If you are interested in ancient history, the museums of Mainz, ancient Mogontiacum, are not to be missed. In fact, the city boasts no less than six museums. The largest of these is the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, (Central Museum for Roman and Germanic Art) in the palace of the former Elector-Archbishop. It consists of three departments: Pre- and Protohistory, Antiquity, and Early Middle Ages. This chronological depth is matched by a geographical width: the collections do not concentrate on Europe, but offer a lot of attention to developments in Africa and Asia. Most objects are original, but there are also a couple of replicas from other museums, which makes the museum an ideal place to explain things to students.
Not far from the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum is the Landesmuseum, (State Museum) easily recognizable because there is a golden horse standing on its roof. It has several departments of art (Judaica, Duch masters, modern painting, medieval religious art, etc.), but the most splendid one is the Steinhalle, which contains hundreds of ancient inscription from Mainz, and some other objects of art made by stone sculptors. Here, you will see the Arch of Dativius, the Jupiter Column, and the Mainz Pedestals. For some other examples, go here.
From the Landesmuseum, it’s a short walk to the excavation of the Temple of Isis and Cybele (more…). This sanctuary was unexpectedly discovered in 2000 when a shopping mall was built in the center of the city. The remains can be visited in a large underground room, which has all kinds of displays for the objects. You do not have to pay anything, although it is possible to make a donation.
On the other side of the city you will find the Museum für antike Schifffahrt, (Museum of Ancient Navigation) which is unique in the world. Of course shipwrecks can be seen in more cities (e.g., Bodrum, Marsalla, and Rome’s Fiumicino Airport), but they are usually sea ships – the Mainz museum has six wrecks of war ships that were used to defend a river. In this museum, which is also free and does not even allow you to make a donation, you will also find two 1:1 reconstructions, and dozens of models of ancient boats. A collection of objects relating to ancient navigation is also there. The theater is five minutes away; the hotel across the street is cheap, clean, and serves an excellent breakfast.
Finally, there is the Museum Castellum, on the east bank of the Rhine, at the place of the ancient bridghehead. It is open only on Sundays, and I did not have an opportunity to go there. My friend Richard, however, says that it was an unexpected, and nice, surprise. Not far from here is the sixth museum: like the Temple of Isis and Cybele, it is an underground exposition room, where the remains of the Arch of Germanicus can be seen, the largest arch north of the Alps. It is in the Große Kirchenstraße 5-11, close to the Museum Castellum, and only open on Sunday.
And before I stop – it would be stupid to go to Mainz without paying a visit to the Gutenberg Museum. Where on earth can you see three beautiful Gutenberg Bibles in one room?