The first reaction I received from the reception at my hostel in Rothenburg (officially named “Rothenburg ob der Tauber”) was, “Oh wow, you’re staying for 2 nights!?” I replied, “Yes,” not sure why the surprise. I later learned that Rothenburg is one of those cities typically visited on a day trip with a Romantic Road tour group or with just one accompanying night at a hotel. It’s true that the town is small and many of the highlights and tourist attractions can be seen in a day. But I recommend staying at least one night or more, with enough time to explore both on the day of your arrival and departure.
My first dip into Rothenburg Germany could not have been more local. So local, in fact, that I found myself sitting naked together with a group of 20 Germans packed tightly in a small room. I was the only non-German speaking person and certainly the only visitor that night – since it was clear they all knew each other. Reminiscent of my time traveling in Finland, I started off my visit with a trip to the local Sauna. My connecting train into Rothenburg arrived quite late and it was already 9pm by the time I was checked into my room. No matter though, because I was lucky to have arrived on the night of the Midnight Sauna. Just a 15 minute walk from the old town, you’ll find a local pool called Franken Freizeit at Nördlinger Straße 20. The highlight is the traditional Finnish sauna upstairs, but the experience was equally matched by the two swimming pools down below offering a nice, heated and relaxing swim. This was definitely not one of the typical Rothernburg attractions, but the ambiance was fantastic – dim lighting via candlelight and soothing music in the pool area. Entrance to this event was 9€. Be sure to bring your own towel and leave the swimming suit at home!
Rothenburg is a wonderful location for outdoor activities. Spend one day visiting the old town and the other doing some hiking or biking in the area. Rothenburg is surrounded by numerous paths and trails for the outdoor enthusiast. I happened to visit in early spring so outdoor activities were not the first thing on my mind, though I did enjoy a hike down to the river just beyond the old town city walls. The local city tourist office even offers a map with all the biking trails.
The Must-See Sights
No visit to Rothenburg is complete without visiting the sites that make this city famous. Rothenburg is one of the few medieval cities in Germany that remains intact and undamaged by the war. And the charm of the city with its foreboding walls, cobblestone streets and classic German-style buildings will make you feel as if you stepped back in time. St Jacobs Church stands high above the city and it’s worth a quick visit. It's a protestant church with impressive architecture but simple decor inside.
The two major museums in the city are the Imperial City Museum and the Crime Museum. I’m not always a fan of museums but I found the Crime Museum to be especially entertaining. The highlight was the collection of shame masks from the middle ages. In the middle ages, residents of the town were required to wear these masks in public as a form of punishment. And each mask was matched with its crime – perhaps being a town gossip or dressing inappropriately.
You’ll also want to visit the city hall and climb the tower to get an aerial view of Rothenburg. The staircase is old and narrow and the viewing balcony is not spacious. But even so, the view of the town is worth the effort. Lastly, spend some time walking around the city on the actual wall itself. There’s 2.5 km of walking paths around the city walls and you’ll find nice views of the inner city and fantastic views of the other side of the city hanging on the edge of the cliffs.
Food and Drink
My last day in Rothenburg was my last day on a 10-day trip within Germany. And what better way to celebrate than with full German cuisine for dinner. I went to dinner at Hotel Reichsküchenmeister and ordered a variety of sausages, potatoes and sauerkraut. I was happy with this recommendation as the food was fantastic. For a sweet treat, don’t miss the schneeballen, which in English translates to snowball. It’s a typical sweet pastry of the region and is good after lunch or as a snack. If you’re a wine fan, you’ll want to sample the Rothenburg fare. A local guy runs a vineyard just outside the city walls and sells his own wine at the shop in town called Glocke Weinladen am Plonlein. Of course I was obliged to buy a bottle and I enjoyed nearly all of it myself on my last night.
If you visit Rothenburg Germany in the summer high season, you’ll find it packed with tourists during the day. To avoid the crowds, spend at least one night in town and enjoy the morning or the early evening after all the tour groups have left the city. If you want to see more historic sites of southern Germany, you can check out the Romantic Road (one of Germany's top attractions) for more things to do in Bavaria. Rothenburg is located midway into this tourist trail and pairing multiple cities together on a visit would give you the full German experience.
Have you ever visited a medieval town? Where? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
Visit Rothenburg provided me with access to most of the sites in town but rest assured all opinions are mine.