Nestled in the heart of the Franconia region in Bavaria, Germany, lies the picturesque town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, often referred to as Rothenburg for short.
This fairytale town is one of the most photographed and therefore one of the most recognisable on the Romantic Road, a popular tourist route that runs through Southern Germany connecting picturesque towns and cities.
Visitors often comment that they feel like they are stepping back in time when they walk through the historic walls and into the old town.
It is a destination that attracts thousands of people each year, and for some very good reasons. There are many things to do in Rothenburg including wandering around the town looking up at the well preserved buildings, exploring the romantic streets, and enjoying the enchanting Christmas markets.
For these reasons and so many more, Rothenburg is a must-visit destination for anyone travelling to Germany.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town that is steeped in medieval history, charm, and beauty, and its origins date back to 1170 AD.
By the beginning of the 13th century, Rothenburg was a prosperous trading town and a member of the Franconian League, a group of cities in the Holy Roman Empire that banded together for mutual protection and economic advantage.
The Holy Roman Emperor, Friedrich II, sought to assert his authority over the Franconian League, and in 1226, he laid siege on Rothenburg and eventually the inhabitants had to surrender, and the Emperor’s forces occupied the town.
Visitors can now explore the former residence of the Holy Roman Emperor, located in the heart of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s old town while learning more fascinating facts about the town.
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Things to Do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg, Germany has a lot to offer visitors regarding sights, sounds, and activities. Whether interested in history, architecture, or just taking a romantic stroll through medieval streets, there’s something for everyone, but what to see in Rothenburg first?
The Old Town
Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Old Town is a beautiful and well-preserved example of medieval architecture. The town’s narrow streets, colourful houses, and charming squares are ideal for anyone who wants to experience some medieval charm.
Visitors can explore the town’s historic buildings, such as the town hall, St. Jakob’s Church, and the former Dominican Monastery, as well as the town’s many shops and restaurants.
The Town Walls
The town walls are some of Europe’s most impressive and well-preserved medieval fortifications. Constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries, the walls encircling the entire old town feature 42 towers and gates and stretch for more than 2km.
One of the top things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is to see the town from above by walking along the scenic path that runs along the top of the fortifications. The path provides stunning views of the town’s historic architecture and further beyond to the countryside.
Perhaps the most iconic feature of the town walls is the Plönlein, a picturesque square that is often regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in Germany. The square is flanked by two town wall towers, creating a picture-perfect scene that is a favourite among photographers and artists.
Look up at the Stained Glass Windows
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is home to some of Germany’s most beautiful stained glass windows. The town’s churches and buildings are adorned with colourful and intricate stained glass windows that date back to the Middle Ages.
Visitors can admire the windows in the town’s churches, including St. Jakob’s Church and St. John’s Church, as well as in the town hall and other historic buildings.
Rothenburg Town Hall
The Rothenburg Town Hall is a stunning example of Gothic and Renaissance architecture that dates back to the 14th century. Located in the heart of the old town, and is a famous landmark visited by thousands of tourists each year.
One of the most striking features of the town hall is its ornate facade, which is adorned with intricate carvings and detailed statues.
Visitors can admire the building’s stunning architecture from the outside or take a guided tour of the interior to learn more about the history and significance of the building.
Inside the town hall, visitors can explore a variety of rooms and exhibits, including the impressive council chamber, which is decorated with stunning frescoes and boasts a fantastic collection of historical antiques.
The town hall also houses the town’s treasury and Rothenburg Tourism Office, where visitors can find information about local attractions, events, and activities.
In addition to its historical and cultural significance, the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Town Hall also serves as a popular venue for concerts, weddings, and other special events.
Whether you’re interested in history or architecture or simply want to soak up the atmosphere of this charming town, a visit to the town hall is a must.
The Medieval Crime Museum
The Medieval Crime Museum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This unique museum showcases the history of crime and punishment in the Middle Ages.
It features an extensive collection of torture devices, judicial instruments, and other artifacts related to medieval law enforcement.
The museum is open year-round, and guided tours are available for groups and individuals upon request. One of the highlights of the museum is the dungeon, which features reconstructions of various forms of imprisonment, including cramped, dark cells and punishment chambers.
Visitors can experience the harsh conditions that prisoners would have endured in the Middle Ages and gain a deeper appreciation for the suffering that was inflicted in the name of justice.
Housed in a historic building, the museum was once used as a prison and courthouse, adding to the authenticity of the exhibits. The collection includes a wide range of items, from the infamous Iron Maiden to the Dunking Stool, which was used to punish gossipers and scolds.
Visitors to the museum can take a self-guided tour through the exhibits and learn about the various forms of punishment used in the Middle Ages, including branding, public humiliation, and execution.
For fans of the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang starring Dick Van Dyke, you also get to see the child catcher’s cart which is located right outside the main entrance.
The German Christmas Museum
The German Christmas Museum is a unique and charming museum that celebrates the history and traditions of Christmas in Germany. The museum is located in Rothenburg’s historic town centre and features a vast collection of antique Christmas ornaments, decorations, and toys.
The museum’s exhibits showcase the evolution of Christmas traditions in Germany, including the origins of the Christmas tree and the well-established custom of gift-giving.
Visitors can admire intricate ornaments, including hand-painted glass baubles and elaborate handmade figurines.
One of the highlights of the museum is the extensive collection of vintage toys, including traditional wooden toys, dollhouses, and model trains.
Visitors can take a trip down memory lane and relive the magic of childhood Christmases through the museum’s extensive collection.
The German Christmas Museum is a must-visit attraction for anyone interested in Christmas traditions and holiday nostalgia.
The museum is open year-round, and guided tours are available for groups and individuals upon request. Whether you’re young or old, a visit to the museum is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit.
Afterwards, you can browse the collection of unique Christmas decorations on offer at Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village and perhaps pick up a new tree bauble, nutcracker or Christmas incense smoker for yourself at the same time.
Night Watchman Tour
The Night Watchman Tour is a unique and entertaining way to explore the town and is listed as one of the top things to do in Rothenburg, Germany.
Led by a costumed guide dressed as a traditional night watchman, the tour takes visitors on a journey through the town’s dark and mysterious past.
During the tour, visitors will explore the town’s historical streets and alleys while learning about the town’s history, legends, and ghost stories. The night watchman will regale visitors with tales of medieval crime and punishment while pointing out notable landmarks and historical sites along the way.
The Night Watchman Tour is a great way to experience the town’s rich history and culture in a fun and interactive way. The tours are available year-round but are particularly popular in the summer months when the warm weather and long daylight hours make for an unforgettable experience.
The Town Hall Tower
The Town Hall Tower is an iconic landmark dating back to the 13th century. The tower was once part of the town hall and served as a meeting place for the city council.
Today, visitors can climb the tower to enjoy panoramic views of the town and surrounding countryside.
The tower is 54 metres tall, and the climb to the top involves 220 steps with winding staircases. However, the views from the top are well worth the effort and offer a unique perspective on the town’s historic architecture and picturesque surroundings.
Along the climb, visitors can also take in the intricate details of the tower’s Gothic architecture, including the ornate carvings and intricate stonework.
The tower is also home to a collection of historic artefacts relating to the town’s history, including documents, maps, and other items that offer insights into the rich cultural heritage here.
The tower is open year-round and is a great place to visit for anyone interested in history, architecture, or simply breathtaking views, especially landscape photographers.
The Imperial City Museum
One of the most notable landmarks is the Imperial City Museum is another must-visit museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The museum is housed in a former Dominican convent, and showcases the town’s history as an imperial city, including the internationally renowned Baumann Foundation.
The Former Dominican Monastery, or the Kloster St. Dominikus, is a historic building that dates back to the 13th century.
The building was once a convent for the Dominican Order and a religious centre for the Dominican order until the Reformation when it was secularised and repurposed as a school and library and is today, a fantastic building to wander around.
The main attraction is that of the kitchen, one of the oldest of its kind in Germany and is sometimes still used occasionally for educational purposes showcasing cooking in the middle ages.
Today, Rothenburg ob der Tauber visitors can explore the former Monastery and admire its intricate Gothic architecture and rich history. The convent’s most striking feature is its stunning stained glass windows, which date back to the 14th and 15th centuries and feature intricate designs and vibrant colours.
The former Monastery also houses a collection of religious artefacts and artwork, including paintings, sculptures, and manuscripts as well as showcasing the history of European weaponry from as far back as the Stone Age right up to the nineteenth century.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the convent, which provides a deeper insight into the history and significance of the building making it a great place to visit for anyone interested in history and architecture.
Visiting during the Christmas Market
Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Christmas Market is one of Germany’s most magical Christmas markets. The market takes place from late November to late December and features over 500 years of Christmas traditions.
The market is located in the town’s historic centre, which is transformed into a winter wonderland with decorations, lights, and Christmas trees.
Visitors can stroll through the market, sampling traditional German holiday foods like gingerbread, roasted chestnuts, and Glühwein, a hot spiced wine that is a staple of the German Christmas season.
In addition to the market stalls, the German Christmas Market features live music, carolers, and other performances, adding to the magical atmosphere. The event is popular with locals and tourists and is a highlight of the Rothenburg ob der Tauber holiday season.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town that is rich in history, culture, and charm. It is a destination that offers visitors a unique glimpse into medieval life, as well as a chance to experience some of Germany’s most beautiful architecture, landscapes, and traditions.
Whether you’re interested in history, architecture or just looking for a romantic getaway, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has something for everyone. So, if you’re planning a trip to Germany, be sure to add Rothenburg ob der Tauber to your itinerary and experience.
Tour and Day Trips From Rothenburg
There are many trips people can take, exploring the beautiful towns along the Romantic Road including some well known locations.
Even if you’re not staying in Rothenburg, there are many excursions, from group tours to more personalised private tours with a personal guide that you can book to Rothenburg for the day from major cities like Munich, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Weikersheim.
Private walking tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
If you would prefer to explore with others, Why not take a private walking tour with a professional guide, who will take you to the top sights..
This tour is excellent for first-time visitors and can be customisable, allowing you to ask questions and tailor the experience to your interests.
The tour includes a private tour with a local guide. You’ll learn about the town’s history, its transformation into one of the most important cities in the area, and the strict urban conservation orders from Rothenburg.
Most tours are wheelchair accessible and conclude with the option to explore the narrow streets on your own or enjoy local beer and traditional dishes in one of the historical buildings nearby.
Coach trip to Würzburg
One of the best day trips from Rothenburg ob der Tauber is to Würzburg, a beautiful city in northern Bavaria known for its Baroque architecture, including the Würzburg Residence, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
On Sundays, the Romantic Road coach provides a direct connection from Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Würzburg.
The meeting point is Schrannenplatz, and the coach departs at 4:00 pm from either Schrannenplatz or Rothenburg Rail Station if the square is closed off.
The endpoint is the Würzburg Residence, and there is a 15-minute photo stop at the Prince Bishops’ Residence in Wurzburg.
The coach also serves the central bus station at Würzburg Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station). A guide is provided for the journey from Rothenburg to Wurzburg.
Recommended tours in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- On tour with a friend and his luxury van
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber Private Walking Tour With A Professional Guide
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market Private Walking Tour
- Rothenburg Scavenger Hunt and Self-Guided Walking Tour
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