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UPDATED SEPTEMBER 2020 – Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany is one of the most picturesque towns in the world. The colorful, walled city looks like the setting of just about every Disney movie ever made. Roam through the cobblestone streets long enough and you may actually start to feel like Belle in the movie Beauty and the Beast. Children and adults of all ages will find this charming town quite magical. It truly is like stepping into a fairy tale! Aesthetics aside, the small town along Germany’s famous Romantic Road boasts several must-see attractions. There are surprisingly a lot of things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.
Whether traveling solo, as a couple or visiting Rothenburg with kids this family-friendly town is a perfect addition to any Germany or Central Europe itinerary.
About Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in the Franconia region of northern Bavaria in Germany. It is almost equidistant from the cities of Munich, Frankfurt, Nuremburg, and Stuttgart, which makes Rothenburg an easy day trip from any of these larger German cities.
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Known for its medieval appeal, the beautiful town of just over 10,000 residents is one of the most visited places in all of Europe. In fact, more than 2.5 million people visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber each year! Take one look at photos of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and it is no wonder why the town has captivated so many.
The red-roof town is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River. That’s why it is aptly named “Rothenburg ob der Tauber” which is German for “Red castle above the Tauber”. It is believed the history of Rothenburg dates back all the way to at least 950 A.D. The city has survived hundreds of years and several years, making it one of the oldest and most historic medieval towns along Germany’s Romantic Road.
How many days should you spend in Rothenburg ob der Tauber?
Give yourself at least one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. As mentioned above, it is easy to do a day trip to Rothenburg. While some visitors to the town only spend a few hours or at most one night in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, we recommend giving yourself at least two days in Rothenburg ob der Tauber to truly experience the beauty of the town. The extra day will allow you more time to tour some of the unique museums, wander the colorful streets, and experience everything this small town has to offer both during the day and at night.
Although you can see almost everything in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in a day, we believe a full weekend (or 2-3 days) is actually the perfect amount of time to visit the sights and enjoy the magic of this little Bavarian village.
Things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is hands down the most popular stop along Germany’s Romantic Road. As with many other romantic towns around Germany’s Rhineland and Bavaria regions, Rothenburg ob der Tauber offers visitors a sort of storybook charm with cobblestone streets and colorful buildings. Adults and children alike will love this beautiful village. If you only have one day in the German town, here are the top ten things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
1: Roam the streets and find the forked street
It is one of the most photographed streets in the world. And if there is one picture that comes to mind when you think of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it is the forked streets of Kobolzeller Steige and Untere Schmiedgasse.
Right before you reach the south gates of the town, the street comes to a fork, splitting into upper and lower lanes, surrounded by half-timbered houses. In the center of the fork is one of the prettiest buildings in the entire town, Plönlein. The yellow, half-timbered house with the pointed gable and window boxes filled with bright red flowers really does look like something out of a fairy tale.
2: Walk along the town’s walls
Rothenburg ob der Tauber was once the second largest city in Germany. From the Middle Ages through the early 1800s, it was an Imperial Free City, which means it was an autonomous and self-ruling entity. As an Imperial Free City, protecting and defending the town’s border was imperative. That’s why Rothenburg ob der Tauber was originally a walled city.
The medieval town’s walls still stand today. And walking the walls is one of the best things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. As one of the best preserved walled cities in all of Europe, there are more than 40 guard towers surrounding Rothenburg. Most of those towers are directly along the town’s walls.
Part of the wall did come down during World War II, but much of the original wall remains in tact. Interestingly, during the second world war the Allied forces found the town of Rothenburg too quaint to destroy. For this reason, they sent negotiators in and the city surrendered without a fight. This is part of the reason the town is so well preserved, when much of Germany was destroyed in WWII, and subsequently rebuilt.
It is just a short climb up one flight of steps to walk on Rothenburg’s wall. You will get a beautiful view of the town, the rolling hills of Bavaria outside the town’s gates, and the vineyards of the Tauber Valley.
Perhaps the best part, walking on the wall is free! Although it fairly safe for families, we recommend watching young children carefully. There is a side railing to protect from falls and plenty of openings for smaller children to peer out. However, the walking path is narrow and may require squeezing by other visitors. To beat the crowds, we recommend starting your morning with a walk on the town’s walls.
3: Medieval Crime and Justice Museum
A visit to such a unique medieval town wouldn’t be complete without learning a but about the historic time-frame the town is known for. The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, often referred to as the torture museum details the various punishments used during the Medieval era. From the iron maiden to cages and instruments that will make you grimace yet leave you with a morbid fascination, the museum is a unique account of history. If visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber with kids, this is definitely one of those sites geared more toward older children.
4: Experience Christmas all year long
Forget the North Pole. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the Christmas capital of the world! In fact, you can experience the holidays year round in Rothenburg. It is even home to a great little Christmas museum. Tucked inside a beautiful Christmas store just off the main market square, the museum walks you through the history of Christmas and how the holiday’s traditions and decorations have evolved through the years.
Young kids will love the colors, lights, and stimulating sights of the museum, while older children and teens may actually learn something about the Christian holiday and it’s pre-Christian origins.
It is inexpensive to visit, costing about $4.50US (€4) per person or approximately $9.00US (€8) for a family of four. The museum is open year round as is the Christmas store where you can buy souvenirs, ornaments, and unique Christmas decor to take home.
It is easy to find the Christmas store and museum, as there is typically a van parked in front that is wrapped like a present.
LOVE CHRISTMAS? CHECK OUT THIS POST FOR OTHER GREAT CHRISTMAS DESTINATIONS AROUND THE WORLD.
5: Night watchman’s tour
The Night Watchman’s tour is one of the most popular guided tours in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and it’s fun for adults and kids alike. The one hour tour starts at 8pm, so younger children may have to stay up past their bedtime for this one. But if you are looking for unique things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber with kids – or without – this is a neat, family-friendly experience.
The night watchman leads the tour from the Marktplaz square dressed in his traditional medieval attire. He takes tourists back in time during the one-hour walk through the narrow cobblestone streets. The night watchman recounts historical stories, legends, and even adds humorous antidotes as the group weaves through the brightly colored, enchanting buildings inside the city walls.
6: Watch the clock chime in Marktplaz
The Marktplaz is the town’s central square and meeting place in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. One of the prominent features of the square is a lovely clock that chimes every hour. The animated clock comes to life as it chimes. The small windows next to the clock’s face open up and characters are seen drinking their steins of beer. Crowds typically gather each hour to watch the clock do its thing.
Outdoor cafés and bakeries line the square as well as the small streets surrounding the Marktplaz. These cafes are great places to sit and enjoy a nice lunch, dinner, a coffee, or a refreshing German beer.
The steps of the Town Hall are also popular places for tourists to sit and enjoy the atmosphere and people watch.
7: Have a schneebälle
The schneebälle is a must-try dessert while in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This deep-fried, powdered sugar-covered dough ball is a popular treat in the small town. Don’t miss this delectable treat while in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The pastry is hard to find anywhere else in Germany, or the world for that matter, but in Rothenburg, you can find countless cafes and bakeries selling the delicious pastry!
8: Shop or simply visit the many toy stores
What Christmas capital of the world would be complete without a spattering of toy stores? There are several toy stores inside the city’s walls that sell unique toys, dolls, and children’s souvenirs. If you are visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber with kids you will want to check out one or two of them. They are great places to find something interesting or even handmade to take home as a keepsake. Many of the toy stores even have samplings of their products out for kids to play with, which is always great when traveling with children!
Don’t miss Teddy Land. The toy store is dedicated specifically to teddy bears. It was a personal favorite of ours. Our daughter loves stuffed animals, so this was a fun little store to visit. Not far from the main square, Teddy Land has a giant teddy bear on display in front of the store greeting guests as they enter.
9: Tour St. James Church
Europe is known for it’s incredible cathedrals, and Rothenburg is no different. The city’s main Gothic church, St. James Cathedral, dates back to 1485. With two towers capped with spires, and tall, narrow stained glass windows, the church took more than 170 years to build.
Although many visitors skip St. James Cathedral if they only have one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, it is worth a quick peek inside. Located in the heart of the old city, you can take a guided tour of St. James Church or get an audio guide to learn more about the church as you roam at your own pace.
10: Relax at Castle Garden
Once upon a time, there was an actual castle in Rothenburg. It was destroyed a long time ago, but a castle would perhaps be the only thing that would make Rothenburg ob der Tauber even more like a storybook setting. Burggarden, or Castle Garden, now marks the spot where the castle once stood. On the short walk to Burggarden you’ll have beautiful views of the Tauber Valley. The garden itself is a great place to relax, and it is another one of the great FREE things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber with kids
While the town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a perfect destination for families, the cobblestone streets aren’t really stroller-friendly. For this reason, if you are traveling with a baby or a toddler, I always recommend a child carrier. The one we use has a 48 pound weight limit, so even older toddlers who get tired of walking could be carried in the backpack.
CHECK OUT OUR COMPLETE REVIEW OF THE DEUTER CHILD CARRIER THAT WE USE.
If a child carrier isn’t your thing, I’d recommend a lightweight, durable jogging stroller for the cobblestone streets. The larger wheels of a jogging stroller will help you navigate a bit more smoothly on uneven or bumpy surfaces.
Where to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small town, and while it is easy to see Rothenburg in a day, you will want to spend a night there. It is such a stunning place to visit, and when the day-trip crowds leave, the town becomes even more charming without the masses. The buildings are all illuminated with the glow from street lamps and exterior lighting, giving the town a magical feel that you just want to breath in and absorb.
I recommend staying within the walls of the old town, and as close to the main square as possible. The main square is lively at night, with musicians and street performers. During Christmas time it is host to a wonderful European Christmas market. It is a fantastic place to sit outdoors any time of year. Hotel Eisenhut is located less than a block from the main square. It is a cute, boutique hotel in walking distance to everything in Rothenburg. It also offers a wonderful view of the valley from the back patio, which was a favorite breakfast spot for us each morning.
We spent two nights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. While we could have seen all the main attractions in Rothenburg in less time, after seeing this beautiful town, who would ever want to leave?!
ALSO READ: OUR FULL REVIEW ON HOTEL EISENHUT PLUS SEE PICTURES OF THE ROOMS AND HOTEL.
Why you should visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
The picturesque German town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a photographer’s dream destination. Every street offers Instagram-worthy views. And the stunning buildings with their flower-filled window boxes and breathtaking medieval architecture will bring out the romantic in everyone. Here are a few more of our favorite photos from our visit.
Have a comment or question about things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber? We’d love to hear from you. Leave your thoughts in the comments below.