A short family holiday in Rothenburg, Germany

Rothenburg, also known as Rothenburg ob der Tauber ( meaning above the Tauber river), is a lovely medieval town in northern Bavaria, Germany. This beautiful and quaint town in Germany is known for its medieval architecture, half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and medieval structures, including towers, churches, a market square and a fortification that encloses the town.

Recently during the Christmas vacation in January 2023, we, as a family, took a short holiday to this lovely town and found it absolutely amazing. The experience was very different from our previous holidays in Germany, and a wonderful one.

Let me start with some of the basics of how to reach Rothenburg, accommodation etc. before I get into the details of what to see and experience in this charming little town.

How to reach Rothenburg?

Rothenburg is located about 180 km southeast of Darmstadt and Frankfurt, about 200 km from Wiesbaden and Mainz, and under 100 km from Stuttgart and Nuremberg. Since we travelled from Darmstadt, the distance was approximately 180 km, which we covered by car in about 2 hours.

Rothenburg is also connected by Deutsche Bahn ( Germany’s Rail service), but the time taken to reach Rothenburg by train is a bit more than double compared to reaching there by car, as it requires a couple of changeovers.

However, if you plan to travel by train, you can book your tickets from:

Read my article about 10 reasons to get a car driving licence in Germany and a step-by-step guide to getting a licence.

Stay and Accommodation in Rothenburg

When you enter the walled city, you will notice that many old houses have been converted into hotels offering a maximum of 3-5 rooms. There are restaurants on the ground floor, and the floors above have been converted to guest rooms.

We did not make any advance bookings. We reached the city and enquired at one of the restaurants, had a quick look at the room and booked it. However, I would like to mention that finding good rooms within the walled city may not be so easily possible during the peak holiday season. So, consider booking in advance.

Although accommodations are available outside the walled city also, it is an altogether different experience to stay inside. It gives you the real feeling of living in a medieval town. You can step out at night and walk on the streets when all the day tourists have returned. The experience is something that you should not miss.

Now, let’s move on to the places to see and things to do in Rothenburg.

As soon as you reach the city, you will see a long stretching wall that surrounds the city. If you have reached by car, you can park your car outside the walled city (hotels usually reserve parking places inside the wall for their guests) and enter the city on foot. There is plenty of paid parking place along the wall on the outside. There are various entry points into the fortified town that you can access on foot.

Once you enter the walled city, you are greeted with towers, churches, cobbled streets lined with cafes, restaurants, speciality shops, etc. Just go around and explore the city.

Let me highlight some of the experiences you should not miss in Rothenburg.

10 Best Experiences in Rothenburg, Germany:

  1. Explore and allow yourself to get lost in the streets:

    One thing you should not miss when in Rothenburg is city exploration. The fortified city has so much to offer, with lovely little surprises in every nook and corner. Climb the towers, walk along the wall, explore the moat, and enjoy the views of the valley below. This experience will help you understand and feel the city.

  2. Visit Plönlein, the famous Instagram spot of Rothenburg:

    As you walk along the streets, you will observe a spot with an old, half-timbered house, a small fountain, cobbled streets & shops. This place is called Plönlein. It translates to a ‘small place’. It is at a point where the main street splits into a Y and is a perfect spot for a picture. This is the most photographed spot in Rothenburg. Don’t miss capturing a picture while you are there.

  3. Visit the Market Square ( Marktplatz):

    The Market square is a large square featuring an open space surrounded by prominent buildings like the Rathaus and the Christmas Museum, along with many speciality shops. It is a 2-minute walk from the Rothenburg museum. This is also the place where the Christmas market of Rothenburg is set up, and every night the night watchman tour starts ( more about it below). So, explore this place when in Rothenburg.

  4. Visit the Medieval Criminal Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum)

    The Criminal museum is a must-visit place in Rothenburg. This museum is dedicated to medieval crime and punishments. There are three floors of expansive space with displays of the various ways punishments were given in medieval times. This may make you wonder, feel amused or even feel sorry for those who lived in those times. The extensive collection of torture tools, legal tomes & art reveals much about people’s lives in the middle ages. Exhibits have descriptions given in both German and English.

    Tickets for the mediaeval Criminal museum can be bought at the counter or online on their website:

  5. Visit the church of Saint James:

    Saint James Church is a 14th Century Lutheran Church in Rothenburg and is named so because it falls on the pilgrimage route to St. James Church in Spain. Its main highlight is the famous Holy Blood altarpiece which visitors are allowed to see. However, unlike many churches, entry to the church is not free.

  6. Visit the castle garden:

    The castle garden is a large garden along the city fortification, and it offers lovely views of the valley and Tauber river. The garden features statues and artworks, but the highlight is the view of the valley, which you should not miss when visiting the garden.


  7. Visit the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum:

    This is a one of its kind museum that specializes in Christmas decorations. It is open throughout the year and gives you a feel of Christmas and celebrations whenever you visit Rothenburg. It is a museum cum shop; therefore, there is no entry fee. A wide range of Christmas decorations, including Christmas tree ornaments, deco items and gifts, are on display. You can buy or get in just to explore and soak in the beauty. Their official website is:

  8. Explore the speciality shops:

    The streets of Rothenburg are filled with speciality shops selling antiques, handmade goods and even swords and guns. Each of the shops is beautifully decorated. Even if you don’t wish to buy anything in particular, exploring the shops is something you should not miss when in Rothenburg.

  9. Try Schneeballen-a speciality of Rothenburg:

    Scheeballen are a speciality of Rothenburg. These are biscuity sweet balls available in every other cafe and bakery and go well with coffee. While personally, I didn’t find them very delicious; I would still recommend trying them just for the fun of trying something new and because you won’t get them anywhere else. These come in many varieties, so pick up something of your choice and walk the streets of Rothenburg with a cup of coffee and your favourite flavour of Schneeballen.

  10. Take the night walking tour with the Night Watchman:

    If you stay overnight in Rothenburg, you can attend the Night Watchman tour that happens every night (almost ). In this tour, the tour guide, dressed up as a night watchman of medieval times, takes you to the streets of Rothenburg and narrates stories you won’t find anywhere on the internet. The English tours happen every night at 8 pm, and the German tours at 9:30 pm. You need not book anything in advance. Just reach the Marktplatz 5 minutes before the tour. After the tour, you can pay the tour guide directly. Make sure you carry cash. When we visited, the fee was 9 Euros for adults, 4.5 Euros for children between 12-18 and free for children under 12.

    Check out their official website to check the dates and timings:

All the places I have mentioned are within walking distance of each other or just outside the fortified town and can be explored on foot. The lovely city of Rothenburg, with the picturesque backdrop of the Tauber Valley and river, is located on the Romantic Route of Germany and is a must-visit place on this route.

I have also created a photo gallery of Rothenburg. You can check it out here.

Check out my other articles from our holidays in and around Germany here.

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