The 2000-year-old city of Mainz is located at the confluence of the Rhein and Main rivers. Once the seat of the Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, today Mainz is the capital of the state of Rheinland-Palatinate. The city skyline is dominated by the cathedral, which is one of the finest examples of medieval architecture in Europe. Mainz is also the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of moveable type, which is well documented in a local museum.
Mainz is also a youthful university town, home to three universities. In the summer months, students can be seen lounging on beach chairs on the banks of the Rhein river. The city was bombed heavily during World War II, but the old part of the city retains its flair with broad open streets, spacious squares, boutiques, cafés, and wine bars. And during Germany’s carnival season, Mainz attracts millions of visitors to its parades, parties and costume balls. (www.mainz.de)
Offenbach's appeal lies in its separation from Frankfurt and its proximity to Frankfurt. The regional transportation system makes Offenbach very accessible for commuters, and yet there is a long-standing, heated rivalry between the cities. This is more often than not played out on the soccer field: when Eintracht Frankfurt won its only national German title in 1959, the runner-up was of course the Offenbach Kickers.
Once the center of the German leather industry, Offenbach’s well-known German Leather Museum is certainly worth a visit. Apartment rents in Offenbach are considerably lower than in Frankfurt, in particular for older apartments with high ceilings and turn-of-the-century details. (www.offenbach.de)
Located in the western-most corner of Bavaria and just 30 minutes from Frankfurt, Aschaffenburg is a majestic city with plenty of culture. Over its long history, Aschaffenburg alternatively belonged to Mainz and Frankfurt but was finally annexed to Bavaria in 1814. The main cultural attraction in the city is the landmark Johannesburg Castle, a red sandstone renaissance building that was originally the residence of the Prince Bishop of Mainz. Other sites include the 1000-year-old Stiftskirche and the Pompejanum, a Roman villa rebuilt with plans discovered in Pompeii. If you want to take an ambitious bicycle tour, try peddling along the well-marked bike path from Frankfurt to Aschaffenburg. (www.aschaffenburg.de)