Rothenburg ob der Tauber: Germany’s Charming Medieval Hamlet


Rothenburg, or more correctly Rothenburg ob der Tauber , is a picturesque Bavarian town that seems almost suspended in time. A centuries old city wall encapsulates charming medieval buildings that attract tourists and locals alike.

the-city-gate-and-a-typical-house-within-the-city-walls-1The city is very popular among tourists and thus is easily accessible via bus provided by various travel agencies. However, to avoid the masses of tourists, a day trip to Rothenburg is best during the morning or evening. In general, the city is most popular during the summer months. Try to visit in late April or early May for cooler weather and fewer crowds. The city can be accessed by train, as Rothenburg’s station is but a short walk from the city center. Be sure to buy tickets for Rothenburg ob der Tauber, as Germany has many towns named Rothenburg. Many visitors rent cars and drive to the city, cruising along the famous Romantic Road. Either way, Rothenburg is easily accessible and very pedestrian friendly.

The entire city can be seen in a day; walking from one end of town to the other takes but fifteen minutes. If you decide to spend a few days, try Hotel Eisenhut in the Town Hall Square, or Hotel Villa Mittermeier, situated near the city center, but away from the main tourist drag. Villa Mittermeier also boasts a great restaurant, featuring international fare with regional German influences.

schneeballen-display-1A speciality of the city is the Schneeballen (snowballs), a pastry made of fried dough and dusted with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. Many bakeries lure hungry visitors with their window displays of Schneeballen and other sweet treats.

The city has numerous historic sites worth exploring and many visitors begin in the Market Square. Guided tours in English are offered by the city tourism office for a nominal fee. They run approximately ninety minutes and meet in the Market Square at 2:00 p.m. One can also take a self-guided tour of the city walls, wandering along the cobblestone streets and occasionally ascending the steep staircases built into the wall.

near-st-jakobskirche-1St. Jakobskirche, on Klostergasse, is the most famous church in Rothenburg, most notably for its 15th Century wooden altar made by Würzburg sculptor, Tilman Riemenschneider. It is exquisitely carved and the earliest piece attributed to the artist. There is a small entrance fee and English tours are available at the church every Saturday at 3:00 p.m.

The city contains many museums of various focuses, from toys to torture. The Medieval Crime Museum, on Burggasse, is the most famous and proclaims itself the most important museum of German legal history. Much of the exhibition space devotes itself to displaying the various torture methods and means utilized by Germany, so it is best reserved for those who can stomach such subject matter. A more lighthearted destination is the Dolls and the-city-wall-1Toys Museum on Hofbronnengasse. The largest private collection of toys in the country is on display here, from doll houses to model trains. The Imperial City Museum, near St. Jakob’s, houses art and artifacts from Rothenburg’s past. All manner of items from the centuries old city can be seen here.

Shopping is a popular tourist attraction in Rothenburg, as well. Art, linens, toys, jewelry and souvenirs are all available here. Perhaps most famous is the Käthe Wohlfahrt, a shop selling only Christmas decorations throughout the year.

Christmas is a huge celebration in Rothenburg, as in many other Bavarian towns. Every year the city hosts the Reiterlesmarkt, a Christmas market that runs from late November through December 23rd. Artisans set up shop and sell Christmas related items; delicious foods are offered, mulled wine is the-town-hall-1sipped, and candlelight processions can be viewed.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a movie set kind of a town; perfectly preserving its medieval past while catering to 21st Century visitors. While in Bavaria, it is well worth taking a day-long detour to enjoy this hamlet while snacking on some Schneeballen and perhaps buying a few German trinkets.

Written by Morgen Young for

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  1. says

    We have just returned from at trip down the Rhine and Danube. This St. Jacob Church in Rothenburg was very fascinating to me. I have a picture that I took there that I can not identify. There was a rowing type wood sulptured boat at the side of several pews. The idea I think was bringing the black people to religious freedom. Do you recall seeing this? Thank you for sharing your wonderful collection.
    Barbara Erickson

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