Why You Need to Stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Why You Need to Stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

As one of Europe’s best preserved medieval cities, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a must add to any Bavarian itinerary.  From its narrow cobblestone lanes, half-timbered houses, an intact medieval city wall, and a tour through town with a nightwatchman, it is a German fantasy town to visit.  Read on to learn why you need to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber to have the best experience!

History of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The name Rothenburg ob der Tauber translates to red city above the Tauber River.  First mentioned in the 900s, Rothenburg thrived throughout the middle ages until WWII.  The town remained largely spared from attacks due to its location perched high on a cliff with a fortified wall encircling the town.  Invaders couldn’t reach via the cliff due to its steep grade.  The only other option was to climb up through the vineyards terraced just below the city wall.  However, no one wanted to ruin the crops that would be turned into wine!  The city wall also provided a fantastic lookout to ward off intruders.

During WWII, Americans had planned an attack against Rothenburg due to Nazi troops hiding out behind its walls.  However, an American official, John McCloy saved Rothenburg from potential destruction.  McCloy’s mother had a painting of Rothenburg up in his childhood home as she was very fond of the town.  He remembered Rothenburg’s historical significance and architectural beauty from the painting and tales of his mother’s visits.  So, he negotiated the Nazis surrender without using artillery force.  Because of this, Rothenburg once again remained unscathed.  Today, we get to walk through this amazing town of living history with original buildings and churches dating back to pre-medieval times!  

When we went

June 2024.  The weather was lovely for exploring, with temperatures in the low 60s in the evening, getting up to low 70s during the day.  

Where we stayed

Hotel Reichskuchenmeister on Kirchplatz.  The hotel was just down the street from the famous Plönlein, a very picture perfect part of the town.

Our hotel, Hotel Reichskuchenmeister

The location was fantastic, rooms comfortable, and daily breakfast included. 

The restaurant at Hotel Reichskuchenmeister where the breakfast is held

The hotel also has an outdoor biergarten which we enjoyed in the evening.

WHAT THIS ITINERARY INCLUDES:

  • Nightwatchman Tour
  • Walking the medieval city wall
  • Best photo times for Plönlein
  • Kriminalmuseum
  • Nearby hikes

As you arrive into Rothenburg you are transported back in time to medieval Germany.  Driving though the tower in the city wall takes you back to village life hundreds of years ago.  

One of the entry points through the city wall into Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Cobblestone lanes run through the colorful town beckoning to be explored.  Everywhere you turn you are met with the most charming half-timbered buildings.  Shops draw you in with their handcrafted wares and bakeries lure you with promises of delectable treats.

One of the many lovely streets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Before you set out to explore, you need to check in to your hotel.  To have the best experience in Rothenburg you need to stay overnight!   Why?  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a popular day trip spot from nearby cities, with large groups of tourists coming in daily.  After they leave for the day, you seemingly have the town to yourself!  Exploring the quiet town in the evening with just a few other people around is magical.  And after breakfast in the morning you can get great photos around town, especially of famous Plönlein, before hordes of people surround it for the rest of the day.  Lastly, you are supporting local businesses in Rothenburg by staying here.  

We arrived in Rothenburg in the early afternoon, just in time to check in to the hotel, park our vehicle, and set out to explore. 

In the early evening, we had a dining reservation at Alter Keller, which I had called to set up a few days out.  When we arrived, the Stammtisch sign was on our table – which means reserved!  We had a very cozy meal inside this very traditional restaurant.

A great dinner at Alter Keller

We roamed town a bit, taking photos and doing a little bit of souvenir shopping. 

Rothenburg is a great place for wandering…and souvenir shopping!

After a bit of exploring it was time to meet at the market square in front of the town hall for a very special tour!

The market square in front of the town hall

The Nightwatchman Tour is lead by a guide portraying a medieval nightwatchman.  He is dressed in nightwatchman garb:  a long black cloak, black tricorn hat, and carrying a Hellebarde, a long axe-type of weapon.  The nightwatchman also carries a lantern lit by candle light as they did back in the middle ages.  What a great get up for an evening tour through town!

The nightwatchman

Once the church bells chime eight times, as the nightwatchman listens to each chime, the tour begins.  We followed him around town as he would stop periodically and share a bit about the history of Rothenburg as well as the job of the nightwatchman. 

Touring around town with the nightwatchman

Apparently, the nightwatchman was low on the scale of desired jobs and was paid poorly.  The job entailed staying awake all night, roaming the town, and heeding off potential invaders. 

The nightwatchman also wore a horn around his neck that he would blow into to warn of fire or imminent danger.  He checked locks on the doors of homes to make sure they were indeed locked and would let in occasional late comers who were out of the city wall after curfew.  The latecomers had to pay a fine to the nightwatchman to be allowed into the town and they had to crawl through a “man hole”, a hole in the heavy door in the gate. 

The man hole in the door of the gate

We enjoyed the tour, getting a glimpse into medieval life in this storybook town!  The guide has been doing this tour for decades and has it down pat.  He slips in a little bit of entertaining anecdotes with the history for an all around wonderful tour!

There are no tickets for this tour, rather you pay at the end of the tour.  Genius!  You’ll likely be slipping him a few extra well-deserved Euros for the entertaining and educational hour of roaming through Rothenburg ob der Tauber by candle light!

After the tour, we grabbed a drink in the Biergarten outside of our hotel.  Then Braden and I set out to explore. 

Having Rothenburg to ourselves in the twilight was pure magic!  We enjoyed window shopping and meandering around the town before calling it a night.

The next morning, after breakfast at our hotel, we set out to roam this sleepy little town.

Mike and Braden…we seemed to have Rothenburg to ourselves!

Roaming in the morning is the best!

We also made our way to Plönlein again.  The word Plönlein means “small square at the fountain”.  The yellow half-timbered home sits the center with a descending lane to one side, leading out to the countryside and another lane on the other side leading out of the city wall.  It is a very picturesque spot and is very popular!  Early morning is the best time for photos of Plönlein.  Not only is the morning light great for photos but you’ll encounter few others.  During the day, it gets increasingly busy and difficult to get great photos of it.

Plönlein to ourselves in the morning

After our photos of Plönlein, we turned left right before the gate leaving town and walked a short distance up the hill.  We then entered the intact medieval city wall.  

Just past Plönlein before going through the gate, turn left to reach the wall

Braden by the entrance to the city wall

Entering the city wall

Walking along the wall, we took in views of the homes and shops from above. 

Views from the city wall

Exploring ramparts, checking out canons, smelling the cool dirt, and walking on the hard pack in the ramparts contributed to our feeling of being transported back to the middle ages. 

Exploring the ramparts

Continuing along the wall, you overlook the stunning countryside with views of Rothenburg from within the wall.

We finally ended up just outside the city gate on the other side of town. 

Just outside the wall of Rothenburg

The countryside with Rothenburg sitting above is just beautiful. 

A great view of Rothenburg from just outside the city wall

We walked through the gate back into town, completing our tour of Rothenburg.

Other Things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

There is never enough time to “do it all”, but we are sharing a few more things to do if you have time:

1.  The Kriminalmuseum features all sorts of torture and executioner tool, and shame masks used in medieval times.  Check out the Kriminalmuseum website for more information.

The Kriminalmuseum

2.  The Weinachtsmuseum (Christmas Museum) is located in the Käthe Wohlfahrt’s Christmas Shop.  This shop is worth a stop for sure, in fact I secured some great Christmas items here!  Seeing the festive Christmas museum is worth a quick stop, especially post shopping.

3.  Hiking around Rothenburg is a great way to get up close and into the beautiful nature that surrounds this walled town.  My suggestion is hike during the day when the town is busy with the day-trippers.  For hiking information check out the Rothenburg Tourism Website Hiking tab.  

Hiking trails take you through this beautiful countryside, just outside of Rothenburg

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an enchanting place.  We highly recommend adding it to your Bavarian itinerary, as it will definitely be the highlight.  Just a few hours from major cities along Germany’s “Romantic Road”, it is easy to access whether self-driving or using public transportation.  For the ultimate experience, plan to stay overnight.  You’ll have the town to yourself in the late evening and early morning hours, a truly magical time.

Read more!

We have several articles coming on our trip to Bavaria. 

First up is our two day stay in Salzburg:  How to Have Two Great Days in Salzburg, Austria.

A visit to Germany’s highest peak, Zugspitze is a must.  Read our guide to Visiting the Top of Germany, Zugsptize – Helpful Info & Tips.

 

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mike

    One of my new favorite places on earth!

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