Rothenburg ob der Tauber | Germany’s Fairy Tale Dream Town

Located in the heart of Bavaria in Southern Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a medieval treasure. A popular stop on the world famous Romantic Road, the town has preserved its historic center (Altstadt) from the Middle Ages. In fact, urban conservation orders in Rothenburg are the strictest in Germany. Complete with half-timbered houses, interweaving cobbled lanes and fortified town walls, visitors here are transported to another time.   

The name “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” literally means, “Red fortress above the Tauber”. Located above the River Tauber, Rothenburg is an easy day trip from either Munich or Frankfurt. You can also choose to spend an evening here if you are driving the entire route of the Romantic Road. 

Rothenburg is quite a small town. You can walk from one end of the town to the other in less than 15 minutes. As a result, it’s best to park your car outside the city walls. Parking fees are charged from 9am to 6pm.

There are five parking lots:

  • P1 – Am Friedrich-Hörner-Weg (busses, trucks and cars)
  • P2 – Nördlinger Straße (busses, cars and camper vans)
  • P3 – Schweinsdorfer Straße (busses, trucks, cars and camper vans)
  • P4 – Hornburgweg (cars only)
  • P5 – Bezoldweg (cars only)

Disabled parking spaces are located at:

  • Schrannenplatz
  • Kapellenplatz
  • Grüner Markt
  • Car parks P1 and P2
  • Ansbacher Straße, in front of the Sparkasse savings bank

Fun fact: The Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village store in Rothenburg is open throughout the year. While it was closed for the day by the time I arrived in Rothenburg, I highly recommend checking it out. The store showcases more than 30,000 traditional German Christmas decorations such as nutcrackers, incense smokers, pyramid mangers, miniature figurines, and Schwibbogen. 

Rathaus 

In the 14th century, the Rathaus (Town Hall) on Marktplatz served as the seat of government for Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Originally built in the Gothic architectural style, Renaissance elements were incorporated into the Rathaus’ facade during the late 15th century. Today, the Rathaus is an exemplary example of Renaissance architecture in Bavaria.

An example of the past Gothic style of the Rathaus is the 52 meter Rathausturm (Town Hall Tower). It is the only accessible tower in Rothenburg, aside from Roedertor on the east end. If you climb the 220 steps to the viewing platform on top of the tower, you will be treated to panoramic views of Rothenburg ob der Tauber as well as the surrounding lush landscape of the Tauber valley.

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Ratstrinkstube

Ratstrinkstube or “The Councillors’ Tavern” was once only open to the councillors of Rothenburg. Today, the building houses the Rothenburg Tourismus Service and welcomes all.

The astronomical clock on the Ratstrinkstube represents the legend of Master Draught from 1631. During the Thirty Years’ War, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was captured by Catholic troops under the command of Count Tilly. The predominantly Protestant townspeople of Rothenburg tried to bribe Count Tilly with a tankard of their best Franconian wine. In return, Count Tilly challenged anyone to drink the entire tankard (which measured 3.25 liters) in one gulp. If successful, he would spare Rothenburg. The mayor of Rothenburg Bürgermeister Nusch agreed to the challenge and completed it successfully.

To this day, the astronomical clock on the Ratstrinkstube opens it doors, every hour on the hour from 10am to 10pm, to reenact the famous scene.

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Georgsbrunnen

Considered to be one of the deepest fountains in Rothenburg, St. George’s Fountain fits 100,000 liters of water into its eight meter deep well! Located on the market square since 1446, the fountain is crowned by the figure of the knight Saint George taming the dragon. 

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Jacobskirche

Jacobskirche or St. Jakob’s Church played a significant role in its early days, as one of the churches on the pilgrimage route to the grave of St. James in Santiago de Compostela in Spain. 

The 14th century Lutheran church is famous for Tilman Riemenschneider’s Heilig Blut Altar (Altar of the Holy Blood). The exquisitely carved cross depicts the Last Supper, and is said to have a rock crystal capsule containing three drops of Christ’s blood.

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Fortification

Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s history began as an imperial castle in 1142. The town was designated a Free Imperial City in 1274, making it one of the most important destinations during the Middle Ages. Over the centuries, Rothenburg lost its eminent position, only to be rediscovered by painters and poets during the Romantic era. 

To this day, Rothenburg has preserved its medieval fortification. Visitors can walk inside the perfectly intact town walls that consist of 42 gate houses, towers, ramparts, drawbridges and a moat. It can be steep in some places, but you have a great view of the Tauber valley. For a brief moment, you get to truly experience what it would be like to be a lookout during the Middle Ages.

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You can also follow the Tower Trail, a 2.5 mile long route that takes you past 22 points of interest. It takes about two hours to complete. One such point is Spitaltor (Spital Gate). It carries an inscription: 

“Pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus.”

This translates to:

“Peace to those who enter in, good health to those who leave again”

 

Burgtor and Burggarten

Burgtor (Castle Gate) is the tallest tower in Rothenburg. It was built after the town’s fortifications suffered extensive damage during the 1356 earthquake. The “Eye-of-the-Needle” was created, a narrow gap that could be used to exit town. During an attack, the opening was used to pour boiling pitch on invaders.

The Burgtor is flanked by two round buildings: the former guard house, and the customs house where travelers through Rothenburg had to pay a toll.

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Today, the Burgtor forms the entrance to Burggarten (Castle Gardens). This is one of the top locations for visitors to come and absorb the stunning views of the Tauber valley and Rothenburg’s skyline. A great place to conclude your trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

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