Lebkuchen (gingerbread) Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market foods

The medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town located in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. This picturesque town, which sits on the famed Romantic Road, is frozen in time and without a doubt one of the best-preserved medieval towns of Germany.

Rothenburg is a virtual fairy tale come to life and is oozing with medieval charm. A trip to this walled city, with its gingerbread-like half-timbered houses and wonderfully crooked cobblestone streets, is like taking a trip back to the Middle Ages. In the summer time window boxes overflow with colorful flowers, but around Christmas this magical place is something straight out of the pages of a storybook! It’s the magic of Christmas old world style!

Plonlein / plönlein in Rothenburg ob der tauber at Christmas time
a living Christmas card: the famous Plönlein located on the main street at Christmas time

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streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber decoration for Christmas
this Christmas town winter wonderland!
door decorated for Christmas in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany
Christmas lights create a romantic glow all over the town.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Season

At Christmas time Rothenburg turns into a dreamy Christmas village and the entire town comes alive with holiday cheer! During the festive season you’ll be treated to bustling markets, snow dusted cobblestone, fresh Christmas trees, and smells that delight the senses! Imagine the smell of gingerbread intermingled with cinnamon roasted nuts and mulled wine! It’s delightful!

doorway at City Hall, Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas time
Christmas trees seem to be around each corner during the holiday season.

Top things to do in Rothenburg during the Christmas season

Rothenburg Christmas market

German Christmas markets are traditionally held in the main square and with them bring a ton of Christmas festivity. Wooden stalls selling unique gifts like table linens, traditional crafts, wood carvings, and handmade goods are adorned with fresh greenery and twinkling lights. Copious amounts of steaming mugs of spiced Glühwein served up from market stalls put visitors in the holiday spirit!

The Christmas Market in Rothenburg, one of Germany’s prettiest, is the main attraction! Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market has been held in the market square for 500 years. This quaint market is one of my favorites.

official website: Rothenburg.de

500 years of traditions, the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market, clock tower view
500-years of tradition, the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market
Lighted Christmas Stars at Rothenburg Christmas market
Perhaps the prettiest of the market souvenirs, lighted Christmas stars!
Rothenburg Christmas market in the town square Germany
Rothenburg Medieval Christmas Market Germany

Where is the Christmas Market in Rothenburg?
The main Christmas market, the 15th century Alt-Rothenburger Reiterlesmarkt (rider’s market), is located in the main town square and wraps around the town hall (Rathaus), through the alleyways, and around the St. Jacob’s Church. With 54 stalls, it’s a small but charming market. There is an indoor market that can be accessed through the small passage located behind the town hall. Brass groups play every day on the stage at Grüner Markt (Green market.)

When is Rothenburg’s Christmas market?
Most markets in Europe begin at the end of November or the first week of December and run at least through December. The market in Rothenburg is open daily and runs from the Friday before the 1st day of Advent (Around December 1st) until December 23rd.

DO NOT MAKE ASSUMPTIONS about opening dates. Before you book your flight or hotels you need to confirm opening hours and dates on the official website.

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

Shopping at the Christmas Market
Top souvenirs and gifts from the market include:

German Christmas Market gifts: popular gifts from the German Christmas Markets: Smokers/Smoking men, Schwibbogen candle holders, nutcrackers (Santa Clause style!) Christmas pyramids
popular gifts from the German Christmas Markets: Top left: Smokers/Smoking men, top right: Schwibbogen (candle arches), bottom left: nutcrackers (Santa Clause style!) bottom right: Christmas pyramids

What to buy in Germany? Check out this list of the best German souvenirs!

Eating at the Christmas Markets
One of the best things to do at the markets is indulge in the tasty delights being served up to hungry marketgoers. Food stalls offer up an enormous variety of traditional food during this festive season. Smells like gingerbread (Lebkuchen), spiced nuts, and roasting meats permeate the winter air. Yes, definitely the best part of the experience!

New to German food? Tasty German foods you MUST try!

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

Germans do love their Wurst and this time of the year is no exception! Sizzling grills serve up all manner of delicious Wurst!

bratwurst German street food
bratwurst!

Christmas Market’s tradition: A wildly popular market pastime is collecting the market’s signature mugs.

Looking to add a little “spirit” to your hot chocolate?

To add a little extra “warmth” to your hot chocolate, ask them to add a little amaretto liquor or peppermint schnapps!

-Angie Marie
Glühwein Mug German Christmas Market souvenir
German Christmas Market souvenir: Glühwein Mug

Rothenburg specialties: Schnee Ball (snowball!)

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.

Schneeball / Schneeballen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany specialty food
Schneeballen, you’ll have no trouble finding them in Rothenburg

Since the market is small, you’ll be looking for other things to do in Rothenburg. You’re in luck because there are lots of fun things to do in Rothenburg!

Guided Tours

A great way to get your bearings in a new town is to let a local guide show you around.

  • Night Watchman’s Walking Tour: The Night Watchman will escort you through town with his lantern held high as he tells you all about medieval Rothenburg and its fascinating history. You’ll learn how the enchantment and charm of this little village literally saved it from destruction during World War II. The tour runs on a daily schedule.
  • Medieval Musical Walking Tour

Climb the Town Hall Tower

This activity will really warm you up! The best view of the market is the bird’s eye view from the town hall tower, which overlooks the market. Entry to the tower is through the city hall located right on the main square, there is a small fee to climb the 220 steps to the top. I had a massive case of Acrophobia once I got to the top!

Shop one of the largest Christmas Stores in the world

Did you know it’s Christmas year-round in Rothenburg? Rothenburg is home to the world famous Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store. The 16,000 sq. ft. store 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! Pop in and pursue the “made in Germany” section.

The Käthe Wohlfahrt Gift Express red Bus, Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The Käthe Wohlfahrt Gift Express Bus

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! Käthe Wohlfahrt also has several smaller shops scattered throughout town.

Christmas Museum

The upstairs of the Kathe Wohlfahrt Store is dedicated to the German Christmas Museum, which explores the history of Christmas. For an extra cost you can also tour the museum, which is worth visiting if you want to catch a bit of the Christmas spirit any time of year!

items on display at the Christmas Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany
Some of my favorite items on display at the Christmas Museum
Nutcrackers in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany
Nutcrackers around town! The giant nutcracker at the Käthe Wohlfahrt store goes by the name of Christian II. (bottom photo)

more museums

Rothenburg has several good museums. While everyone else is at the market during the winter months, you may just have them to yourself! (get my details on Rothenburg’s museums here)

  • Medieval Crime Museum: eerie displays, genuine medieval artifacts, torture instruments, witches, robbers, and even have a real Iron Maiden!
  • The Imperial City Museum: This former 13th century Dominican Convent is today the home of a fantastic medieval history museum.
  • The Historical Vault Museum: town history museum located in an authentic dungeon.

churches

  • St. Jakobskirche (St. James Church / St. Jakob’s Church). The chalice in the famous ornate wooden altar in this church is said to contain the blood of Christ.
  • 15th Century St. Wolfgang is my favorite! If it’s open, take a peek inside. (small charge)

get a massage

Have tired achy muscles? Travel can be exhausting. When in town we love to get a Thai massage at Wellness Massage by Somwang Merklein. Call for an appointment or book through Facebook Messenger.

day trip to Bad Windsheim

If you have a car, consider making a trip to Bad Windsheim, 26 km from Rothenburg. This little medieval town has a cute old town center and is WAY off the tourist track.

  • The tiny Christmas market in Bad Windsheim won’t blow you away, but it has all of the essential elements and is less crowded!
  • The Franconian Open-Air Museum (Fränkisches Freilandmuseum) consists of around 100 historic buildings from around the area that were moved to this site. If you happen to be in Bad Windsheim on a Sunday in December, there’s an advent market at the museum.
  • Franken-Therme Bad Windsheim is a great activity for a winter visit. Escape those crowded markets for the day and get warm and cozy! The thermal bath offers an array of spa services, saunas, and around 11 thermal swimming pools, including one with a laser light and sound show.

How to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Rothenburg

The famous Christmas Market, stores, and many restaurants will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, with a little preparation and planning this may be a great time to visit Rothenburg.

What to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas day

  • Attend a Christmas Eve church service at one of the 3 churches within the town walls.
  • Explore the fantastically crooked narrow streets and fabulous nooks and crannies, magically deserted on Christmas Day! The Rothenburg Imperial Castle is long gone. In its spot is the Castle Garden. Pass through the famous Burgtor (Castle Gate) to access the Castle Garden (Burggarten) with its scenic views over the town and the valley below.
decorated door at Christmas time in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
picturesque lanes are plastered with tasteful Christmas decorations
Markusturm tower Christmas tree Rothenburg Germany
Markusturm tower at Christmastime
  • In medieval times the entire town of Medieval Rothenburg was encircled by a wall that fortified the city against invasion. That wall still stands today! Wind your way along the wall for fantastic rooftop views! I love to walk the town wall, which is 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 the entire thing!
  • explore the idyllic trails and paths that wind their way through the countryside around town. Popular sights outside the wall include: Toppler Castle (Topplerschlösschen) and Detwang one of the oldest villages in Franconia- 968 AD.
Angie Kunze, We're Not in Kansas Anymore in Detwang Germany
We decided to walk to Detwang on our last visit.

Eating in Rothenburg on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

Are the restaurants open? Some may be open but be sure to call and confirm (reservations are best) because we don’t want you to go hungry at Christmas!

Have a picnic (indoor, outdoor, it’s up to you!)
Make your own feast and eat in! Hit the markets for shelf stable foods like roasted nuts, cured meats and sausages from Metzgerei Trumpp (located in the city centre), lebkuchen (gingerbread), breads and baked goods from the bakery, jams and jellies, (snag some butter from the breakfast buffet!) Aged and hard cheeses can be left out for a day or so. Grab a bottle of gluhwein from the markets, your favorite German beer or my personal favorite, Spezii or Fanta. Add some fresh oranges and grapes and you have a Christmas feast fit for King!

Grocery stores: Kaufland Rothenburg o.d.t. Grocery is just outside the city walls next to the train station. There’s a small grocery within the city walls (Obst + Gemüse Özdil), and there is a Lidl within walking distance.

Where to eat in Rothenburg

These are my favorite restaurants in Rothenburg:

  • Zur Hoell Restaurant (To Hell) dine in a 1,000-year-old building! Make a reservation, you don’t want to miss out on this one! (closed on Sunday so plan accordingly)
  • Altfrankische Weinstube is a cozy 650-year-old building that looks like it was built for gnomes. It’s a great place for a candlelit dinner! Reservations required. (closed on Tuesday so plan accordingly)
  • Ratsstube Cafe is located on the main town square and has very good food!
  • 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.!
  • Doner Kebabs! Looking for the best place to get a late-night snack? You can’t go wrong with a Doner! Tobingo Döner is located at Hafengasse 2, open lunch till late, closed Monday.
  • Brot & Zeit Bakery, my favorite bakery for breakfast has baked goods and tasty sandwiches!
Zur Hoell Restaurant Rothenburg Germany at Christmas time
Zur Hoell Restaurant

Where to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus

This is my favorite place to stay in Rothenburg. Just a 1-minute walk from the historic center of the city, it’s the perfect place to base yourself. Emperors and crown princes have stayed in this 700-year-old building that’s bursting with old world charm! Guest Rating: 9.2

Book it here on Booking.com!

Altfrankische Weinstube

The cozy 650-year-old-building, located in a quiet corner of town, looks like it was built for gnomes and rents rooms upstairs! Guest Rating: 9.1

Book it here on Booking.com!

Burghotel

Tucked back away from the crowds, this 12th century building has a great old-world atmosphere too! Guests love it for its spa services and views overlooking the Tauber Valley. Guest Rating: 9.3

Book it here on Booking.com!

Start booking ASAP: Important note on accommodation: Hotel rooms book up fast for this time of year. Consider locking in your accommodation as soon as you decide on your trip dates.

gothic hotel Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni rothenburg germany best place to stay first time in rothenburg
Gothic Hotel Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni

How to get to Rothenburg

Rothenburg is easy to get to by car but slightly more challenging by public transportation. If you are taking the bus or train just plan for more time to get there because IT IS WORTH IT!

Nearest airports (major cities) include:

  • Nuremberg (NUE) 83 km
  • Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) 180 km
  • Munich (MUC) 255 km
  • Stuttgart (STR) 150 km

For drivers

A road trip is the easiest way to get to Rothenburg. Be sure you navigate to RothenbUrg not RothenErg located in Hesse Germany is spelled with an “e” rather than a “u.” Head for the Tauber River, you don’t want to end in the wrong spot!

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, and especially during the market in Rothenburg.

parking in Rothenburg
There are 5 parking lots that surround the old town. Get more information about parking on Rothenburg Tourisum’s parking page. Free Parking: When staying overnight we park inside the walls at the Schrannenpl. 12 Parking Lot. It was free during the markets. GPS location: 49.37969980713348, 10.179304622974655

by train

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 suggest calling a taxi to take you to your hotel. Get information on European Train tickets at the Deutsche Bahn Website (DB trains) including cheap train tickets, ticket prices, schedules, advance tickets purchases, and more. Or use Rome2Rio to get train and bus routes.

Train Station address: Bahnhofstr. 12, Rothenburg O.D.T

Organized tours

Organized tours to Rothenburg include

Getting around in Rothenburg

The tourist area is small and easily walkable.

Rothenburg attractions map

map of popular attractions in Rothenburg, links to interactive Google map

Attractions Map Rothenburg ob der Tauber Germany

Top Travel Tips

Getting Money

You’ll want to have cash on hand since many of the vendors don’t accept cards. There’s an ATM (Geldautomat) around the corner in the building that houses the Ratstrinkstube Clock Tower, in the area of the Rothenburg Tourismus Service.

dinner reservations

Make dinner reservations days in advance if possible. This is an incredibly busy time of year. The markets are a great place to eat, for both lunch and dinner, but for sit-down meals you better have a reservation.

Crowd Control

The best time to experience fewer market crowds: closer to opening time. Nighttime is crowded but come back to see everything all lit up. Do your shopping first thing and then come back at night to see the lights, people watch, and revel in the merriment!

Pack light, stay warm tips

(what to pack for Germany in the winter season)

  • Layering is the key to keeping warm without the bulk and can seamlessly take you from indoors to outdoors and back again.
  • The warmest layers are fleece, wool, and down. I like fleece base layers like CuddlDuds for outdoor activities.
  • Fleece lined jeans, big thumbs up!
  • Lightweight insulated boots or shoes (bonus if they are waterproof too!)
  • Fleece neck gaiters, wear it as a scarf or pull it up over your face to keep it warm!
  • PACKABLE down, layer them over a light fleece jacket to stay toasty warm without the bulk.
  • Waterproof pants (comfortable!) less bulky than snow pants but waterproof and warm!.
  • Wool socks and wool glove liners (double the heat insulation!) and something to keep your head warm. I’m a big fan of hand warmers too.
  • Waterproof outer layers like rain ponchos or an umbrella in case of rain, you don’t want to get wet on cold days!

Love winter travel? Europe Bucket list, winter edition!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do I need for a Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas time trip?

You could easily see the market in just a few hours. However, Rothenburg is such a special little village that I recommend staying for 2 or 3 days. Give yourself enough time to slow down the pace, explore the fantastic nooks and crannies.

Need an itinerary or more information? “A complete guide to Rothenburg” or check out my “3-day Rothenburg itinerary

Plan to stay at least one night:
To say that Rothenburg is a popular destination with tourists is an understatement. Day trippers trample the famous cobblestone streets of Rothenburg. The best way to overcome the crowds is to stay the night. You’ll have the late evening hours and early morning hours to enjoy the town, sans crowds!

Where is the most Christmassy place in Germany?

Without a doubt, the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the most Christmassy town in Germany. Set against the backdrop of a too cute for words medieval village is the quaint Christmas market. The entire town is tastefully decorated with Christmas trees, fresh greenery, and twinkling lights. The world famous Käthe Wohlfahrt store and the Christmas Museum are open all year, so it’s Christmas year-round in Rothenburg!

What are the best places to visit in Germany this Christmas?

Germany’s medieval towns are the perfect places to visit this Christmas. The towns are draped in their Christmas finery and adorable half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets are postcard perfect at Christmas! Check out this list of the most beautiful medieval towns in Germany and start planning your trip now!

Medieval Christmas Market trip itinerary

Love Christmas AND medieval towns? You may be interested in this Medieval Christmas Markets in Germany itinerary. In addition to Rothenburg, it includes Nuremberg Christmas Market, one of the best Christmas markets in Germany, Regensburg, Bamberg, a magical forest trail with wooden carvings, Dinkelsbühl, and Bad Windsheim (just down the road from Rothenburg, open air museum and a thermal spa to warm you!)

Love a good holiday celebration? The best places to celebrate Easter in Europe!

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