Why Rothenburg is so great
Rothenburg, in full name Rothenburg ob der Tauber, is one of the stunning examples of a medieval town preserved at its best. The secret of the beauty of towns like this is that after flourishing in the Middle Ages their development stopped later for some reason and this allows to us to see the awesomeness of the past almost unchanged. So there you have a unique opportunity to step into the middle ages when entering the town gate with colorful houses, cobbled streets, city walls and a special atmosphere.
It’s great to learn that this old imperial free city has survived during the World War II because of the actions of two men: U.S. Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy, whose mother had visited the town and therefore he knew about the beauty of it, and German military commander Major Thömmes who voluntarily gave up the town, thus preventing it from being destroyed. Lately, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was voted as number 5 of the "Best Travel Destinations in Germany" in the official vote by the German National Tourist Board both in 2016 and 2017. So what to do in Rothenburg?
1 Stay overnight because of the Night Watchman tour
One of the best ways to experience Rothenburg is at night with the Night Watchman Tour. Back in the day, medieval cities like Rothenburg had to be careful during the night because there were many people around wanting to take over the city and get the wealth of its citizens. The Night Watchman was an armed guard who shut the gates when the night was coming, then stayed awake to watch over the resting city. For centuries, these Night Watchmen helped to keep the city safe. Now the Night Watchman goes on tours at dusk in the Rothenburg. The tour starts at 8 pm every day and you can join it without prior reservation. I witnessed the fact that many people were willing to do so, therefore, there is no need for advertising. The Night Watchman beautifully managed a large group of some 50 people with a strong voice, making himself visible at any stop and telling great stories about Rothenburg, allowing to immerse in the feeling of the old days. So book your hotel and arrive early enough to wait for Night Watchman on the steps of the Rathaus a bit before the tour starting time.
2 Wander the streets of Rothenburg
The town is small enough to walk it all over. Take your time to wander its streets and discover one wonderful corner and one building after another. Just make sure that you also go outside of the walled city near the Tauber river valley to have views of the valley and the city from the outside. One option is to go to Burgturm, walking from the Market Place down Herrengasse and then through the Burgturm (Burg Tower) to Burgtor. If you do a Night watchman tour, you will be brought there.
3 Take yourself the iconic shot of Rothenburg
To be honest, I did it accidentally and only afterwards did I realize that the picture of my first preference I put on the Instagram on the day of my visit was like the one used everywhere when presenting this lovely town. So you can take this postcard worthy iconic picture as well. Just go down by the Obere Schmiedgasse from the Market square while you reach the Plönlein. The word “Plönlein” comes from the Latin “planum” meaning “flat square”. A bright yellow half-timbered building with a small fountain in front catches your eye first of all. It’s framed by the two towers: Sieber Tower to the left and below on the right is the Kobolzeller Tower overlooking the Tauber valley. Make sure to get there before or after the tour buses to get great photos with the square free of tourists. Als,o check out the cool flower bed in front of the house.
4 Walk the city wall
One of the things to do on any trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is to take a stroll on the city wall for fantastic views of the town and its surroundings. Make sure to take a look at the stone plaques at the wall. It's a way of memorizing donations of people sponsoring sections of the wall by buying plaques with their family names on them. During WW2, bombing destroyed North part of Rothenburg, ruining more than 300 houses, 9 watchtowers, and damaging over 2000 feet of the wall. So the town needed money for restoration. The decision was made to send many letters to newspapers and other media throughout the world asking for donations soon after the WWII end. Generous donations started to flow in therefore allowing quick restoration works to be made. In 1950, each sponsorship cost was $40 per meter of the city wall. Today if you want your name and hometown to be set in stone, you have to donate 1200 euros. Just like before, the money is used for restoring and preserving the town.
Near the Woodsman Tower, notice the famous Blacksmith Shop. The uniquely shaped half-timber blacksmith shop was built on a triangle corner lot in the second part of the 15th century. This colorful home has an excellent coat of arms made up of blacksmith tools. Now it’s a private home. Practical tip: When walking on the wall, be aware that a round walk is not possible because a part of the wall not open for walking.
5 Climb the Röderturm
If you want to see some views of the city from above, you have two options: to climb the tower of the Rathaus or Röderturm on the city wall. So take the opportunity to have two in one: walk the city wall and have views over Rothenburg. In the old days, every night city watchmen in the Woodsman Tower stayed there awake to help keep the town safe. This is the only tower along the wall that you can climb to the top, and it houses a special exhibit about the tower to go along with the views. Its name comes from the “curia rode“ and it has always been an important watch post for the town.
Where to stay
I would recommend staying at Reichsküchenmeister hotel, very near to Market square at Kirchplatz 8. They offer rooms of different standards, from economy to deluxe, allowing you to feel the atmosphere of the ancient city. Rooms are located in the historic main building or in the Viktoriahaus annex. They are tastefully decorated in a timeless, modern style. The Restaurant in the centre of the hotel serves a sumptuous buffet breakfast and has a large à-la-carte menu for your lunch and dinner. A recently opened spa allows you to relax after your day of exploration.
How to get there by train: There are at least three Rothenburgs in Germany and one in Switzerland. The chances that you will end up in another Rothenburg are small but better check to be sure.The Rothenburg ob der Tauber is fairly remote. When taking the train from Munich or Nuremberg, expect to make at least two changes. In any case, you first have to go to Steinach, and then take another train for a 15 minute ride to Rothenburg. There is just one train that literally goes back and forth from Steinach to Rothenburg all day once every hour so make your travel plans accordingly.Using the Deutsch Bahn website for planning your trip is most helpful. When you get to Rothenburg train station, use the opportunity to buy your drinks and snacks in the supermarket nearby across the street.The old town is in walking distance from the station. For example, Röder tower entrance of the old town is about 7 minutes from the station.Prices: Night Watchman tour 8 euros, Röder tower 2 euros.
What did you think? Have you been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
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Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveler, passionate photographer and a mature career woman from Latvia, traveling mostly solo for more than 10 years. She is a skilled travel planner planning and executing her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her also on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.