Where is Rothenburg Germany? Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a frozen-in-time picture perfect little town that is located in northern Bavaria in Southern Germany.
It’s a well-preserved medieval city with half-timbered houses, and cobbled streets all surrounded by 14th century medieval town walls.
What is Rothenburg Germany known for? and why do tourists go to Rothenburg? Rothenburg ob der Tauber (population 11,000) is known for its medieval architecture and was the inspiration for the Walt Disney classic movie Pinocchio. It’s higgledy-piggledy little streets and gingerbread perfect buildings could certainly have inspired endless tales from Jacob and Wilhelm, the brothers Grimm.
Rothenburg will transport you back in time to a day when fairytales and real life were not so easily distinguished!
Photo caption: One of the most iconic views in Rothenburg and 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.
Getting to Rothenburg
Rothenburg is a handy and worthwhile day trip from the German towns of Munich, Nuremberg, Frankfurt, and Stuttgart, the largest cities in the vicinity of Rothenburg.
For drivers: 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 all the way to Wurzburg.
The Schwangau website has a handy Romantic Road map, if you are interested in exploring the entire route.
driving in the city centre
Unless you must don’t try to drive into the old town city centre of Rothenburg.
At certain times of the day it is seriously congested with tourists who are walking in the middle of the road and seem to have no idea that they are walking in the road or that the road is made for driving and not walking. It can be a frustrating situation to say the least.
There are 5 parking lots that surround the old town of Rothenburg. See the Rothenburg tourism site parking lot locations, full details and restrictions.
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 a taxi will take you to your hotel.
Location: Bahnhofstr. 12, Rothenburg
New to navigating public transit? you may find my Public Transportation for beginners article helpful.
Bus tours to Rothenburg can be booked through places like getyourguide.
History of Rothenburg ob der tauber
How old is Rothenburg Germany? Rothenburg was a free imperial city under the Holy Roman Empire from the late middle ages until 1803 but was most likely inhabited by Celts before the 1st Century A.D.
The current town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was founded in 1274.
In the 19th century laws were created to prevent major changes and preserve the current old world state that visitors enjoy in this wonderfully historic city today.
Note: looking for Rothenberg Germany? “Rothenberg Germany” spelled with an “e” rather than a “u” is an altogether different village found in Hesse Germany so take caution when navigating so that you end up in the right spot! In German a “burg” is a castle, a “berg” is a mountain. Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s name means “Red castle above the Tauber” due to its red roofs and location above the Tauber River.
When to visit Rothenburg
The little square in the historic centre, known as Market Square, becomes quite congested with crowds midday. The best time to visit his area of the old town is early or late in the day. There are plenty of other things listed here that you can do to wait out the crowds.
High season is both during the summer months and during the Christmas market season.
The best things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Let’s explore some of the best fun things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany!
- take an organized tour
- museums (there are several very good museums in Rothenburg)
- walk the historic old town (including the medieval wall walk)
- experience Christmas, year round!
- visit the historic churches and cathedrals
- visit the marketplace with town hall and famous clock
- visit Rothenburg’s castle garden
- …and more!
Keep reading for details!
Unless otherwise noted, everything listed here is contained within the city walls. The longest distance between points is only about half a mile long so everything is walkable within a short distance. I’d say nothing inside the walls is more than a 10 minute walk away.
#1 Organized tour:
Rothenburg Tourism hosts some very good organized walking tours.
- Night Watchman Tour: Learn about the fascinating history of beautiful Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
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.
Fun fact about Rothenburg’s town history: The night watchman pointed out a tiny doors in the city wall and explained that the large city doors were closed at night. If someone happened to find themselves outside of the city walls after closing time they would have to climb through those tiny doors in the town wall.
- Guided Tour of Old Town. A 90 minute walking tour offers an overview of the history of the walled city of Rothenburg with its Old Town quarter, romantic alleyways, and picturesque squares.
- Ghost tour with the executioner. On this historically based tour, the “hangman tells his tales of Devil’s work and witches’ magic…(and will) show you enchanted sights” around the village. -Rothenburg Tourism. Daytime tours suitable for children 8 and up.
For current tour times , locations and fees visit the Rothenburg Tourism site.
#2 Rothenburg Museums
There are several very good museums in Rothenburg. Let’s explore the best ones.
The Medieval Crime Museum
One of my favorite parts of 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. Last check: Martin (Luther) and the Witches.
location: Burggasse 3-5, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Current times and prices: see the Criminal Museum website
The Historical Vault- Museum above Rothenburg’s dungeon
Rothenburg Museum, located 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.
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
Current times and prices: see the MeisterTrunk website
Imperial City Museum is located in a former 13th century Dominican convent which was in use from 1258 to the 16th century (1554.) The monastery kitchen, circa 1260, is one of the oldest of its kind in Germany. There’s a minimal fee for entry, and may be a small extra charge if you want to take photos.
Location: Klosterhof 5, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Current times and prices: Rothenburg Museum website
For a list of other Museums see the Rothenburg website’s Museums page.
#3 Rothenburg Walks
- Walk Rothenburg’s Medieval Walls
Medieval Rothenburg was fortified with a town wall that circled the city centre.
You can walk around Rothenburg on the wall that fortified this city hundreds of years ago. Walking the city walls is the best way to get your bearings in Rothenburg. The wall stretches about 2.5 miles and is the perfect place for a stroll.
Interesting fact: Rothenburg Germany is one of only 3 towns in Germany that still have completely intact walls, the other two being Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl which are also on the Romantic Road route.
The wall is covered, so makes for a good rainy day activity. As you walk along the wall you’ll see gate houses and towers.
Opening times and fees: free! And 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.
here are a few things you can see while walking the Rothenburg City wall:
- Walk outside the walls:
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.
There are 6 castle gates in the Rothenburg wall so it’s easy to sneak out for a walk through the country.
Cost and opening times: around the clock and free!
- Explore the town:
One of the main attractions in Rothenburg is 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.
Opening times and fees: 24 hours and it’s free!
#4 It’s Christmas year round at Käthe Wohlfahrt
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 (and purchasing!) enjoyment. It’s a red, green, silver, and gold feast for the eyes! The store is so big you may find yourself a little lost.
Be sure to ask about 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
opening times and fees: open daily: See the website for the most current information
#5 Churches in Rothenburg
Even if you are not a religious person the churches, cathedrals, and abbeys throughout Europe are architectural wonders.
They are historical structures and quite often their opulence outpaces that of some of the castles and palaces in Europe!
I like to visit them to take in their architectural beauty and to feel like I’ve taken a trip back in time.
Rothenburg has a couple of churches worth checking out.
- The St. Jakobskirche (St. James Church and St. Jacob are apparently one in the same) Lutheran church contains a very important relic. In the 15-century A.D. Tilman Riemenschneider, one of the most famous Gothic German sculptors was paid a small commission to create the “altar of the holy blood” (Heilig-Blut-Alta.)
Atop this wooden altar sculpture that 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)
fun fact: Notice that the central figure in this depiction of The Last Supper is not Jesus but Judas.
Location: Kirchpl. Rothenburg Germany
opening times and fees: see the website for the most current information
- St. Wolfgang evangelical church was built in 1475 and today can be seen in its original unspoiled condition. This church is small but picture perfect. If it’s open take a peek inside.
Location: Klingentorbastei 1, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Opening times and fees: see the website for current information
#6 Market place
The market square in Rothenburg is flanked by shops, restaurants, the clock tower, and town hall.
- Climb the town hall tower
For a small entrance fee you can climb the 220 steps up the gothic town hall tower for panoramic views of the whole town.
Location: Markt 1, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Opening times and fees: see the website for current information
- Clock tower.
When your facing the town hall look to your right and you’ll see the clock tower which was build in 1683. In 1910 a mechanical scene depicting the well known (if not wholly acurate) tale of town Mayor Nusch drinking over 3 liters of wine nonstop to save the town.
Clock performances are at 11 am, noon, 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 10 pm.
#7 Rothenburg’s Castle Garden (Burggarten)
The Rothenburg Imperial Castle was located in what is today called the Castle Garden.
“Where is the castle (or “Burg”) in Rothenburg ob der Tauber? You often hear this question and just as often get disappointed faces in return. Because there hasn’t been a castle in Rothenburg ob der Tauber for a long time….however, the disappointment soon vanishes, because in the castle’s location is Rothenburg’s green oasis, the Castle Garden.”-Rothenburg Tourism
Location: Alte Burg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Current times and prices: free! And open all day every day.
#8 Sore from all the sightseeing? get a massage!
Ok I know this one seems a little odd, but massages are a recurring 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!
Free things to do in Rothenburg
Let’s recap the free things to do in Rothenburg Germany:
- The Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store, no need to pay for the museum to get your Christmas fix!
- The wall walk
- Walks through the countryside
- Exploring town
- The clock tower show
- The castle garden
Food in Rothenburg:
The food in Germany is always delicious. Here are my tops picks for where you should eat in Rothenburg:
Zur Holl Restaurant:
If I had to recommend just one place to eat in Rothenburg I would steer you straight away to Zur Holl Restaurant (translates to “to hell,” in English.) What a find! How about dinner in a 1,000 year old building??? simply amazing! If they are busy inside the restaurant and the weather is nice you can dine al fresco. Delicious food!
In Germany, it is common practice to share tables. We had a lovely conversation with the couple that shared our table. Conversation between table mates is not required, but if they seem receptive you’ll get a chance to get to know the locals.
The pork steaks with a creamy chanterelle mushroom sauce were delicious, and the waitress came by and offered us a second helping!
If you sit outside, be sure to take a peek at the basement where the bathrooms are. It looks positively ancient down there! as if it hasn’t been changed in the last 1,000 years, oh my heart!
location: Burggasse 8, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
opening times: see the restaurant website for current information.
Note: reservations are recommended which can be done ahead of time through their website.
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???
opening times: see the website for the most current information
Baumeisterhaus Restaurant: 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!
opening times: see the website for the most current information
At Altfrankische Weinstube you can dine in a cozy 650-year-old-building that’s tucked away from the crowds of the main square. This adorable “oh so cozy” little place looks like it was made for hobits!
Reservation required, NO CREDIT CARDS ACCEPTED (but confirm when you make your reservation,) closed on Tuesday at last check.
To make a reservation call 09861-6404 or contact them through their website
location: Klosterhof 7, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
stay the night! they have very nice rooms for overnight guest too! book it here!
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.
They really are the best thing ever, and once you have tried them, you will crave them for life!
Tobingo Döner is located at Hafengasse 2, Rothenburg. open lunch till late, closed Monday
Rothenburg Germany hotels
There are lots of nice places to stay in Rothenburg but there is one that really stands 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 ob der Tauber Germany. 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
How much time should you spend in Rothenburg?
For such a small space there are a lot of worthwhile activities in Rothenburg. Give it a minimum of 3 days to do it right but if your in a hurry you can get a lot done in 2 days.
Rothenburg Germany Christmas time
The winter months in Rothenburg can be quiet but each year between the end of November and the end of December Rothenburg turns into a dreamy Christmas Village, with one of Germany’s prettiest Christmas markets.
Imagine Rothenburg at Christmastime when snow dusts the cobblestones and Christmas trees, when the smell of gingerbread, mulled wine, and roasted nuts from the Christmas market delight the senses….be still my heart Winter Wonderland!
There is nothing quite like a Rothenburg Germany Christmas!
Location: the small square (Market Square) in front of the Town Hall
Final thoughts on how to make the best of your first (or 5th!) trip to Rothenburg
There you have it Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in a nutshell! What a fantastic little village. Rothenburg is a beautiful place to spend your time and with the information in this article you can plan your whole trip! and make it a fantastic fairytale adventure!
Come see Rothenburg for yourself, let it transport you back to medieval times and you may just leave a little piece of your heart behind.
As for me, I will never be near and not stop to take in some of the magic that is Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany!
Rothenberg Germany: Again “Rothenberg Germany” is a common misspelling, you’ll want to replace the “e” with a “u” but not matter how you spell it I hope you find the information in this article helpful.
Looking for more on Bavaria Germany?
Another popular spot in Bavaria:
First time in Germany and wondering what to eat?
You may be interested in the 16 mouthwatering German foods that you MUST try!