Located on Germany's 'Romantic Road', Rothenburg is located between Frankfurt and Munich. The 'Romantic Road' was once a thriving trade route through Europe. Today its name refers to the many picturesque villages and Medieval towns found along its length. Rothenburg is considered the best preserved Medieval town in all of Germany.
In the Middle Ages, Rothenburg was Germany's second largest town with a population of 6000. The town's castle was built on a site overlooking the Tauber River in 1142, and the town began to grow around it. The castle was destroyed in 1356 and was never rebuilt. Today you see half-timbered buildings from the1400s, clustered around an open town square lined with typical German shops.
Rothenburg makes a fine day trip from Frankfurt or other larger towns in the area. With its popularity come hoards of day tripping tourists. We recommend that you arrive in the afternoon as the tour buses are pulling away, and plan to stay the night. You will have enjoy the town with only a handful in the evening. Wake early in the morning for a walk along the Medieval town wall before the buses arrive again. Plan to leave before lunch so that Rothenburg remains romantic and peaceful in your memory.
If you are on a leisurely trip, consider spending two nights here. Spend the day out of town, either hiking the lovely countryside or visiting other towns along the Romantic Road. You can see our recommended hotels in Rothenburg by following the link to the right.
Rothenburg is also famous as a stop on any Christmas Market tour, During early December the town square is transformed into an outdoor Christmas Bazaar.
Top Sights in Rothenburg
The town square is the main focal point with most of the town's attractions nearby. From here you can join a one hour English walking tour each day at 2:00 PM, or at 8:00 PM join the 'Night Watchman's Tour'. Horse and buggy rides start and end here. In the morning you will often find a fruit and vegetable market occupying the square. St. George's Fountain is found in the square. This 17th century fountain is one of many in town. The metal gutters were used to pour water into the town people's buckets.
The crumbled foundations of the castle built in 1142 now enclose a lovely garden. This is an excellent place for walking and relaxing. From here you can hike to the small valley below and visit the tiny castle that once belonged to the famous Mayor Toppler. You'll stroll along the river as you return to town.
Crime and Punishment Museum
This museum is full of gruesome Medieval torture devices and interesting old legal items. The exhibits have English explanations. With the size of the museum you could spend a half day here, but a quick one hour walk through is fun.
German Christmas Museum
This museum is located just inside the entrance to the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store. There is over 2,700 square feet of exhibits featuring decorated Christmas trees and ornaments which detail the history of Christmas linking our current traditions to our ancestors. This is well worth the visit anytime of the year! Learn more about Christmas in Germany.
A highlight of Rothenburg is its Medieval Wall. You can walk along the top of it for about one mile. This walk takes about an hour and offers excellent views of the town and its countryside. We recommend this walk before breakfast or at sunset. Along your walk you will encounter some of the town's original towers. The Rödertor is worth the climb for its views, and a quick history lesson about the bombing of Rothenburg in the final weeks of World War II.
In the town square, you can catch a reenactment of a famous town legend. In 1631 the town's Mayor Nusch saved the town from its attackers. He pledged and ultimately drank 3 liters of wine in one drink in exchange for peace. This mini reenactment takes place by puppets in a window near the town clock.
Night Watchman's Tour
Each Medieval town had a night watchman to guard the town while its citizens slept, Rothenburg still has one. You can join the night watchman on a one hour English tour as he tells some of the history of Rothenburg and the duties of a night watchman as well as some dinning and shopping tips. Great fun for kids and adults! The tour meets in the town square at 8:00 PM and lasts a little more than one hour.
St. Jakob's Church
On the upper floor of the church is Rothenburg's most important artistic attraction, and probably the best wood carving in Germany. The Altar of the Holy Blood was carved by Tilman Riemenschneider over 500 years ago and stands 30 feet high.
Town Hall (Rathaus) Tower
You can climb the 214 steps of the tower for the best views of the town and the surrounding countryside. This will take your breath away, if not from the view, then from the climb!
A showcase of toys throughout the centuries.
Shopping in Rothenburg
Your visit to Rothenburg won't be complete without doing some shopping. This town offers some of the best souvenirs you will find in Germany. You may consider getting all of your souvenirs here and mailing them home.
Most famous is the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store, with five locations in town. As you enter these shops you are entering a winter wonderland Christmas bazaar. We invite you to have a look at her web site, www.wohlfahrt.com.
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