If you wanted to take a trip back in time to the Middle Ages and visit a German town that offers both charm and history, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is your place to go. Located along the Romantic Road in Germany, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a true gem. The name stands for “on the Tauber River.” Now, don’t get this confused with another town by the name of just “Rothenburg,” make sure you have Rothenburg ob der Tauber on your GPS; otherwise, you may be driving to a destination other than Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Rothenburg ODT (I’m just shortening it up for you), was on top of our list to visit in Germany. We had a long weekend to take advantage of, so we didn’t waste time visiting this charming town. With Covid measures still in place, we made sure to follow safety precautions. Fortunately, Rothenburg had lots of good, safe Covid measures during our visit. So, without further ado, here are our top recommendations of things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Bonus: towards the end, be sure to read up on some nice Tips for touring Rothenburg ODT for free and other discounts you can get! And, if you plan to do a day trip, check the parking tip at the end as well! Happy Reading!
**Also, if you see any highlighted word, be sure to click on the word to find more info! *** Tip: It’s easier to use Google Chrome for the website; some online sites are in German, but Chrome will translate to English.
Things to Do in Rothenburg
Walk the 2-mile long City Wall
If you want to find the best views of the city of Rothenburg from above, walk the City Wall. This wall wraps around Rothenburg ODT and can be done in less than an hour. Just a caution for those tall folks in the back, if you are over 6 feet tall, you may have to stoop for most of the walk.
Covid measures- the walkway is narrow, so be mindful of those coming in opposite directions
There are 20 plaques (yes, they’re in English) along the way that you can read about the history during your tour of the wall.
Wanna walk the full circle of the wall, the best place to start is at the Spitaltor Tower and then go counterclockwise. The tourist office has a wonderful map they have online here you can follow. But it really doesn’t matter where you start because there are several towers you can start or stop your tour at.
My family and I enjoyed walking along the wall and admiring the views. We made several stops along the way to take candid photos of the beautiful buildings we passed. Bonus, since it was in October, the fall view was amazing from above!
Cost: FREE and open daily, the best time to visit is during sunrise
Visit St. Jakob’s Church
If you love visiting the many beautiful churches of Germany, St. Jakob’s Church, the main church for Rothenburg, is one you should visit. The outside exterior shows off its gothic-style building with the many beautiful statues of biblical figurines.
Inside, you’ll find the front, main wooden altar with its intricate details and the stained-glass window behind it. Don’t forget to walk behind the altar and you’ll find a beautifully painted mural of Rothenburg and also the face of Jesus- it’s well worth the look.
Find the Blood of Christ (literally speaking):
This church has another one of the oldest, most beautiful wood altars on display, carved by Tilman Riemenschneider. The altar is known as the “Altar of the Holy Blood.” This altar is located on the second floor of the church, towards the back, behind the pipe organs. You’ll find the blood of Christ on a cross, high above the altar. It’ll be in a round crystal capsule and inside the crystal is a drop of blood that is believed to be the blood of Christ.
Groups € 2.00 per person (over 10 people)
Groups under 10 people and individuals € 2.50
Families (2 adults + children): € 6.00; Children : free (up to 12 years).
School children and students : 1.50 €.
Individual visitors will receive a beautiful postcard with a motif of St. Jakob with their “entrance ticket”
January to March and November: 10 a.m.
to 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. April to September: 10 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
October: 10 a.m. to 5.15 p.m.
December: 10 a.m. to 4.45 p.m.
More info here on their website; they also have a free pamphlet that is in English.
Take the Night Watchman’s Tour:
Seriously, though, this tour came highly recommended by so many that we had to do it, and it was part of the reason why we stayed overnight in Rothenburg ODT!
There’s no booking online involved, you just show up at the main market square area at or before 8 pm and wait for the dreary Night Watchman to come with his lantern and his tall pike.
Our tour guide, Mr. Hans Georg Baumgartner, spoke wonderful English! It was enjoyable to tour the city at night while you hear recounts of historical past events and stories from the Night Watchman. Also, you won’t regret his funny antics and dreary jokes along the way, which made the tour enjoyable, on the cold, October night.
Covid Measures- we wore our masks during the entire outdoor tour.
Meet at the Market Square in front of the Town Hall steps at 8p; No reservations required
Duration: 1 hour
Fee: Adults: 9 Euro for adults, 4.50 Euro for students, kids under 12 years old are free of charge
English Tours are on Fridays and Saturdays
More info here
Visit the Plonlein
Ok Disney Fanatics, this is a must! Grab your camera and prepare your Instagram feed for some insta-worthy photos in front of this famed Disney-inspired location in Rothenburg. Can you guess what Disney movie was inspired by this location?
This fork in the road on Untere Schmiedgasse is a famous location for photo ops with half-timbered homes surrounded by the cobblestone street. The half-timbered house in the middle with a pointed gable and fountain in the front, makes this a fairytale worthy scene straight from a Disney movie, like maybe, Pinocchio? Yep, that’s the movie!
Tip: For photo ops, come early in the morning before 10 am to beat the morning rush of the crowd since most shops don’t open till 10 am.
Visit the MarktPlatz (aka Market Square) and Watch a Cool Reenactment (see below)
Ok, ok, I know it’s just the market square, but seriously, this is the heart of the city. This is where you have access to most of the shops, restaurants, and also the Tourist office. The whole facade of this area shows off the charms of Rothenburg.
Listen to the clock chime at the stroke of each hour and you can watch the doors open to one of the windows high above the Tourist Office building (facing Market Square) to the reenactment of the legend of the heroic mayor who saved Rothenburg by drinking a gallon of wine.
You can find the interesting story here
There’s a Farmers Market that takes place here on Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons (subject to change due to Covid restrictions). Find more info here
Visit the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum)
It drizzled one morning during our stay, so we decided to pick this museum as our indoor adventure. If you’ve wondered what type of torture or punishment took place during the Medieval Ages, this place is interesting.
Four floors of medieval historical artifacts and what the justice system used then for punishment.
No worries, it is kid-friendly and they offered signs with the descriptions of the items and history in English as well!
Covid measures: the museum allotted a certain amount of people into the museum and there were arrows directing one-way traffics. Masks were enforced inside as well.
Visit this museum, it is rated as one of the top 100 sights and attractions in Germany as of 2020 and is Number 6 of the top museums in Germany!
Cost: Adults: 7,50 euro
Kids over 6yo: 3,80 euro
Family pack: 18,50 euro
More prices here
Find more information about the museum here.
Find the Gerlachschmiede
I didn’t have this originally on my list, but we passed the Gerlaschsmiede during our walk along the wall, and I took so many photos of it! Needless to say, this house is pretty important in Rothenburg ODT!
Located on Wenggasse, this quaint, charming house with a triangle gable was built in the 1400s. Unfortunately, it was bombed in 1945, was rebuilt shortly after, and was used by a blacksmith until 1967.
When we visited, we had the opportunity to tour inside the front of the house. Inside there were old relics and artifacts inside. We even took a photo inside the carriage, on the porch of the house, with permission from the gentleman who gave us the tour. We bought a postcard from his store as it was free to tour inside.
Get an amazing view at BurgGarten (Castle Garden)
If you want to see more amazing views beyond the walls of Rothenburg, go by the BurgGarten and take in the views of the landscape.
This is a great photo op area too.
Find the Toppler Castle
This 600-year-old castle was known as the summer home of the medieval Mayor Toppler. It’s a cute, skinny tower located just right outside the wall of Rothenburg and you can walk to it from the BurgGarten.
We drove by it on the way out of Rothenburg, it didn’t appear to be open. But it was neat to take a peek at this neat-looking summer home.
More information here
Go Shopping and Visit the Christmas Stores
Along Obere Schmeidgasse, the road from the Market place, and Herngasse and Haffengasse, you’ll find many shops and stores. I spent some time just browsing each shop and admiring some of the watercolor paintings of Rothenburg. I wanted to buy one of the authentic watercolor paintings of the Plönlein and found one that was painted by a local.
Käthe Wohlfahrt has six Christmas Village shops in Rothenburg. Visit one of their shops, the main (and biggest one) is on Herngasse where you’ll find all sorts of Christmas everything and the German Christmas Museum. We visited this main shop but did not get a chance to enjoy the Museum. There is a cost to visit the museum.
Covid safety measures were followed with only a set amount of visitors allowed and each guest must have a basket to help the staff keep count of the numbers of people in at a time.
Next, check out Die Waffenkammer (The Armory Store). If you’re into cool swords, knives, knights’ armor, and other medieval-like contraptions and Renaissance Fair dress-ups, this place is for you. It is kid-friendly and not all weaponry dangerous, but it’s a neat store to check out for souvenirs and more.
Try a Schneeballen
Ok, this may not be important, but when in Rothenburg ODT…. try a Schneeballen! What’s that you ask?
Schneeballen (snowball in English), is a German specialty pastry that consists of strips of shortcrust (think of leftover pie crust cut in strips), that has been intertwined to form a ball and then deep-fried and then topped with powdered sugar or other toppings, such as cinnamon sugar, chocolate, coconut, etc.
It’s quite popular in Rothenburg and in Christmas markets.
Most Bakeries (Bäckereien) offer these around Rothenburg ODT.
We tried ours from Diller Schneeballenträume on the main shopping strip
Final thoughts on taste, they were ok, a bit dry. They were hard to bite into, so we had to break the hard, deep-fried strips apart to be able to eat them. Still worth a try. We bought several flavors from chocolate to coconut, the original powdered sugar, and cinnamon sugar. The Chocolate one is pretty good if you want more taste.
Where to Stay
To get a better feel of Rothenburg, we decided to stay at a hotel inside the wall; which made the experience all the while worth it! We knew one day wouldn’t be enough, so we stayed the weekend at the Hotel Reichsküchenmeister.
This charming hotel is located in the heart of Rothenburg ODT. Literally, walking distance from the Main Market Square and the Tourist Information Center. We booked this hotel as a last-minute reservation. It was within our budget that was located inside the wall, had availability, and breakfast included.
We had no regrets about staying here and we had a wonderful stay. Although we didn’t get to stay in their main hotel, we did stay right across from the main hotel in another building that housed hotel rooms for guests. The room we stayed in was quite small, but typical for a basic hotel room size (think a basic Holiday Inn room for a family). For a room within our budget, inside the city walls, and within walking distance from the Main Market, our hotel room was still quite nice for a place to stay in the heart of Rothenburg.
Breakfast was offered, but, with Covid, you must make reservations the day before for a time slot to have breakfast and pick from one out of four dish choices. You must also be on time. We made the mistake of coming 30 minutes after the start of our breakfast time (we thought we could come between the times given to us), so we had to eat quickly. We weren’t bothered by the time frame, my family doesn’t take our time eating, lol.
The breakfast was simple and pretty much a complete European Breakfast.
Parking for the hotel is not included. We paid an extra €14/night for the garage. They have an outdoor parking option for €10 which was already fully booked during our stay.
For other hotel recommendations, you can find more on Booking.com.
Where to Eat
There are so many great places to eat at Rothenburg ODT. Here are our picks:
We stayed at this hotel, but their food did not disappoint! We had dinner one evening at the restaurant (make reservations in advance). I highly recommend their Flammkuchen. It’s just like a pizza or flatbread but has a sour cream-like base for the topping and other toppings based on the type of Flammkuchen you choose from the menu.
Wanna eat at the oldest building in the town, dating back to the year 900? We sure did! But try getting reservations as soon as you can for their wine cellar, the oldest room inside the building. I was able to snag us the table in this room (that can fit up to 6 maybe) and the family and I enjoyed the experience of being able to eat inside the cellar of the oldest building in Rothenburg.
The food did not disappoint. Though the menu did not have a kid-friendly menu, the kids did enjoy the rack of ribs they had on the menu.
It was a bit pricey for our family, but we enjoyed being able to experience being able to eat inside the cellar and oldest building in Rothenburg.
I hear they are also known for their wine! So make sure to ask the waiter what they recommend!
Wanna know the kicker here? The Zur Höll in English means “to hell.”
Hotel-Gasthof Goldener Greifen
This came highly recommended, but we did not get a chance to eat there, I hear they have an affordable kids menu and the prices for the meals are pretty reasonable as well.
If you want quick and easy, I hear this is a good Döner (like gyro) place to check out
Want more choices: go here for other best rated places to eat in Rothenburg
Not a Restaurant recommendation, but don’t forget to try Rothenburg’s local Franconian Wines at any of the restaurants or bars, or buy them at any stores that carry these, like Die Waffenkammer. The Franconian wines are known for their shape of short and round bottles and are called Bocksbeutel.
I didn’t realize the significance of these cute shaped wine bottles until we visited Rothenburg and found a few neat looking sculptures of these stubby bottles.
Whew! I know that was a long one for you to read, but believe me, there is so much more to do in Rothenburg than what I have listed. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a one of a kind gem. Oh, and I hear the best time to also visit, is during their famous Christmas Market! Can you imagine how magical the town must be during these holidays? We have yet to visit their Christmas market (darn Covid).
Though it can get touristy, Rothenburg is one of the oldest German towns in the country (not that there aren’t that many) that still maintains it’s history and charm quite well. The people are friendly and speak perfect English, and know Rick Steve quite well from what I hear (see more freebie tip below). So, add this to your list of places to visit while in Germany! Until next time! Tschüss!!!
Finally: End Tip: if you have a Rick Steves Germany book, be sure to read up on some of the discounts you can receive on just having this book, from 10% off at one of the Käthe Wohlfahrt stores or getting a free Rothenburg colorful map from one of the local stores in Rothenburg (find the name of the store in the book)! Plus, he offers a self-guided circular “Rothenburg Town Walk” you can take by reading his book or downloading it on his Rick Steves Audio Europe App (it’s free) and he will guide you during this audio tour as you listen to the history of Rothenburg! We loved using this feature at many European locations we have visited!
Also, don’t forget to grab a city map from the Tourist Information office! There’s also a €5 coloring book of Rothenburg at the Tourist office I hear is great for kids!
If you plan to go for just a day trip. Parking is hard to find inside the walls, but there is parking available outside the wall. For parking information, check here!