A medieval treasure, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the best-known attractions on Germany’s Romantic Road. With its stunning tower walls, picturesque houses and cobbled lanes, this little town enjoys a huge reputation, with tourists from all over the world coming here to relax and immerse themselves in the history of the place. Entering the fortress, you can’t help but wonder whether time has stood still here, as you stroll through beautiful alleys and secluded squares and enjoy the magical vibe surrounding you. If you are planning a trip to romantic Rothenburg, here is a comprehensive guide to help you get around and enjoy your adventure back in time to the fullest.
The medieval town is located in the Ansbach district, in the Franconia region of Bavaria, about halfway between Frankfurt and Munich. Getting there is easy whether you’re travelling by car, bus or train – but whichever means of transport you choose, make sure you buy the ticket or set your GPS for Rothenburg ob der Tauber, as there are a few other cities named Rothenburg in Germany. If you prefer travelling by car, autobahn A7 will get you to your destination by the shortest, fastest route, but we recommend taking the more scenic route if you have the time, and that is along the fabulous Romantic Road. It might be worth planning a longer lasting journey with a few stops along the way because the Romantic Road is one of the best drives in the whole of Europe, certainly one of the prettiest and most picturesque – visit fairytale castles and villages tucked into clearings in the forest.
The Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber is mostly a matter of preference:
- For those looking for great weather and the chance to attend a variety of cultural events, spring, summer and early fall are the best times, but this is when the town is also very crowded.
- If you wish to enjoy the most wonderful festive atmosphere, you should visit it in December, when the Christmas market opens and the town comes alive.
- If you want to avoid crowds, your best bet is to plan your trip in October, when the weather is still pretty good, but the crowds are mostly gone.
Just a side note on the Christmas Market. Germany is full of holiday markets but the medieval setting of Rothenburg makes it just a little more special and intimate than the big city stages.
What to See
Although Rothenburg ob der Tauber is so small that you can walk from one end of the town to the other in just about 15 minutes, there is so much to see here that you will want to stay for at least a day or two to explore all its wonders. Here are just a few of the attractions that you shouldn’t miss:
- The Old Town Walls. A must-do while here is to take a fascinating walk around the walls encircling the town. The entry is free and offers stunning views of everything that makes this such a perfect picture postcard destination. The walls are about 1.5 mile long (2.5 km) and have several towers and entrances. One of the best starting points to get up on the walls is just south of Siebersturm.
- The Medieval Crime Museum. Visiting the Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum offers everyone of all ages a fascinating experience. The gallery will introduce you to over 1000 years of crime and punishment across Europe, but focusing particularly on the medieval era. Be prepared for the shocking and the macabre, from artefacts used for torture to exhibits dealing with the infamous witch hunts that plagued Bavaria.
- The Christmas Museum. In those days buildings were made from steel and glass with concrete pavements and roads, but it seems that Rothenburg, with its medieval architecture and cobbled areas was simply built for Christmas. Learn more than you ever thought there was to know about the season of goodwill to all men with a visit to the Christmas Museum.
- Plönlein. Although Plönlein means;Little Square; in German, the place is actually nothing more but an intersection – but what an intersection! Looking like something out of a fairytale, this is certainly the most picturesque spot in the whole town, with a narrow half-timbered building framed by two towers and lovely townhouses surrounding it, together creating an absolutely charming atmosphere.
- The Rathaus. The Rothenburg Town Hall dominates the Market Square with its imposing architecture. Its splendid renaissance façade alone will live you in awe, but if you visit during spring or summer, you will also get the chance to admire the spectacular flowers that adorn the balconies and make them seem alive.
- Burggarten. Besides its splendid medieval architecture, Rothenburg ob der Tauber also boasts lovely gardens and parks. One of the most spectacular of them all is Burggarten, translated to English as the Castle Gardens. Set on the site of a castle that was destroyed centuries ago, the peaceful garden provides stunning views to the historic town and to the Double Bridge. With geometric flower beds, beautiful sculptures and monuments, Burggarten is a feast for the eyes.
Where to Stay
For centuries, guests and visitors in Rothenburg have enjoyed the heartiest of welcomes, with the locals being renowned for their hospitable nature. Although this is such a small town, visitors have plenty of accommodation options, from guesthouses and B&Bs to chic hotels, inns and self-catering apartments. Here are a few recommendations that you might enjoy:
- Hotel Herrnschloesschen – Opened in of the oldest houses in the town, this 4-star hotel provides a unique combination of history and modern spirit. With excellent service, dreamy rooms and all the comfort one might need, Herrnschloesschen can be an ideal choice for travellers that are not on a very tight budget.
- Hotel Gasthof zur Linde – Situated conveniently right near the entrance to the Old Town, Hotel Gasthof zur Linde is a family-run business that strives to provide value at an affordable price. Boasting beautiful interiors, modern comfort and plenty of entertainment opportunities in the surrounding area, from sailing to horse riding, this two-star hotel is a great choice for families.
- JH Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Located just a few minutes from the Christmas Museum, JH Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a good budget choice for large groups or families travelling on a budget – children under 6 years of age stay for free. The hostel provides functional dorms and private rooms, complimentary breakfast buffet as well as entertainment facilities such as pool, foosball and table tennis.
- Pension Hofmann-Schmölzer – Situated on a quiet side street near the historic Market Square, Hofmann-Schmölzer is an oasis of peace providing basic facilities, but clean, comfy and functional rooms. The pension provides Bavarian-style breakfast and guarantees you will feel most welcome during your stay, thanks to the warmth and hospitality of the owners.
Where and What to Eat
Rothenburg is a great place if you want to try traditional Franconian or Bavarian cuisine. To enjoy great local dishes and a historical ambiance, you should certainly pay a visit to Altfränkische Weinstube, Gasthof Goldener Greifen or Reichs-Küchenmeister. Those on a tighter budget can get a good meal at the Bosporus Café or buy some fresh food from the charming family grocery store in the town. No matter your budget or where you decide to eat, do not leave Rothenburg without trying a Schneeball, a local pastry specialty that is to die for!
Rothenburg is a shopping mecca for travellers – at least to what souvenirs are concerned. There are numerous little shops where you can buy traditional German souvenirs, from beer steins to cuckoo clocks, as well as unique gifts that can only be found here, such as unique etchings of the city or DVDs from the Night Watchman. Don’t forget to pay a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, a popular shop that sells Christmas decorations all year round!
While you can easily go sightseeing on your own, it can be great fun to join a tour led by the Night Watchman – a talented, inimitable tour guide who combines fascinating facts with humour and theatrical storytelling.
There are many fantastic cycling routes in and around the city, and the network is growing every year. Rent a bike and explore this charming area on two wheels – you will love it!