A Fairytale Journey through Germany's Timeless Gem
Nestled in the heart of Bavaria, the picturesque town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber exudes a timeless charm that transports visitors to a bygone era. With its meticulously preserved medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and enchanting half-timbered houses, Rothenburg seems plucked from the pages of a fairytale. As you wander through its well-preserved streets, you'll be captivated by the rich history, warm hospitality, and enchanting ambiance that make this town a true gem of Germany. Join us on this adventure as we uncover the storybook magic of Rothenburg, where the past meets the present, and every corner holds a tale waiting to be told.
Rothenburg is located in the district of Ansbach of Mittelfranken in the Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany. It is well known for its well-preserved medieval old town, a destination for tourists from around the world. It is part of the popular Romantic Road through southern Germany. Being only 254 kilometers from our rental condo in Munich, and because we wanted our kids to visit here, this location (and Nuremberg) became a combined "day trip".
- As a German phrase, 'Rothenburg ob der Tauber' means 'red fortress above the Tauber', referring to its elevated location over the River Tauber.
- A city wall encircles Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which was built in the 1200s, and the town is notable for its preservation of medieval architecture and history.
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber covers an area of 41.68 square kilometres (16.09 square miles), and is located along the scenic route known as the Romantic Road.
- Settlement of Rothenburg ob der Tauber first began in 970 AD, but only become a town and fortress from the 1100s to the 1200s, with the fortress being primarily initiated by King Conrad III.
- The town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was partially bombed during World War II, and approximately 45% was destroyed before the Germans surrendered, however, it was rebuilt in the original style with financial contributions from around the world.
- In 1274, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was designated a Free Imperial City, which meant it was self-governed and only answerable to the emperor.
The distance between Munich and Rothenburg ob der Tauber is approximately 275 kilometres, or 170 miles. Rothenburg is 106 kilometres from Nuremberg.
This might seem like a huge amount of driving time - however - the German Autobahn System is renowned worldwide for its unique approach to speed limits. Unlike many other countries, the Autobahn does not have a general speed limit on most of its stretches. This means that drivers have the freedom to travel at high speeds, provided they do so safely and responsibly. However, it is essential to note that certain sections of the Autobahn do have speed restrictions, particularly in areas with heavy traffic, construction zones, or specific hazardous conditions.
Rothenburg-ob-der-Tauber City Walls
We had been in Nuremberg on an exploration day trip from Munich, and since Rothenburg would be on our return route, we decided to visit Rothenburg on the drive back. It is only 114 kilometers via the A-6 and it should have been a quick trip, however a major accident on the autobahn caused a horrendous traffic backup that turned what should have been an hour trip into a 2+ hour crawl.
Our plan was to have lunch in Rothenburg, and explore the walled city and return to Munich via the B-25 and A-8 later that afternoon. Since Munich is only 225 kilometers from Rothenburg, we felt that we had plenty of time to accomplish our goals.
Spital Bastion Gate Map
If you continue to walk past the Plönlein down the Spitalgasse, you will arrive at the Spital Bastion Gate. The Spitaltor is just inside this gate. The Spital Bastion Gate is the most recent part of the city’s fortifications – it was completed in 1537. The lettering on the gate's arch says “Pax intrantibus – salus exeuntibus”, meaning “Peace to those who enter and health to those who leave”.
Rothenburg Plönlein (Untere Schmiedgasse side) Map
The Siebers Tower which dates back to 1385 and is part of the second fortifications that were built when the city was expanded.
The road leading off to the right takes you through the Kobolzeller Turm ('Kobolzeller Tower') and then to the Kobolzeller Tor ('Kobolzeller Gate') which is a route to the Tauber Valley. The gate was built in 1360.
Roder Tower ('Roderturm') Gate Map
Also knwon as the eastern entrance to the city. In the tower just behind the gate, there is a medium-wide staircase which winds around the tower (150+ steps) up to the observation room (see below on this page). The observation room has windows which open on all four sides of the tower for great views of the city. There are a total of six gates (as well as several doors) into the city.
Burggarten ('Castle Garden') Gate
This is the gate to the Castle Garden and is the property of Waldemar L via Wikimedia Commons and the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. The Castle Garden features a historic collection of trees and extensive lawns with beautiful views of the Tauber Valley below.
There is a nice hiking trail from the Castle Garden to Detwang, approximately 1.6 kilometers (1 mile each direction) which will bring you right past the Unter den Linden beer garden on the river. Click here to view a Google Map of the route.
Jeremy had discovered a very nice chess set in a local shop, and we purchased it and had it shipped to our home in Florida. You can see how excited he is, because it is a very cool chess set!
Rothenburg shops offer just about every German trinket and souvenir you can think of from cuckoo clocks and beer steins to German cookbooks and postcards.
Rothenburg Town Hall ('Rathaus')
It faces the Marktplatz (market square) on one side of the building. Part Gothic, from 1240, and part Renaissance, from 1572, the town hall is decorated with intricate friezes and a large stone portico opening onto the main market square. A climb to the top of the 60 meter (200 feet) tower provides a view that sweeps across town and far into the Tauber Valley.
Pubs & Restaurants
At the time we were there, there were not many "large restaurants" in the old city. However, there were a number of smaller pubs and restaurants where you could dine if they were not crowded.
This is the Ratsstube, where you can find German and Italian cuisine and a large dining area.
Street Scenes/Medieval Doors
The sheer medieval-ness and obvious age of Rothenburg can be observed everywhere, yet this is very much a living community and it is inhabited by people who live & work here. We wound up looking at various street scenes, and noticed that in many houses, the front door was not only solid wood, but in some cases they were ornate and in tip-top condition.
Spital Bastion Moat
This was originally the moat of the Spital Bastion, a barbican with a pop-up roof built by Rothenburg architect and stonemason, Leonhard Weidmann.
The Spital Bastion has 2 inner courtyards, 7 gates, an upper walkway, and is surrounded by a dry moat you can walk in. The Spital gate bastion is the most recent part of the city’s fortifications – it was completed in 1537. The lettering on the gate’s arch says “Pax intrantibus – salus exeuntibus”, meaning “Peace to those who enter and health to those who leave”.
Approaching St. James's Church
We walked just about every street in the village, it is not very large, so walking with the goal of seeing everything does not require a lot of time.
St. James is a historic Lutheran church, which serves as a church on the pilgrimage route to St. James Church in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. It has two towers (south tower: 55.2 meters, 57.7 meters north tower).
More Shopping !
There were a number of unique shops, many of which sold things that could probably not be found back home. Here
is a good example. As intriguing as the statue was, I could not figure out a way to use it at home, so we did
not purchase one.
I am pretty sure that this was a "Nutcracker Soldier", but I could be mistaken.
Rothenburg Town Hall
Rothenburg’s Town Hall appears more like a monumental castle. The even taller building next door is the Rathausturm - Altes Rathaus ('Old Town Hall'). The Town Hall consists of two buildings, located on the west side of the Market Place. The Gothic part is the white building on the left; it was built between 1250 and 1400. The front part of the Rathaus, which is the Renaissance building on the right in the image, was built between 1572 and 1578.
The two buildings are inter-connected, but that cannot be seen from the street as the connection is in the middle area between the two buildings.
It might not seem as though the Rathaus tower is tall, however, it is nearly 200 feet (60 meters) in height and was once used as a "fire lookout" because the views of the Tauber Valley from that height are excellent.
The image on the right is the Rathaus building as it can be seen from the Market Place ('Grüner Markt') square. The pink building on the right is the Ratstrinkstube ('Councilor’s Tavern'). Legend says that councilmen would come here for a drink after a town meeting, but now it is open to the public.
The Ratstrinkstube clock tower chimes every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., and two doors open on either side of the clock face to reenact the legendary story of the brave mayor who drank nearly a gallon of wine in order to save his city. The clock on the front of the building is from 1683.
Roderturm is open to the public and to get to the top of the tower requires climbing up several flights of steep timber steps, at the end of which you are rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view of the Old Town and the surrounding area. If you do have some difficulties with climbing steps, visiting the tower is not recommended. The Roderturm was built in the 13th century.
You should keep in mind that Rothenburg is a very, very popular place to visit during the summer months, visitors come here constantly, some by car, and a very large number by tour bus. If you do not get here early in the day, the streets, shops and restaurants will be crowded - and parking could be a challenge!
Rothenburg is a beautiful example of a medieval village. One must park outside the village interior area (no visitor's cars inside the walls) and walk in, where you will find a number of shops and restaurants. The types of shops vary - everything from t-shirts to art, so walking about here is not only a trip through history, it is a nice shopping stroll as well. You should note that on Sunday, the majority of shops are closed. However, many of the cafes, restaurants, museums and souvenir shops will be open.
There is no admission fee required to visit Rothenburg, and because it is not a very large village, it is easy to walk about and enjoy.
Rothenburg is an interesting place to visit, however it is important to plan your trip there in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible. Since it would be almost impossible for any single web page to tell you everything there is to know about Rothenburg, here are some informative links for you to utilize for your own research - most of these we utilized for our own trip plans.
- Rothenburg Article on the "Happy to Wander" site
- What to do in Rothenburg article on the "Trip Savvy" site
- Rothenburg Article on the "Rick Steves" site
- A Guide to Rothenburg on the "Independent Travel Cats" site
- Things to do and see in Rothenburg on the "Planet Ware" site
- Google Search Results list doe "restaurants in Rothenburg"
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber Activities on the "Get Your Guide" site
- Google Search Results list for "accommodations in Rothenburg"
- Just Traveling Thru European Travel Tips
- Just Traveling Thru Travel Planning Tips
- Amazon Search Results list for "books about rothenburg germany"
- Youtube Search Results list for "Rothenburg Germany"
- Youtube Search Results list for "Rothenburg Germany"
- Visit our Youtube Channel
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