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Mannheim: the chessboard city.

This university city on the banks of the Rhine and Neckar rivers has seen many firsts in the history of transport. Karl Drais built the first two-wheeled draisine in Mannheim in 1817, and Carl Benz's first car took to the city's streets in 1886. The legendary Lanz Bulldog tractor followed in 1921 and Julius Hatry developed the world's first rocket-powered aircraft here in 1929. Inquiring minds clearly feel at home in Mannheim.

Maybe it is the city's clear structure that helps them think. Mannheim is a 'chessboard' city, whose streets between the Neckar river and the castle were laid out in a grid formation in the 17th century. Locals talking to each other about 'C5' or 'E7' are not referring to a game of battleships but where they live or where they are headed. And they have plenty of places to choose from. Mannheim offers a wealth of sights and cultural attractions, art and culinary hotspots, events and parties, vibrancy and tranquillity. Say checkmate to boredom in this city of intellect and fun! All tastes are catered for, whether opera, plays and ballet at the National Theatre, readings, concerts ranging from classical to pop and jazz, or a host of other events in independent theatres and venues both conventional and not so conventional. Sights not to be missed include Europe's second largest baroque palace and the water tower, which is set in the middle of one of the continent's loveliest art nouveau architectural ensembles. Boosted by the presence of institutions such as the University of Music and Performing Arts, Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy, the University of Applied Sciences and the Independent Art Academy, creativity flourishes in Mannheim on an almost unparalleled scale. Mannheim is also an excellent venue for conferences. The m:con Congress Center Rosengarten is one of the best of its kind, a fine blend of old and modern architecture, equipped with the latest technologies and located directly opposite a pretty park – lending elegance and class to any event held here.

Three major attractions stand out among Mannheim's sensational museums: the Reiss-Engelhorn Museums, the Technoseum and the Kunsthalle art gallery. The Reiss-Engelhorn Museums comprise four exhibition spaces including the mighty armoury, the last monumental building from the epoch of the Mannheim Electors. Around 1.2 million objects are on show, covering a vast range of subjects from archaeology, antiquity and cultures of the world to art and cultural history, theatre and music history and photography. The Technoseum explores the parallels between technological and social history and retraces the process of industrialisation from around 1750 to the present day through a number of interactive exhibits. Collections of paintings from German and French Impressionism, New Objectivity, Expressionism, as well as abstract art from the German and French Art Informel movement, can be seen at the Mannheim Kunsthalle. Besides stunning sculptures from the 19th century, the Kunsthalle possesses an extensive international collection of works by 20th-century sculptors. The focus is on Henry Moore, Marino Marini and Max Ernst, though pieces by Auguste Rodin, Alberto Giacometti and Richard Long are also on display. A separate collection is dedicated to the important Expressionist sculptor Wilhelm Lehmbruck, while regular temporary exhibitions feature contemporary artists. Mannheim's Kunstverein and Stadtgalerie galleries also contribute to the thriving arts scene, as do festivals and the numerous events arranged by private cultural organisations such as the Klapsmühl' ensemble at the town hall, one of the best venues for satirical cabaret and comedy in Germany. As the Rhine-Neckar region's shopping mecca, Mannheim is a winner with shopaholics – there is nothing you cannot buy here. And you will be a winner too if you visit this fantastic city.

City Highlights

The water tower, Mannheim's famous landmark in the east of the city centre, was built between 1886 and 1889 by Berlin architect Bruno Schmitz, and was later the starting point for the design of Friedrichsplatz square. The captivating fountains in front of this monumental building, which is lit up at night, are a true sight to behold. Part of one of Europe's largest and most beautiful ensembles in the art nouveau style, the tower is adorned with bronze figures of Triton and his sirens, two groups of stone centaurs and a statue of Amphitrite, wife of the sea god Poseidon, on its copper roof.

Music has become one of Mannheim's hallmarks since Joy Fleming invented the 'Mannemer Blues'. A number of other artists such as Laith-Al-Deen, Xavier Naidoo and Söhne Mannheims have followed in her footsteps – and have enjoyed chart success. It seemed only fitting that the city should be the home of the Baden-Württemberg Pop Academy. A state-run college for popular music set up as a public private partnership by the Baden-Württemberg region in 2003, it is the first of its kind in Germany. As is the Musikpark – a centre of innovation devoted to the music industry.

Built in 1720 at the behest of Electors Carl Philipp and Carl Theodor with the help of eminent artists, Mannheim Palace is a work of art in itself. Because of its sheer size, and its more than 500 exquisitely decorated rooms adorned with paintings, Gobelin tapestries and statues, it is known as the 'Jewel of the Palatinate' and is one of the largest baroque sites in Germany. The palace was restored to its former glory at the beginning of 2007. Its museum sheds light on the history of the palace and the Electors who resided there. Visitors can also view the private library of Electress Elisabeth Augusta.

First documented in the Lorsch Codex in 766, Mannheim was granted town privileges in January 1607 after Elector Friedrich IV of the Palatinate laid the foundation stone for Friedrichsburg fortress. The grid-like arrangement of streets, which at the time linked the town with the fortress, remains unchanged to this day. Each square of the city's 'chessboard' layout has its own letter and number: the address of the Artquadrat gallery, for instance, is 'L4,10', while the Armoury Museum is to be found at C5 and the Schillerhaus Museum at B5.

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