Insider Guide to Fairytale Rothenburg, Germany (Things to Do & Advice)

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Located along Bavaria’s beautiful Romantic Road, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most charming German villages you could choose to visit.

This is ‘romantic’ Germany at its best; the town appears to have been taken right out of a fairytale. 

Medieval walls surround Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and historic houses, marketplaces, churches, and shops all seem to be stuck in time.

It’s one of the best-preserved medieval-era towns in Germany, and it’s a spectacular place to explore.

To inspire your Bavarian getaway, here’s our guide to visiting Rothenburg, Germany. 

Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Germany (Travel Guide)

Insider Guide to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

A brief history of a Fairytale Village

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany in soft evening light

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany, is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Bavaria.

The town can trace its origins back to at least 1070 AD when the Counts of Rothenburg decided to construct Rothenburg Castle on the hill where it still stands today. There was probably a village much earlier than this, though.

The town grew through the medieval period and became an Imperial City. Much of the architecture you see today comes from the 15th or 16th centuries.

After this though, a series of wars and plagues meant that Rothenburg ob der Tauber went into decline. Few new buildings were raised, which is why it kept that medieval look that tourists love today. 

Where is Rothenburg ob der Tauber?

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located within the southern German state of Bavaria, and the town is fairly close to four major German cities.

Nuremberg, Munich, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt are all within a two or three-hour drive. 

Rothenburg is right in the heart of the Bavarian countryside, and the town is one of the top stops along the Romantic Road.

This beautiful touring or driving route starts in Wurzburg to the north of Rothenburg and finishes in Fussen, to the south.

How to Get to Rothenburg, Germany

Garden gate, Rothenburg, Germany

The closest airport is Nuremberg, but there are many more international connections in Frankfurt or Munich.

The town itself isn’t particularly well-served by public transport, but you can take high-speed trains from these major German cities to the towns of Ansbach or Wurzburg, from where you can switch to regional trains.

If you include Rothenburg ob der Tauber as part of a Romantic Road itinerary, you might want to consider either joining an organized tour or hiring a car.

If you only have limited time, this is the best way to see as much of the Bavarian countryside as possible, rather than waiting all day for the slow trains between towns.

We’ve visited twice and both times by car.

Best Ways to See Rothenburg

Lina Stock in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Once you’ve made it to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, you’ll find that the town is small enough to be seen on foot.

A walking tour is a great way to see all the best sights, and you shouldn’t need more than one or two days to visit all the best locations (it’s a small place!).

If you want to explore a little of the surrounding countryside, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the perfect place for cycling. There are cycle roads leading out of the town, and it’s a great way to get around in summer. 

Best Time to Visit

Streets in Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber can be visited all through the year, but it can be a very different experience depending on the season

The most popular times to visit are summer or Christmas. In summer, the weather is beautiful in Bavaria. The countryside is perfect for hiking, or you can just sit out with a few cold German beers in the sun.

Over Christmas, there are plenty of Christmas markets – here and in the surrounding cities – that draw in the crowds.

Of course, if it snows, Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks like a scene cut straight out of a Disney movie,

In Fall, the crowds start to thin out, but the town still looks glorious in shades of brown, red, gold, and yellow – it’s a photographer’s dream.

Things aren’t so busy in spring, but as the sun starts to appear after winter, the town looks fantastic too.

Best Places to Stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

There’s a lot of great little places to say in Rothenburg. Most operate like AirBNB’s and small bed & breakfasts. All are charming and are what every traveler imagines when they think of small-town Germany.

The village is divided into two main areas the inner wall and the outer wall. We have visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber two times now and our first time we stayed just outside the main city wall and the other time we stayed right in the Old City.

Being inside the wall allows you to be just a short walk from all of the popular sites, at times it can be busy and difficult to access if you have a car.

We loved it because once those tourist busses left we had the place to ourselves.

Places We’ve Stayed

Hotel Uhl Rothenburg, Germany
View from our room at the Hotel Uhl

Being located within the city walls was truly magical. Hotel Uhl is located right next to Das Plönlein one of the most photographed buildings in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

We stayed here while we enjoyed the Christmas markets in Rothenburg.

The Hotel Uhl has 10 rooms. We loved their large comfortable rooms with operating coffee shop bakery right below.

The in-house restaurant allowed us to have breakfast, this saved us time from having to roam the streets to see who serves breakfast or not.

They had a great parking garage that was located just down a side street where we parked our rental car. Being based right within the city walls we explore the city at all times.

The hotel Villa Mittermeier Hotellerie is located just a short 10-minute walk from Old Town. We stayed here when we visited the first time in the summer. It was easy to find and offered on-site parking for our rental car.

Being located just outside the city walls was nice since it was quieter.

Top 10 Things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

There are some great things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but the town’s real beauty lies in its architecture and Germanic history.

Take the time to stroll through the narrow streets and delve into the local shops, cafes, and of course, beer houses!

1. Visit the Marktplatz

Marktplatz in Rothenburg Germany

The Marktplatz – or the Market Square – is the center of life in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This square is the historic center of the town and has been a meeting point and market place for centuries.

You can find many beautiful medieval buildings surrounding the square; it’s a good place to start your exploration of the rest of the town (the tourist information office is here too!)

Our top recommended tour: Rothenburg ob der Tauber Private Walking Tour

2. Photograph the Plönlein

Plonlein in Rothenburg, Germany
Plönlein in summer ( I waited 2 hours for this photo without people)

If there was ever a photo that is worth waiting for, it’s this one. No other place in Germany is photographed more than this very spot.

The fork in the road on Untere Schmiedgasse has become the defining image of this fairytale village and with good reason. You won’t find another place like it.

The street that views the Plönlein is split into upper and lower lanes that lead to the two 13th century gates of Siebersturm and Kobolsellerturm.

Anchoring the shot is a bright yellow medieval timbered house that showcases a pointed gable and small yard in front with a fountain.

Getting a nice shot here can be a challenge, as crowds of people flock to this spot durng the day.

If you have your heart set on a great photo, you’ll need to plan an overnight in the village and then wait for the day trip buses to leave for the day.

3. Try a Schneeball

David Stock eating a Schneeball
David eating a Schneeball in Rothenburg!

If you’re into indulgent delights, then you cannot leave Rothenburg without trying a Schneeball or Schneeballen.

This unique and tasty treat is made from Butter, Cream, Eggs, Flour, Plum schnaps, shortcrust pastry and sugar that is deep-fried. Once cooled, they are traditionally topped with confectioner’s sugar.

If you’re a bit more adventurous, you can also find them coated in cinnamon sugar, chocolate, a variety of drizzles and even injected with things like peanut butter!

They are huge and pack the calories, so we would suggest sharing one with your traveling companions.

4. Find the House of Slitherin

Gerlachschmiede House in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

The Gerlachschmiede has become widely known as ‘The House of Slitherin’ due to its snake donned coat of arms located above the door, the Gerlachschmiede is actually an old forge that was built in 1469.

During the 1945 bombing raid as part of WWII, the original building was sadly lost. It was rebuilt in 1948 and was continued to be used as a forge until 1967.

You can view this building from both the street level and from above on the town wall.

5. Walk the Town Walls

Lina Stock walking the walls in Rothenburg, Germany

The town walls are one of the highlights of a trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber because these extensive walls are some of the best-preserved in Germany.

The medieval-era constructions were raised in the 14th century and have stood mostly unchanged ever since. 

They were partially damaged during World War II when the town was bombed by the Allies, but they were repaired afterward.

You can climb the stone steps and staircases leading to the top of the walls, in many cases, where you’ll have fantastic views over the city. 

The entire length of the town walls runs for around two miles, including towers, gates, and fortifications. 

6. Take a walking tour of the Aldstadt

Lina Stock in Rothenburg od der Tauber, Germany

The medieval walls were built to encircle the town, which is today mostly known as the Aldstadt – or Old City.

It’s here that you’ll find the best-preserved medieval buildings, and those charming cobbled streets you see in the photographs!

One of the best ways to see the Aldstadt is to join a walking tour; there are plenty in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Led by a local guide, you’ll gain a much deeper insight into the town’s unique history than you otherwise would. 

There are two main walking tours offered in the village. First is a walking tour offered by the tourism office, which leaves from the office in the market square.

Second is the more interesting Nightwatchman tour, which will take you through the town after dark, for a more somber glimpse into Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s history. 

Top recommended tour: Medieval Musical Tour of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

7. Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum

Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum Germany

While Rothenburg ob der Tauber is heavily romanticized for its fairytale, medieval architecture, the reality is that the medieval era was not quite so pleasant!

Take a tour of the Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum to learn more about the gruesome – and usually short – lives of the average medieval Bavarian citizen.

8. Imperial City Museum

Imperial City Museum in Rothenburg, Germany

For a less gruesome but equally fascinating look at Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s history, a visit to the Imperial City Museum is a must.

For much of its history, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was known as an Imperial City.

This meant it was part of the wider Holy Roman Empire, which would eventually evolve into the modern country of Germany as we know it today. 

You can learn all about the town’s founding and history through the different ages. 

9. Climb the Town Hall Tower

For outstanding views over the town, head to one of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s major landmarks – the Rathaus, or Town Hall.

The Town Hall dates back to the 16th century and is one of the masterpieces of the golden era of the town’s medieval architecture. 

The tall tower that was built and still stands today can be climbed by visitors for a modest fee.

At the top, you’ll have incredible views over Rothenburg ob der Tauber, making this the number one vantage point in the Aldstadt for anyone looking for a birds-eye view!

10. Visit the Historical Christmas Market

Rothenburg Christmas Market

From late November through to December, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is turned into a Bavarian Christmas wonderland.

The medieval town comes alive with the sound of carol singing, and the aromas of gingerbread and sizzling bratwursts as locals and tourists celebrate the festive season.

This is a small Christmas market by Bavarian standards, but it’s packed full of local flavor and local goodies!

If you are exploring Rothenburg ob der Tauber at this time of the year you must go on a private Christmas market tour.

Our top recommended Christmas market tours:

From Rothenburg – Complete the Romantic Road

After exploring Rothenburg ob der Tauber, you can visit many more places along the Romantic Road. You could use the town as a base if you love it, or you can move from one place to the next.

The Romantic Road is characterized by its medieval towns, Bavarian cities and fairytale castles. This is quintessential, small-town Bavaria, and it’s beautiful!

To the north, where the route starts, you can visit Wurzburg and the epic Marienburg Castle. To the south lie many more medieval sights, but the highlight will always be the Disney-esque Neuschwanstein castle.

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About Lina Stock

Lina is an award-winning photographer and writer that has been exploring the world since 2001. She has traveled to 100 countries on all 7 continents. Member: SATW, NATJA, ATTA, ITWA

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