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First Timers Guide to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Planning a trip to Germany? I’ll bet you want to go to the absolute, most charming city in the country, right? Hands down that’s Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and we’ll tell you all you need to know to have the best time.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small, charming city in the beautiful state of Bavaria in Germany. It’s a must-visit destination that should be included on everyone’s itinerary. In fact, it’s one of the Top five places to visit in Germany, and you’ll see why! Regardless of the time of year you visit, Rothenburg’s medieval charm is sure to capture you.

Situated along the Romantic Road in Germany, Rothenburg boasts ivy-covered stone walls, tall watchtowers, and winding, cobblestone lanes for you to explore. We’ve been to Rothenburg several times, and each time we find something new to appreciate – whether it’s a hidden corner of the city or the warmth and welcoming kindness of the locals.

In this article:

An old Rothenburg Map from one of the signs in town.

Where is Rothenburg ob Tauber?

This historic, medieval walled city lies atop a rocky plateau overlooking the pastoral Tauber river valley in central Germany. Rothenburg is located in northwestern Bavaria in Franconia but very close to the German state of Baden-Württemberg.

Well connected by rail and roads, including Germany’s famous Romantic Road, Rothenburg is one of the most popular destinations in a country filled with castles and fairytales. Rothenburg train station is located just a short three minute walk from the Rodertor and then on into the medieval town.

A view of Rothenburg ob der Tauber from below the walled city.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber?



From the last weekend in May until the end of June, the approaching summer starts shaving off the cool temps of spring, and plants and flowers are blooming everywhere. Homeowners adorn their colorful half-timbered house fronts with window boxes filled with brilliant geraniums, and the town gardens are full and vibrant.

The outdoor tables at the cafes and restaurants sparkle with wine glasses, and everyone is outdoors, enjoying the warming sun that was so absent for all those short winter days. A leisurely stroll through the flower-scented castle gardens is hard to resist.

The Town Hall or Rathaus is the iconic starting point for the Rothenburg Night Watchman's tour.

With the coming of summer comes tourists, which can be good and bad. It’s good because the town becomes fully awake and alive. Stores stay open longer, restaurants and cafes double their capacity with outdoor seating in the town squares or in courtyard gardens, and the town puts on reenactments, dances, and medieval shows bringing its colorful history to life.

For example, the town puts on its annual festival play, “The Master Draught” commemorating how the town was saved by a wine-guzzling mayor during the Thirty Years War. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the weather is much more comfortable than any other time of year. Check out this calendar so you don’t miss it!

The Rothenburg Wall is full of gates, stones, overlooking the old moat and wonderful to walk around.


Don’t rule out autumn to visit Rothenburg. The surrounding trees make the colors spectacular and the temperature is just right! September is one of the best times to visit Germany because of all the festivals, and Rothenburg is no exception. During the first weekend in September, they hold their City Fest, which is a medieval fair. Everyone is in costume. The food and stalls are mostly Middle-Ages themed, and it’s tons of fun!

The Lord's fountain in winter doesn't have water, but it's still a must-see attraction in Rothenburg.


Winter is super special in Rothenburg, so much so that we’ve written an entire article about it. To summarize, it’s cold but magical. The crowds are a bit thinner, except during its exceptional Christmas market, and to be quite frank, if you are in Germany during the winter and pass up Rothenburg, you are making a huge mistake!

The main marketplace in Rothenburg is a great starting point for your day trip.


Spring is probably the slowest season in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. There are not as many tourists, and for this reason, it may be one of the best times to go. Just be prepared for a little rain. There are a few great things going on in spring like the Stadtmosphäre at the end of April, and the Citizen’s fest in mid-May.

For a better experience, it’s recommended to start your day later than earlier, as crowds tend to thin out as the day progresses. You can begin by visiting a museum, indulging in some shopping, and then strolling around the old town. It’s best to have dinner after most people have left the area. Spending the night will allow you to explore the place in peace when there are fewer crowds. Also, during summer, it remains bright until almost 10:00 PM, giving you ample time to enjoy your surroundings.

Plonlein Square is the most iconic spot to visit in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Things to Do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Walk the Ramparts and Check out The Gates

The absolute best thing to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is just wander. It’s a stunning walled city with half-timbered buildings, fountains, wall reliefs, amazing towers and gates, and gorgeous views. There are too many Instagrammable spots to mention, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Plönlein Square – Little Square
  • Markusturm
  • Rödertor
  • Burgtor
  • Spitalbastei
  • Alte Schmiede – Blacksmith
  • Rathaus – City Hall
  • Half-timbered buildings throughout the city
  • Toppler Castle
  • Tauber Bridge
  • Lord’s Fountain
The Rothenburg Torture Museum.

Medieval Criminal Museum

Many castles have a dungeon that visitors can walk through and see exhibits. Sometimes, actors dress up and try to scare visitors. You might see fake weapons and art on display. However, the reality of a dungeon in a fortified castle or palace was quite different.

Prisoners were not usually kept in dungeons. They might be thrown into a hole until their fate was decided. If they were nobility, they were usually kept in nice rooms and treated well. So, the idea of what was going on in the dungeon is not entirely true. 

However, the Criminal Museum in Rothenburg is a different story. Cities had to deal with criminals and have a justice system. The museum does an excellent job of explaining and displaying the criminal code from medieval times.

The signage includes English, making it easier for visitors to understand the exhibits. Visitors can learn about life in the medieval city and the punishment for crimes such as being a devious baker or putting too much water in the beer. The museum has a good reputation for a reason and is worth visiting for people of all ages.

Life in the Middle Ages comes alive at the Rothenburg History Museum.

Rothenburg Town History Museum

This is a small museum about life in the city during its heyday. Vignettes and scenes of life during the Middle Ages are a great way to imagine what life was like back then. The museum doesn’t take long to visit, and in my opinion, is well worth it.

There are a couple of other museums in town as well:

  • Rothenburg Museum
  • German Christmas Museum
  • Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkerhaus – Craftsman’s House
  • Graphics Museum in the Dürer House
  • Röderturm
  • Meistertrunk Museum (City Legend)

Check out the Rothenburg Tourism Website for up-to-date info.

The Rothenburg Christmas Market.

Visit the Reiterlesmarkt aka The Rothenburg Christmas Market

For one full month each winter (end of November until the 23rd of December), you can visit the most charming Christmas market in Germany, the Reiterlesmarkt. The Rothenburg Christmas market takes advantage of all the winding alleyways, cobblestone streets, and romantic half-timbered houses. We love it.

The Burgtor of Rothenburg is the start of any Rothenburg itinerary.

Nightwatchman’s Tour

A quirky walking tour that many German cities offer, the Nightwatchman’s tour harkens back to when the lamplighters and street guards walked throughout the city at night. They were the town’s eyes and ears and knew everything that was going on. The tours include stories about the buildings, the city, and the more fun anecdotes of happenings throughout Rothenburg’s history.

Rothenburg offers an English tour every night in the high season, and every Saturday in the low season at 8:00 at night. You don’t have to reserve tickets, just wait outside the Town Hall a little before eight and wait for the man in the cloak. It costs about 10 Euros each and lasts about an hour.

Shopping in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a must-do since they are known for high-quality, homemade souvenirs.
A cow in lederhosen is just one of the many cute sights to see in Rothenburg.

Shopping in Rothenburg

Rothenburg is one of the best places to buy souvenirs in all of Germany…in my opinion. You know I’m not a big shopper, but the stores in Rothenburg are the best. I love the wooden ornaments at the Kathe Wohlfart store, the Steiff stuffed animals at Teddy’s, and the small souvenir and art boutiques throughout the Old Town. It really is a pleasure to shop in Rothenburg.

Rödertor, Rothenburg ob Tauber guide.

Map of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Map of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.
Open in Google Maps.

Getting to Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The Nearest Airport – Nuremberg airport is a little over an hour’s drive, but a lot of people fly into Munich as well (2.5 hours away).

The Rothenburg ob der Tauber Train Station is in the middle of town, about an 8-minute walk to the Roderturm, entering you into the medieval walled part of town. It’s another 7 minutes or so to the Markt Platz, but really walking around the town and the alleys, and the outer path is all about exploring and enjoying

Pro Tip: Traveling by train in Germany? Be sure to check out the regional ticket special fares to save big! Travel any day between 09:00 and 03:00 the next day with up to four other travelers on any regional train for a significantly reduced cost. For example, four people can get from Frankfurt to Rothenburg and back for less than 15 euros each. Munich is even cheaper using the Bavaria ticket, those same four people going from Munich to Rothenburg—about 10 euros.

This is important! Now that you are convinced to add this beautiful city to your Germany itinerary, note that there are two Rothenburgs in Germany, so you want to make sure you are heading to the right one. The other one might be worthwhile to visit, but you don’t want to miss all the sights here.

Walk the Ramparts in Rotheburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

How to Get to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Frankfurt

  • By Car: Travel time is about 2 hours. Take the A3 out of Frankfurt in the direction of Wurzburg about 115 km to the A7 traveling towards Ulm/Rothenburg o.d.T. Leave the A7 after 50 km at exit 108 and follow signs to Rothenburg.
  • By Train: several trains (InterCity-IC, Inter City Express-ICE, and Regional Express-RE) run throughout the day to Wurzburg. Change there for the Regional Bahn (RB) toward Treuchtingen and get off the train at Steinach b. Rothenburg o.d. Tauber. Transfer to the Rothenburg train. Time at the stations is sufficient to catch each of the connecting trains and this trip will take between three and three and a half hours.
Stöberleintor, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the many reasons Rothenburg is worth visiting.

How to Get to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Nuremberg

  • By Car: Travel time is about 1 hour. Take the A6 out of Nuremberg in the direction of Heilbronn for about 80 km. Turn at the A7 junction towards Wurzburg/Rothenburg o.d.T. and continue for another 21 km to exit 108, following signs to Rothenburg.
  • By Train: Travel time is about one and a half hours. Take the S-Bahn or regional express to Ansbach. Transfer to the Regional Bahn to Steinach bei Rothenburg o.d. Tauber. Transfer to the local train direct to Rothenburg.
The Town Hall or Rathaus is the iconic starting point for the Rothenburg Night Watchman's tour.

How to Get to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Munich

  • By Car: Travel time is about two and a half hours. Leave Munich on the A8 in the direction of Stuttgart. After about 105 km, follow the signs for the A7 towards Wurzburg. Continue another 115 km to exit 108 and follow signs into Rothenburg.
  • By Train: Travel time is about three and a half hours. Take the regional express train to Treuchtingen and then transfer to the Regional Bahn to Steinach. Transfer at Steinach to the local train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Spirits sold at the Rothenburg Christmas Market.

Parking in Rothenburg

Parking areas are well-marked and easy to find. However, there are a few “free” spots near the Rodertor and down the road from the Spitalbastion, check out the embedded map for locations. Our typical method for parking in Rothenburg is to try the small lot on Ansbacherstrasse.

If nothing is available here, we continue driving towards the Rodertor and turn left down Topplerweg, where there is often free street parking. If there’s still nothing, Topplerweg comes out right at the entrance to both the P1 and P2 parking lots, where there is sure to be an open spot.

Hotel Reichskuchnmeister serves up wonderful Franconian fare in Rothenburg, a fantastic hotel.

Places to Stay-Rothenburg Hotels

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is admittedly a very popular destination. Therefore, accommodation is plentiful, but it can also be a bit pricey. Jim and I believe that it’s totally worth it to spend at least one night there, because it’s such a great feeling having the town mostly to yourself once all the day tours have left for the day, and it’s fun to take the Nightwatchman’s tour as well as get up and get some great sunrise photos. However, for longer stays, stay outside the Old Town or a nearby city. Your vacation dollars will go a bit further!

Everyone must try Schneeballen while they are in Rothenburg.

What To Eat In Rothenburg

Rothenburg is famous for a curious little pastry item known as Schneeballen, or snowballs. These are made using strips of short pastry dough that are wrapped around itself into a ball shape then deep fried and, traditionally, sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Over the years, a variety of new flavors and toppings have been developed so now it is possible to try chocolate, strawberry, salted caramel, pistachio, and the list goes on. These tasty treats can be found at any number of bakeries, pastry shops, and cafes.

A Franconian favorite, if you are visiting Rothenburg try the Schaufele.

Main dishes here are Franconian and Swabian with the usual bratwurst and pork dishes. However, Franconian Schaufele takes the traditional pork dish to a whole new level. Tender succulent pork shoulder with a thick layer of fat crackling on top is the dish to eat in Rothenburg. Schaufele is commonly served with a rich beer sauce and one or two giant potato dumplings. This isn’t a meal you should have every day, but if you are a pork eater, it is a must!

Mayor Toppler's castle a little outside the Rothenburg walled city, is well worth a stop.
The Tauber Bridge, nearby Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Things to do Nearby

Rothenburg is a stop on one of the most famous sightseeing paths, the Romantic Road, which is a great idea if you are looking for a day trip.

It’s also located in the state of Bavaria, so whether you rent a car or are taking a train journey, all of these places are well worth your time.

  • Neuschwanstein, Hohenscwhwangau and Linderhof – different places, about 3 hours
  • Munich and the beer halls there, like the Hofbrau Haus or Augustinerbrau – around 3 hours driving
  • Nuremberg – Lots of WWII history, a castle, and Albrecht Durer – 1 hour 15 minutes
  • Wurzburg and its WHS Residence – 45 minutes
  • Bamberg – 1 hour 20 minutes
Corinne during a sunny afternoon on her day trip to Rothenburg.
Jim enjoying the medieval feel of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.


If you’re planning a trip to Germany you should definitely consider adding Rothenburg ob der Tauber to your itinerary. This small city in the state of Bavaria is a must-visit destination that’s perfect for travelers of all ages. Whether you’re visiting in winter, spring, summer, or fall, you’ll be captivated by the charm and beauty of this medieval city.

Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.

Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber transports you back in time. The medieval walled city is a must-see in Bavaria.
Rothenburg ob Tauber, the quaintest and most romantic medieval, walled town in Germany!


Sunday 31st of March 2024

I've been wanting to connect with my dad lately and found this to be such a great article to do that. He lived and studied in Germany for 9 years when he was in his 30's - that part of his life has always been a mystery to me. Getting his take on this was a great way to break the ice, for sure!

My key takeaways on Rothenburg ob der Tauber: 1. Visit the medieval criminal museum 2. Order the Schaufele (pork shoulder) when I'm in town 3. Plan a day trip on the Romantic Road 4. Take a walk along the walls early in the morning to take beautiful photos when it's quiet, with fewer tourists around 5. Take the Night Watchman Tour for those interested in medieval lore and history

This is definitely on my list of places to visit when I'm in Germany.

Sage Scott

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is absolutely one of the most charming cities in Germany. I had a chance to live near there when I was a kid, and this article brought back a lot of wonderful memories.

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 2nd of April 2024

Wow! Lucky you. Where did you live?


Saturday 23rd of March 2024

We went here on our first visit to Germany, and have wanted to go back ever since! Rothenburg ob der Tauber is truly straight out of a fairy tale. Thanks for a trip down memory lane!

Corinne Vail

Tuesday 2nd of April 2024

It's really a one of a kind place...don't you think?