Rothenburg, Germany: Things to See and Do

siebers tower, rothenburg ob der tauber, germany
Charming Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Are you visiting Rothenburg for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in Rothenburg, Germany.

When I have a visitor from out of town, the first place they want to see is the Plönlein (the most photographed building in Rothenburg), but I also take them to the small, hidden alleyways in the old town – for a more local, authentic experience.

When I want to escape the crowds/tourists, my favorite place to visit is the convent gardens. Surrounded by the old walls, it still retains the typical structures of a convent garden; clarity, harmony and tranquility are still to be enjoyed here.

If this is a romantic trip, I recommend the Town Hall Tower for kissing with a view over the city and surroundings.

The best place to walk the dog is the beautiful Tauber valley, easy to reach via the Castle Gardens.

Museums are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll want to visit the Climbing Park Rothenburg. Adventure, action and fun for the whole family on the high ropes course.

schneeballen, rothenburg snowball
Sample the Schneeballen or Snowball. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Local food from Rothenburg, Germany

If you are looking for typical Rothenburg cuisine, I recommend freshly baked Rothenburger “Snowballs” (snowball-shaped treats, a bit like shortbread) from a local bakery. If you prefer a hearty snack try some Franconian sausages.

The best place to go for coffee & a breakfast treat is the Kaffeehaus Brot und Zeit, they have really tasty pastries and good coffee.

Looking for cheap food in Rothenburg? Go to Gasthof “Zum Ochsen” or Gasthof “Butz”, they serve local food.

Cocktail bar/Restaurant “Molkerei” is the spot for late night dining.

For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Hotel Eisenhut, situated in the heart of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg is best known for the historic old town, massive stone town walls studded with 42 towers; half-timbered houses with red-tiled roofs and cobblestone streets.

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Plönlein half-timbered building in the "little square." Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown
Plönlein half-timbered building in the “little square.” Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

When you come to Rothenburg, get your picture taken while walking on top of the Town Wall and in front of the Plönlein.

The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of the Town Hall Tower (220 steps, 52 m).

Rothenburg offers great views and the castle garden is the best place to experience the bands playing at the rock festival “Taubertal-Openair” which takes place at the “Eiswiese” at the foot of the town.

In Rothenburg, outdoor lovers will want to hike and bike. The landscape around Rothenburg is dotted with mills, small lakes, woods and little Franconian villages. Whether you are interested in a circular walk or bicycle tour, a wide range of options are available. If you are looking for a little exercise, walk along the vineyard or down to the Tauber valley and back.

criminal mseum, rothenburg ob der tauber, germany
Europe’s largest museum devoted to crime & punishment. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

If you are a museum lover, Rothenburg’s best museum is the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum, Europe´s largest museum devoted to the history of crime and punishment – numerous instruments of torture and devices for carrying out the death penalty are displayed.

Looking for exciting night life? This isn’t the place for late night dancing, but if you are looking for a different evening experience, join the Nightwatchman through the dark alleyways and listen to his tales which bring the past to life.

The magazine Rotour will keep you posted on what’s happening in Rothenburg, Germany.

You can tell a lot about Rothenburg from visiting and watching the Historical Festival Play 1631 “The Master Draught” event every Whitsun. Hundreds of citizens dress up in historical costumes and you get a glimpse into a time long past.

In the spring you should attend the Historical Festival Play 1631 “The Master Draught” (see above). In 1631 Rothenburg was captured by the Imperial troops. They offer the Court a welcoming drink – a pitcher filled with 3.25 liters of wine. Pleased by this gesture, the General announces that the town will be spared if one of the citizens is capable of emptying the pitcher in a single draught. Mayor Nusch bravely takes up the challenge and so saves Rothenburg from destruction.

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bratwurst, franconian muller-thurgau wine, rothenburg, germany
Bratwurst & Franconian Muller-Thurgau wine at Glocke Weingutund Hotel. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

In the summer you should attend the Wine Festival where you can try different local wines.

Plan a visit to the Imperial City Festival on the first weekend in September. The entire history of the town is brought alive by hundreds of participants. Highlights of the festival are a grand torch-light procession by the various historical groups to the Market Square and a great fireworks display “Rothenburg in flames.”

Come to Rothenburg for the Christmas Market in the winter.

Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked St. Wolfgang Church in Rothenburg. I’ll bet you didn’t know that the church has a canon chamber behind the altar. This unique church was built between 1475 – 1492 and still stands unchanged today.

Just outside of Rothenburg you can visit the Leyk ceramics factory, where the unique Leyk model houses are produced by hand. Have lunch at the oriental water garden and coffee shop.

rothenburg ob der tauber christmas market, glockenspiel clock, germany
Enjoying the Christmas Market under the Glockenspiel Clock. Photo © 2016 Nancy D. Brown

Rothenburg Christmas Market

Rothenburg´s Reiterlesmarkt (Christmas Market) is among the oldest Christmas markets with an over 500 year tradition. The height of the event however is the arrival of the “Rothenburger Reiterle” (Rothenburg Horseman) which also gave the market its name. The “Reiterle´s” (horseman´s) historical origin however stems from dark times long past. Rothenburg’s German ancestors were under the belief that he was a descendant of another world who, during the winter months, glided through the skies with the souls of people past. Throughout the centuries, however, the horseman´s image changed from a ferocious character people feared and dreaded to a warmly welcomed ambassador of the Christmas season who is now loved by young and old alike.

You can combine the visit of the Christmas market with the visit of Käthe Wohlfahrt´s world famous all year round “Christmas Village”, the Christmas Specialty Store in the center of the town. Make sure to try the “White mulled wine” (indicative to the area) and traditional Christmas cookies and pastries.

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If You Go
To learn more about Rothenburg, Germany click here, or visit the  Germany National Tourist Office. I was a guest of Viking River Cruises while researching additional travel stories. Article, video and photos are my own, as are my opinions.