lot of standing room fans. Hockey fans would definitely be interested to witness a game, played in an environment very different from that seen in North America -- the fans spend the whole game singing and chanting. As of this writing, the Eagles are fighting for the top seed in the league for the 2002 playoffs, so the fans have been singing and chanting with a lot of glee. This is a post-game picture of yet another Adler victory, 6-4 over the Iserlohn Roosters (easily one of the best German league games I've ever seen, too!)
The Mannheim Eagles will soon have a new stadium, which in 2004 was under construction among the eastern suburbs. This stadium will be very modern and perhaps compete with the Cologne Arena as the premier one in the country.
Lesser known fact about Mannheim (certainly due to greater attention-grabbing by Salzburg, is that the famous composer Mozart wrote some of the his best music while living in this part of Germany. Mozart festivals are held throughout the area during the early spring.
Again, Mannheim is a place to live more than a place to visit. Few of the attractions here would warrant a trip from the states. But, among the many Americans do live in the area, Mannheim is a popular place to shop and do the urban thing, especially since as city's go, Mannheim is very safe and enjoyable.
Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2001, 2004 Tom Galvin