On the romantic road in central Franconia, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of those old and sweet cities that don’t seem really real at first glance.
To enter, you go through a defense system of more than 40 towers that are much like they were when the King of Sweden and Count Tilly were in the city 400 years ago.
They maintain an idyllic town of luxurious patrician houses and wooden dwellings with spiers, wooden bay windows, red shingles and flower boxes.
In its glory years Rothenburg was a free imperial city, dedicated only to the Holy Roman Emperor, and one of the ten largest cities in the empire.
Summarizing the power of Rothenburg in those times is the glorious Renaissance town hall in the market square.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
1. City wall
As an imperial free city, defense was extremely important to Rothenburg in the Middle Ages.
The city maintained its 46 defensive towers and four miles of covered walls, which were restored and erected with information boards.
In a two-hour walk on the subject known as the Rothenburger Turmweg you can read about the technical details of various gates and towers, and the events that have taken place over the last 800 years.
You may stop every few steps to reflect on the views over the city’s red roofs and the Tauber Valley.
The Turmweg also connects with six other themed trails in the town and vineyards around Rothenburg so you can let your sense of curiosity be your guide.
Rothenburg town hall is divided into two parts: in front of the market square is the main building from the Renaissance period which was completed in 1578, and at its base is a baroque arcade, a three-storey Uriel in its corner and a winding stair tower above the arcade.
You look at one of the best expressions of Renaissance architecture in the German-speaking world.
It was built to replace the eastern wing of the original 13th-century Gothic town hall that burned down in 1501. The white western wing still stands on its own and features the imperial and urban emblem on its triangular gable.
Every day in summer and on weekends in winter, you can climb the watchtower for a few euros to overlook the rooftops of Rothenburg.
You will need an entire article to document the many era events that took place in the square next to the City Hall.
In 1474 at this very place, Holstein territory was granted to King Christian of Denmark by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. Another story, which may or may not be true, comes from the Thirty Years’ War: Georg Nosh, the mayor, is supposed to persuade the Holy Roman commander, Count Mattili, to spare the town by drinking a 3.25-liter container. Of a wine container of wine as a gamble.
This moment is restored by the automatons on Ratstrinkstube on the north side of the square in the hourly strike between 10:00 and 22:00. A year later, in 1632, the rival commander Gustav Adolphus stayed at the town hall while passing through Rothenburg with his army.
The emperors of Hohenstaufen have their castle on this loop in Tauber, but after falling in an earthquake in 1356, its stone is returned for the walls of Rothenburg.
The only work left was the Blasiuskapelle, which was converted from the castle’s great hall and hosts a memorial to the victims of the two world wars.
Beneath the terrace to the left revolves the Tauber Valley and one can look back to the southern quarters of the city.
And in the middle you will reach an official garden from the 17th and 18th centuries, with eight sandstone sculptures, for the four seasons and the four elements.
At the end of the garden on the opposite bank is the strange outline of the Topplerschlößchen, a defense tower on which a dwelling house is stuck.
If there’s one picture that includes Rothenburg, it’s that fork on the road in Unter Schmidgasse.
Looking south the street crosses into upper and lower lanes, both surrounded by a wall of half-timbered houses and stone houses.
From the fork you can see two gates from the 13th century: Siebersturm is on the upper level, while on the right, at the end of the bend, is Kobolzellerturm, which opens into the Tauber Valley.
In the center of the fork is the most beautiful structure of the composition, a narrow wooden house with a pointed gable and a small fountain in front.
6. St. James’ Church
The city’s main gothic church, consecrated in 1485, lasted more than 170 years.
Its two towers are covered with spiers adorned with parachutes.
Take time for the tall, narrow windows of the 14th-century Eastern Church, which feature scenes from Mary’s Passion and life.
But before you do anything you need to do for the Western Gallery, which has the phenomenal altar of Tillman Riemenschneider.
He carved it in the early years of the 16th century and it is considered among his greatest works.
The main panel depicts the Last Supper and is framed by weaving floral motifs in unbelievable execution.
Adjacent to the upper part is a male cross decoration for the altar for the year 1270.
7. Medieval Museum of Crime and Justice
At the historic headquarters of the Order of St. John is a shocking museum that often covers 1,000 years of crime and its aftermath.
There is a special interest in medieval and Renaissance laws, methods of torture and punishment.
And although these various instruments hold morbid authority, there are also many enlightening details about the religious inquisitions and the history of the police and courts on the second floor.
These exhibitions deal with legal manuscripts, a collection of stamps and old prints depicting sentences.
On the first floor is an authentic iron maiden, alongside pillars and an alarming amount of instruments made especially for women like violins of a hint and a bridle of rebuke.
Outside there is a real “refining stool”, even for wayward women and dishonest professionals.
Another of the sights to ponder in the market square is a fountain that has been here since 1446. The monument sits between the town hall and the Fleisch- und Tanzhaus, a special half-timbered hall in its own right and built above the street. The wing of the town hall burned down in 1240. As for the fountain, this was repaired over a well at a depth of eight meters and with a volume of 100,000 liters.
At its center is a 16th-century Renaissance pillar topped by a statue of St. George and the Dragon.
An equal stop on the wall walk is this gate with its own defense compound at the southeast entrance to the Old City.
In peaceful times the passenger will be greeted by two customs cabins with pointed roofs.
Then there is a path that leads to the outer half-timbered residence, which was used for storage and stables.
From there you will cross the moat to get closer to the main tower, the oldest part of the complex from the beginning of the 13th century.
This tower was also a signal stand in the Middle Ages and together with the town hall is one of the only two towers in Rothenburg that can be climbed.
Admission is € 1.50 and the tower is open on weekend afternoons.
Translated to “forge lane”, that Midgasa runs down the gentle hill from the market square, and follows restaurants, cafes and small and inviting shops in historic homes.
One such house is the Baumeisterhaus (Master Builder House) at tax address. 3, from 1596 and named after Leonard Weidman, who is also in charge of the town hall.
Between the linked windows on the first and second floors there are 14 creatidas for the seven deadly sins and the seven degrees.
There is also a rather sad story about Schmidgasa: in 1525 during the German Peasant War, Casimir, the brothel from Brandenburg-Beirut gathered 17 local leaders in the market square and beheaded them.
Their bodies were left on the square for a day and apparently their blood flowed like a stream down Shmidgasa.
11. The Imperial City Museum
This historical museum is housed in the 13th-century Dominican convent of Rothenburg.
The Gothic cloisters are still here, as is the monastery kitchen, which is considered one of the oldest in Germany.
The galleries display a large collection of weapons and armor, as well as objects that give a sense of everyday life in Rothenburg, such as clothes, coins and Jewish liturgical ornaments.
You may remember Georg Nush and his drinking gamble that supposedly saved the city; Well, his container is the exhibit.
There is also some late Gothic statue collected from churches and monasteries throughout the city, as well as the Rothenburg Passion, 12 altarpieces painted in 1494.
Once you pass under the radiator, you will come face to face with this strange old house first built on Wenggasse in 1469. The Gerlachschmiede is an ancient structure with a cute triangular gable on a porch held by wooden beams.
It was one of many buildings in the southeastern part of Rothenburg that were lost in the bombing in March 1945, but were faithfully rebuilt until 1948. A blacksmith continued to work here, producing hooves, until 1967. On the street sign you can see the hammer and tongs of the locksmith and volume guild, while the eye-catching emblem On the gable is a new design from 1950.
Beneath the west wing of Rothenburg there is a scene right from a romantic landscape painting.
The Tauberbrücke is a bridge with two levels of arches that crosses the meadows and green vines of the Tauber Valley along 123 meters.
It has a history from 1330 and was on a trade route between the cities of Augsburg and Würzburg.
The major years in the history of the bridge are 1791 when the upper level collapsed and had to be rebuilt, and 1945 when the German army lowered it for a full reconstruction in 1956.
On the noble Rangasa you will come across the oldest patrician house in the city.
The Staudthof, named after the von Staudt family, who have owned it since 1697, has a relatively modest façade on the side of the street.
But as soon as you cross the threshold, the splendor of the property becomes clear.
The Staudthof dates back to the 12th century, before the walls of the city of Rothenburg, so it had its own defensive wall.
It surrounds a 120-meter courtyard surrounded by a barn, stables and at its center a beautiful garden with two yew trees growing since 1678. It’s all a perfect window into the lifestyle of the old patrician class of Rothenburg, who made his money no. Trade except by land ownership.
You can contact us through the property’s website to inquire about a tour.
15. Retail Market
Germany is a special place to be at Christmas when markets pop up all over the city center.
Same with Rothenburg, but the market has a Disney-like quality against the backdrop of the houses with the gables in the marketplace and its connecting streets.
And if you’m lucky enough to be here when it snows, the city looks like a live Christmas card.
Moreover, this market, open from 1 to 23 December, lasts until the 15th century and has some traditions of its own.
One is a retreat known as the market, a legendary Teutonic cavalryman who was originally known for collecting the souls of the dead.
If this sounds a little creepy, the good news is that today’s Ritlerl is just a cheerful messenger who opens the market every year.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Guarantee the lowest price.