The 17 best sights of Rothenburg am Tauber – description and photos

Rothenburg am Tauber

Rothenburg am Tauber, Germany: the most detailed and complete city guide, the main attractions of Rothenburg with photos and descriptions, location on the map.

City of Rothenburg am Tauber (Germany).

Rothenburg am Tauber is a city in Germany, located in the historical region of Middle Franconia in Bavaria. It will impress you with its medieval charm: old winding cobbled streets, medieval architecture and a wonderful historical atmosphere. Rothenburg on the River Tauber is rightly considered one of the most authentic and photogenic old towns in Bavaria.

Rothenburg am Tauber is located on the “Romantic Road” – the famous Bavarian tourist route (as we have the “Golden Ring”), which includes old towns and medieval castles, about 60 km from Nuremberg. The main attraction is the old town (Altstadt), which is surrounded by an almost intact city wall of the 14th century. Which is a unique historical heritage for modern Germany.

Geography and climate

Rothenburg is situated west of Nuremberg on the banks of the river Tauber at the edge of the Frankenhee nature park. The surrounding countryside consists of picturesque hills and foothills covered with forests and vineyards, which border the southwestern spurs of the Alps.

The climate is temperate, with warm summers and mild winters. The average summer temperature is 15-20 degrees. In winter the temperature is around zero. The coldest month is January, with an average temperature of -1 degree. About 700 mm of precipitation falls during the year.

Evening in Rothenburg

Evening in Rothenburg

History

The origins of Rothenburg am Tauber date back to 970, when a family of East Frankish nobles built the first church in the Tauber River valley. A castle was built here at the end of the 11th century and a monastery at the beginning of the 12th century.

In 1142, these lands were acquired by King Conrad III, who decides to build a castle over the Tauber River spurs, which is later called the Imperial Castle. In 1274 Rothenburg receives the privileges of the imperial city. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the city experienced its greatest heyday. At that time, Rothenburg had about 6,000 inhabitants, which exceeded the population of Munich and Frankfurt am Main at the time.

Panorama of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Panorama of Rothenburg am Tauber

Rothenburg am Tauber remained an imperial city until the 18th century. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the city’s development was undermined by plague epidemics and the Thirty Years’ War. Rothenburg was taken and sacked several times. In the early 19th century, it lost its status as an imperial city and was incorporated into the Kingdom of Bavaria.

During World War II, the city was badly damaged by air raids. It was destroyed 45% of the old city.

In the streets of old Rothenburg

The streets of Rothenburg

How to get there?

Rothenburg am Tauber is characterized by good transport accessibility. Nearby are the international airports of Nuremberg and Munich. There are good train connections to other major cities in the region and the rest of Germany. Rothenburg railway station is located 15 minutes walk from the historic center. Nearby is the motorway A7 (exit 108). Important nuance – when buying tickets be careful, because there are several cities in Germany with the same name. You need to buy tickets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Rothenburg ob der Tauber).

Streets of Rothenburg

Streets of Rothenburg

Best time to visit

Like most towns in Bavaria, Rothenburg am Tauber can be visited almost all year round. But still the best time to visit can be considered the period from April to September. It is highly recommended to see this town during the Christmas holidays. At this time, the atmosphere here is just fabulous!

Rothenburg am Tauber during Christmas

Rothenburg am Tauber at Christmas

Gastronomy

In the old town of Rothenburg you can find many cozy places with Bavarian and European cuisine. Of the drinks, beer is the most popular. When planning trips to cafes and restaurants, it is important to know that the mode of operation of the institutions of Rothenburg depends on tourist excursions. In many of them the kitchen is not open after 20.00 (especially low season).

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Panorama of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg panorama

Sightseeing in Rothenburg am Tauber

The main attractions of Rothenburg am Tauber are located in its old town among the old cobblestone streets and medieval houses. It is worth noting that the Altstadt is very compact. The way from one side to the other on foot will take 20-30 minutes.

Gothenburg am Tauber sights on the map

sights on the map of Rothenburg am Tauber

One of the symbols of Rothenburg am Tauber is the medieval city wall from the 14th century, which encircles the old city and gives it the shape of a human head. Despite the fact that 40% of the wall was damaged during World War II, it is still impressive and a unique historical legacy. There are almost no cities in Germany that have fully preserved the medieval wall. The total length of the wall is about 2.5 km and its height is up to 9 meters. The wall contains towers and several city gates – entrances to the city.

Medieval city wall Rothenburg am Tauber

Medieval city wall of Rothenburg am Tauber

Towers and gates

The old city wall has preserved many original defensive elements – towers and gates. In the Middle Ages there were 7 city gates leading to Rothenburg, and the wall was defended by 42 towers. We present the most interesting of the extant ones.

Castle Gate

Castle Gate

Castle Gate (Burgtor) – one of the main city gates with a high powerful tower, which protected the city from the west. Today it is the entrance to the castle garden – an interesting green corner in the medieval city. When Rothenburg was an imperial city, the gates were closed at night. To leave the city you had to get the approval of the city council.

Galgentor – German for “gate to the gallows”.

Galgentor is a 16th-century gate leading to the square where the gallows used to be until the 19th century. It was taken in the Thirty Years’ War.

Klingentor

Klingentor in Rothenburg

Klingentor is a gate with a high thirty-meter Gothic tower from the 16th century. Interestingly, the tower was accessed through the building of the nearby old church of St. Wolfgang.

St. Mark's Gate

St. Mark’s Gate

St. Mark’s Gate and Tower is one of the most atmospheric and photogenic corners of Rothenburg with beautiful medieval architecture. It is also one of the oldest of the towers and gates, dating back to the 12th century.

Roeder Tower

Röder Gate

The Röder Gate is the old city gate in Rothenburg am Tauber. The oldest part is the 14th century tower with half-timbered elements.

Plönlein - the most famous view of Rothenburg am Tauber

Plönlein – the most famous view of Rothenburg am Tauber

The “Plönlein” is a real symbol of Rothenburg am Tauber and the most photographed place in the city: Ancient small square surrounded by medieval half-timbered houses, a small fountain, which ends in an old gate from the 14th century with a strong tower.

Market Square

The market square is the center of city life since the Middle Ages. To the west of the square is the town hall, to the north are historic buildings and the tourist center, to the east are stores and restaurants, to the south is the St. George fountain.

Rothenburger Town Hall

Town Hall in Rothenburg am Tauber

The main architectural dominant feature of the market square is the town hall with its magnificent Renaissance facade. It is one of the most beautiful buildings of its type north of the Alps. The Gothic building from the 13th century was extensively rebuilt by architect Weidmann in the 16th century.

Next to the town hall is the beautiful early 19th century pharmacy building with its magnificent half-timbered façade.

On the north of the market square look out for the 16th century Ratstrinkstube, an old building with an astronomical clock.

Old Hospital

The Old Hospital

The Old Hospital is another brainchild of Weidmann, a historic 16th century Gothic building with a beautiful round tower. A little ahead is the Spitaltor Bastion, which was also built by this architect.

Sacred architecture of Rothenburg am Tauber

The Church of St. Jacob is the main religious building of Rothenburg. The church was built in the Gothic style in the 15th century and contains valuable works of art. It is located near the Market Square.

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St. Jacob's Church

Church of St. Jacob

One of the oldest basilicas in Rothenburg, consecrated in the early 14th century – the Franciscan Church of St. Mary.

Among other religious buildings one should certainly pay attention to the church of St. Wolfgang next door to Klingentor. It is a unique late Gothic church from the 15th century, integrated into the city fortifications. Not far from the old hospital there is a 14th century Gothic church – Heiliggeistkirche.

Museums

The most interesting museums of Rothenburg am Tauber

  • Museum of Medieval Crime. Open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (November-March from 1 to 4 p.m.). Address – Burggasse 3, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • German Christmas Museum. Open from 10.00 to 17.00. Address – Herrengasse 1.
  • Museum of the Imperial City of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Open from 9.30 to 17.30 (November-March from 13.00 to 16.00). Address – Klosterhof, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Interesting tours

Nuremberg through the ages

€95 per excursion

Nuremberg through the ages

Hear the history of the most interesting places in the Old Town and get valuable advice from locals.

On both sides of the barricades: a walking tour of Berlin

€110 per excursion

On both sides of the barricades: a walking tour of Berlin

Be absorbed in the history of the capital and see its key sights for 3 hours

17 sights to see in Rothenburg am Tauber

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Rothenburg am Tauber, in Middle Franconia, is one of those lovely old towns that, at first glance, doesn’t seem quite real. What to see in Rothenburg am Tauber? Believe me, tourists come to be enthralled by literally everything they see here! The city is still surrounded by a defensive wall of over 40 towers, which remain as they were 400 years ago, when Rothenburg was the residence of the King of Sweden and Count Tilly.

These walls and towers guard the idyllic town, its chic patrician mansions and half-timbered houses with turrets, wooden bay windows, red tiles and flower boxes behind the windows. During its former glory, Rothenburg was one of the ten largest cities of the Holy Roman Empire. Moreover, it was a free city, subject only to the emperor. A surviving witness of Rothenburg’s power in those days is the magnificent Renaissance Town Hall, which still stands on Market Square.

City Wall

City Wall

City wall.

During the Middle Ages, defense was paramount for Rothenburg. The city managed to maintain its 46 defensive towers and four kilometers of covered walls, which today have been restored and equipped with information boards.

During the two-hour theme tour you will learn about the technical details of the different gates and towers and the events that have taken place there over the last 800 years. During the tour, you might want to stop every few steps to admire the view of the red roofs of the city and the Tauber Valley.

Address: City Wall, Röderschütt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Town Hall

City Hall

Town Hall.

The Town Hall, located opposite the Market Square, is one of the main attractions of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Visually it is divided into two parts, although they form a single ensemble. To replace the east wing of the 13th century Gothic town hall which burnt down in 1501 a Renaissance style annex was erected in 1578, which was in good harmony with the remaining Gothic part of the building. (The white west Gothic wing still stands, its triangular gable decorated with the imperial coat of arms.)

On the Market Square side, the Renaissance part of the town hall is decorated by a baroque arcade at the base, a tower with a spiral staircase above it, and a three-story bay window at the corner. The building is one of the best examples of Renaissance architecture in the German-speaking world.

Every day in summer and on weekends in winter for a couple of euros you can climb the tower of the Town Hall to see the rooftops of Rothenburg from above.

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Address: Rathaus und Ratstrinkstube/ Town hall and Councillors tavern, Markt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Market Square

Market Square

Market Square.

If we decided to tell you about all the epochal events that took place on the square next to the town hall we would have to write a long article about them. So we tell you only about some of them, and even that in short.

For example, in 1474 on this place the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III granted the territory of Holstein to Danish King Christian.

Another story associated with the square, which may turn out to be only a legend, took place during the Thirty Years’ War. It is said that the head of Rothenburg, Georg Nusch, managed to convince Count Tilly, commander of the army of the Holy Roman Empire, to spare the city. For the salvation of Rothenburg, the mayor drank a 3.25-liter mug of wine in a gulp on a dare.

Today, mechanical puppets “tell” the story at the beginning of the hour through windows next to the clock face on the northern facade of the inn, where it all happened.

The address is Market Square Rothenburg o.d. Tauber, Marktplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Burggarten Park

Burggarten Park

Burggarten Park.

The Holy Roman Emperors of the Hohenstaufen Empire had their own castle at the bend of the Tauber River. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1356, and its stone was used to build the walls of Rothenburg. The only reminder of the existence of the fortress today is the Chapel of St. Blaise, converted from a large hall of the castle and now serving as a memorial to the victims of the two world wars.

The entire area that once belonged to the castle is occupied by the Burggarten park of the XVII-XVIII centuries. You can see eight sandstone sculptures representing the four seasons and the four elements. At the end of the park is the bizarre silhouette of Topplerschleschen, a defensive tower with a dwelling house “attached” to the top.

To the left of the Burggarten stretches the Tauber Valley. You can admire it as well as the southern districts of the city while you are in the park.

Address: Burggarten, Alte Burg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Plönlein Square

Plönlein Square

Plönlein Square.

If there is an image that characterizes all of Rothenburg and is sort of its unofficial symbol, it is the fork of the Unter Schmidgasse road. If you look to the south, the street is divided into upper and lower lanes. This tiny triangle, surrounded by half-timbered and stone houses, is the Plenlein.

Here you’ll see two 13th-century tower gates: the Siebersturm is on the upper level, and the Kobolzelerturm is on the lower level, leading to the Tauber Valley. In the center of the fork is the most beautiful building of the ensemble – a narrow half-timbered house with a pointed pediment and a small fountain in front.

The address is Plönlein, Untere Schmiedgasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Church of St. James

St. Jacob's Church

Church of St. James.

It took more than 170 years to build the city’s main Gothic church, which was consecrated in 1485. Its two towers are crowned with spires decorated with twisted decorative elements. At the high narrow windows is the eastern altar, dating from the 14th century, which depicts scenes from the Passion of the Lord and the life of Mary.

In the west gallery you will find the phenomenal altar of the Blood of the Lord, made by the famous German carver Tilman Riemenschneider in the early years of the 16th century, which is considered one of the master’s greatest works. The central panel of the altar depicts the Last Supper and is framed by intertwining plant motifs of incredible craftsmanship. In the upper part of the altar is a reliquary cross, dating back to 1270.

The address is St Jakobskirche, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Museum of Medieval Crime and Justice

Museum of Medieval Crime and Justice

Museum of Medieval Crime and Justice.

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The building that once belonged to the Order of St. John is now home to a museum whose collection is often regarded by visitors as creepy and gruesome. This museum recounts a 1,000-year history of crime and its aftermath, with a focus on the medieval period.

Of particular interest are the exhibits relating directly to medieval and Renaissance trials, torture and punishment methods. On the first floor of the museum you can see the authentic “iron maiden”, various infamous poles and a frightening number of devices created especially for the torture of women.

On the second floor are exhibits that are not so shocking – legal manuscripts, a collection of seals and old engravings depicting trials. If you visit this exhibition room, you will learn a lot about the Inquisition and the history of the police and courts.

Address: Criminal Medieval Museum, Burggasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

St. George’s Fountain

St. George's Fountain

St. George’s Fountain.

One of the many attractions of the Market Square is the fountain, which has stood here since 1446. It is located between the Town Hall and the Fleisch-und-Tanzhaus, a half-timbered structure that is worthy of attention in itself. The fountain stands above a well eight meters deep with a capacity of 100,000 liters. A 16th century Renaissance column with a sculpture of St. George fighting a dragon is at the center of the fountain.

Address: Georgsbrunnen, Herrngasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Rödertor Gate

Rödertor Gate

Rödertor Gate.

One of the most interesting stops on your walk along the wall around Rothenburg will be the Redertor Gate, located at the southeastern entrance to the Old Town. On either side of the gate there are still two pointed cottages. After crossing the stone bridge over the moat, you will approach the main tower, the oldest part of the defensive complex, built at the beginning of the 13th century. The tower served as a signal post during the Middle Ages.

Except for the Town Hall, the tower of the Redertor gate is practically the only tower in Rothenburg that can be climbed. It is open to the public on weekends, in the afternoon. Entrance fee is 1.50 €.

Address: Rödertor, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Schmidgasse lane

Schmidgasse lane

Schmidgasse Alley.

Schmidgasse, which means “Blacksmith’s Alley” in German, runs down a gentle hill from the Market Square. Along the street are restaurants, cafes and small cozy stores placed in historic houses.

One of these houses is the Baumeisterhaus, built in 1596, located at Schmidgasse 3 and named after Leonard Weidmann, who also built the Town Hall. Between the mullioned windows on the first and second floors of this building are 14 caryatids, representing the Seven Deadly Sins and Seven Virtues.

There is quite a dark story connected with Schmidgasse. In 1525, during the Peasants’ War, Casimir, Margrave of Brandenburg-Byreuth, gathered 17 local leaders of the revolt in the Market Square and beheaded them. The bodies were left on the square for a whole day and the blood ran in a stream down Schmiedgasse.

Address: Untere Schmiedgasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Museum of the Imperial City of Rothenburg

Museum of the Imperial City of Rothenburg

Museum of the Imperial City of Rothenburg.

This historical museum occupies the 13th-century Dominican monastery building. The museum galleries display large collections of weapons and armor, as well as everyday objects such as clothing, coins, and Jewish liturgical jewelry.

You may recall George Nush and his drunken wager that supposedly saved the city; seeing that very mug on display. There are several valuable late Gothic sculptures collected from churches and monasteries throughout the city, as well as the Rothenburg Passion of Christ, 12 altarpieces painted in 1494.

Address: Imperial City Museum (Reichsstadtmuseum) Klosterhof, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Klingenthor Tower

Klingenthor Tower

Klingenthor Tower. | Photo: Stefan Hundhammer / Flickr.

The majestic Klingentor, built between 1395 and 1400, is one of Rothenburg’s most architecturally interesting towers. Located next to the church of St. Wolfgang, it forms a gateway in the city walls. The Klingentor also had another function – it served as a water tower, whose huge copper reservoir fed the city’s fountains. You can climb the tower and admire the city and the Tauber valley from up there.

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Address: Klingentor, Klingengasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Gerlach’s Forge

Gerlach smithy

Gerlach’s Forge.

After passing through the Redertor Gate, you will find yourself in front of this quaint old house built in 1469. Gerlachschmiede is an old forge with a pretty triangular gable supported by wooden beams.

It is one of many buildings in the southeastern part of Rothenburg that were destroyed during the bombing in March 1945. By 1948 Gerlachschmiede had been completely rebuilt. The blacksmith continued to work here making horseshoes until 1967. On the street sign you can see the hammer and tongs – the symbol of the Guild of Locksmiths and Blacksmiths – and the attractive coat of arms on the pediment is a forgery from 1950.

Address: Gerlachschmiede, Wenggasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Tauber Bridge.

Tauber Bridge

Tauber Bridge.| Photo: Mikko Muinonen / Flickr.

Below the western end of Rothenburg, you can see a scene that looks as if it came straight off a canvas with a romantic landscape.

The Tauber is a bridge with two levels of arches stretching 123 meters across the green meadows and vineyards of the Tauber Valley. It was on the trade route between Augsburg and Würzburg and dates back to 1330. The most difficult years were 1791, when the bridge collapsed and had to be rebuilt, and 1945, when the bridge was destroyed by the German army and then 11 years had to be restored.

Address: Tauber Bridge, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Spitalhof and Spitaltor

Spitaltor Gate

Spitalhof Gate (Spitaltor).

The picturesque Spitalhof has several interesting buildings to visit. One of them is Hegereiterheuschen, a beautiful old house built in 1591. But the most popular, and deservedly so, is the massive 16th-century Spitaltor (Spitaltor), built by master Leonard Weidmann.

On this gate, by the way, the last of many city fortifications, there is an inscription in Latin “Pax intrantibus, salus exeuntibus,” which means “Peace to those who enter, and good health to those who leave. These intimidating fortifications, built in the shape of a figure-eight, include seven gates, an elevating bridge, a climbing trellis and a parapet.

The address is Spitaltor, Spitalgasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Staudthof

Staudthof

Staudthof.

On the Herngasse you will see the oldest patrician house in the city, the Staudthof, named after the von Staudt family who owned it since 1697. Its façade from the street side is relatively modest. But as soon as you cross the threshold, the splendor of the house literally catches your eye.

Staudthof dates back to the XII century, that is, it was built before the city walls of Rothenburg, so the house was surrounded by its own defensive wall. Inside these walls is a 120-meter long courtyard with outbuildings, stables, and a beautiful garden, in the center of which two yew trees grew since 1678. A tour of the Staudthof will give you an idea of the way of life of the old patrician class of Rothenburg, who earned their money not by trading but by owning land.

The address is Staudthof, Herrngasse, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Raterles Market

Reuterle's market

Raterles Market.

In Germany, markets appear in the center of every city at Christmas, and Rothenburg is no exception. But the local market, set up from December 1 to 23 on Marktplatz and the surrounding streets, looks fabulous against the backdrop of the spiky-roofed houses. And if you’re lucky enough to be here when it’s snowing, you’ll see a city that looks like a Christmas card come to life in all its glory.

This market traces its history back to the fifteenth century and therefore already has several traditions of its own. One of them is the Reiterle, after whom the Rothenburg market is named. In the past, this legendary rider was believed to collect the souls of the dead. Today Reiterle is just a jolly messenger who opens the Christmas market every year.

The address is Rothenburg Christmas Market, Grüner Markt, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

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