Rothenburg, the hidden medieval town in Germany
Written by Keator Cheng
On 28 May 2024

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, often referred as Rothenburg, is a picturesque town that feels like a journey back in time.

Renowned for its well-preserved medieval architecture, cobblestone streets and rich cultural heritage, Rothenburg offers a cultural travel experience that captivates history buffs and casual tourists alike.

Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

Located in the heart of Bavaria, Germany, this charming town with its ambience and historical significance, is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in exploring German culture.

A walk through history

Photo by Serge Taeymans on Unsplash

Rothenburg is one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Germany. Its history dates back to 1170 when it was founded as a free imperial city. The town’s strategic location along trade routes contributed to its prosperity during the Middle Ages. Today, Rothenburg’s medieval heritage is evident in its well-preserved city walls, historic buildings and ancient churches.


A stroll through Rothenburg’s old town is like walking through a living museum. The town is famous for its medieval architecture with half-timbered houses, narrow alleys, and charming squares. The town’s layout has remained largely unchanged since the 14th century, allowing visitors to experience the atmosphere of a bygone era.

Key cultural sites


Market Square (Marktplatz)

Marktplatz


The heart of Rothenburg is its Market Square surrounded by historic buildings, including the Town Hall (Rathaus). The Town Hall, with its imposing Gothic and Renaissance facades, is a symbol of the town’s rich history. The square is the perfect place to start exploring, offering a picturesque setting for photos and a glimpse into the town’s vibrant past.


Medieval Crime and Justice Museum

Medieval Crime and Justice Museum


For those interested in the darker aspects of medieval history, the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum offers a fascinating insight into the legal practices of the time. The museum houses a vast collection of instruments of torture, legal documents and artefacts related to crime and punishment. It provides a sobering yet intriguing perspective on medieval life.


St. Jakob’s Church

St. Jakob’s Church


This magnificent church is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. Built between 1311 and 1484, St. Jakob’s Church is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows and the Holy Blood altarpiece, carved by the famous wood sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider. The church’s serene interior offers a peaceful retreat and a chance to reflect on the town’s spiritual heritage.


The Plönlein

Photo by Pat Whelen on Unsplash


One of the most photographed spots in Rothenburg, the Plönlein is a charming intersection where two medieval streets converge. With its yellow timber-framed house and backdrop of the Siebersturm and Kobolzeller Tor towers, the Plönlein embodies the fairytale-like quality of Rothenburg.


Cultural events and festivals

Rothenburg Christmas market


Rothenburg’s cultural calendar is filled with events that celebrate its heritage and traditions. One of the most notable is the annual Reiterlesmarkt, the town’s Christmas market, which transforms Rothenburg into a winter wonderland. Visitors can enjoy traditional German Christmas treats, handmade crafts, and festive decorations.


Another highlight is the Imperial City Festival (Reichsstadt-Festtage), held in September. This festival brings the town’s history to life with re-enactments, parades, and performances that showcase Rothenburg’s medieval past. The event features locals dressed in costumes, medieval music and traditional dances.

Culinary delights

No visit to Rothenburg is complete without sampling its cuisine. The town is famous for its Schneeballen (snowballs), a traditional Franconian pastry made from strips of dough rolled into a ball, deep-fried, and dusted with powdered sugar. Schneeballen come in various flavours, including chocolate, caramel, and cinnamon. They are a must-try snack.

Rothenburg also boasts a range of traditional Bavarian restaurants where visitors can savour hearty dishes such as Bratwurst (grilled sausages), Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) and Sauerkraut. Pair your meal with a glass of local Franconian wine or a stein of Bavarian beer for an authentic dining experience.

Practical tips

  1. Getting there: Rothenburg is accessible by train from major German cities like Frankfurt, Munich and Nuremberg. The town’s small size makes it easy to explore on foot.
  2. Accommodation: Rothenburg offers a range of accommodation options, from charming guesthouses to luxury hotels. Staying within the town walls provides the best experience.
  3. Best time to visit: While Rothenburg is beautiful year-round, the best times to visit are during spring and early summer when the weather is pleasant or in December for the Christmas market.

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