Planning a trip to Germany? If so, is Rothenburg ob der Tauber on your list of places to go? If not, then allow me to introduce you to this beautiful, charming, and historic town that I guarantee you will fall in love with and will become one of your favorite stops on your trip!
When I visit Europe, I like to try to hit as many places as I can, while giving each place enough time to fully experience it. Sometimes I don’t quite estimate my time correctly - some places I could’ve shaved a day or two off the schedule and then there are those I wished I had planned an extra day or two!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of those places…while I’ve only been there once, it made quite the impression and I fully intend to go back there and spend more time!
A Little History
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the many towns along Germany’s famed Romantic Road.
This little town’s history dates back to the medieval ages. The walls that surround the town date back to when it was a fortified city in the 12th-13th centuries. You can walk the entire perimeter of Rothenburg on top of these walls for a unique perspective on the city and I highly recommend walking at least part of it, if not all of it. (Just watch your head…I think people were MUCH shorter back then!).
When you first arrive and step through the main gates, it’s like stepping back in time (or on a movie set!). It’s hard not to gasp! The buildings from centuries ago are still intact, the streets are cobblestoned, and the alley ways will lead you to little paths that connect you to different aspects of the town.
And…if you feel like it looks a tad familiar, well, it just might be because this was the inspiration for the town seen in Pinocchio and from my research, apparently some of the scenes for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows were filmed here (must dig into this more!!).
While most of the buildings seem to now be shops, there is still plenty to see and experience here.
Things to See & Do
While this town isn’t a sprawling, huge metropolis, there’s still plenty to do! Just walking around and exploring should top your list because that is the best way to take in the sites and experience the feel of this place.
While you can easily make your way around in one day, I’d recommend staying at least one night so you don’t have to rush it.
Climb the Clock Tower
For only 2 Euros, you can climb to the top of the clock tower in the Town Hall. This will afford you some amazing views of the entire city. Just be aware, the landing at the top of the tower is very narrow (like only wide enough for 1 person). I don’t like heights, but this actually didn’t bother me too much. However, if you're claustrophobic, you might have some reservations!
As with most European cities, the Town Square is the center of activity. When we were visiting, not much was happening here, but this is where you’ll find town functions, social activities, and meeting points. Along the edges of the square are the Town Hall and other main buildings (including some cute cafes which would make for a lovely stop for lunch!).
The only ways into this town is to pass through one of the various gates. Each has their own characteristics, but as you pass by one on your explorations, take a moment to check it out - both inside and outside!
"Little" Square: This spot is one of the most recognized locations within Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This also makes it one of the most crowded, so don’t hold out hope of getting a photograph here without hoards of people in your shot! It’s cute and definitely worth the Kodak moment.
Night Watchmen Tour
While we didn’t get to do the Night Watchmen tour because we had to head back to Munich, I would’ve loved to have taken this tour and it’s on my list of definites for my next visit.
Medieval Crime Museum
The Medieval Crime Museum is also one we didn’t quite make…we got there after the last tour had started, so be sure to check those tour times beforehand! I don’t know why this appealed to me, but I really wanted to check this out! Definitely next time!
Places to Shop
There are numerous shops in Rothenburg so I can't list them all. If you want to take home some unique souvenirs (that don’t scream ‘souvenir’) then be sure to add in time to do some shopping and explore the various options. I’ve listed my three favorites, though, so if you are pressed for time, be sure to include these on your list!
The Christmas Shops
If you are into shopping, then definitely check out the Christmas shops. There are several big ones that are owned by the same company, but they each have different items inside.
Even if you have no desire to buy anything Christmas-y, just pop in for a few minutes to check out the displays…it’s like the North Pole! If you do, however, get tempted and decide to shop, a good thing to know is that they will ship it home for you which is much easier than having to cram it in your suitcase at the end of your trip!
We first read about this little shop in Rick Steve’s travel book (and if you show them the book, they’ll give you a discount!).
This shop was wonderful! The owners were very friendly and we spent a good 15-20 minutes chatting with them. Their prices can’t be beat. My friend had been looking for an authentic German beer stein, which doesn’t come cheap. They had a wonderful selection at much more reasonable prices! I picked up several gifts for family and friends in this little shop.
While I couldn't find a specific website for the shop, I did find reviews for it on Trip Advisor (just in case you don't believe me that it's awesome!).
I happen to love teddy bears…yes, I’ll admit it! Whenever I travel, I try to keep my eyes peeled for nice teddy bears from unique locations, so when I spotted Teddy Land, I couldn’t sprint across the courtyard fast enough!!
If you like teddy bears even a smidge, take a few minutes to stroll through here (and I challenge you not to leave without buying one!).
What to Eat
Most of the food options are typical German fare - bratwurst, sausage, etc. Since we didn’t want to waste our limited time in a restaurant and the food looked typical to what we were enjoying in Munich, we opted for some quick bratwurst ‘hot dogs’ from a grab and go place (they were excellent!).
But, Rothenburg ob der Tauber does have one culinary claim to fame! Meet the Schneeballens...
These little pastry balls are visible all over the city and after we kept seeing them, we finally decided to give them a try. They come in different flavors, so I tried chocolate (of course) and my friend had lemon. They were YUMMY!
Be sure to get yourself some Schneeballens while visiting here to complete your Rothenburg experience!
How to Get Here
From Munich, it takes about 3 hours to get here and requires a few train changes, but everything is timed so perfectly and the stations are small enough, that you literally get off one train, walk 10 feet across the platform to the other side and board the next train that arrives a few minutes later, so it's really easy!
Once in Rothenburg, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station to the town center.
From my understanding, it’s about the same distance from Frankfurt, but I’m not sure on the number of train transfers, not that I would really worry about those since it's so straightforward.
Another option is to rent a car and take in the Romantic Road!
I probably wouldn’t recommend an organized day tour for this (it’s included on a lot of the day tours for the Romantic Road).
Believe, you’ll want more time here than you’ll be allowed on a day tour, so just go ahead and plan to do this trip on your schedule.
I seriously could've just walked around this town for days. I would’ve loved more time to explore some more of the sites and take that night tour. We didn’t get a chance to sit at a cafe and enjoy a leisurely meal taking in the scenery, so that would’ve been nice. I also would’ve LOVED to see what a hotel here is like. Finally, seeing this at Christmas time would be magical. Between the decorations and lights, there would also be the Christmas market to enjoy, right in the town square!
Our visit to this town was part of a 2 week trip to Europe, which I will be sharing more location specific tips in the coming weeks and months, so be on the lookout!
Alright friends…what do you think? Does this look like your kind of place? And…what is YOUR all time favorite place that you’ve visited? I’d love to hear your comments, so leave me one and let’s chat it out!