A Walk Through the Former Residency of the Electoral Palatinate
The economic and cultural center of the metropolitan Rhine-Neckar region was built according to the blueprint of an ideal renaissance town, divided into squares.
Mannheim, the ” City of Squares”, is situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhein (Rhine) and Neckar, in the northwestern corner of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, not far from Heidelberg. Today the former residency of the historical Electoral Palatinate is the economical and cultural center of the metropolitan Rhein-Neckar region. If Heidelbergers want to see an opera or a musical, they go to the Mannheim National Theater or to the Rosengarten, the famous festival hall. Even for clothes and shoe shopping they take the “S-Bahn” (interurban train) which gets them to Mannheim in fifteen minutes.
The symbol of the city is “der Wasserturm” (the water tower) built from 1886 to 1889). The young architect Gustav Halmhuber provided the prize-winning design for the 60 meter high water reservoir which is crowned by the statue of the Greek God Amphitrite. The water tower is not only the symbol of the city but also a „direction sign” as it can be seen from nearly all over the city, thus one can never get lost in Mannheim.
The Only Chessboard City Center in Germany
The Electoral Prince Friedrich IV of Palatinate had Mannheim built to the blueprint of an ideal renaissance town, divided into squares.
The city stretches like a chess board from the River Neckar to the Mannheim Castle. The castle with its 600 meter long frontage facing the town is the key to the Mannheim system. Coming from the castle near the main train station, visitors find the blocks in rows named with letters A to K left of the Breite Strasse and the letters L to U to the right.
Within the rows the blocks are numbered (A1, A2, etc) starting at the Breite Strasse. Each block has its own numbering scheme. It starts with number 1 at the corner of each block pointing towards the castle and goes around the block – clockwise within the rows A to K and counter clockwise within the rows L to U.
Famous Streets in Mannheim: Planken, Fressgasse, Kunststrasse and Breite Strasse
The heart of Mannheim is at the Paradeplatz (parade square) where the two shopping streets “Planken” and “Breite Strasse” meet. The extensively restored fountain with the bronze pyramid designed by the sculptor Gabriel de Grupello dominates the center. Of the few streets within the Mannheim square that are named, the „Planken” is certainly the most well known. In this historical street between the water tower and Paradeplatz, wooden planks used to be laid down so that in previous centuries the fine ladies could take a stroll without getting their feet wet. Nowadays the Planken is a pedestrian zone. With its elegant shops, cafés and shopping arcades, it represents the lively Mannheim shopping mile.
Mannheimer Stadthaus (Old Warehouse)
The Planken, the shopping street across from the water tower, leads straight to the Stadthaus in N1, the city house, which opened in 1991. Its modern architecture is reminiscing the 18th century architecture of the old warehouse which was located at the same site and used throughout its history as a warehouse, stock-exchange and town hall. Today the Stadthaus is home to various cafés, restaurants, shops, the municipal library and an evening school.
Mannheimer Marktplatz (Market Square)
The Market Square is only a few meters away from the Stadthaus. There is a fountain in the middle which represents the rivers Rhine and Neckar, mercury and the sun. It originally stood in Heidelberg and was given to the City of Mannheim by Prince Elector Carl Theodor. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays there is a large fruit, vegetable and flower market on the square.
The street opposite the square leads into the Turkish quarter where Turkish shops, bakeries, cafés, restaurants and hair stylists can be found. One of the most popular places is the Café Istanbul that borders to the Market Square.
The Mannheim Castle and the Castle Church
The residence of the Princes Electors was built between 1720 and 1760 under Carl Philipp and Carl Theodor. It is he largest baroque castle in Germany. Today its 400 rooms are used by the University of Mannheim. Worth viewing are the elegantly decorated Knights Hall with its parquet inlay flooring, the elaborate ceiling frescoes by Cosmas Damian Asam and the “Trabantensaal” with its antique furniture exhibition. The altar in the castle church as well as the ornately decorated coffin of Prince Elector Carl Philipp in the crypt were designed by Paul Egell.