My husband will be in conference in Mannheim & i have 5 days to myself any day trip ideas from Mannheim? May 2014
I might know a few things about the region, since I live here...
You'll soon see why Mannheim doesn't feature prominently in many guidebooks, but at least one thing not to miss is Luisenpark. Quite simply, this is one of the most beautiful urban parks I've seen anywhere in Europe.
Heidelberg is a quick Straßenbahn ride from Mannheim, and it probably needs no introduction (ignore Rick Steves' ridiculous comments about the city). It's also the gateway to the gorgeous Neckar River Valley. Highlights here are Dilsberg, Hirschhorn and Bad Wimpfen. Like the more famous Mittelrhein, you can take a commuter train the length of the valley to tour.
The mountains you'll see to your east is the Oldenwald. Along the western edge of the Odenwald, north of Heidelberg to Darmstadt runs the Bergstraße (route B3 on maps). This old Roman route goes through several attractive wine towns, the highlights of which are Weinheim, Heppenheim (ESPECIALLY Heppenheim) and Bensheim. A chain of castles overlooks many of these towns, the most interesting of which are probably Schloß Auerbach above the town of the same name, and Burg Frankenstein above Seeheim-Jugenheim.
The Odenwald itself is a fascinating region, filled with picture-perfect villages and small towns, low mountains, interesting rock formations, castles, waterfalls, Roman ruins, and thousands of kilometers of hiking trails. This is my favorite little hidden corner in all of Germany, and it barely gets mentioned at all in most English-language guidebooks. Highlights are the towns of Lindenfels, Michelstadt, and Erbach, and my favorite brewery in Germany, Schmucker, is based out of the small town of Mossautal. The Odenwald is difficult to explore without a car, however.
While Mannheim, Worms and Ludwigshafen got pummeled in the war (and it shows), sister city Speyer escaped nearly unscathed. The Romanesque cathedral here is huge, and the town itself is very attractive.
On the other side of the Rhine, the Deutsche Weinstraße has several towns worth visiting, including the spa resort of Bad Dürkheim and Neustadt an der Weinstraße and Landau.
Lorsch is a small town just to the north of my village that has a monastery that dates from the Carolingian period and a picture-perfect, but small Marktplatz.
Darmstadt is also worth a visit. Most of the city, like Mannheim, got flattened in the war, but the inner historical core survived (or was rebuilt, I'm not sure). Many of the Jugenstil landmarks remain. The big draw is the artist colony around Mathildenhöhe, and the public garden behind it.
The Mittelrhein is within daytripping distance of Mannheim, but I'll let others describe it in further detail.
The town of Schwetzingen itself is nothing special, but a huge Schloß and garden complex sits just outside the town. Karlsruhe, a 30 minute or so drive to the south, has an even bigger specimen, but I've not yet visited.
Welcome to the Kurpfaltz!
Sorry no car, have to explore on my own :-)
Tom, thank you so much for many suggestions to different towns in your post. appreciate it a lot.
I guess by way of vegetarian food i should be able to find something to eat?
In Mannheim, Darmstadt or Heidelberg, probably not too much trouble, but you'll have to look. But in some of the peripheral towns I mentioned... you're in pork and potato country.
If you start early , 9:30 am at the latest, I would suggest Frankfurt, Wetzlar, or even Wiesbaden, ie, my choices.
Somehow I forgot to mention the walled preserved town of Ladenburg, which is just outside of Mannheim along the Neckar river (not in the more scenic valley). The town also has a museum devoted to the Roman history of the region, although I've not visited.
Fred mentioned Wetzlar, a very attractive town. If you're in that area, you can also consider a trip to the stunning old university town of Marburg, and nearby Braunfels has a huge castle that's worth a visit. And if you hang out in the Frankfurt area, and a spa treatment appeals to you, look no further than Wiesbaden, probably the grandest of all the spa resorts in Germany.
EDIT: Oops, Fred also mentioned Wiesbaden...
The Mercedes Museum is also in Stuttgart. I liked it a little bit better than the Porsche museum. I am not a car person, but the hubby is. I loved the way the Mercedes Museum incorporated the history of what was going on in the world with the history of the car. It was very well done. It is really cool to see all of the old cars and some of the very first cars. I love the story of Diamler's (or was it Benz). She was a gutsy lady!
I would second Wiesbaden. We went during the farmers market on Wedneday. It was soooo cool. I got some really neat pictures.
Also May is white asparagus season. (Spargel) It is fantastic. You will see it everywhere.