Magical Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany is without question Germany’s very best medieval town. This little village located in the northern Bavaria region of Southern Germany is wonderfully frozen in time. When you arrive in Rothenburg you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped into the Middle ages.
Rothenburg has everything you think of when you think of a medieval Bavarian town; ancient looking historic buildings and structures, narrow winding cobbled streets, and quaint gingerbread-like half-timbered houses donning window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers.
My all time favorite photo from Rothenburg shows just how beautiful this town really is:
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Table of Contents
3 day Rothenburg itinerary
Are you looking to visit the magical Fairytale town of Rothenburg? Not sure where to start? No problem! I’ve got you covered with this 3 day Rothenburg itinerary. That’s enough time to cover the highlights and leave you itching to come back again! Let your imagination take you to ages gone by as you wander the streets with their medieval architecture and explore the well-preserved 14th-century medieval town wall. Brave knights and soldiers defended the town from up there many ages ago.
Have more time? Less time?
You can easily customize this itinerary to fit our needs. Have less time, pick your favorites! More time? I’ll give you some optional experiences to fill your time!
This is a great first time itinerary but for a bit more in depth information be sure to read my full article on magical Rothenburg!
Fun fact / Rothenburg Trivia: Yes, the town was indeed the inspiration for the fictional town in the Walt Disney Classic family movie Pinocchio. Disney was on to something because Rothenburg is magical. See it for yourself and you’ll agree, magic happens here!
One of the first things you see as you walk down Spitalgasse (alley) is the Plönlein, often associated with the 1940’s Disney version of Pinocchio.
Map of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Use this map to get your bearings around town. Most of the best things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber are located within the city walls, and most sites are within a 10 minute walk. Click on map or links to be redirected to an interactive Google Map of Rothenburg.
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Check into your hotel.
If you have arrived before check-in time your hotel should agree to hold your luggage so that you can get down to the fun stuff!
The Medieval Crime Museum
One of my favorite things in Rothenburg is the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum. They have eerie displays and genuine artifacts (almost everything on display is an actual medieval artifact!) relating to criminal trial, torture, death penalties, executioners, public humiliation, witches, and robbers, etc. They even have a real Iron Maiden! The Museum often has a special exhibition, at last check: (Martin) Luther and the Witches.
location: Burggasse 3-5, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Get more information: Criminal Museum
dinner night 1:
Zur Holl Restaurant: On your first night consider my #1 pick for the best place to eat in Rothenburg. Zur Holl (to hell) is a special and unique dining experience. This 1,000-year-old building looks just about that old and serves pretty darn good food! Make a reservation, you don’t want to miss out on this one!
Don’t have a reservation? If there are tables with free seats outdoors just ask if they happen to be free. It is quite common to share a table with strangers in Germany (no need to let those seats go empty. The restaurant loses income when they do!) We sat next to a nice German who struck up a conversation with us one night. It’s not obligatory to speak with your table mates but if they seem receptive you may find yourself engaged in a nice conversation with the locals. (closed on Sunday so plan accordingly!)
Be sure you take a peek at the bathrooms in the basement. The space looks like it hasn’t changed for 1,000 years!
location: Burggasse 8, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Get more information: Zur Holl
Rothenburg Night Watchman Tour
Try to get your dinner reservation early enough so that you can be at the town hall by 8:00 for this fascinating organized tour. On the Night Watchman’s Tour you’ll learn how the enchantment and charm of this little village literally saved it from total destruction during World War II. The Nightwatchman will escort you through town with his lantern held high as he tells you all about medieval Rothenburg. I highly recommend taking this tour. It’s one of my favorite fun things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber! No need to book in advance, just show up at the designated spot at the designated time.
Get more information: Rothenburg Tourism
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Walk Rothenburg’s Medieval walls
Surprisingly, one of the main attractions, the town wall, is generally uncrowded. It’s a great place to start your day! The entire town of Medieval Rothenburg was encircled by a wall that fortified the city against invasion.
Wind your way along the old city wall, the very same one that protected the city hundreds of years ago. (parts of the rebuilt town wall are marked by plaques with names on them.) I think it’s the best way to get your bearings and the perfect place for a morning, afternoon, or evening stroll! The entire wall walk is about 2.5 miles. Break it up if you need to.
Interesting fact: Rothenburg Germany is one of only 3 towns in Germany that still have completely intact walls, the other two: Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl which can also both be found along the Romantic Road.
Opening times and fees: free! open around the clock so makes for a great evening stroll
Location: You can access the wall from several spots within the city walls. You’ll find the map in this brochure from Rothenburg Tourism.
Drop down off of the wall at:
St. Wolfgang Church
15th Century St. Wolfgang, it’s my favorite! If it’s open, take a peek inside.
Location: Klingentorbastei 1, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Get more information: St. Wolfgang
The Imperial City Museum
This former 13th century Dominican Convent is today the home of a fantastic medieval history museum. This convent/monastery was in use until the 16th century and the historic kitchen is one of the oldest in Germany. (extra charge for photos)
Location: Klosterhof 5, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Get more information: Rothenburg Museum
A tiny bit of relevant history: Rothenburg was a free imperial city under the Holy Roman Empire from the late Middle Ages until 1803. Prior to that it was inhabited by Celts before the 1st Century A.D. The current town was founded in 1274. Rothenburg retains its old world charm because laws have been enacted to preserve the current old world state. Wunderbar!
Rothenburg’s Castle Garden (Burggarten Rothenburg ob der Tauber)
The Rothenburg Imperial Castle is long gone. In its spot is the Castle Garden. This lovely garden is a quiet place to rest. There are several statues in the Garden, and it offers great views over the town.
Location: Alte Burg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Current times and prices: free! And open all day every day.
Guided Tour of Old Town
Stop somewhere for lunch along the way but be sure to get to the town square by 2:00 pm for an informative guided Tour of Old Town. This 90-minute walking tour from Rothenburg city guides offers an overview of the history of the walled city of Rothenburg with its Old Town quarter, romantic alleyways, and picturesque squares. You may need to book in advance for the English tour. Rather do something else? Choose from the optional experiences!
Get more information: Rothenburg Tourism
dinner night #2
Altfrankische Weinstube is a cozy 650-year-old-building that looks like it was built for gnomes! Reservations required. To make a reservation call 09861-6404 or contact them through their website. NO CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED. (closed on Tuesday so plan accordingly )
location: Klosterhof 7, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
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Let’s hit these before the crowds come in: (you may need to move these around based on opening times)
The market square in Rothenburg is flanked by shops, restaurants, the clock tower, and town hall. Visitors can climb 220 steps of the gothic town hall tower for views of the whole town (small entrance fee.)
The Clock tower (Ratstrinkstube Clock Tower) was built in 1683. In 1910 they added animation to the tower depicting the tale of town Mayor Nusch drinking over 3 liters of wine in an effort to save his town. The tale may or may not be true, but the show is a delight!
Clock performances are at 11 am, noon, 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 10 pm.
The Historical Vault- Museum above Rothenburg’s dungeon
Rothenburg Museum, located in the same area in the former jail, has an authentic dungeon. In the dungeon you’ll find a guard room, torture room, and three prison cells. The prison cells give an impression of the prison conditions at the time of Germany’s Thirty Years’ War. (limited hours in the month of February) Above the dungeon the exhibition of the historic festival “Der Meistertrunk” is staged, which explains the events during the 30-Years War.
Location: Marktplatz 1, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Get more information: MeisterTrunk
Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store and Museum
…where it’s Christmas year-round! Käthe Wohlfahrt’s has thousands of traditional Christmas decorations on display for your viewing (and purchasing!) enjoyment. It’s a yuletide feast for the eyes! Pop in and pursue the “made in Germany” section.
For an extra cost you can also tour the German Christmas Museum located in the upper floors of the store, worth visiting if you want to catch a bit of the Christmas spirit any time of year!
Location: the main store is located and Herrngasse 1, Rothenburg
Get more information: Käthe Wohlfahrt
St. Jakobskirche (St. James Church and St. Jacob)
This Lutheran church contains a very important relic. In the 15-century A.D. Tilman Riemenschneider, one of the most famous Gothic German sculptors created the wooden “altar of the holy blood” (Heilig-Blut-Alta.) The scene depicts the Last Supper. The crystal held high by the two angels is said to contain a sample of Christ’s blood (the Holy Blood)
Location: Kirchpl. Rothenburg Germany
Get more information: St. Jakobs
walk outside the walls
After lunch consider going outside the walls to avoid the midday crowds or enjoying one of the optional experiences. There are walking paths (also depicted on the town map pictured above) that lead from inside the walls out into the countryside and are a great place to escape some of the madness of the midday crowds.
Popular sites include:
- Double Bridge (Doppelbrücke)
- Eselsbrücke Rothenburg (a cute statue of a burro)
- Toppler Castle (Topplerschlösschen)
- And the path that leads through the valley to Detwang one of the oldest villages in Franconia- 968 AD
Dinner night #3
Dealers choice! I’ll give you some options in the “where to eat” section.
Explore the town
Explore the cute little village contained within the old town walls. Most attractions are just a short stroll from wherever you may be. Explore the side streets, nooks, crannies, and recesses while you enjoy the quaintness of the town. A good time to explore the less trafficked areas of town is midday when crowds in the town center are the worst.
For a list of other Museums see the Rothenburg Museums page.
get a massage!
We were nearing the end of our couple of weeks in Germany and our muscles were sore and achy. While exploring the town we stumbled on a Thai Massage parlor. Pretty soon our sore muscles were a thing of the past! This is one of my top travel tips. If you are on a physically taxing trip. Get a massage!
Did you know that you can take day trips FROM Rothenburg? Bad Windsheim is a medieval town located about 26 km from Rothenburg. If you don’t have a car you can get to Bad Windsheim from Rothenburg by train (1 change.) I lived in Bad Windsheim as a child. In the Holy Roman Empire, Windsheim held the rank of Imperial City. You can explore the cute historic core of the village but there are also a couple of worthwhile attractions in town.
Franconian Open Air museum Bad Windsheim:
This open-air museum is “like travelling back in time through the past 700 years of rural life in Franconia. More than one hundred buildings, most of them furnished with authentic furniture from their period – farmsteads, craftsmen’s cottages, shepherd’s huts, barns, stables, bakeries, drying houses for fruit and flax, a school, a municipal building and a manor house – make for an amazing journey of discovery, showing how Franconian people lived, worked and built their homes in times gone by.” –Franconian Open Air Museum
Franken-Therme Bad Windsheim GmbH:
This spa has a saltwater flotation pool, massage/treatment rooms & a sauna area. The unique saltwater thermal bath has a 15-minute sensory laser light show with sounds in the bathing hall. Check the website for “show” times.
eating in Rothenburg
The food in Germany is always delicious and there are no shortages of places to eat in Rothenburg. Here are my top picks for where you should eat in Rothenburg: (Looking for more choices? Check TripAdvisor for the best places to eat including customer reviews and photos!)
First time in Germany and wondering what to eat? Mouthwatering German foods you need to try!
Ratsstube Cafe, is located on the main town square and a great place to eat outside when weather permits. On our plates: Bratwurst with kraut and German mustard, and Wiener schnitzel with German potato salad. Isn’t German food the best???
Get more information: Ratsstube Cafe
A treat for the taste buds, and for the eye! At Baumeisterhaus Restaurant, built in 1596, you can dine in an indoor multi-story courtyard while you admire the beautiful murals on the surrounding walls. On our plates: Sweet Treats! strawberry torte and apple strudel with cream and ice cream. Germans make THE BEST desserts!
Get more information: Baumeisterhaus Restaurant
Looking for the best places to get a late-night snack? (Late night is 9 pm closing time here) check out the Doner Kebab place just off of the main square.Doners are Turkish food, now very popular street food in Europe. Seasoned meat (usually lamb, beef, or chicken) is spit roasted until it is incredibly juicy, and then shaved and stuffed into the most delicious flatbread, which is often grilled right in front of you. Popular toppings: lettuce, tomato, onion, and a delicious tzatziki type sauce.
Tobingo Döner is located at Hafengasse 2, Rothenburg. open lunch till late, closed Monday
Scheeballs are a specialty in Rothenburg, one I have tried to avoid. However, some seem to think that a no trip to Rothenburg is complete without trying one. So here we go…Literally balls of fried dough, the traditional Schneeballen are dusted in sno….powdered sugar.
Most often I follow the advice of my favorite travel guru, Ricks Steves, who writes the absolute best European travel guides on the market. To quote him verbatim “Skip the bad-tasting Rothenberger Schneeballen…bland pie crust crumpled into ball…” He recommends if you must try one to get off of the tourist core and get one at a local bakery, or at the Criminal Museum gift shop where they are at least edible and your purchase benefits the museum. Next time, I intend to try one and report back to you!
Rothenburg Germany hotels: Where to stay
There are lots of nice places to stay in Rothenburg. Search for them on Booking.com. There are 3 places that really stand out in the crowd.
Gotisches Haus Hotel
is one of the best hotels in Rothenburg and simply a MUST!
Gotisches Haus (The Gothic House) hotel, is located in the holistic center of Rothenburg. . Emperors and crown princes stayed in this 700-year-old building along the way. As an added bonus, it is right in the middle of everything.
Location: Herrngasse 13, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
is the same cozy 650-year-old-building that I recommended for dinner on night #2. You’ll be thrilled to know that you can stay overnight in this adorable little hobbit house!
location: Klosterhof 7, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
How to avoid crowds in Rothenburg
The town has a population of 11,000, but the old town core, packed with tourists, seems a lot smaller. Yes, Rothenburg is special, and therefore, CROWDED! The little square in the historic centre, known as Market Square, becomes quite congested with crowds midday. Here’s how to avoid the crowds in Rothenburg:
- Stay overnight: One great benefit of overnighting in town is you get to experience quiet mornings and evenings without the crowds!
- Week days may be less crowded than weekends.
- Get out of the core midday: The best time to visit this area of the old town is early or late in the day. Get out of the historic core and explore the back lanes, the countryside around town, or one of my optional experiences.
- Visit in shoulder or off season: The summer months are High Season in Germany. If you can plan your trip in the off season or shoulder season you will have less crowds to deal with. Winter is dead except for during the Christmas Markets. If you haven’t been to a Christmas Market in Germany, I highly recommend that you do!
Festivals and special events
Rothenburg has special events throughout the year. A couple of noteworthy events include:
The winter months are quite EXCEPT from the end of November and the end of December Rothenburg turns into a dreamy Christmas Village! Rothenburg becomes a winter wonderland this time of year, and the Rothenburg Christmas Market one of Germany’s prettiest Christmas markets. You’ll be treated to snow dusted cobblestone, fresh Christmas trees and smells that delight the senses! Imagine the smell of gingerbread intermingled with roasted nuts, and mulled wine! It is quite delightful!
Imperial City Festival
Rothenburg’s Imperial City Festival, which takes place every September, is a delight! The entire town turns into a medieval encampment with thousands of Germans wearing traditional costumes and reenacting medieval times. Over 3 days attendees can enjoy fireworks, performances, parades (including the parade through town of hundreds of torch bearing participants). Don’t miss the camps set up outside of the city walls where groups clad in medieval garb dine around long tables while they sing old world songs by both candle and firelight. The Knights’ Camp, just outside the Eastern side city walls near the Woodsman Gate (Rödertorof) is magical!
Getting to Rothenburg
Nearest airports (major cities) include:
- Nuremberg (NUE) 83 km
- Frankfurt (FRA) 180 km
- Munich (MUC) 255 km
- Stuttgart (STR) 150 km
Rothenburg is a popular stop on the Romantic Road in the Tauber Valley. The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) is a picturesque 350 km route that winds through forests and mountains from Fussen (home to Neuschwanstein Castle!) all the way to Wurzburg.
driving in the city centre:
Unless you are dropping off your bags at your hotel in the old town center DO NOT TRY TO DRIVE IN ROTHENBURG during midday. Tourists block up the roadway, apparently having no clue at all that they are walking on a ROAD! It’s a bit frustrating.
Note: make sure you navigate to the right place. There is another town in Germany with the same name with different spelling: Rothenberg located in Hesse Germany is spelled with an “e” rather than a “u.” So, navigate your way to the little town on the Tauber River, you don’t want to end in the wrong spot!
There are 5 parking lots that surround the old town. Get more information about parking.
Rothenburg’s tiny train station is located within walking distance of the old town City Center (approximately 1 kilometer or .7 miles.) If you have heavy luggage, I would suggest calling a taxi to take you to your hotel. Get information on European Train tickets at DB trains including: cheap train tickets, the cheapest train ticket prices, schedules, purchase advance tickets and more. Or use Rome2Rio to get time by train and bus information.
Train Station address: Bahnhofstr. 12, Rothenburg O.D.
New to navigating public transit? Public Transportation for beginners
Frequently asked Questions
How much time do I need for Rothenburg?
Well, day trip crowds descend on this tiny town at midday and are gone by evening. Rothenburg is a handy and worthwhile day trip from many of the largest cities and German towns in the area like Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart. So, if we were being technical about it, then I guess you only need a few hours to see Rothenburg.
HOWEVER!!!!! There are a lot of great things to see and do in Rothenburg. Slow down the pace and give your Rothenburg itinerary 3 full days. It will give you time to explore before and after the crowds have descended and really soak up the wonderful atmosphere of this great place.
What is there to do in Rothenburg on a rainy day?
The medieval wall that surrounds the town is covered, so makes for a good rainy-day activity, as do the churches and museums on our itinerary!
Can’t make it to Germany just yet? Check out the ridiculously cute Bavarian town surrounded by mountains in Leavenworth Washington USA!
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