Rodertor, one of the gates in Rothenburg Germany that you can drive through

The medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is without a doubt one of the best-preserved and most beautiful medieval towns in Germany. With adorable gingerbread-like half-timbered houses, window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers, and wonderfully crooked cobblestone streets, the historic centre of Rothenburg Germany is wonderfully frozen in time. It’s like taking a trip back to the Middle Ages.

Rothenburg is part of Bavaria. To be specific it is located in northern Bavaria, a state that lies in southern Germany. Bavaria is quintessential Germany. When you conjure up images of lederhosen clad men and women in their traditional dirndl dresses with lively German music playing in the background, that’s Bavaria! It’s my absolute favorite part of Germany!

In this article we’ll explore some of the more interesting and lesser known facts about Rothenburg, my favorite German town!

fun facts about Rothenburg Germany

Rothenburg’s clock tower has an animated show

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 to save his town. (more on that story later!) Clock performances are at 11 am, noon, 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 10 pm.

the Clock Tower, Ratstrinkstube, has a daily mechanical show, a fun activity for tourists in Rothenburg Germany
Clock Tower (Ratstrinkstube) on the small square in Rothenburg

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Rothenburg is, on occasion, home to storks

Head to Markusturm and look up. You’ll see a stork nest and if you’re lucky one of the resident storks may be at home!

storks nest in Rothenburg Germany
storks nest in Rothenburg Germany

The face on Burgtor gate/ (Burgturm) helped defend the town!

Head for Burgtor, the gate that opens to the castle garden park (Burg means castle in German.) As you’re standing in the park, turn and look for the face in the gate. This is a pitch mask (looks like a face) that was for pouring pitch on intruders below, it’s flanked by slits that once held chains which held the moat bridge.

Pitch Mask on Burgtor in Rothenburg Germany
Pitch Mask on Burgtor

there’s a lazy-Susan located in the town wall

According to travel guru Rick Steves, somewhere in the city wall is an opening where nuns from the convent were able to pass food to the town poor outside the walls. It is supposed to be located to the right of the museum door. I can’t seem to find it! Can you? Let me know in the comments if you locate it, bonus points for a picture!

(Rick Steves writes the absolute best travel guides for Europe. If you’re planning a trip to Europe one of the first things you should do is pick up one of his guides to plan your whole trip. I wouldn’t plan a trip without them!)

The Plönlein is the most photographed building in Rothenburg Germany

The skinny half-timbered Plönlein building, often associated with the 1940’s Walt Disney version of Pinocchio, is Rothenburg’s most photographed.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the best medieval towns in Germany
The Plönlein, the main attraction in Rothenburg, one of the best medieval towns in Germany!

They eat a lot of snowballs in Rothenburg

Schneeballen are a specialty in Rothenburg and some seem to think that no trip to Rothenburg is complete without trying one. The English translation: Snowballs. What are they? Literally balls of fried dough. The traditional Schneeballen are dusted with sno….powdered sugar. Give a scheeball a try!

Schneeballen pastries Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany
Schneeballen

there’s a mermaid in Rothenburg Germany

Herrnbrunnen, the 16th century fountain in Herrngasse (street) has a mermaid with two fish tails, a golden crown on her head, and a golden scepter in her hand.

Herrnbrunnen, Rothenburg Germany's Mermaid fountain
Herrnbrunnen, Rothenburg Germany’s Mermaid fountain

Rothenburg has an Easter Fountain

At Easter the Röderbrunnen fountain is festively decorated with around 2400 eggs. It’s quite a stunning display!

Röderbrunnen, Roderbrunnen, Rothenburg Germany Easter fountain
Röderbrunnen, Rothenburg’s Easter Fountain

facts for tourists in Rothenburg Germany

Yes, you can drive through the city gates!

The first time I arrived in Rothenburg in a car my navigation wanted me to drive through one of the town wall gates, through a small arched opening in the town wall! Yes, you can drive through Rothenburg’s gates, just be cautious about oncoming cars. If you do meet a car someone will have to wait, it’s a fairly simple process.

A note on driving in Rothenburg: Don’t try to drive in the walled city center unless you are headed for your hotel and need to drop off luggage. The main road through the centre and little square are congested with tourists gawking at the sights, often walking in the middle of the road, and there isn’t much for parking inside the walls. If you’re here on a day trip, park at one of the many parking lots outside of the walls. If you do have to drive through the old town, take it slow and be patient. When possible, drive on one of the side streets instead of through the center.

Rodertor, one of the gates in Rothenburg Germany that you can drive through
Rodertor Gate: yes, you can drive through it!

This isn’t the only “Rothenburg” in Germany!

There are several towns in Germany that go by the name Rothenburg or Rothenberg. When buying your train tickets be sure to purchase a ticket to Rothenburg “ob der Tauber.” Driving? Be sure you navigate your way to the Tauber River: you don’t want to end in the wrong spot!

Rothenburg has one of the best preserved medieval walls in Germany

Rothenburg Germany has a remarkably well-preserved 14th century medieval wall. Rothenburg is one of only 3 German towns that still have completely intact walls, the other two: Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl. In medieval times, the entire town of Medieval Rothenburg was encircled by a city wall that fortified the town against invasion. That old town wall still stands today! Wind your way along the wall for fantastic rooftop views!

I love to walk the old town walls, which are usually blissfully crowd free! The entire wall walk is about 2.5 miles. There are many places around town to access the wall so walk a little or walk the entire wall, it’s up to you! (tip: the wall is covered so this is a good activity on a rainy day)

Rothenburg has a Night Watchman

One of the most popular activities and fun things to do in Rothenburg is the Famous Night Watchman’s Tour. On this walking tour Hans Georg Baumgartner, Rothenburg’s watchman, will escort you through town with his lantern held high as he tells you all about medieval Rothenburg and its fascinating history. The organized tour runs on a daily schedule at 8:00 pm.

Hans Georg Baumgartner, Rothenburg Germany Night Watchman
Hans Georg Baumgartner, the Night Watchman

A fun fact from The Night Watchman tour: In the Middle Ages, if someone found themselves outside of the walls after they closed the city gates, they would have to climb through those tiny doors to get in.

tiny doors in Rothenburg Germany city walls
tiny doors in Rothenburg Germany city walls

Rothenburg has several wonderful old hotels!

If you want intensify your medieval experience consider overnighting in one of Rothenburg Germany’s wonderful historic hotels! Here are my favorite choices:

  • Gotisches Haus Hotel: Gotisches Haus (The Gothic House) hotel, is located in the historic center. Emperors and crown princes stayed in this 700-year-old building. The entire hotel is decorated in rustic old-world charm, it is simply divine!
  • Burghotel: Tucked back away from the crowds, this 12th century building has a great old-world atmosphere too and has views overlooking the Tauber Valley!
  • Altfrankische Weinstube: Altfrankische Weinstube is a cozy 650-year-old-building that looks like it was built for gnomes. You’ll find it next to the Burghotel. Whether you stay overnight or not, be sure to book a dinner reservation. It’s a great place for a candlelit dinner!
gothic hotel Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni rothenburg germany best place to stay first time in rothenburg
Gothic Hotel Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni

You can dine in a 1,000-year-old building!

Make a dinner reservation at Zur Hoell Restaurant (To Hell) where you can dine in a 1,000-year-old building! I like to dine outside in summer but at least make your way to the restrooms in the basement, it looks just about exactly 1,000 years old down there!

zur holl restaurant rothenburg ob der tauber unique dining experience historic dining
photo caption: Zur Holl Restaurant, Rothenburg

You can try beer brewed in Rothenburg

The Romantik-Hotel Markusturm serves beer brewed in Rothenburg, stop in and wet your whistle with some local brew! Markusturm just happens to be my very favorite view of Rothenburg! Notice the storks nest at the top!

Markusturm / Marcus Tower and the Roder Arch Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany, Rothenburg itinerary
Rothenburg itinerary: Marcus Tower (Markusturm) and the Roder Arch

Rothenburg has 6 very good museums!

For such a tiny town, Rothenburg has an impressive selection of museums. These museums are all worth visiting:

  • Medieval Crime Museum: eerie displays, genuine medieval artifacts, torture instruments, witches, robbers, and they even have a real Iron Maiden! special exhibition: Luther and the Witches!
  • The Imperial City Museum: This former 13th century Dominican Convent is today the home of a fantastic “medieval history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber” museum.
  • The Historical Vault Museum: town history museum located in an authentic dungeon.
  • The German Christmas Museum: we’ll talk about that later!
  • Old Rothenburg Craftsman’s House: a look at how people lived in the Middle Ages. Time stood still in this historic building, built in 1270.
  • The 14th century Röderturm: is the only accessible tower in the city wall. Step inside for a look at one of Rothenburg’s historical towers!

You can get a bird’s eye view of Rothenburg from the Town Hall Tower

The best view of the town is the bird’s eye view you’ll get from the Gothic town hall tower which overlooks the market. Entry to the tower is through the city hall located right on the main market square, there is a small fee to climb the 220 steps to the top. I had a massive case of Acrophobia at the top but give it a try!

You can take a step back in time at Rothenburg’s 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 hundreds of Germans wearing traditional costumes and reenacting scenes from medieval times. -fireworks, a torch parade, and camps set up outside of the old city walls where groups clad in medieval garb dine around long tables while they sing old world songs by both candle and firelight!

Imperial City Festival, Rothenburg

You can take a hot air balloon ride in Rothenburg

Float your way across the Tauber Valley and Rothenburg’s red rooftops in a hot air balloon! During the warm weather season tours leave daily from the Tauberwiesen in Detwang below Rothenburg’s old town. Contact Happy Ballooning for more information.

You can order up a ready-made picnic in Rothenburg

Tourists can order a ready-made picnic. Bags or baskets include a bottle of wine (from Hotel Villa Mittermeier or Hotel Reichsküchenmeister) or cocktails (from Mucho Amor), snacks and a map with directions to the best sundown spots for a romantic picnic. €30 per person (plus €10 deposit for glasses and carrying bag, a picnic blanket on request) These restaurants offer packaged picnics:

picnic basket with wine, bread, cheese, apple
order a picnic meal in Rothenburg!

You can take home a model of your favorite Rothenburg building!

The Leyk Lichthäuser company sells tiny replicas of Rothenburg’s most popular buildings. They call these charming little souvenirs lighthouses because the little ceramic buildings are lit from within. On a Rothenburg Christmas trip I even saw a model of Markusturm, my favorite building! You’ll find one of their retail shops located on the main drag between the Markt Square and Plönlein.

Rothenburg is home to a famous religious relic

St. Jakobskirche (St. James Church / St. Jakob’s Church) Evangelical Lutheran church contains a very important religious relic. In the 15th century the famous German sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider created the “Altar of the Holy Blood” (Heilig-Blut-Alta). The chalice in the ornate wooden altar is said to contain the blood of Christ. Atop the altar, which depicts the Last Supper, is a rock crystal set into the cross. The rock crystal is held aloft by two carved angels and is supposed to contain a small sample of Christ’s blood (the Holy Blood.) For a small fee you can tour the church.

Rothenburg has two open-air stages

  • The Stöberleinsbühne is an open-air stage that is picturesquely located in the Rothenburg Spitalhof and nestles directly against the historic city wall. Check the Stöberleinsbühne Website for events.
  • The Toppler Theater is a unique open-air stage in the north courtyard of the former Dominican convent and today’s Rothenburg Museum. This stage comes alive with performances in the summer months. for information on events check the Toppler Theater website.

Outside Rothenburg’s walls are idyllic walking trails

The valley that surrounds Rothenburg has idyllic walking trails and paths that wind their way through the countryside around the old town. These trails are a great place to escape the madness of the midday crowds which can be particularly heavy during high season / peak season. There are 6 castle gates and accessible towers in the Rothenburg wall so it’s easy to sneak out for a short stroll through the countryside. Popular sights outside the wall include:

  • Toppler Castle (Topplerschlösschen)
  • Detwang one of the oldest villages in Franconia- 968 AD
  • Double Bridge (Doppelbrücke)
  • Eselsbrücke Rothenburg (a cute statue of a burro.)

Rothenburg is located on the Romantic Road

Rothenburg is a popular stop on the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße), a picturesque 350 km route that winds through forests and mountains from Fussen (home to Neuschwanstein Castle!) all the way to Wurzburg. It’s the perfect road trip!

Rotheburg has an app!

Download Rothenburg’s handy app on your smartphone for self-tours, history lessons, a children’s city guide, a tower path route, and more!

It’s easy to “stay connected” in Rothenburg!

Is your cell phone service letting you down on your Germany trip? No need to worry! Rothenburg offers free Wi-Fi coverage and there are approximately 400 routers in the old town alone!

Rothenburg has a YouTube Channel

If you can’t wait to see Rothenburg head on over to their YouTube channel for video footage of the town!

You can tour Rothenburg from the comfort of your home

Can’t make it to Rothenburg just yet? No problem! See the city from home with this 360-degree tour of Rothenburg.

Rothenburg is Germany’s most Christmassy town

Rothenburg is the perfect place to get into the Christmas Spirit!

Rothenburg has a 500-year-old Christmas Market

Rothenburg’s 500-year-old Christmas Market originated in the late Middle Ages and is one of Germany’s quaintest Christmas markets. The winter months are quite here EXCEPT from the end of November to the end of December when Rothenburg turns into a dreamy Christmas Village! Rothenburg becomes a winter wonderland at Christmas time, and the Rothenburg Christmas Market is one of Germany’s prettiest. 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!

Lebkuchen (gingerbread) Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market foods
Lebkuchen (gingerbread) Rothenburg Christmas!

It’s Christmas all year in Rothenburg

Rothenburg is home to the largest Christmas store in the World and it’s Christmas all year long in this beautiful place! The world famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store is 16,000 sq. ft and offers up thousands of traditional Christmas ornaments and decorations like Christmas Pyramids, Nutcrackers, Incense Smokers, Schwibbogen, and glass ornaments. It’s the largest selection of German Christmas decorations in the world and it’s open all year! The inside of the store is designed to look like a Franconia village and has a revolving 16 ft. tall Christmas tree, a giant 12 ft. tall Nutcracker, and an 18 ft. tall revolving Christmas Pyramid. It’s probably the most Christmassy place in all of Bavaria!

German Christmas Museum

The building also houses the German Christmas Museum which can be visited for a small entrance fee.

Rothenburg has a Giant Advent Calendar

Take a close look at the windows of the town hall. During the advent season this historic building is transformed into a giant advent calendar! Each evening one of the colorfully designed glass windows created by school classes and youth groups is opened.

Historic Facts about Rothenburg Germany

Rothenburg used to have a castle

In 1070 the counts of Comburg-Rothenburg built Rothenburg castle on the mountain top high above the river Tauber. The castle was destroyed in the 14th century but today the spot is now a beautiful castle garden.

Rothenburg got its name from its castle

The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” is German for “Red castle above the Tauber.” The castle which long ago overlooked the Tauber River gave the city its name.

Rothenburg was a Free Imperial City during the Roman Empire

There was a time when Rothenburg was the largest city in the area. From 274-1803 Rothenburg was a self-ruling city under the Holy Roman Empire, or a free Imperial City.

Rothenburg began as a Celtic Settlement

Prior to being a Free Imperial city Rothenburg was inhabited by Celts before the 1st Century A.D.

the beauty of the town literally saved it from destruction

During World War II Rothenburg found itself in the path of the Allied Forces. U.S. Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy happened to be familiar with Rothenburg, its historic importance, and undeniable beauty. The Secretary’s mother had a painting of the tiny town hanging in her home which she had purchased on a trip to Rothenburg. On his orders Rothenburg was to be spared from a planned artillery strike. In November 1948, McCloy was named an honorary citizen (German: Ehrenbürger) of Rothenburg. You can read the full story on Wikipedia and get the rest of the story on the Night Watchman tour!

Rothenburg was saved by a wine guzzling Mayor

In October 1631, during the Thirty Years’ War, Rothenburg was set to defend itself against a siege by invading forces. Their attempts were unsuccessful. The Meistertrunk legend states that the invaders were preparing to burn the town and put the city councilmen to death. In a bid to save themselves they tried to bribe the invading general with a large drink of 3 1/4 liters of wine. General Tilly proclaimed that if anyone could drink it all in one drink, he would spare the city. The town mayor at the time, Georg Nusch, succeeded in drinking the entire tankard of wine, and General Tilly kept his word. While likely just folklore, the legend of the Meistertrunk persists!

There you have it! That’s the skinny on Rothenburg’s fun and interesting facts!

Looking for more “best things to do” and “best places to see, stay, and eat” in Rothenburg? Want to know how much time you should spend on your trip? When is the best time to visit? The best way to get to Rothenburg and How to get there from the largest cities in the area? I have a full article on planning your visit to Rothenburg. Not into planning? No problem! Check out this Perfect 3-day Rothenburg itinerary! It has all of Rothenburg’s main attractions!

Frequently Asked Questions

Was Harry Potter filmed in Rothenburg?

It’s a common misconception that Harry Potter was filmed in Rothenburg. It is true that aerial filming was done in Rothenburg for the Deathly Hallows movies. However, the footage did not make it into the final edit. (source: Wikipedia and Harry Potter Places)

Why is Rothenburg famous?

Rothenburg is a suspended in time medieval village. The historic town’s half-timbered houses, crooked cobblestone streets, and medieval architecture make this town one of a kind. It’s the best medieval experience in Germany. Rothenburg has been the model for several movies, shows, and even video games. Most famously, the town was the model for the fanciful little village in Walt Disney’s 1940’s version of Pinocchio.

What is the difference between Rothenburg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber?

As discussed earlier, there are several towns in Germany with the name Rothenburg. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the famous village that sits on the Tauber River, so if you’re headed for the most beautiful of Germany’s medieval towns, set your navigation for the one on the Tauber River! Most people when they say “Rothenburg” are talking about the medieval village on the Tauber.

What are the most charming small towns in Germany?

Surely, Germany’s most charming towns are its beautiful medieval villages. These include Dinkelsbühl, Regensburg, Nordlingen, Bamberg, Quedlinburg, Bacharach, and Bad Wimpfen, just to name a few!

This post was originally posted on We’re Not in Kansas anymore. You can read the article in its entirety at:

fun and interesting facts about Rothenburg Germany, (photos)

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