Have you always wanted the chance to step back in time? Get a glimpse of life in a medieval town? Then this Rothenburg ob der Tauber guide might be just perfect for you. Brightly colored half-timbered houses, charming narrow streets, and numerous watchtowers adorning the skyline. A place that looks like it came straight from a postcard. You will find plenty of idyllic spots worth photographing when wandering around.
We decided to visit this romantic town on our way from Belgium to Germany, the perfect stop-over. As a big Instagram hotspot, we came across the name multiple times online. So we decided to check what all the fuss is about. All we can tell you: is it’s definitely worthy of the hype. Honestly, we are not sure yet what impressed us the most. Is it the gorgeous medieval architecture, the cute little lanes, or the breathtaking view over the city from the Burggarten? Overall we felt like on a real-life movie set of a fairytale.
In this Rothenburg ob der Tauber guide, we will take you on our tour through the town. This guide lists all the must-see sights and landmarks, as well as our personal recommendations for restaurants & cafés. You can definitely explore this place within one day, but we really suggest that you consider spending a night. The perfect moment to experience the place in all its serenity is during the early morning and the evening. The big hoards of tourists have left and a magical calmness falls over the city.
* Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. We will receive a small commission if you book through our links. This is at no extra cost to you. This way you’re helping us write awesome travel guides and keep providing you with free content. We only recommend products we like and trust ourselves.
The Ultimate 24 Hours in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Guide
The Medieval charm of Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
This tiny wall-encircled town is located in the southern part of Germany along the “Romantic Road”. It is a must-see destination when traveling to the country, so put it on your travel bucket list. Not surprisingly, the picturesque destination is a popular spot for road trippers. Bigger cities such as Munich and Frankfurt offer all kinds of organized day trips (read more further below).
The Bavarian hotspot is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Europe, although it suffered a lot in the past from war and natural disasters. The majority of the wall and its towers still look to date as they did back in the 16th century. Nowadays it’s a beloved tourist attraction and served as an inspiration for many fairytale movies and stories.
The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” literally means ”Red fortress above the Tauber”. This comes from the fact that the town lies above the river Tauber which flows beneath. When you intend to visit this lovely town, make sure to navigate to “ob der Tauber”. There is more than just 1 Rothenburg in Germany, so you won’t end up in the wrong place.
The charming old town itself is undoubtedly the main attraction itself. Take your time strolling through all the small streets and going up the city walls to best experience the place. Also, keep your eyes open for all the beautiful iron signs that hang on the sides of many buildings. These so-called Zunftzeichen or guild signs were used to symbolize the profession and purpose of a building. Nowadays these usually mark the name of hotels, but still, add to the medieval atmosphere of the town.
Sightseeings & activities guide Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
Rothenburg often goes by the name “City of towers”, which will become quite clear as soon as you approach the city. After we found our parking lot south of the city, just outside of the city walls (read more down below about how to get there), we started our journey.
The city is super easy to get around on foot, and you can easily see everything in one day. However, if you would like to enjoy everything at a slower pace, maybe sipping a nice Bavarian beer at the end of the day on one of the many cozy terraces, we suggest you book one of the many charming hotels within the Old town. This way you can explore medieval architecture during the evening and wander the empty cobbled streets by night.
TIP | Join the Night Watchman’s tour and experience Rothenburg ob der Tauber by night in a very special atmosphere. Highly recommended! Book your tickets HERE.
Spitalhof and Spitaltor
Your adventure in the Old town will probably start at one of the six gates. As an imperial city during Medieval times, the citizens were protected by 46 defensive towers and a four-kilometer-long wall. These you can still explore today and we really recommend planning it as a 2-hour activity. If you start your journey in the south, you will enter through the Spital gate bastion. This is the most recent part of the fortification and only was completed in 1537. Before passing through make sure to enter the bridge on the left side which leads you into the Spitalhof. Here you can wander through the halls that were once home to knights, keeping watch over the walls.
Walking down the former knight’s pit, you can proceed along the city walls until you pass by the Stöberleinsbühne and Stoeberlein Tower. Get back on the main road from here, which is called the Spitalgasse. This street will lead you to the famous Siebersturm, which looks picture-perfect on both sides. Once you pass through, you will find yourself in the most popular location in the town.
The Plönlein must be the most iconic landmark of all Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Known for this yellow half-timbered building in the center, in front of a small fountain. On each side, it’s framed by a stunning medieval watchtower. The road that goes down passes you through the Kobolzeller tower on your way to the Tauber River Valley. The other tower is the one we just passed, the most photographed Sieber tower. It leads you back to the Spital quarter or former infirmary quarter of the town.
Moving onwards on the Schmiedgasse, you will pass by several cute boutiques displaying all kinds of handicrafts and local specialties. Don’t forget to look up to see the colorful architecture and beautiful details of the houses.
Medieval crime museum
On your left, on the Schmiedgasse, you will pass the Medieval crime museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum). This museum covers over 1000 years of Medieval law history. The self-guided tour takes you over 3 floors in the former monastery building, starting in the basement. There you can find several original instruments of torture that were used to punish people. Punishment was given for all kinds of crimes, from stealing to cheating spouses. On the other floors, you can see what was persecuted in medieval times, such as witches and the use of magic.
OPENING HOURS & ONLINE BOOKING TICKETS FOR THE MEDIEVAL CRIME MUSEUM
Wander the Marktplatz and hike up the Rathaus tower
At the end of this street, you will end up at the heart of the town, the market square (Marktplatz). As you will notice, this is one of the most lively areas during the summer. The perfect spot to take a break is at one of the cafés. Here you will encounter many groups of tourists that are admiring the beautiful architectural details this square has to offer. The imposing 13th-century Town Hall (Rathaus) dominates the square. On the opposite side, you have the former Council Tavern (Ratstrinkstube). As the centerpiece, there is the Georgsbrunnen (fountain) that sticks out beautifully against the red and blue half-timbered houses.
TIP | For just 2,50 € you can visit the Town Hall’s tower. It gives you a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the old town after climbing up 222 steps. The tower played a significant role in the Middle Ages in the city’s defense strategies and communication with the other watchtowers.
TOWN HALL TOWER OPENING HOURS | January-March & November: only on Saturday & Sunday from noon till 3 pm. April-October Daily from 9:30 am-12:30 pm & 1-5 pm. During Christmas time daily from 10:30 am-2 pm & 2-6 pm (Friday & Saturday until 7 pm).
Enjoy the Christmas spirit at the German Christmas Museum
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s most beloved destinations to enjoy the Christmas markets. At the German Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum) you can even experience the traditions all year round. Here, you can learn more about local traditions and Germany’s Christmas history. Moving forward on the Herrngasse you will also pass by the Kathe Wohlfahrt Shop. The shop is easy to spot with its Christmas delivery truck, topped with a pile of gifts. The perfect stop for all Christmas lovers to stock up on new decorations and ornaments since it has the largest ornament collection in Germany.
LOCATION | Herrngasse 1, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Marvel at the St. Jakobskirche
Strolling a bit more north from the Town Hall you will pass the gothic St. James’s Church (St. Jakobskirche), one of Germany’s most famous pilgrimage churches. The historic landmark was completed in 1485 and showcases some beautiful religious pieces inside. Via a staircase, you can admire the famous Altarpiece of the Holy Blood, a wooden carving of the Last Supper.
In the east choir, you will find an impressive 700-year-old stained glass window. The glass piece depicts scenes from the Passion and the Life of Mary. It lets an amazing light in especially in the morning sun, creating a colorful hue. The outside of the church is characterized by two tall spires adorned with crockets. They really dominate the town’s skyline from everywhere you look. An imposing building, really worth a visit on the inside.
Walk the Old City Wall: Rothenburg’s Tower Trail
From the St. James Church, we proceeded our journey more north towards the Klingentor. Here we decided to go up on the wall to start the walking tour. There are many entry points around the city to start your City Wall walking tour. Access is possible throughout the whole day and it’s FREE. You can start at the main gates: Spitaltor, Klingentor, Galgentor, Rödertor, Burgtor, or Kobolzeller Tor. In total there are 42 gatehouses and towers, so you can spend quite some time being up here. We would suggest planning in approximately 2 hours since the full route is around four kilometers.
TIP | You can get an information brochure “Turmweg Rothenburg” of the tour at the tourist information office on the market square.
We decided to go up on the wall around sunset, the perfect time to enjoy a peaceful walking tour. The setting sun gave a beautiful golden-hour light over the pastel half-timbered houses. These walls are one of the best-preserved medieval walls all over Germany. Some parts even date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Other parts however were heavily damaged or destroyed during WW2 but have been rebuilt afterward. Walking here you will get a perfect bird’s eye view of the best parts of the cities.
Along the way, you will pass by other sights such as the adorable Blacksmith Shop (The Gerlachschmiede). One other worthwhile stop on the Tower Trail is at the Rödertor. The tower is located at the southeastern entrance of the old town and used to serve as a signaling post. Next to the town hall, it’s the only watchtower in Rothenburg ob der Tauber that you can climb up. (Admission fee is €1,50, only open on weekend afternoons).
We decided to end our Tower Walk near the Markusturm. In our opinion, one of the most photogenic towers in the city. The surroundings here are just absolutely stunning, mostly the view of the flower-filled Roeder Fountain. From here we took our time to wander through the cute little alleyways, which are just full of medieval charm. Pick up a souvenir in the many boutiques or take time to sit down on one of the many terraces.
Escape to the castle gardens
The Castle gardens (Burggarten) are the ideal place to take a breather from the heat and the tourist crowds. The garden is beautifully designed with flowerbeds and enough benches to relax in the shade. You will also stumble upon eight sandstone sculptures that represent the four seasons and the four elements. The garden gives you a wonderful view of the old town. When you look down you will also be able to see the Taubertal (Tauber Valley) with its double bridges. The perfect spot to watch the sunset!
“Fun” fact: unlike the name suggests, there is no castle to be found next to the castle garden anymore. The castle was destroyed during an earthquake in the 14th century. Don’t forget to look up to the Burg Tor (Burg Gate) when leaving the castle gardens. There you will see a big mask on the side which was used to pour hot tar onto attackers. Inside the gate is a small door, known as the ‘Eye of the Needle’. This was the only way people were allowed to leave at night with permission from the Town Council.
Discover Rothenburg by night with the Night Watchman’s Tour
For a true medieval experience, join the Night Watchman’s night tour and travel back in time. During this one-hour tour, a costumed guide with a black cape and lantern will take you on a stroll through the town while telling you old tales about Medieval life. During medieval times 6 Night Watchmen were patrolling while everyone was asleep. They kept an eye on danger, making sure everyone was safe and protected the city from fire. Only for this tour, it’s already worth staying overnight for a day.
TICKETS | Available in the tourist office at Market Square or you can book tickets online for the Night Watchman’s night tour HERE.
Regional specialties & handicrafts shopping guide Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber
We personally always love to discover local handicrafts and try out regional specialties. Rothenburg is full of cute little shops, so don’t expect to be leaving home empty-handed. You will always be able to find some kind of souvenir for each family member.
Christmas ornaments & lighthouses
The town is the ultimate Christmas destination, so perfect if you want to stock up on new Christmas decorations. Make sure to stop by Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas store for new tree ornaments and decorations. Other beautiful Christmas pieces are available at Leyk Lichthäuser, a small family business that makes handmade ceramic lighthouses. Leyk has been a manufacturer in Rothenburg for centuries. Other typical souvenirs to take include wooden art carvings, wine glasses, and beer steins. We are in Bavaria after all ;).
Schneeballn & traditional candy
More on the hunt for something edible? All over town, you will bump into these bakeries selling Schneeballn or Snowballs, a Rothenburg pastry specialty. It’s a round-shaped deep-fried doughy ball dipped in frosting, chocolate, or sugar (up to you). We always advise you to try things for yourself, but this one wasn’t really one of our favorites. The flavor mostly comes from the outside topping and the inside is rather dry and flavorless. Originally the Schneeball came into existence because bakeries didn’t want to throw away left-over dough. So they decided to put these together as a dessert snack.
When you are a true sweet tooth, we can recommend stopping by the Bonbonmanufaktur. This is a traditional candy factory that still handmakes its candies according to old traditions. Delicious & colorful, without unnecessary additives!
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Guide | Where to eat?
There is definitely no shortage of cozy restaurants in Rothenburg ob der Tauber which made it hard to pick one during our stay. So we tried to shorten the options with our recommendations below, depending on what you are searching for.
Cozy coffee breaks
Enjoy a breakfast or coffee break at Cafe Einzigartig, a vintage-looking café filled with arts and antiques. A lot of the pieces are even available for purchase. This place serves a range of both delicious and healthy options, as well as desserts. Although it’s located in a more peaceful part of town, it’s a beloved spot among visitors. So make sure to reserve a table up front.
For a break during all the exploring, make a stop at Landsknechtstubchen. We had the best flammkuchen paired with an amazing riesling wine here. Another cozy option for some refreshment is the Weinstube Zum Pulverer, which you can find on your way to the Burg Garten. Perfect spot to enjoy a cold drink on a hot summer day. Visiting on colder days? The inside has that perfect authentic German charm to it. Here you can savor a good traditional meal on those old-school wooden tables. Like everywhere in Bavaria, the portions are quite large, so really no need for appetizers if you still fancy a dessert.
Franconian cuisine for dinner
For dinner, there are plenty of traditional Franconian Bavarian places to find in the old town of Rothenburg. Franconian cuisine is mostly known for warm-hearted dishes. Think of goulash, bratwurst, or steak with a side of homemade knödels or Käsespätzle. We had some super delicious dishes at the Alter Keller. If you are looking for that typical Bavarian food, then this is the place for you. Another place in the same style that we read good reviews about is Zur Hoell. Looking for a more international option? Am Platzl has a more modern take on traditional food and offers a menu with Italian & Asian-inspired dishes.
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Guide | Where to stay?
Most of the sights are right within the old town’s walls, alongside many of the hotels. Whenever would you have the opportunity again to stay overnight in a medieval town? We booked our stay at Hotel Uhl, located right between the Siebersturm and the Plönlein. A magnificent view to wake up to, straight out of a fairytale. Spending the night in one of those typical old houses was an amazing experience. Although the hotel is in one of those old charming buildings, the room was very spacious. Breakfast was absolutely excellent at Hotel Uhl. They served a wide range of plates at the table with the possibility to order eggs & coffee to your liking.
SPEND A NIGHT | See all hotels on booking.com and spend the night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Next to Hotel Uhl, we were also looking into Klosterstüble, which is located in the heart of the old town. This romantic hotel is located in a historic building with traditionally furnished rooms and typical wooden beams. Another one that we saw recommended a lot was Hotel Eisenhut, with its authentic old charm. This one is located right by the Marktplatz near the Christmas Museum. For a true gothic-style experience, you have to be at Historik Hotel Gotisches Haus Garni. The interior in this place takes you truly back to medieval times.
In case you want to fancy things up, a little further up on the street towards the Burg Garten you can find Hotel Herrnschloesschen. The hotel is surrounded by a beautiful baroque garden and is located in one of Rothenburg’s oldest buildings right across from the monastery. If you are more into modern decor, Villa Mittermeier in the newer part of town is set within a charming villa directly at the Galgentor.
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber Guide | How to get there?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber must be the top sight on Germany’s Romantic road tour and is fairly easy to reach from the bigger surrounding cities. Transportation to the medieval town is possible by (rental) car, public transportation (bus and train) as well as day-trip bus tours coming from Munich (München) and Frankfurt am Main.
When you’re exploring Germany by (rental) car, it will take you around 2,5 hours on the highway coming from Munich city. Nuremberg is closer, with 1 hour away, and Frankfurt is around 2 hours by car. You will find 5 parking lots outside the city walls, each located close to one of the entrance towers. We parked at parking lot P1 Friedrich-Hörner-Weg, located south of the city, where a day ticket only costs €5,50. Parking is free from 6 pm until 9 pm if you would decide to spend the night.
The other option might be taking the train, however, it’s a little less convenient since the journey will take more time (up to 3 hours from Frankfurt, 2,5 hours from Munich, and 1,5 hours from Nuremberg) and you might have to change trains twice. The prices of train tickets start at €17,90 one-way for a standard class ticket, if you book in advance. Bear in mind that booking on the same day can get more expensive since prices can vary depending on the time, route, and class. Once you arrive at Rothenburg ob der Tauber, It’s only a 10-minute walk from the train station to the old town center.
TAKE THE TRAIN | Book your ticket for Rothenburg ob der Tauber online
Day trip tours
You can also opt to join an organized tour if you would like to do a day trip from a surrounding city. There are often several kinds available from Munich or Frankfurt. You can for example find a whole day trip from Munich here, where they will take you along the Romantic Road and the most historic sights. This particular tour also makes a stop at Harburg Castle, one of the oldest fortifications in Germany dating back to the 11th century.
DAY TRIPS | Find more tours for Rothenburg ob der Tauber online HERE
We hope this Rothenburg ob der Tauber Guide helped you out. You can show some ❤ and support for the blog and help us share more adventures! Our travels are entirely self-funded, so any show of support is greatly appreciated. It allows us to keep writing helpful travel guides and gather information to make it easier for people to discover the world.
No time to read now? Pin it to Pinterest for later!