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Ever heard of the Romantische Straße in Germany (Romantic Road)? It is a route through beautiful landscapes and past romantic towns in Bavaria, in southern Germany. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the towns along this famous tourist route. People from all over the world come to Rothenburg ob der Tauber to see the town and soak up medieval atmospheres. In this article you will find 15 highlights and sights to see in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Romantische Straße (Romantic Road) in Bavaria
The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) starts at Würzburg and continues to Füssen, 460 kilometers away. Along the route are 29 places of interest, each of which has something special to offer. Castles, beautiful country houses, medieval villages, wine estates, art, culture and more. At the end of the Romantic Road is the famous Neuschwanstein Castle, a great highlight to look forward to when driving the route. By the way, the route cannot be traveled only by car. Cyclists and hikers can also enjoy the route and travel the Romantic Road on specially designated bicycle and hiking trails.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
One of the most popular towns along the route is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town, as its name suggests, is located on the Tauber River. The town was founded around 1000 AD by a noble lord. Visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber is like stepping back into the past, it seems as if time has stood still. In fact, it has, because after the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) Rothenburg plunged into a kind of deep sleep and development virtually stood still. Perhaps this is why so much from that era has been preserved.
An American air raid nearly reduced half of Rothenburg to ashes in 1945, but fortunately the medieval center was spared a lot of misery. In the town today, you can still find an intact town wall with dozens of gates and towers. In addition, the center of Rothenburg is full of monumental buildings.
15 highlights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
As we make our way to Austria for a road trip through Tyrol we visit a number of places in Bavaria, one of which is Rothenburg ob der Tauber. We read that the place is very touristy and really feel like having a quick look. However, that turns out very differently. We spend almost a whole day in Rothenburg, because there is so much more to see than I thought. And we still don’t see everything, but enough to list 15 Rothenburg ob der Tauber sights.
Medieval city wall (Stadtmauer)
When Rothenburg received city rights in 1172, construction of the small, inner city wall began. Among others, the Markusturm and the Weißer Turm are part of this. The outer city wall with a total length of almost 3.5 kilometers was built at the end of the 14th century. There are a number of additional fortified entrance gates with towers on top, such as Galgentor and Kobolzeller Turm. Here you can clearly see the double walls with several gates behind each other. A small part of Rothenburg is not shielded by a town wall. At this spot centuries ago was a large swamp area which provided a natural barrier.
In 1945, in addition to much of the city, part of the city wall was also destroyed. After the war, America donated a lot of money to rebuild the affected sections. This can be seen in donor panels that are incorporated on the city wall in various places.
From the city wall you have a beautiful view of the city. On the outskirts it is incredibly quiet, in most places there is not a person in sight. “What do you mean touristy?” is our first reaction. Later it turns out that the concentration of tourists is greatest on the Marktplatz. In the little streets behind the square it is very quiet again!
The Klingentor had several functions in the past. Obviously, the gate under the tower provided access to the city and defenders could shoot intruders well from above. In addition, the Klingentor was one of the points in the town where there was a fountain. Residents of Rothenburg fetched their water here so it was also a kind of social meeting place.
Klingentorbastei / St. Wolfgangskirche
Walk under the Klingentor and you will come to the St. Wolfgangskirche, also called Schäferskirche. St. Wolfgangskirche is connected by a wall to the Klingentor and therefore part of Rothenburg’s fortifications. The church was built at the end of the 15th century on the spot where shepherds gathered to worship St. Wolfgang. Wolfgang to worship. From outside the town wall, the church is not recognizable as such. With its thick walls, it looks more like a fortress. Inside are 3 altars that date from the late 15th century and early 16th century. The church was nicknamed Schäferskirche at the time when the Schäfer fraternity held weekly services in the church.
Plönlein is probably the most photographed place in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and also the place people will recognize from Instagram. Plönlein has appeared several times in “most instagrammable places” lists. It is a beautiful place that really captures the imagination. The height difference in the streets, the half-timbered house with a fountain in front of it and two towers Siebersturm and Kobolzeller Tor) in the background. It’s hard not to find this charming and photogenic! The name Plönplein comes from the Latin word “planum,” which means “flat square.”
Walk across Plön Square and you will walk under the Siebersturm. This tower was built in 1204 when the city was first expanded. The tower was used until the 14th century to protect the southern gate. The other side of the Siebersturm may be “better known” because of the Plönlein, but this side is just as beautiful. Again, beautiful half-timbered houses line both sides of the street, Spitalgasse.
Kobolzeller turm and Kobolzeller Steige
The Kobolzeller turm is located a little later than the Siebersturm and, in my opinion, is one of the most impressive places in Rothenburg. Here you can really see how much it took to protect a town in the Middle Ages. A number of gates in a row provided good protection at the entrance to the town from the Tauber valley. Between the gates you see the Kobolzeller Steige, here you can walk across towards the Kobolzeller Tor. A beautiful piece of Rothenburg ob der Tauber where you really take a step back in time.
In the mid-15th century, the great St. Jakobskirche was built. Inside the church you will find a number of impressive altars. In this church you will also find the famous Heiligblutaltar. This carving was carved at the beginning of the 15th century and shows the Last Supper. The beautiful stained glass windows in the church are over 700 years old. The church incorporates a gateway, similar to the one at St. Wolfgangskirche. There is no shortage of gates in Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
Markusturm u. Röderbogen
The Markusturm and Röderbogen were also built as part of the first city wall, at the beginning of the 13th century. At that time there were 3 other official watchtowers. Quite a difference from a few centuries later, when the outer city wall was completed. At that time, there were as many as 70 towers used to keep watch. The building on the right of the photo was the toll house in the Middle Ages. Now the building houses Romantik Hotel Markusturm, one of the best hotels in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
The Marktplatz is the most famous landmark in Rothenburg ob de Tauber among tourists. Since the beginning of the 12th century, this has been the place to sell and buy merchandise. Over the centuries, beautiful half-timbered houses were built around the square. The square was perfect for meetings, parties and other social activities. Today, the square is where you see large groups of tourists, all following a colored flag. Many groups do not even reach the first streets next to the square, making it easy to bypass the crowds.
The Weißer Turm was also part of the first city wall. However, the tower became best known after the Thirty Years’ War, during which it served as the starting point for the walk along Galgengasse on the way to the gallows at Würzburger Tor, aka Galgentor. Immediate explanation of the names. A sign on the street in the shape of a gallows still recalls those days. After World War II, the Weißer Turm was rebuilt after being destroyed in the American air raid.
Spitaltor and Spitalbastei
A new gate, Spitaltor, was built in the south of Rothenburg in the late 14th century. The gate was additionally fortified around 1600 by the Spitalbastei, an eight-shaped bastion. The bastion has 2 courtyards, as many as 7 gates and a drawbridge. It is an imposing structure and you should definitely take a look inside. When you enter the bastion through the side entrance (under the wooden bridge, see photo below) you can walk all the way around. At the back you can get out again, after which you can walk around the bastion outside to the wooden bridge. A nice little tour!
Holzsteg am Spitaltor / Gedeckte Brücke
From the street side, next to the bastion’s main entrance, you can walk toward the covered wooden bridge. The bridge will take you to the back of the bastion, where you will pass through narrow alleys and stairs behind the gate. If you take the stairs down immediately from the street side, you will come under the wooden bridge again, at the side entrance to the bastion. Here you can walk quite a bit along the city wall towards the Sauturm, the Stöberleinsturm and the Stöberleinsbühne.
Stöberleinsturm and Stöberleinsbühne
From the Sauturm you have a nice view of the Stöberleinsturm. Toward this tower you walk along the back of the Reichsstadthalle. According to the history books, the Stöberleinsturm stood outside the town at the time of the walling of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and was only walled up later. Next to Stöberleinsturm is the Stöberleinsbühne, an open-air theater.
On Herrngasse stands the oldest stone building in Rothenburg, where the Herrnschlösschen Hotel is located in. Herrngasse is truly the patrician street of Rothenburg. A beautiful wide street with colossal, stately half-timbered houses on both sides. Herrngasse leads to the Marktplatz. You will find several hotels and beautiful stores here. Places of honor are reserved for the famous Weihnachtsmuseum and Käthe Wohlfahrt, the store with the world’s largest collection of traditional German Christmas decorations.
More highlights in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
There are SO many more things to do and see in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. In fact, one day is just not enough! For example, you can take another look at Rothenburgs Burggarten. Here you have a beautiful view of the Tauber Valley and can see remnants of the Stauferburg, the former castle. Also the Burgtor, which gives access to the gardens, is impressive.
Above all, do not forget to taste the famous Rothenburger Schneeballen. These sand dough treats have been made in rothenburg ob der Tauber for at least 3 centuries and come in a variety of flavors and sizes. Read more about Rothenburger Schneeballen here. Recommended restaurants in our opinion are Alter Keller and restaurant Roter Hahn.
Exploring Rothenburg ob der Tauber with a guide
Prefer a guide to take you through Rothenburg ob der Tauber? You can. A big advantage is that you immediately get a lot of background information. A guide always knows so much more to tell, for example during this walk through the old town center of the city. You’ll get a very different view of Rothenburg with this 1-hour walking tour with the Night Watchman. He tells dark stories in the dark while lighting lanterns in the streets. Day tours to Rothenburg ob der Tauber are also offered from other towns. For example, you can take this day tour from Frankfurt where you visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber as well as the beautiful city of Heidelberg.
Parking in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Parking in Rothenburg ob der Tauber can be found at several places just outside the city walls. We park the car at P4 and walk straight through the town wall in the direction of Klingentor. At Klingentor itself is P5. The advantage of parking here is that you could walk all the way down the city wall to Spitaltor. You can then walk crisscross through the center back again seeing a lot of Rothenburg sights. At most parking lots outside the town wall you pay €1.10 for an hour. After 6 p.m., parking here is free. For parking inside the town wall you generally pay €1.70. Here, too, parking is free after 6 p.m. (price level summer 2022).