Rothenburg ob der Tauber – the town of Christmas


Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks like a Disney fairytale village that became reality. It is almost impossible not to fall in love with it, maybe only if you are Grinch, but even his heart would melt in front of all that magic. In fact, things happened exactly the other way round, not Rothenburg is inspired from the Disney movies, but movies like Pinnochio, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Harry Potter used it as inspiration source or where filmed over there. Take your camera or smartphone with you and discover the picture-perfect streets the best way possible, on foot. You won’t even notice how fast the time will fly while you wander around.

Fountain in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Legends of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

It is said that the tiny town was about to be destroyed, but almost miraculously saved, twice. The first time during The 30 Years War in the 17th century, when the mayor, in order to save it, made a bet that he could drink a goblet of wine in one gulp. He succeeded, and today the watch on the building of The Tourist Information Center (Council’s Tavern) commemorates The Master Draught. The town was spared but paid a huge price. It became a poor village that could not afford new buildings for the next centuries.

Street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

All’s well that ends well, because exactly those old building saved it the second time. The town was about to be destroyed by the American troops in the Second World War. Luckily, general McKoy heard about the plan. He remembered a drawing in the house of his parents from a medieval town with which his mother had fallen in love on a trip to Europe, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. He decided to try to save the town and facilitated the negotiations with the Nazis, that accepted to surrender the settlement without a new bombing. Today, McKoy is a citizen of honor of the town.

The Franciscan church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber


On foot on the streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is not a city in which you should run around hunting the most important sights, but one on the streets of which to lose yourself. You’ll inevitably stumble upon the most popular and photographed sites, but checking them off a list should not be your priority. I’ll tell you something about them, but please do not miss the opportunity to aimlessly wander on the alleys of this enchanting town.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

  • Marktplatz, the heart of the town, where all the guided tours start and where you’ll find the Christmas market during the festive season. In the same place, you might run into a reenactment of the Master Draught at noon, but I didn’t see it. In Marktplatz you’ll also see:
    • The Tourist Information Center (Council’s Tavern), where you can get a map with a suggested itinerary. Mine got wet instantly because of the rain and I could not use it, but I can’t say that I felt its lack.
      The Council's Tavern that hosts the tourist information center
    • The Townhall, in the tower of which you should absolutely climb for a postcard-worthy view. It costs 3 euro and you will pay after climbing the stairs, on a well-deserved break.
      View from the tower of the town hall
    • George’s Spring, in winter it’s covered by a glass cube, but in summer you should be able to admire it at will.
      The town hall seen from Marktplatz
  • St. Jacob’s church, the most important church in town, the proud possessor of a wooden hand-carved altar portraying the Last Supper. In its center, there’s a relic with a few blood drops of Jesus Christ.
    St. Jacob's church in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • The Plönlein, the most photographed square in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In its center stands a half-timbered house, still inhabited, sandwiched between two tall towers and cobbled alleys.

The Plonlein in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

  • The Gardens of The Old Castle, that fell in an earthquake from the 14th century. Its stones were used to build a part of the city walls. On summer, the garden should be a charming spot for a stop. However, winter or summer, you can still see a different angle of the town from here and realize why it is called Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the red fortress on the Tauber.

Image of Rothenburg ob der Tauber from the Gardens of the Old Castle

  • The city walls, towers, and gates. Go to any tower and look for the stairs to get on the wall. Then encircle the town. It took us an hour and a half, maybe even longer, but from there we had a good view both over the interior of the town, and the countryside. From now to then you’ll notice plaques with names of people and countries because the walls were damaged in the Second World War and restored thanks to donations from all over the world. From the top of the walls, you’ll have the best view of Gerlachschmiede, one of the most beautiful houses in town.

Plaques with the names of the donors for the reconstruction of the wallTower in the city walls in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

  • Kathe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village shop, a paradise of handmade Christmas decorations, open all year round. Above it, you’ll run into the funniest museum, the Christmas Museum. The best place to find out why some parts of Germany have pyramids instead of Christmas trees, why we hang glass balls on the branches and how the tradition of the Christmas tree spread around the world.Christimas PyramidsChristmas decorations at Museum of Christmas
  • The Museum of Crime and Justice, a collection of torture objects from the medieval era. Avoid it around Christmas 🙂
  • A bakery, where you’ll have to make a hard choice and decide what Schneeball (snowball) to taste. The traditional dessert is not everybody’s favorite, but you should still try at least one. I’ve tried one with strawberries and one with marzipan. The little snowballs seemed good enough to me, they kind of melted.

Good to know

  • First of all, make sure you’re heading to the right town, as it is not the only Rothenburg in Germany and you would not be the first one to get it wrong.
  • You can get there by train from Nuremberg in about one hour or from München in 3-4 hours.
  • The town lies on the Romantic Road, from Würzburg to Füssen. You can easily find a bus tour, as it is pretty popular among tourists.
  • If visiting by car, park outside the city walls, otherwise, it won’t be easy to come by a parking spot. I’ve parked for free on the street between Galgentor and Weisserturm.

Free parking in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

  • The magic of the village is no longer a secret. In winter it gets fewer crowds, but the winter is moodier and the days are shorter. Lots of people come in Rothenburg ob der Tauber on a day trip. If you want to avoid the cram, you might choose to stay in town or near for the night and walk around in the morning or at sunset. Besides, those are the golden hours for photography.
  • I’ve stayed in Colmberg, a tiny village nearby, next to a castle. In its gardens happily frisked a lot of deer. If you’ve got a car, I recommend you try it, Gusthof Colmberg.
  • If you choose to visit the town in the evening, starting with 8 pm you can join the night watchman on his round. The tour takes one hour and costs 8 euro.

Free parking in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Christmas decorated street in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the best place to travel back in time. The houses that once were the shame of the town are now its pride and what makes it known around the world. If you get to see it at Christmas, you could not be luckier. The Christmas market of the tiny town has a tradition of over 500 years. However, no matter the season, the usual decorations on the alleys, the Kathe Wohlfahrt shop and the Christmas museum, will make you feel that the festive season is a little bit closer. It’s almost as if Christmas was born here.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

What do you think? Would you like to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber?

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