Over two million tourists flood into this medieval Bavarian village on the Romantic Road every year. Its museum-quality Altstadt(old town) is still surrounded by medieval ramparts and stories of its charm halted its destruction in the midst of WWII. The town is quintessential Germany, especially at Christmas. Cross the medieval walls and back into history.with this guide of what to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
These walls have stood (and been destroyed and re-built) since the 13th century.
Take a few minutes - or a few hours for the whole thing - to walk the ramparts and explore the remaining guard towers. Look for the commemorative bricks with names of the donors who helped to rebuild the town after WWII.
The rathaus (town hall) is a wonderful example of a renaissance architecture. The back of the building is the oldest section and dates from 1250. The impressive facade was added in 1572.
Still a functional government building, the rathaus was the seat of government for the city-state during its wealthy medieval age. Visitors can climb the 61 meter (200 feet) tower for a small admission and enjoy views of the town and Tauber river.
Feast on Frankish Food
The town is quite small and there are only a few places to choose from within the walls. Luckily, it is hard to find bad food. And remember that taverns are family-friendly.
- zur Höll (Burggasse 8) - This tavern is the oldest house in Rothenburg. Its name, "to Hell", lends itself to jokes.
- Ratsstube (Marktplatz 6) - Located next to the Rathaus int eh center of town, they serve great Fänkische food.
- Altfränkische Weinstube - (Am Klosterhof 7) - Just off the city wall this tucked away space is both claustrophobic and soothing. Just put yourselves in the hands of the Franconian experts.
- Baumeisterhaus, (Obere Schmiedgasse 3) - Within a Renaissance style home from 1596, the decor and food is beautifully traditional.
Note that restaurants cater to the tour bus crowds and may close by 22:00. This is especially true in the low seasons (outside of Christmas and summer).
The Nightwatchman has an encyclopedic knowledge of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Dressed as a medieval nightwatchman, he guides visitors on a 60-minute tour every night from mid-March til Christmas at 20:00 (German tour at 21:30).
To discover all of the wonderful secrets of the city, meet at the marktplatz (market square). Tours cost 8 euros for adults (4 euros for discounted and children under 12 are free). And don't worry you won't find him; he is impossible to miss.
The name Rothenburg ob der Tauber translates to "Red castle above the Tauber", referring to the Tauber river. This lazy river runs from Rothenburg to Wertheim am Main to Freudenberg, bordered by forests and meadows.
Admire it from the ramparts, or take a hike in lush lowlands beneath the town. Continue along the Tilman-Riemenschneider Trail for works by a wood carver, or take the Wein-Tauber Hiking Trail through vineyards.
The Medieval Criminal and Justice Museum covers the many different forms of punishment over the last 1,000 years. Often brutal, sometimes funny (shaming gossipers with a mask with a long tongue and big ears), this actually started as a private collection. Prepare to be wowed - and horrified - by the 50,000 exhibits.
Warm up with a Glühwein, admire the trinkets and eat a Schneebälle. Not a real snow ball, but a ball of dough fried and covered in a variety of sweet toppings like confectioner's sugar, coconut, chocolate, caramel or nuts.
Not there at Christmas? It is Christmas year-round in Rothenburg. The global brand Käthe Wohlfahrt has its headquarters here (Herrngasse 1) with three floors underground of ornaments and decor. The Christmas Museum covers tree decorations through the ages, the first Advent calendars and antique Christmas cards.