Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a Fairy-Tale town in Bavaria: a must see and do itinerary
Updated: Apr 21
Frozen-in-time, Rothenburg is a well preserved walled city in Bavaria, my absolute favorite part of Germany. Founded in 1274, it is known for its medieval architecture, and was the inspiration for Disney’s Pinocchio. As a child, we lived just 13 miles from this historic city. It is one of my favorite places, but how could it not be? In the fall of 2017, my husband and I spent three days here. Disney may have been inspired by it, but this is the kind of place that surely could have inspired endless tales from Jacob and Wilhelm, the brothers Grimm. Let Rothenburg transport you back in time, to a day when fairy-tales and real life were not so easy distinguished!
Gotisches Haus Hotel
Our stay at, Gotisches Haus (The Gothic House) hotel, a 700-year-old building in Rothenburg, where emperors and crown princes stayed along the way, was a trip highlight for me. As an added bonus, it is right smack dab in the middle of everything.
dinner at Zur Holl
Our first night in town, we set out on foot in search of some food, and ended up going TO HELL! Zur Holl Restaurant that is, which translates to "to hell," in English. What a find! The opportunity to dine al fresco at a 1,000 year old building...simply amazing! In Germany, it is common practice to share a table with strangers. Upon arrival, the occupants of a table outside offered us empty seats at their table. They soon left, but we didn’t have the table to ourselves for long. Our next table neighbors arrived, soon thereafter. They were quite friendly, and spoke English, so we spent an hour or two in conversation with them over dinner...getting to know the locals, bonus! Partway through our tasty meal of pork steaks with a creamy chanterelle mushroom sauce, the waitress came and offered us seconds. What??!!! I wish I would have taken some pictures of the inside of this building. The basement area, where the bathrooms are, LOOKS SO OLD! as if it hasn't been changed in the last 1,000 years, oh my heart! Speaking of bathrooms, do you know that you will often need to pay to use the bathrooms in Germany, and in many other parts of Europe?
Medieval Crime and Justice Museum
One of my favorite parts of Rothenburg is the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, where you will be treated to displays and genuine artifacts relating to criminal trial, torture, death penalties and executioners, public humiliation, witches and robbers, and much more! What a way to spend a day, if your into that kind of thing, and I am. The first time I visited this museum, I was probably in 1st or 2nd grade, and on a school field trip. It was a bit of a trip down memory lane for me.
a bit about my favorite subject: food
We did a lunch at Ratsstube Cafe, on the main town square. We were able to eat outside almost every day, in the almost two weeks in September that we were in this part of Europe. I don't need to tell you how the food was. The food in Germany is always delicious. I have never had bad food in Germany. Germans are craftsmen, and take pride in everything they do, and that includes their food.
sore from all the sight seeing? get a massage!
You will notice this is a recurrent theme in our travels, and one of my top travel tips... we stumbled across a Thai massage parlor and had them work us over pretty good. Sore achy travel muscles, be gone!
a treat for the taste buds, and for the eye!
While searching for a treat, we stumbled upon Baumeisterhaus Restaurant. Built in 1596, you can dine in an indoor multi-story courtyard, the walls of which boast some beautiful murals.
Night Watchman's tour: history of beautiful Rothenburg!
Of course, we took the famous Night Watchman’s tour, where you'll get a good bit of the overall history of Rothenburg. It's quite interesting. My favorite part is the story about how the town was saved from total destruction during WWII. The city was bombed by the US, in an air raid, and the order were given to ground troops to move in and destroy the city with artillery. The US Deputy State Secretary in the War Ministry, John McCloy, asked them to spare Rothenburg. On a visit to the city years before, his mother had purchased a painting of Rothenburg, that hung in her home . Because he was aware of the history and beauty of the city, he was able to persuade his commanding officers not destroy the beautiful little village, as long as they agreed to surrender without a fight. Although the German commander left in charge of defending Rothenburg, in the absence of the commanding general, was told under no circumstances to surrender, he did just that, in order to save this beautiful city. Take the Night Watchman's tour to hear all about the town history!
After the Nightwatchman's tour, we grabbed a late night doner kebab. Have you heard of these? They really are the best thing ever, and once you have tried them, you will crave them for life!
Rothenburg's Medieval Wall
About 2.5 miles long, you can walk around Rothenburg on the wall that fortified this city, hundreds of years ago. Here are a few things you can see while walking the wall:
Christmas year round
Did you know that Christmas can be found year round in Rothenburg? Käthe Wohlfahrt's has thousands of traditional Christmas decorations on display for your viewing enjoyment, and for sale because you will probably want to take something home. Ask them to direct you to the "made in Germany" section. It really is a feast for the eyes. This store was so big I actually go lost in there. The store is free, they charge a small fee for entry into the Christmas museum.
One night, we dined outside at the Reichskuchenmeister Hotel. I opted for the flammkuchen again, because I really can't get enough. Flammkuchen is like a very thin pizza, German style. The waiter was kind enough to warn me about the spice, I'm sure not realizing how popular Mexican food is here at home. 😉
And there you have Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in a nutshell! What a fantastic little village. I can't wait to go back, perhaps for a Christmastime trip when snow dusts the cobblestones, and the smell of gingerbread, mulled wine, and roasted nuts from the Christmas market delight the senses....be still my heart. Come see Rothenburg for yourself, you may just leave a little piece of your heart behind.
Important note: there are several Rothenburgs in Germany. Make sure you are specific about "Rothenburg ob der Tauber" (on the Tauber River.)
Another popular spot in Bavaria: