A Few of my FAVORITE Things to do in Rothenburg Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with it’s virtually untouched Medieval Altstadt, sits on a hill in northern Bavaria (due west of Nuremburg, 2 1/2 hours south east of Frankfurt), and seems to be on everyone’s MUST-SEE list. Sadly, I think far too many people just show up, take a photo near the Plonlein, shop for a Christmas ornament and Kathe Wohlfahrt, then hop back on their tour bus. Do yourself a favor… schedule more time. There are so many things to do in Rothenburg Germany!  I promise, you won’t get bored. In 2019 I had the opportunity to visit twice (summer and winter). Let me share some of our favorite things in this beautiful city!


Nightwatchman of Rothenberg

All photos by Karen Lodder GermanGirlinAmerica.com

First, A little history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
(You didn’t think you’d get away without a little background info… did you?) Rothenburg ob der Tauber became a free Imperial city in 1274. This meant that the city was self-ruling, and answered only to the Holy Roman Emperor. This also meant that the city could set taxes, and gain wealth. The money was used to build strong walls and beautiful buildings. Flash forward in time, and we come to the Protestant Revolution. Rothenburg swings back and forth between Protestant and Catholic, and ends up paying tens of thousands of Guilders in reparations. During the Thirty Years War, they are forced to garrison Swedish troops, costing them even more money. By 1650, the town has lost half of its inhabitants because of war. It never quite recovers, and in 1850, the city is loses its independence and is annexed to Bavaria.

Why is all this important?
Think about other cities. When there is money, people replace the old buildings with new. They update, renew… modernize. When there is no money, people make due with what they have. This is why the city seems frozen in time!

Another side note: (One of my FAVORITE stories about Germany) During World War II, the US Army was poised to completely destroy Rothenburg because they suspected the city was housing Nazis. Only the intervention of the assistant US Secretary of War, John McCloy, slowed that down. Why? His mother had visited Rothenburg as a young woman, and she brought home a painting of the city. John McCloy grew up looking at that painting in his home… there was no way he would let it be wiped out. He sent in a mission to encourage the town to surrender. Local military commander Major Thömmes gave up the town. And Rothenburg ob der Tauber was saved.


Things to do in Rothenburg Germany

Photograph the Plönlein

The Plonlein in Rothenburg ob der Tauber might be the most photographed and painted spot in Germany (don’t quote me, I’m just guessing by the sheer number of images I’ve seen online, and the vast crowds of people in front of it with cameras). The name Plönlein refers to the triangular square (yes, that’s confusing) where the roads branch. It contains a fountain and a wood-topped box that fishermen used to store their catch. From that spot you can see 2 of the towns gates- the Kobolzell Gate and the Sieberts Tower.
things do rothenburg germany

Best time to get that iconic shot with no one else in it? 2AM. (kidding… before 9am and after 7pm the tourist crush is reduced enough to get that clear shot)

things to do in rothenburg

Walk the Walls

One way to get a great view of Rothenburg is to walk the walls. Do all, or just a section. You will find staircases leading up in various places around town (we used the one near the Plönlein). Go as far as you like… or just go a few 100 meters to get the feel of it. You will see plaques along the wall displaying the names of people who helped pay for renovations in 1948. (Disney is there, which is only fitting, since they used Rothenburg in a few of their movies).

things to do in rothenburg germanyIt’s up there…

The walkway is covered (watch your head).things do rothenburg

No one was actually harmed in the photographing of the wall walk…

Rathaus and Market Square

The Rathaus and Market Square are right in the center of the Altstadt, and make a great starting point, ending point, meeting place, and spot to get an Eis. There are tours of the Rathaus, and you can climb up the tower for another bird’s eye view of town.

things do rothenburg

Drinking away on the hour…


From the Market Square you can see the famous Ratsherrntrinkstube. Every hour on the hour (between 10am and 10pm, little doors beside  the clock open, and you are treated to a re-enactment of the famous “Meistertrunk“. Long story short- the mayor saved the town from destruction by drinking  3 1/2 liters of Franconian wine in one big guzzle (took him 3 days to sleep it off). Fair warning…. it’s kind of high up and hard to see, but it’s a great story.

Nightwatchman Tour

The Market Square is also the spot to meet up with the nightly Nightwatchman tour. If you need ANY justification at all for spending the night in Rothenburg, this is it. The tour isn’t overly long, but it is fun, interesting, engaging and worth every cent. Take the tour in English or German.
Read my full review of the tour here–> Nightwatchman Tour Rothenburg ob der Tauber

things do rothenburg

St Jakobskirche

Go north from the Marktplatz to the St. Jakobskirche. Inside you will find the Altar of the Twelve Apostles, an absolutely fabulous carved and painted Altar.

things do rothenburg

Altar of the Twelve Apostles St Jakobskirche

The St Jakobskirche also houses the Holy Blood Altar, which contains a splinter of the True Cross encased in a glass container up high. Sit down and enjoy the stained glass windows and the quiet….

things see rothenburg

Holy Blood Altar 


Markus Tower and Röder Arch

The Markus Tower with its clock and Röder Arch date back to the 12th century, and was part of the original city wall.  The flower covered Röderbrunnen (Röder Fountain) makes a picturesque spot to snap a photo.

Now look up! On the building next to the Marcus Tower and the Röder Arch, you’ll see the stork nest on the platform… and if you are lucky, the storks will be in residence.

things to do in rothenburg germany

Medieval Crime and Justice Museum

I’m going to come right out and say it… the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum is one of my favorite things to do in Rothenburg Germany. The museum is well laid out and completely fascinating (of course, I’m also a fan of reading mysteries and watching Criminal Minds). Inside you will find torture devices like the Violin and shame masks, thick books on Medieval Law, an IRON MAIDEN (no, not the rock band), and a section on Witch Hunts complete with an original edition of the Malleus Malificarum / Hammer of the Witches.

things do rothenburgShame Mask – Medieval Crime Museum

Take my word for it, teenagers may not be thrilled looking at yet another church or old building, but they will enjoy this.

things do rothenburg

Iron Maiden- Medieval Kriminal Museum


Christmas Museum

Looking for a much less gruesome exhibit? Upstairs in one of the six Kathe Wohlfahrt stores (yes, there are six of them in town) is the Christmas Museum. Inside you will find the evolution of Christmas ornaments and decorations. From Nuts to glass, paper to tin. I’m crazy about small museums, so I enjoyed it. (Tech Guy was more than happy to sit on the bench across the street.) After touring the Museum, you can shop to your heart’s content. Kathe Wohlfahrt stores have loads of ornaments, pyramids, tablecloths, and decorations. (They also carry Easter decorations).

things do rothenburg



Masterbuilder House-

While walking down the Schmiedgasse, you will notice one building with 14 figures carved into its columns. This home, the Masterbuilder house,  belonged to master stonemason Leonhard Weidmann, who clearly understood marketing. The intricate carved figures represent the seven vices and 7 virtues of men.

things do rothenburg



Had enough buildings and people for a while? Head out the Castle Gate to the Burggarten. This long and narrow bit of land is surrounded by low wall, and offers fabulous views of the valley (it also offers benches and shade). I find that it’s a fantastic place to enjoy a snack, rest and drink. Stand at the wall and look back for a great view of the city.

things to do in rothenburg germany


Hike OUTSIDE the Walls

I’m a walker, so hiking outside the city is one of my favorite things to do in Rothenburg.

things to do in rothenburg germany

One way to avoid a lot of tourists is to take a nice hike OUTSIDE the city walls.  (Remember, when you go down, you have to hike back up!). Grab a map in any hotel, shop, or tourist info kiosk. The trails are well marked through the Tauber Valley. The river is lovely, and you will see some small waterfalls and watermills (on the Muhlenweg). We even came across an Alpaca Farm! And there is a Biergarten at about the half-way mark.

things to do in rothenburg germany
Then you cross over the Double Bridge, and walk past the Kobozell Church to get back in the Kobolzell Gate.

Christmas Markets

rothenburg Christmas Market

Somehow I managed to be in Rothenburg in July and AGAIN in December! It was interesting seeing the town in snow! (We arrived in a snowstorm, which slowed this California girl down just a bit). Compared to other Christmas Markets, Rothenburg’s is more spread out. AND since there are so many shops in town carrying Christmas Items, I felt that there were less stands. Doesn’t matter! Visiting the Rothenburg ob der Tauber during the Christmas Season is magical! Just bring a jacket and comfortable shoes!

things to do in rothenburg

Read more about my Christmas Market adventures here–> Christmas Market Tour

Have You Worked up an APPETITE?

There are some great places to eat in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Here are a few of our favorites.

things do rothenburg

And I feel I need to put in a disclaimer. EVERYWHERE in Rothenburg you will see “Schneeballe” (Snowballs) made from pastry covered in chocolate or powdered sugar. Somehow, I never tried one, so I can’t tell you what they are like. They certainly look interesting. 

Zur Höll

If you’ve walked all over Rothenburg, you deserve dinner in Hell…. well, Zur Höll. The building dates back to 900 AD, and is not only the oldest, it’s one of the more interesting looking buildings in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The food is excellent! If you want to insure a table, make a reservation, it’s a rather popular place to eat.

things do rothenburg germany



In the summer, their shaded patio gives you a fantastic view of St Jakobskirche… in winter, the restaurant is a cozy and comfortable escape from the cold. I was delighted to eat at the Reichskuchenmeister TWICE this year (same waiter both times… he showed me his American belt buckle when he heard we were from the US). The food is excellent and the beer is refreshing. The menu changes with the seasons! I had the most amazing Flammkuchen in July, and a Wildgoulasch with Spätzle that was so good I practically LICKED the plate in December. Don’t miss this wonderful place.

what to eat in Rothenburg


Eis-Cafe Dolomite

Are you in Rothenburg in the Summertime? You need to stop for an EIS. The Eis-Cafe Dolomite is right on the Market Square, and is perfect for savoring a Spaghetti Eis while people-watching!

what to eat in Rothenburg


Looking for a place to Stay?

We stayed in the Boutique Hotel Goldene Rose. It’s a delightful place near the Plönlein. The beds are comfy, the breakfast is perfect, and it’s central to everything. (We just parked the car and never had to move it for 3 days. Say hello to Diamond for me!

rothenburg hotels

Find them HERE–> Boutique Hotel Goldene Rose

Have I convinced you there are enough things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber?

Book your trip NOW!


What to do in Rothenburg


11 thoughts on “A Few of my FAVORITE Things to do in Rothenburg Germany

  1. Been there 3-4 TIMES and enjoyed each trip. Last trip was in December 2018. Had dinner there with my wife and daughter and her family. Years ago we purchased a beautiful clock from the clock store. In fact, my wife is German.

  2. Visited Rothenburg in 1996 and took a tour with the night watchman . It was wonderful. Can’t believe the same night watchman is still there.

    1. Pretty sure the same guy was the Nightwatchman already in the 1500s…

  3. I have been there there times and just love it. I loved walking the wall. We’ve been at Easter time, and everything was decorated beautifully. Yes, you must stay the night. The sneeballen aren’t bad. Not gourmet, but sweet. I had the most delicious roasted goose dinner twice. Yum. We are returning to Bavaria in April. I can’t wait.

  4. My favorite town in the world! You captured all of my favorites, Kriminal museum and Night Watchmans tour!

  5. I’ve been there 4 times. The last time was this Christmas. The Christmas Market is small, but the whole town was enchanting as usual.

    1. You are right.. compared to other towns, the Christmas market was small. HOWEVER, there are 4 or 5 Käthe Wohlfahrt stores, and lots of other cute shops in the Altstadt, so maybe they don’t see more as needed?

  6. I went to school in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and loved it there. The Krimi Museum is fantastic but a bit macabre, the food is excellent everywhere, The city is beautiful and the people are friendly. The Reichsstadt-Festtage/Imperial City Festival in early September is so interesting, it was my favorite event of the year! Look forward to returning one day.

    1. I would love to see that festival! I’ve seen Summer and Winter in Rothenburg, it’s time to see Fall.

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