The best part of traveling to well-preserved medieval towns? – You get a sense of wonder involving place and time. At the same time, you also get to turn your fairytale fantasies come to life!
In Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of these beautiful towns frozen in time. Here you can see half-timbered houses, cobblestone lanes, and all the quaint things you can ever imagine!
Beautiful as it may sound, can Rothenburg ob der Tauber give you the wanderlust-satisfying trip you’re looking for? Would Rothenburg ob der Tauber be worth a visit? In this blog post, you’ll know why you should.
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Travel Inspiring Photos of Rothenburg
Before we go further into the topic, I would like to share some photos of Rothenburg ob der Tauber to give you ideas of what scenes await you here in this town. May these photos travel inspire you or at least help you decide to visit this town or not:
Pictures aside, what do I think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber? Let’s answer the question below.
Is Rothenburg worth visiting?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a preserved medieval city to give you a time travel journey along its charming streets, imposing fortifications, and scenic trails. It’s a place that will surely satisfy your wanderlust for a magical fairytale experience! This is why Rothenburg is worth visiting.
Discover more from the 7 reasons to visit Rothenburg and its attractions included in this post.
Rothenburg can be visited on a day trip from Nuremberg. It is the largest city in Franconia, closest to Rothenburg. Check out my 15 reasons you should visit Nuremberg or make it your home base when traveling in south-central Germany.
What’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber all about?
I can still remember when I visited a place in our country where the 16th-19th century houses were relocated for preservation. I can say that I was more than captivated by the scenery that I saw during that time.
Honestly, it was mindblowing to see how marvelous these old houses’ architecture and design are in person.
I couldn’t help myself not to think of how beautiful the world would be if every town/city had kept its traditional design. If that happened, it seems that traveling would, even more, become an endless activity to do!
It’s just that there is really something in quaint towns that blissfully mesmerizes. They give you this weird nostalgic feeling of a place or time you’ve never been before. Do you agree?
Regardless of the “yes or no” answer, I am sure that Rothenburg ob der Tauber will be a place to visit, and I will tell you more about it later.
So, what is Rothenburg ob der Tauber all about? According to Rick Steves, a well-known traveler in Europe, Rothenburg is Germany’s fairytale dream and the country’s most exciting medieval town. He also added that Rothenburg is one of Germany’s best shopping towns.
So, do you want to go to Rothenburg already? 🙂
Where is Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town along the famous Romantic Road in the Franconian region of Bavaria. See the Google Maps below for the exact location.
If you wonder where Rothenburg ob der Tauber got its this long name, the maps shall help you discover it.
Zoom in the maps to which level you can already see the landmarks in town, and the surrounding places’ names also appear on the screen. That’s when you can notice that the Tauber River is just right beside the Rothenburg to the west. Basically, the Rothenburg ob der Tauber is just the German term for “The Red Fortress above the Tauber.”
When you come to Rothenburg, you’ll see it built on the cliff overlooking the Tauber River. That explains why it’s “above” the Tauber.
There are other places in Germany also called Rothenburg, so always double-check any booking/reservation details before proceeding.
What is Rothenburg known for?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is famous for its well-preserved medieval town, which can absolutely awe-inspire anyone who comes. It is also one of the three remaining towns in Germany with intact city walls, making Rothenburg extra-special and more attractive to tourists.
People often talk about Rothenburg’s pastel-colored half-timbered houses, cobbled streets, and its overall irresistible medieval charm. They love the architecture, the twisting and turning narrow lanes that led them to some stunning views of the valley below.
These are just some of the things that await you in Rothenburg, and yep, it’s only the tip of the iceberg!
Do you know that Rothenburg already exists even during the 1st century? Ever since a lot has happened, and many architecturally marvelous structures have been built.
Visiting Rothenburg today, you’ll encounter so much about history, culture, and architecture. They will be the essence of your journey to this charming medieval town.
Reasons to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Things to do)
This section tells you the seven things about Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which I found exciting to experience. These can be all your reasons to visit Rothenburg, but it will still depend on you and your liking. Without further ado:
Reason #1: Rothenburg Town Highlights
Let’s not deny it, Rothenburg is lovely, and obviously, this is the first and ultimate reason to visit Rothenburg ob der, Tauber. The entire town seems like a monument or an open museum already!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is just the place to visit in Germany, as almost everyone recommends it. When you search Google “What’s the most beautiful towns in Germany,” Rothenburg never ditch the lists in the top 10 results.
It feels like skipping Rothenburg ob der Tauber is missing the climax of a trip to Germany.
What’s even more interesting? When you search Google “Germany,” the Rothenburg ob der Tauber photo always comes first or at least on the first page of image results. Seems like Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the face or icon of Germany – one that anybody can recognize it’s Germany at first glance.
You do not have to search for it as that photo, “the icon of Germany,” is the next photo you will see here. 😉
Activity #1: Visit Plönlein
So, how about a selfie with the most iconic landmark in Germany?
For multiple times now, Rothenburg, particularly Plonlein, has been featured by several international online publications to be one of the most beautiful places to visit.
In this article from CondeNast Traveler, Plonlein was shown to represent Rothenburg as one of the places in the world that are straight out of fairy tales.
Some people think that Plönlein is just the beautiful yellow timber-framed house – but, nope! Plönlein, when interpreted, means “a small square at a fountain,” and it includes everything that’s in the photo: the houses, the fountain in the front, and the towers behind.
Okay. So, where is Plönlein, and how can I visit it? Plönlein is very easy to find.
Starting from Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Marktplatz, walk to the market square’s southeast corner and proceed south through Schmiedgasse. Within 5 minutes, you will be in Plönlein. See maps below for the exact route:
When you arrive, take a selfie! Give yourself a photo souvenir. It’s better to print it and write memos at the back: “Me/us at the most iconic place in Germany.” You can have something you can cherish all your life!
However, be reminded that Plönlein is one of the most famous spots in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Expect to see crowds and cars everywhere, especially during peak season and peak hours! Never set your expectations too high, though.
“But, I want to get a photo of Plönlein just as it is… with me!”
When is the best time to visit Plönlein?
Try visiting Plönlein after 6 in the evening or early in the morning. Tourists and travelers on day trips usually fill Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the day (around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Without them, you can find the streets almost empty, giving you many chances to photograph everything without photobombers, including Plönlein.
Activity #2: Explore Market Square (Marktplatz)
I know that all of us like to see Plönlein totally void of people and cars, not only for photos. We want to see it in its purest fairytale look and feel really awe-inspired, right?
It’s just in traveling, the experience is the one we buy, and we desire to get the best out of every place we visit.
For me, in the case of Rothernburg’s Market Square, I would like to see it the opposite of Plönlein. I prefer it bustling, crowded, and alive – like any town center should look like.
Seeing such a place filled with people makes me happy and enthusiastic, knowing I can discover their culture through personal experience and not by just reading facts in a museum.
Aside from Plönlein, another highlight of a visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is its Market square/Marktplatz.
It is the culmination of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s culture and architecture. Not only will you be surrounded by numerous magnificent structures in Rothenburg’s Marktplatz, but here you will also witness different events that manifest Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s tradition.
Later on, in the following sections, you will learn four of Rothenburg’s traditions I find so exciting to watch.
Tourist Information Center
Facing north while standing in the middle of Rothenburg’s Market Square, you will see the former town’s council drinking room, now the Rothenburg’s Tourism Office.
There, you can get guides, and all inquire for lots of information about the town. Check out pamphlets in different languages about Rothenburg ob der Tauber also posters of upcoming events.
At the end of this post, I will give you a link to the printable brochures so you can skip the Tourist Information Center.
On the Tourist Information Center facade, you can see a clock and a sundial dating back to 1683 and 1768. Every full hour between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., a show about the history of Rothenburg occurs on the facade of the Tourist Information Center. Don’t forget to catch it up and watch it!
Look to the east, and you will see the different gift shops for souvenir stores, shops, and cafes. Outside, you see alfresco dining tables where you can rest for a while and admire the opposite building: Rothenburg’s town hall.
The Town Hall of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is perhaps the most notable building that you can see in town.
It is a 13th-century structure that combines Gothic and Renaissance architecture with a quaint, fascinating array of skylight windows and an impressive large stone portico opening onto the main square.
Back in the medieval ages, the Town Hall is the seat of power of the city-state of Rothenburg. It is the pride of Rothenburg’s past residents in their city.
Aside from admiring Town Hall from the Market Square grounds, you can climb its 220-step tower to see the city from a whole new perspective. Feel that you’re a medieval sentry on top, with views of the centuries-old town quarter and nearby Tauber valley.
The town hall’s opening hours may be limited; always check before you visit the official website of Rothenburg’s tourism office. The admission fee is also indicated on this website.
Georgsbrunnen (Saint George’s Fountain) and the charming and gigantic timber-framed houses (butcher’s and dance hall and Mayor Jagstheimer’s House) await you at the southern end of Market Square.
Because of how they look, these 15th-century structures will show you a better image of the past – giving you a more profound experience of medieval Germany. Just work with some imagination, and you’ll see. 🙂
Photographers and Instagram travelers must not miss to check out Rothenburg’s Georgsbrunnen – an excellent spot to take photos in Rothenburg’s Market Square.
Not only the fountain has pretty interesting details, but you can use the water in the fountain to take reflection photos of the charming buildings around.
You can visit several museums and exhibits near Georgsbrunnen and Market Square, like the Historical Vault, which will be discussed later. You can also try coming into Butcher’s and Dance Hall, where you can see work collections of the Rothenburg Artists Association.
Activity #3: Photograph Marcus Tower (Markusturm) and Woodman’s Well (Röderbrunnen)
From Rotherburg’s Market Square Saint George’s Fountain, walk straight to the east.
Within minutes, you’ll pass by Marcus Tower and arrive at another most photographed location in Rothenburg. By the way, Marcus Tower is one of the towers of the once-standing inner wall that was used to protect the early portions of Rothenburg.
I suggest you come closer to the flower-laden Röderbrunnen well and turn towards the tower. You shall see an Instagrammable view of the pastel-colored timber-framed houses lining the road towards the arch opening below the Marcus tower.
When is the best time to photograph Marcus Tower and Röderbrunnen? – You should not miss visiting Marcus Tower and Röderbrunnen during Easter.
By that time, most fountains, including Röderbrunnen, were decorated with flowers and colorful easter eggs to bless the water. The colorful decorations shall complement perfectly in a photo with the surrounding timber-gramed houses in the area.
Reason #2: Beautiful Churches in Rothenburg
Looking at most European cities’ city/urban planning (and some colonized by Europeans), you will notice one common thing. That is, the city center is always composed of three areas: a town hall, a market, and a church.
Previously, we discovered the town hall and the market square. Now, it’s time for the church – the second reason to visit Rothenburg.
If you haven’t been to any large churches in Europe (let’s say you go directly to Rothenburg after landing in Germany), Saint James Church will probably make you drop your jaw. More likely to happen to you if you’re from Asia and places with a different religion.
Activity #3: Visit Saint James Church
How to go to Rothenburg’s Saint James Church? – After exploring Rothenburg’s Market Square, you don’t have to go far to see another tourist attraction.
Go to the northwestern part of Market Square and follow the Grüner Markt (Green Market) Road. After a minute of strolling, you’ll find Saint James Church – a late 15th-century gothic church with towering spires.
Saint James Church was once a Catholic Church. It was converted into a Lutheran after another schism happened to Christianity in the mid of the 2nd millennium. People call Saint James Church Saint Jakob in some cases – don’t be confused. They are the same. Saint Jakob is the German for Saint James.
Three things should impress you when you visit Saint James Church:
- First is the church’s choir, which is surrounded by unimaginably tall, vibrant stained glass, showing different saints and depicting the belief of Christianism. Come in the early morning. It is when the sunlight hits the stained glass from the outside. You’ll see the windows burst in colors inside.
- Second, The church’s Great Organ. It was built by Rieger Orgelbau, and it has 69 organ stops, 108 ranks, and 5,500 pipes. Besides these numbers, It’s really elegant to the eyes. It is one of the largest in Bavaria.
- Lastly, the altars at both ends of the Saint James Church. Holy Blood altarpiece and Twelve Apostles Altar. You will just admire the exquisiteness of the Holy Blood altarpiece created by Tilman Riemenschneider. The way it was carved on wood is superb!
You can swipe the 360-image above to see the organ behind.
Aside from the Holy Blood altarpiece and Twelve Apostles Altar, you can also find other artworks inside the Church of Saint James Church, like the portraits of Elisabeth of Thuringia, Saint Peter, and Saint Paul.
The Church of Saint James is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. On Sundays, it opens at 11 a.m. and closes by 6:30 p.m. Entry is 2.5 EUR.
When is it a must to visit Saint James Church in Rothenburg? You must see it during the advent season (Before Christmas). You can get a free organ concert that lasts for 30 minutes by that time. It can be the perfect rest after roaming around Rothenburg’s Market Square.
Activity #4: Hike and See Saint Peter and Paul Church
The Church of Saint Peter and Paul is another interesting church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. But, unlike Saint James Church, The Church of Saint Peter and Paul is smaller and lies on the town’s outskirts. You can find it in a village called Detwang.
Detwang is located just beside the river Tauber; unless you have a car, you will be hiking to the village for 20 minutes from Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Market Square. It’s a small village with a countryside vibe “feels” built in the 10th century. See farms, meadows, and houses similar to Rothenburg.
You will see another work of the famous Tilman Riemenschneider at the altar of the Church of Saint Peter and Paul. There is a small entry fee, however.
Since you will hike just to visit the Church of Saint Peter and Paul, it is essential that you first check its opening hours from Rothenburg’s Evangelical Church website. Last time I checked:
|April to October||Monday to Saturday||2 p.m. to 4 p.m.|
|April to October||Sunday||10 a.m. to 12 p.m.|
|November to March (winter)||Sunday||10 a.m. to 11 a.m.|
Activity #5: Short Stop at Saint Wolfgang Church
On the path to Detwang from Rothenburg town center, you will pass by Saint Wolfgang Church – a unique church attached to Rothenburg’s walls. The church has an artistic late-Gothic tracery and three altars that date back to the 1500s (Riemann Schneider Period).
It’s mind-blowing that Rothenburg’s early inhabitants also used a church for military and defenses. Narrow passages with steep steps are inside the church to lead you to the impressive underground defense chambers.
Thick walls and arrow slits will help you imagine the soldierly life during medieval times in Rothenburg.
Anyhow, Saint Wolfgang Church, also known as “Shepherd’s Church,” is obviously dedicated to Saint Wolfgang, the patron saint of the shepherds.
Back then, sheep farming was part of Rothenburg’s medieval economy. Here in this church, the shepherds prayed to Saint Wolfgang to bless them and their livelihood.
Where is Saint Wolfgang Church?
From Rothenburg’s Market Square, proceed to Saint James Church and find the tunnel under the church’s western section. Continue walking northwards and stay on Klingengasse street; you should see from afar Klingentor tower after a few blocks.
Pass through under Klingentor Tower, and you’ll arrive at Saint Wolfang Church. See maps below for visuals:
Reason #3: The Mighty Wall of Rothenburg
Do you know what I love about traveling in a city? I can discover many new fascinating places and things by just strolling and following my nose. It shall be true for Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Your journey in Rothenburg does not end after you visit the things that make it famous. After you see the preserved city center and walk onto the quaint medieval lanes, it’s now the time to see what’s so mighty about Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Its intact city walls.
For hundreds of years, with several battles and wars fought, it’s fascinating to think that Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s city walls are still standing intact today. World War II happened, and bombs ravaged the city, yet these walls are still here to see and explore. Of course, thanks to the people who funded the restoration of some of its damaged parts!
It is just the part of Rothenburg ob der Tauber everyone must not miss beholding.
The cobblestone lanes and quaint timber-framed houses can still be found somewhere else in Germany, but these walls – there are only three of them that remain in the country! Definitely, its walls are a reason to visit Rothenburg ob der, Tauber.
Activity #6: Stroll on the Walls of Rothenburg
The walls of Rothenburg ob der Tauber stretch for approximately 4 kilometers with several towers along with it.
You would need 2 to 2.5 hours to see and find out everything about Rothenburg’s medieval wall. There are many ways you can see each tower and parts of the wall, but I suggest you follow Rothenburg’s Tower Trail instead.
The Tower Trail follows the perimeter of Rothenburg’s city wall. It will lead you to many different photography subjects and scenery seen on top of the wall and around it.
Along Rothenburg’s Tower Trail, you shall also encounter information boards to tell you the history, significance, and features of a portion of the wall. You can get a brochure from the Tourist Information Center to digest facts while strolling and no longer stop at every information board to learn and discover details.
Where to start and end Tower Trail? Rothenburg’s Tower Trail is a pedestrian path with various entry and exit points in different parts of the wall. You can find stairs and passages in between different stages of the trail, like the wall towers.
If you’ve visited Saint Wolfgang Church, which we discussed earlier, you should have seen the stairs built at the side of Klingentor tower. It’s just one of the points where you can start or end your hike on the Tower Trail.
You would see towers and structures with fascinating architecture during your hike on the Tower Trail. Here are the most interesting buildings I found that you should watch out for, arranged clockwise starting from the north:
- Klingentor (Klingen Gate)
- Galgentor (Gallows Gate)
- Rödertor (Röder Gate)
- Gerlachschmiede (Blacksmith’s Shop)
- Spital Gate (Hospital Tower and Gate Bastion)
- Rossmühle (Old Horse Mill)
- Burgtor (Castle Gate)
Let’s start with the northern entrance to the town, Klingen Gate. In this portion of the wall, you will see the fortification of the Klingen Gate Bastion, which includes the fortified church of Saint Wolfgang and 37-meter high Klingen Tower – the most beautiful tower in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Fun Fact: The name of Klingentor Tower came from the gorge that drops down steeply to the Tauber valley.
By the stairs of the Klingentor tower at the inner face of the wall, you gain access to a roofed walkway leading you to the other parts of the Tower Trail.
From Klingentor and moving eastward, Gelgentor will be part of the wall you will see next.
If Klingentor got its name from the gorge in the Tauber valley, Galgentor (Gallows Gate) had its name based on gallows growing in the Little Head Meadow located just outside the gate.
Outside the Galgentor, you will see a moat system, another interesting defensive feature of the wall – it’s a thing that we’ve only seen in medieval fantasy movies! In Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it will all be real.
Galgentor gate dates back to 1388, after the first expansion of the town. Two-story artillery posts are also located nearby, where crossbowmen and musketeers shoot enemies from the arrow slits.
A visit to Galgentor will give you further insight into the battles once held in Rothenburg, especially in this most vulnerable part of the city.
Rödertor, the most impressive gate of Rothenburg, awaits you south of Galgentor. Within this bastion lies guardhouses and a tower that would have crushed any enemies who managed to get that far.
I know only two towers you can climb to the top in Rothenburg: The Town Hall tower and Röder Tower.
Röder Tower is a 14th-century 40-meter tall structure and the oldest of the gate system you can access every weekend. Inside, you can visit an exhibition to learn more about the gate complex’s history and design.
After you explore Rödertor, you would want to pause your Tower Trail stroll for a short while and visit the Blacksmith’s house (Gerlachschmiede). Gerlachschmiede can be viewed from the Tower Trail roofed walkway, though. But I think it’s better to look at it up close down the streets instead.
From Röder Tower, it will only take a minute before you reach the quaint and odd-looking Gerlachschmiede. It’s something straight out of the role-playing video games I played during high school!
When you see it, the first thing that will capture your attention is the fanciful triangular roof. You’ll also be charmed by the cute roof windows embellished with ornamental plants.
I believe that you won’t miss taking pictures of Gerlachschmiede. It’s a unique house, and I’m sure you will share a photo or a story of yourself with Gerlachschmiede.
You can take photos of Gerlachschmiede from two beautiful vantage points:
- The first is directly in front of Gerlachschmiede and moving slightly west. On that spot, your must be able to capture the house with Röder Tower in the background.
- The second vantage point is at the roofed walkway, where you shall see Gerlachschmiede’s roof and windows in complete symmetry.
Either way, curiosity will hit you when you see the cost of arms affixed to the front facade of the Blacksmith’s house. You’d wonder why the coat of arms depicts a crowded green snake holding blacksmith tools instead of a man. What’s behind the snake, you think?
Among the gates of Rothenburg, Spital Gate is deemed most unique due to its eight or infinity figure. By the time you enter the gate, you’ll be greeted by an inscription “Pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus,” which means “Peace to those who enter and salvation to those who leave.”
Thus, we can consider the Spital Gate the most “friendly” gate in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Friendly for the visitors, but not to the enemies.
The Spital Gate, built in the mid of 16th century, has a cannon gallery that would have destroyed any enemies that have attacked Rothenburg from the south. Exploring the bastion will let you appreciate medieval warfare – something we’ve only witnessed in movies.
Spital Gate is the southernmost tip of Rothenburg’s fortifications. By the time you reach it, you’re done with half of Tower Trail, and you’ve seen everything on the eastern city wall.
From Spital Gate, the Spital Quarters will be the first section of town you’ll find by continuing the stroll northwards through the western section of the Tower Trail. An Infirmary Hospital and the Spital Quarter were established in the late 13th century by a foundation (Knights of the Hinterland) to alleviate the sick & poor.
These are the parts of Rothenburg that last to be integrated into the city by the start of the 15th century.
Near and in the Spital Quarters, I found three notable buildings/areas worth dropping by:
- Hegereiter House – The kitchen of the Infirmary hospital with a fascinating witch-hat pointed roof. It was built by the famous stonemason craft master Leonard Weidmann, who also created the Spital Gate.
- Stöberleinsturm or Little Flushing Tower – A gorgeous tower with symmetrical corner turrets.
- Stöberlein’s Stage – is an open mini-amphitheater facing the covered stair walkway. It’s the place in town not to be skipped during a Rothenburg festival. You could witness a traditional medieval play here.
If the eastern wall of Rothenburg has the Blacksmith’s house, here in the west, you’ll find Rossmühle – a grain mill that was driven by 16 horses across its five grinding stones. Similar to the Blacksmith’s house, Rossmühle will absolutely pull your camera lenses towards it and force your finger to press the shutter.
Rossmühle should probably be the most beautiful house outside the once-standing inner wall of Rothenburg. Its roof is architecturally spellbinding. The windows were created by a giant who pinched the roof, pulling slightly upwards.
By the time Rossmühle was built in 1516, it was said to be the largest mill in Southern Germany. After it was caught up in a fire, it was repaired and renovated into a youth hostel.
Moving northwards after you’ve seen Rossmühle, you can have a quick visit to Plönlein and return to the Tower Trail.
You are not always restricted to one path to circumnavigate the entire city.
That’s especially when you’re moving northwards from Spital Gate, and you reach Plönlein or Kobolzeller Tower. At that point, you can either choose to continue your Tower Trail inside the town or hike outside the city walls to see some views of the Tauber Valley.
Either way, you still must arrive at one location: Burgtor.
Burgtor or Castle Gate
Burgtor or Castle Gate is Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s westernmost gate, constructed in 1460. The Castle Gate has the highest gate tower among the city’s fortification system and the semicircular customs and guardhouse.
The gate features the coat of arms displayed on the top of the gate, alongside the beautiful witch-hat style old stone roof. Together, they give visitors an impressive entrance to the town, not to mention the magnificent high tower in the middle.
However, during medieval times, early residents of Rothenburg did not always enter the castle gate the way we do today. At night, they can barely enter the city through Burgtor. They usually pass through the “narrow eye of the needle” (small door) inset into the gate as it was too dangerous to open the whole gate.
Imagine how hard life was before! Comparing it today, we are free to enter and exit any city anytime or any way we want.
Reason #4: Views from Rothenburg
Perched at an elevation of 430 meters overlooking the Tauber valley, visitors get a nice view of the surrounding landscapes, particularly on the western edge of the town.
You will be staring at the scenery that perfectly matches the medieval atmosphere of Rothenburg. You’ll observe less to no trace of modern life, no skyscrapers or wind turbines, just nature and a few houses below.
It’s a reason to be in Rothenburg, don’t you agree?
You won’t have a hard time realizing your medieval fantasies being you as the protagonist.
You can just think that you are the prince or princess, a wanderer or missionary sent by a king. It’s corny, but I bet you also imagined yourself being in the movie set in the middle ages you’ve watched previously!
What’s even more exciting? You also get to see the skyline view of Rothenburg from different viewpoints in town. There are two spots on the western side of Rothenburg to visit to see the city skyline:
- Kalkturm (LimeTower) – the westernmost tower near Spital Quarter, located southwest of Rossmuhle. It gives you a direct sight of Rothenburg’s town center skyline (looking north). You must go through the passageway in the tower down to the hiking trails to see the best views.
- Castle Gardens – the famous viewpoint of the Tauber Valley. From here, you can see the skyline of the southern portion of Rothenburg, Spital Quarter, Rossmuhle, etc.
Activity #7: Relax in Castle Garden
The Castle Garden is definitely the best place to observe Tauber Valley. On its westernmost point, a breathtaking near-360-degree view of the valley plus the town will fill your eyes with sights of real fairytale fantasy.
You must not miss the dramatic spectacle of the whole place during the golden hour.
See Detwang village, beer gardens, vineyards, and verdant meadows from the top! When you visit during autumn, you’ll love the scenery even more.
Aside from the views, Castle Garden is characterized by lovely geometric flower beds that blossom in different seasons. It is also a baroque garden with 8 statues representing nature: the four seasons and the four elements. It is an excellent place to hang around and relax after the 2-3 kilometer-long stroll along the Tower Trail.
You might wonder, where is the castle if there is a Castle Garden? Back in the day, a fortress called Stauferburg once stood at a portion of the current Castle Garden. Many reports said it was destroyed by a powerful earthquake, but it was never confirmed.
However, the remnants of Stauferburg can still be found in the Castle Garden. You can check the Staufer column on the north side of the garden or see the information panels in front of the Blasius Chapel in the Castle Garden to learn more about its history.
Activity #8: Explore Vineyard An Der Eich
Before you reach Castle Garden from Spital Quarter, views of the Tauber Valley will captivate your nature-lover self along the Tower Trail already.
But if you decide to take the Panorama Trail that starts from Kohlturm (Cabbage Tower) and ends at Castle Gardens, you’ll be nature-touched by the scenic views even more.
Aside from peaceful meadows and refreshing trees, hiking the Panorama Trail will lead you to Instagrammable vineyards owned by the Thürauf family. Their vineyards are said to be a cultivation field for varieties of 160 historical grapes.
Having a visit or a guided tour to the vineyards will let you quickly experience what the Franconian Region is famous for.
Activity #9: Visit the Double Bridge (Doppelbrücke)
Not too far from the vineyards is the Double Bridge – a 14th-century bridge very similar to a Roman viaduct. It is a stone bridge where you can have a pleasant viewing of Rothenburg above the valley.
You might want to continue for a 20-minute hike to the Kletterwald ropes course to get some “foresty” fun when you’ve made it this far.
The Double Bridge is one of the best places to watch the fireworks from the city, which usually happens on a Saturday, during Rothenburg’s celebration of its Free Imperial City Festival.
Reason #5: Traditions in Rothenburg
Culture and tradition will always be the significant differentiating factor between the cities and places we visit. Being a preserved medieval city, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has conserved beautiful traditions too, which we can still witness today.
Rich, fascinating, and indeed time travel – that’s how I can describe the festivals in Rothenburg. Medieval-themed, the city’s festivals shall feel like Disney but more authentic. There are fireworks too! Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s traditions are a reason to visit, absolutely!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber celebrates several festivals a year. Here are the 5 traditions or events to consider when planning a trip to Rothenburg:
- Imperial City Festival
- Rothenburg’s Wine Festival
- Rothenburg’s Fairy Tale Magic
- Historical Meistertrunk Festival
- Christmas Market Rothenburg
Tradition #1: Imperial City Days Festival
It is the time of the year when Rothenburg ob der Tauber transforms fully into a medieval town. See men walking around in tunics made of cloth or leather and ladies in a gown – people will be dressed like time moved back to the middle ages!
There will be 27 historical groups representing different eras to relive Rothenburg’s history.
Witness the torchlight processions, encounter medieval bands playing merrily on the streets, men in knight costumes… and many more! There are fantastic fireworks that light up the whole city too.
Various parts of Rothenburg are also set up to portray life back in the middle ages.
You’ll see a knight camp near Rodertor, tents where blacksmiths and falconers demonstrate their craft and skills. Streets will have historical and musical plays. All will just fascinate you; the feeling will be unreal!
Definitely, Rothenburg Imperial City Days Festival is really to be considered if you plan a trip to Germany.
Imperial City Festival Occurs in Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the first weekend of September every year. The event starts on a Friday at the double bridge with a torchlight procession to Marktplatz.
Tradition #2: Rothenburg’s Wine Festival
Rothenburg never loses the Franconian Spirit too! In the Grünen Markt and Kirchplatz of Rothenburg’s old town, vineyard owners and wine vendors facilitate one fun and chill event to promote the region’s specialty, winemaking.
Get a taste of a variety of excellent Franconian wines and non-alcoholic beverages and meet new friends. You’ll also find Michelin star cuisine to taste. You can check when is the next wine festival on Rothenburg’s website calendar of events.
Tradition #3: Rothenburg’s Fairy Tale Magic
Germany is the origin of many fairytales we’ve read and watched during childhood.
In Rothenburg’s Fairy Tale Magic event, these fairy tales we’ve watched, from classics such as the Brothers Grimm to some modern tales, come to life. There will be plays about these stories in the city – and in Rothenburg, they just complement the medieval atmosphere.
It may seem perfect for kids and family trips, but at the same time, adults can have fun as well. There are concerts, guided tours like donkey walk all visitors can enjoy. The dates that the Fairy Tale Magic occurs are posted in the city’s calendar of events.
Tradition #4: Historical Master Draught Festival
Rothenburg ob der Tauber faced several conflicts throughout the centuries that forever changed the city. The Thirty Years’ War is one of these, and it introduced Rothenburg to both religious reformations and a new tradition now we call the Festival of Master Draught.
Master Draught festival is Germany’s UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage that reenacts the story of Mayor Nusch, who saved the city from the town’s destruction ordered by General Tilly.
The story does not go as usual fight or combat, but it’s more of an interesting heroic drinking game! By successfully drinking one full tankard (3.5 liters) of wine in one go, Nusch beat Tilly in the general’s “gamble and promise” to spare the town if the tankard would be emptied in one shot.
Master Draught Festival’s reenactment of the tale of Mayor Nusch comes with different celebratory activities similar to Imperial City Days Festival. This event usually occurs during Pentecost in the summer of June.
You can check the exact dates and the festival’s program from its official website.
Tradition #5: Christmas Market Rothenburg
Last but not least is Rothenburg’s Christmas market, which tradition dates back 500 years ago – one of the oldest in Europe! See beautiful Christmas lights all over the town and the Marktplatz full of people and charming Christmas shops. Take a glimpse of the Christmas Market in Rothenburg:
The festivals in Rothenburg ob der Tauber are fun and fascinating; it brings you this total medieval throwback. Today, attending events like those shall feel unreal. They are just a way to experience Rothenburg on a different high level.
But how if I come to Rothenburg when the city is not celebrating any festivals? – You won’t be disappointed; Rothenburg has museums to give you a piece of the experience visitors gets during the celebrations. Well, at a point, it’s more than that!
You will see the exact details of the events which shaped the Rothenburg we see today.
… and yes, the museums in the city are a reason to visit Rothenburg!
For each museum in Rothenburg, you’ll be entering a realm of historically fascinating items. The category of preserved objects ranges from cute and glamorous to intimidating and horrifying.
Either way, these museums will be worth your time. Thousands of people have mentioned great experiences, and you shall have them too! Here are the things to do and the museum activities in Rothenburg:
Activity #10: German Christmas Museum in Rothenburg
Let’s start with the museum in Rothenburg that lets visitors feel a season of giving all year round: Rotheburg’s German Christmas Museum.
All the Christmas decoration that you can think of is probably right here! German Christmas Museum houses different Christmas trees, postcards, nativity scenes, lights and candles, and more.
You might think, “Nah, it’s only decorations.
Everybody can create items like these today.” – Yes, they are, but these Christmas decorations are unique, and they instill historical value. Some of the Christmas decorations in the German Christmas Museum are more than a hundred years old by now. They date back as early as the 19th century.
If you’re from another religion, you’ll also discover the history of Christmas in this museum. You can go to the German Christmas Museum by yourself and check all the decorations everywhere in this 250 m2 exhibit. There is a guided tour for an insightful walkthrough also.
The museum is located a few steps west of Georgsbrunnen along Herrngrasse in Rothenburg’s Market Square.
Do you want to visit? You may find the visitor’s information on the German Christmas Museum’s official website.
Activity #12: Rothenburg’s Historical Vault
In front of the German Christmas Museum, you can find Rothenburg’s Historical Vault, a museum that further tells the story. You can watch on the facade of Ratstrinkstube (The councilor’s drinking room) or the Tourist Information Center.
The Historical Vault holds Rothenburg Town History regarding the Thirty Year’s War, where you’ll see what it was like in Rothenburg back in the days of the religious conflict and divide.
The Historical Vault contains 12 dungeons and is the oldest prison in Rothenburg. Its dungeons have weapons, war equipment, armor, and different tools, a testament to the military readiness of Rothenburg.
You will also see the tools used for torture, interesting articles about General Tilly, and lifesize statues dressed in medieval clothes retelling the events during the Thirty Years War.
You may find the updated visiting information on the official website of the Historical Vault.
Activity #13: Rothenburg’s Medieval Crime Museum
To see more unimaginable things used during the middle ages, you must visit the Medieval Crime Museum, located a few minutes away from Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Market Square.
From Georgsbrunnen, head straight south and follow Hofbronnengasse. You shall see the building of the Medieval Crime Museum at the end of the lane, with a human cage inside the fence.
The Medieval Crime Museum is the place in Rothenburg where we can discover a millennium of European and German history about how authorities enforced peace and order in the land. It’s full of scary yet intriguing objects stored on four levels.
See the equipment and tools used for death punishments, public humiliation, torture, etc. You can also find objects to penalize anyone caught using witchcraft and sorcery. Books, where medieval laws are written, passports, and different legal documents are there too.
Perhaps, the most striking artifacts you will see inside the Medieval Crime Museum are the Iron Maiden, Spikey chair, and the shame masks. They’re like items straight out of a horror movie.
If you want to visit the Medieval Crime Museum, you may check the latest announcements (opening hours and entry fee) on the official website of the Medieval Crime Museum.
Activity #14: Rothenburg Museum
On the other side of the town, located to the north of Rothenburg’s Market Square, we can find the Rothenburg Museum – where the creative character of Rothenburg is exhibited. See collections of paintings, sculptures, impressive weapons, and other items gathered together from within the 8-century-long history of the city.
Art enthusiasts will love to see Rothenburg frozen in time depicted in two beautiful paintings: “Stadt im Rauch” (“Town in Smoke”) by Arthur Wasse and the Bronnen”-Mill in the Tauber Valley by Theodor Alt.
The schedule and entry fee might change without prior notice, so please check for announcements from the official website of Rothenburg Museum before going.
Reason #7: Rothenburg’s Fun Activities
Fun in Rothenburg ob der Tauber isn’t always about sightseeing, museum viewing, or wandering lost in its medieval atmosphere.
Another reason to be in Rothenburg is the unique fun you can only find in the city. Here are the two activities I discovered that can fascinate you and fill you with awe:
Activity #14: Night Watchman Tour in Rothenburg
What about joining a tour called by Rick Steves “flat-out the most entertaining hour of medieval wonder anywhere in Germany?” Definitely YES!
Night Watchmen were the guys who ensured that citizens of their cities were safe and everything was in law and order. They are characterized by their black cloak, pointy weapon, and a glass box with a candle inside.
Today in Rothenburg, though the clothes remained the same, a night watchman somehow got a new purpose: To educate and entertain you during your stay.
Listen to the humorous medieval storytelling of the Night Watchman as he answers the questions “Why did people once look at the window openings above you in fear? And why did the Rothenburg residents once pave their streets with the rather uncomfortable cobblestones?” and many more! Listen to his humor:
Activity #15: Hot Air Balloon over Rothenburg
For me, no other activity to end your journey in Rothenburg will be as fun as a hot air balloon ride over the city. Can you imagine how beautiful it is to see the tiny medieval buildings and towers of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the sky?
That’s absolutely unforgettable and breathtaking!
The Hot Air Balloon Ride over Rothenburg is facilitated by Happy Ballooning Ballonfahrten. They will take you to the skies every golden hour before sunrise and 2 hours before sunset with their cute smiling hot air balloon (not always the smiling balloon, though). You and 4 other passengers will stay in the air for 60 to 90 minutes.
The fun can be availed for around 220 EUR per person seven days a week, only during pleasant weather. Here is the link to reserve a Hot Air Balloon.
When to Visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber?
To experience a medieval fairytale atmosphere is the core essence of visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Though the seasons may affect your overall experience of this charming town, it would still be best to see Rothenburg during the celebration of one of its festivals.
On those dates, fun, lively programs occur. You’ll definitely enjoy not only Rothenburg’s history and architecture but also the highlights of its culture.
However, suppose you’re like me, who just wants to have a peaceful and relaxed medieval-themed journey with lots of beautiful views along the walls of Rothenburg. In that case, I suggest you visit during autumn.
By that time, you shall see the Tauber valley in fall foliage golden colors – perfectly matching the quaint houses and the overall magical experience in the town.
Is One Day Enough In Rothenburg?
With the Tower Trail alone, which could take up almost 3 hours or half a day to visit, it’s clear you will need to spend at least 2 days and 1 night to fully experience every place worth visiting in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. At the same time, the city is beautiful even at night!
Besides, you might want to try the activity below (for a fun magical night in Rothenburg):
Here are more tours you can try for more fun and insightful visit to Rothenburg:
Where To Stay In Rothenburg?
If you plan to visit Rothenburg for more than a day and stay for a night in Rothenburg, you may find the best hotel deals in Rothenburg here.
But before you book your hotel in Rothenburg, know that Rothenburg can be visited on a day trip from nearby cities like Nuremberg and Munich. Here are the available day trips:
You can check my articles below to decide if you should visit and stay in Munich/Nuremberg:
- Munich | See the best hotel deals in Munich here.
- Nuremberg | See the best hotel deals in Nuremberg here.
What To Visit After Rothenburg?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an epitome of a preserved medieval town, one of the best you can visit today. However, it can only be the start of the fun and memorable trips you can have in Germany.
Let’s say you’re currently in Rothenburg, then you’re now only an hour away (via train) from Wurzburg or Nuremberg. And two hours away (via train) from Bamberg. In my opinion, these three towns I mentioned (including Rothenburg) are the most beautiful places in Franconia. In a nutshell, they are:
- Bamberg — is the town famous for its beer gardens and, most especially, for its smoked beers. It has a unique iconic landmark built in the middle of its river. Take a look: 7 Reasons to Visit Bamberg + 12 Worthy Things To Do
- Wurzburg — is a city of 100 churches. You must come here if you’re an architecture enthusiast. It’s also famous for a type of Franconian wine. Discover Wurzburg here: See 5 Reasons To Visit Wurzburg & 20 Attractions
- Nuremberg — is the largest city in Franconia, and there are many to see here! Castle, churches, beautiful streets flanked by half-timber framed houses. Learn more: 15 Reasons To Visit Nuremberg
If you plan to travel much longer in Germany, I suggest exploring the rest of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. I have a list of the most beautiful places in southern Germany (where these two states are located). You can read the article to quickly get a summary of each.
Are you like me, who loves seeing breathtaking views? I suggest going to Munich (10 Beautiful Places in Munich) and taking a trip to Upper Bavaria. It’s where the Bavarian Alps and the scenic towns of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Mittenwald, Oberammergau, and Berchtesgaden are.
The magical Neuschwanstein Castle is also located in the Bavarian Alps! Have a look: How to visit Neuschwanstein Castle & Nearby Beautiful Places
Look at my sample Bavarian Alps itinerary on how you can start exploring Upper Bavaria.
However, do you like seeing the most fairytale part of Germany? I suggest going to the Black Forest and Lichtenstein Castle, which you can quickly visit from Stuttgart (approximately a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Rothenburg).
The Black Forest is filled with picturesque villages like Rothenburg. But that’s not all.
Here you can find the fanciest thermal spa towns in Germany like Baden-Baden. The Black Forest is very close to (Strasbourg or Colmar) France, and it can be your strategic destination before starting a trip to France.
Lastly, do you want to see more places like Rothenburg ob der Tauber in France/Switzerland/Italy? Check these towns below. They also have preserved medieval fortifications:
- Carcassonne (France) — It’s a town of doubles. Carcassonne has double-layer medieval walls, two UNESCO sites, and two beautiful districts. Learn more: 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Carcassonne
- Gruyeres (Switzerland) — a preserved medieval city in the Swiss Prealps. It’s famous for its cheese. You can also try tasting the chocolates here (unlimited)! Check it out here: Is Gruyères Worth Visiting? 10 Best Reasons
- Bergamo (Italy) — is a scenic medieval city on a hill with a fortification recognized as a UNESCO site. See how it looks here: 10 Best Reasons Why You Must Go To Bergamo
All that you need to know about Rothenburg
If you wish to see Rothenburg the soonest, you must visit Rothenburg’s official website and download the PDF brochures. It contains all information about the hotels, events, special offers, and Rothenburg’s city map. Opening hours of the shops and tourist attractions are printed on the city map brochure – don’t forget to check! 🙂
Lastly, if you want to learn the story behind each tourist attraction in Rothenburg at home, I suggest reading this post about Rothenburg’s Walking Tour by bigboytravels.com.
Alright, that’s all that I can help with. I hope you have safe travels and have an incredible and memorable journey!
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Hello, before you go, I just want you to know that I have articles that can help you discover and visit different places worldwide. Mostly, they are about historical cities and scenic attractions. You may click the images below to find your next fantastic destination!
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