Rothenburg ob der Tauber: One of Germany’s Best Preserved Medieval Towns

Rothenburg photos view of townRothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval towns and also one of the key attractions along Germany’s famed Romantic Road.  The Romantic Road follows a medieval trading route leading through medieval towns and villages and rolling hills landscape peppered with fields and forests.  Similar to the medieval towns of Maulbronn and  Schwäbisch Hall, I believe that Rothenburg ob der Tauber is best explored by foot.

Rothenburg photos view

The nicest views from the walls in Rothenburg can be found along the west side of the town.

For me, the allure of exploring a medieval city is experiencing the city itself.  I am quite happy to wander through a town knowing the gist of the town’s history and on most occasions do not feel the need to know every little detail about every single historic building.

rothenburg photos tower 1

Towers are found at regular intervals along the wall in Rothenburg ob der Tauber

rothenburg photos of schneeballen

Schneeballen (snow balls) a local speciality.

Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Rothenburg ob der Tauber so much.  It’s a walled town and you can walk the entire circumference of the wall which is interspersed with watch towers at frequent intervals (the Town Hall Watch tower offers the best view in all of Rothenburg ob der Tauber).  We only walked part of the cities walls since I was still on crutches from knee surgery, but it was still easy to entertain ourselves with one of the numerous cafes, gelato shops and restaurants that line the historic cobble stone streets.  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also famous for Schneeballen – large balls of dough covered in sugar powder.  I like to think of it as the German version of an American donut, but not as tasty and more filling.  I left Rothenburg ob der Tauber very full, but very satisfied.

If Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks familiar to you even though you haven’t been there, it  may be because have seen it in a movie theater.   The village shown in the Walt Disney movie Pinocchio is based on Rothenburg ob der Tauber and parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, were filmed here as well.  The city can also be seen in a popular Japanese animated film, just to mention a few of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s cinematic claims to fame.


rothenburg photos market square

Rothenburg Town Hall and the Market Square

Despite my preference for just experiencing a city, we did sign up for the 90 minute tour in English which is offered at 2:00 everyday starting in the Market Square, and did a good job of bringing the town’s walls to life.  I particularly enjoyed learning that in medieval times the town gate closed each night and if you were on the outside of the gate you were sleeping outside the gate – cold and unprotected.  Unless of course you pleaded your case to the Night Watchman, who then contacted city officials to decide your fate for the night.    There is also a tour with the Night Watchman offered everyday at 8:00.  Both tours run  from April 1st – October 31st.

Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum

The Medieval Crime Museum was closed when we arrived, but at least we still got a cheesy photo.

After our tour, we stopped by the Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalteriches Kriminalmuseum), but unfortunately they just closed the doors as we were about to enter.  It turns out the entrance closes 45 minutes before the museum’s closing time.   Our condolence prize was the Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weichactsmuseum)  –  0n Easter Sunday.  The irony was not lost on me and perhaps that’s why we were the only ones in the Christmas Museum, although the Christmas store located in the same building was surprisingly quite busy.  I  quite enjoyed the Christmas Museum, much more than the Easter Egg Museum we had visited last week, although  J.P. (my German fiance) thought it was “kitschy.”  I found it was informative and the exhibits well presented as they explained the history of Christmas traditions (in both German and English signs).

rothenburg photos towerWe visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber on Easter Sunday and it was packed.  Surprisingly a lot of the shops were open as well, which even surprised J.P. since normally everything would be closed, tourists or not.  Despite it being touristy, I still really enjoyed it and Rothenburg ob der Tauber is popular for a reason – it is the best preserved medieval city in all of Germany.  The city is not really close to anything so unless you happen to be traveling the Romantic Road, you have to make a bit of an effort to get there, which I personally like. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is 150km northeast of Stuttgart, or 240km northwest of Munich.  The nearest city is Nuremberg, just over 100km east of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

rothenburg photos st jacobs church

St. Jacobs Church, a popular landmark in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber has other museums and St. Jacobs Church i s a must stop for many tourists.  Besides being a massive church dating back to 1311, it is also famous for the Holy Blood Altar (Heilig Blut Altar)  named after a relic, a drop of Christ’s blood, which turned the town into a pilgrimage in medieval times.  As interesting as this is, for me the real highlight of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the walled town itself and well worth a 150km drive from Stuttgart.

For more information see:  Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tourist Information.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.


  1. Jeremy B April 26, 2011 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    I have been here and have the photos to prove it! 🙂

    One of the best things to do, besides wandering around town, is to take the night watchman tour. Also, I got away from the touristy stuff and even found some people playing tennis on some clay courts nearby. Not a place many people see or experience in Rothenburg so I really enjoyed that!

  2. Gina April 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm - Reply

    Cool, I hadn’t heard of this place, but it looks really neat! I’m going to have to add it to my list of places to visit.
    Coincidentally, I had my first Schneeball this weekend (in Füssen; I was visiting Schloss Neuschwanstein).

  3. Sabrina April 26, 2011 at 4:27 pm - Reply

    This posts brings back memories for me 🙂 We did a class trip with an overnight stay in a hostel there when I was in high school. I remember that it was a gorgeous city and we had a great time. On the random memory front, I can see us sitting in front of a church or cathedral eating lots of cherries we bought at a local farmers market while wandering the city. Isn’t it weird what you remember? 🙂 Good times.

  4. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 4:29 pm - Reply

    @Jeremy – Thanks for the feedback on the Night Watchman Tour, I’ve heard it was good, so will have to come back another day. Also great when you find a place to get away from all the tourists. The valley leading to the castle just outside of Rothenburg ob der Tauber also looked like a great place to get away from all the tourists and see the town from the outside.

    @Gina – Rothenburg ob der Tauber is actually not that far from Schloo Neuschwanstein (hope you enjoyed it). How was your first Schneeball?

  5. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    @Sabrina – It is funny what you remember about a place 🙂 We did see lots of farmer’s market stands which I really liked as it’s nice to have fast healthy options when you’re traveling and the fresh strawberries were delicious.

  6. Alexander April 26, 2011 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    “Germany’s best preserved medieval town”? where did you get this information from? rothenburg indeed is good preserved, but there are many other towns in similar condition. “one of germany’s …” would apply better. 🙂

  7. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 5:15 pm - Reply

    @Alexander – Thanks for your comment. I got my information from both and Rick Steves: but am happy to change it “one of” it that is a more accurate description of it.

  8. Adam April 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    You have given me a treasure trove of ideas for whenever I make my way to Germany. Every time I read about your adventures, I say to myself, “I want to go there.”

    “I am quite happy to wander through a town knowing the gist of the town’s history and on most occasions do not feel the need to know every little detail about every single historic building.”

    ^^^^^And I think I feel that way because we seem to travel in the same styles. I could have easily written the above statement myself. That’s exactly how I feel!!

  9. Debbie Beardsley April 26, 2011 at 6:06 pm - Reply

    Great post, Laurel! I didn’t know about the Pinocchio connection! Very interesting.

    I still have ornaments on my Christmas tree that are from Rothenburg. Well its really like alot of ornaments as I spent quite a bit money in the Christmas store 🙂

    I loved your “cheesy photo”. . . what a great memory!

  10. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    @Debbie – Thanks, I want to watch Pinocchio again to see if I can recognize it. The Christmas store in Rothenburg is dangerous. I only bought a few ornaments…this time, but we’ll be back. They do make a wonderful souvenir though :). Re: the “cheesy photo” it just had to be done 🙂

  11. Keith April 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    I spent a very pleasant evening there last month with a colleague from work… I’m sure it will be much more romantic when I go back with my wife 🙂

  12. David @ MalaysiaAsia April 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    Something about Medieval towns that make me want to just jump on the next plane there. I especially love the town hall and market square picture. We do have one replica of a French town here in Malaysia but it is poorly managed…

  13. Zhu April 26, 2011 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    Looks very green on the first few pictures!

    Middle-ages is not my favourite historic period (pretty barbaric!) but the architecture is interesting.

  14. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm - Reply

    @Zhu – I am fascinated by the Middle ages, but wouldn’t have wanted to live back then, and I love the architecture as well.

  15. Laurel April 26, 2011 at 8:07 pm - Reply

    @Keith – Yes, think it’s safe to assume it would be more romantic with your wife :). I think it would be especially romantic at dusk/sunset.

    @David – Being from Canada where we don’t have any medieval towns, I’m with you and am trying to see as many as possible.

  16. Roy | cruisesurfingz April 27, 2011 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Love the architecture!

  17. Grace April 27, 2011 at 1:17 am - Reply

    I love cheesy photos. I can’t imagine how it must have been like to see actual criminals back in the old days.

  18. adventureswithben April 27, 2011 at 2:57 am - Reply

    I missed the Romantic Road on my last trip. Yes I went to Fussen, but I didn’t drive at all while I was there.

  19. Jade April 27, 2011 at 4:12 am - Reply

    Bob and I have almost the same photo from a few spots in England- I love it! I’m always up a cheesy photo!

  20. robin April 27, 2011 at 8:55 am - Reply

    I love Rothenburg and can second the recommendation of the Nigth Watchman tour.

    It gets overcrowded but if you spend a night or two you get to enjoy it in the evenings and early mornings when it’s quiet 🙂

  21. inka April 27, 2011 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    You look quite fetching in the Pranger my dear and I’m pleased to see that there is no cast or anything on your knee. So, I guess, you are full recovered from your operation. Rothenburg is as kitsch as kitsch can be which in my opinion is just fabulous. We are all chiidren at heart and therefore will think nothing about visiting the Christmas museum at Easter.

  22. Cheryl Howard April 27, 2011 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Sooo beautiful! As always, great photos. I can’t wait to experience Germany. I think I’ll use your blog as a “to do” list of sights to see. 🙂

  23. Best In Germany – GERMANY October 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    […] Rothenburg ob der Tauber: One of Germany’s Best Preserved … […]

  24. May March 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm - Reply

    Hello Laurel,
    I found you through Frau Dietz’s blog. I have been spending quite some time going through all your posts and have loved every single one of them. Your pictures are stunning and the narration along with it, terrific.
    I live in one such medieval village called Lohr am Main, and walk through half timbered buildings everyday. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is an hours drive from where we live and we have visited there 3 times. My daughter aged 9 loves Rothenburg a lot. During one such visit there was a brass band playing lovely music and we sat on the steps of the Town Hall and just enjoyed listening to it.

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