Mannheim Palace sits on the site of a former fortress that once guarded where the Rhine and Neckar rivers merge in southwestern Germany. Today, the palace is at the centre of modern Mannheim. Founded in 1606, the second-largest city in Baden-Württemberg fans out in a grid layout from the palace. Although you'll find a handful of older sites in town, Mannheim is predominantly modern and industrial, with 50s-era buildings erected after the city was levelled during World War II.
Shopping and culture are among Mannheim's biggest draws. You'll discover both in Paradeplatz, a pedestrian-only central square surrounded by storefronts and restaurants. This area is also home to Planken, Mannheim's busiest shopping street where parades and a Christmas market are held each year.
Arguably Mannheim's most popular attraction is the Wasserturm, a 19th-century water tower that soars above a series of rose gardens and baroque and art nouveau buildings lining the Friedrichsplatz. Mannheim Palace – now part of the University of Mannheim's main campus – is another worthy spot to spend an afternoon. Its interior exhibits display dazzling collections of tapestries, paintings and furniture. For a bird's-eye view, head to the Fernmeldeturm Mannheim. The communication tower's glass-enclosed observation deck and revolving restaurant feature sweeping views of the city.
A few precious pockets of green offset Mannheim's mostly urban format. Both Luisenpark and Herzogenriedpark offer tree-lined paths, playgrounds, fountains and flowers. Luisenpark is particularly known for its Chinese garden, which is home to one of Europe's largest Chinese teahouses.