Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a town along the Romantic Road in Bavaria, Germany, about halfway in between Frankfurt and Munich. It is best known for its medieval town center (Altstadt), seemingly untouched by the passage of time, encircled by the undamaged 14th century town wall. In the Middle Ages, Rothenburg ob der Tauber was a free imperial city, reaching its apex of prosperity under mayor Heinrich Toppler in the 15th century with a large population of 6,000 - much larger than Frankfurt or Munich at that time. Today Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a small, quaint town and a big tourist attraction. Especially popular with American and Japanese tour-buses and organized groups, the town can feel a bit overcrowded sometimes, but its sheer beauty makes up for that and more than justifies its popularity.
- Frankfurt Airport - the closest intercontinental airport with good road and train connections to Rothenburg. ICE's run via Würzburg, where you will probably have to change to regional transport.
- Nürnberg - for domestic European flights. Nuremberg is part of the VGN tariff union for local trains and buses, making travel from there to Rothenburg quite cheap, though there are a number of changes involved in the journey.
- Stuttgart - for domestic European flights.
- Rothenburg is located close to autobahn A 7, which runs from Hamburg, via Würzburg, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and Ulm to the Austrian border at Füssen. The most convenient exit is 108 Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
- If you prefer scenery over velocity, you should take the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) into town.
- The town isn't too well served by trains. There is an hourly connection from Würzburg and Ansbach, but in both cases you have to change trains at Steinbach (b. Rothenburg). Rothenburg furthermore is part of the Nuremberg's regional train network, with services twice an hour, but you have to change trains at least once to do the trip. (VGN-rates apply making a one day round-trip considerably cheaper than regular train-fares) Make sure you are buying a ticket to Rothenburg ob der Tauber - there are several towns with the name "Rothenburg" in Germany. The train station is east of the town wall, about a 15 min walk to the historic center at Marktplatz.
- Rothenburg ob der Tauber is very popular with bus tour operators, especially during summertime. Therefore, it is advised that you see the town in the morning or the evening when the bus crowds aren't there.
Walking will get you from one end of town to the other in about 15 min.
Going by car is absolutely unnecessary and at times impossible.
In the spring and summer, biking is also highly recommended. There are a lot of bike lanes and special bike roads with no cars.
From Rothenburg ob der Tauber you can start a popular bicycle tour by the "Lovely Tauber valley" (also "Charming Tauber valley"), about Weikersheim, Bad Mergentheim, Lauda and Tauberbischofsheim, till you reach just 100 kms removed Wertheim. Recommended daily stages of the route "Charming Tauber Valley (Classic)":
- 1st day's stage - Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Weikersheim (or Bad Mergentheim)
- 2nd day's stage - (Weikersheim via) Bad Mergentheim to Tauberbischofsheim
- 3rd day's stage - Tauberbischofsheim to Wertheim
From Wertheim, you can cycle back to Rothenburg ob der Tauber with five recommended extra stages of the route "Charming Tauber Valley (Sportive)":
- 1st day's stage - Wertheim to Freudenberg
- 2nd day's stage - Freudenberg to Külsheim
- 3rd day's stage - Külsheim to Boxberg
- 4th day's stage - Boxberg to Niederstetten
- 5th day's stage - Niederstetten to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
- The Market Square (Marktplatz) is the center of urban life in Rothenburg o.d.T. The Square is framed on the west by the Town Hall (Rathaus), on the north by the City Councillors' Tavern (Ratstrinkstube) with its Tourist Information center, on the east by shops and cafes, and on the south by St. George's Fountain.
- The 165 ft. 13th century Town Hall Tower (Rathausturm) at the center of the Altstadt offers the best view of the area; cost €1 and 241 steps up. The Tower does not have a foundation of its own; it rests on top of the gable of the Gothic building. The front part of the Town Hall, a Renaissance building, was built in the 16th century. The Town Hall (Rathaus) is free.
- The Medieval Crime and Punishment Museum (Kriminalmuseum), just south of Market Square, is full of examples of torture equipment and is not for the faint hearted.
- The Plönlein (Little Square), a few blocks south of the Market Square, offers a charming medieval sight. Standing at the right point, you can see two towers: on the left, more or less straight ahead, is the Siebers Tower (Siebersturm) dating from 1385; and down on the right, from the Tauber valley, is the Kobolzell Gate (Kobolzeller Tor) dating from 1360. These two access roads form a small triangular square, which is Plonlein. The Plonlein is often referred to as one of the most photographed spots in Germany.
- The Town Wall encircle the city, giving the Altstadt the shape of a head, with the nose -- the Castle Garden -- pointing left (west). The existing Town Wall was built in the 14th century, was partially damaged in World War II, and restored through gifts from donors throughout the world (see plaques on the wall). The Wall is about 1.5 miles long, covered, with several towers and entrances at the gates. One of the easiest access to get up to the sentry wall is just south of Siebers Tower (Siebersturm). The Wall is free and offers a good vantage point to see the town.
- St. Jakobskirche (Church of St. Jacob), Klostergasse 15, north of the Market Square, contains a masterpiece by the famous Würzburg sculptor Tilman Riemenschneider (ca. 1460-1531).
- Two walking tours are offered. Both tours are in English, cost 6 €, and leave from Market Square. The tourist office tours are 90 minutes and run April to October and December daily at 14:00. The 60-minute Night Watchman's tours runs nightly mid-March to December at 20:00.
- The Do it Yourself Town Wall tour. The best stretch of the Wall to walk is from the massive 16th-century Spitaltor (go through the Siebersturm to the southern tip of the Spitalgasse) to the Klingentor, completed around 1400, at the northern tip of the Wall. This takes about a half-hour if you don't stop. Offers excellent views and photographic opportunities.
- Rent a bike at Rad und Tat, Bensenstraße 17 (tel. +49 9861 87984)
- Just out of town is the annual (usually on the second weekend of august) Taubertal-Festival offering a wide variety of pop-rock music such as die ärzte, ska-p or shantel (lineup varies, check in advance tickets roughly 100€ to 150€ depending on when you buy)
- Chronos-Nostalgiebilder, Milchmarkt 4 (just by the Markus Tower), ☎ +49 9861-9189821. Funny souvenirs. You could dress up in a Medieval or Rococo costume and pick up the photo at once.
- Georg Schopf, Galgengasse 1-3. This shop sells both souvenirs from cuckoo clocks to drinking glasses and antiques such as paintings.
- Kunstgewerbe Friese, Grüner Markt 7, ☎ +49 9861 7166. Cuckoo clocks, Hummel figurines, pewter beer steins, music boxes, dolls, and the usual suspects.
- Käthe Wohlfahrt, Herrngasse 1. A somewhat touristy shop in three floors underground where one can buy Christmas decorations during the whole year.
If you plan to stay in Rothenburg for a few days, keep in mind that the restaurants cater to the daily bus tours. This means that you should try to get in to eat dinner by 8 pm - especially in the low season, because few places are open much later than 10 pm.
- Altfränkische Weinstube, Klosterhof 7, ☎ +49 9861 6404. On Wednesday nights at 8 pm, the English Speakers' Club meets. All are welcome.
- Baumeisterhaus, Obere Schmiedgasse 3 (just south of Marktplatz), ☎ +49 9861 9470-0. Housed in a Renaissance styled residence built in 1596 by the town master mason (Stadtbaumeister) Leonhard Weidmann. Main courses €12-22.
- Louvre, Klingengasse 15, ☎ +49 9861 8755-125. Japanese cuisine. Main courses €25-28; fixed-price menu €49-85.
- Ratsstube, Marktplatz 6, ☎ +49 9861 2225. A true tavern atmosphere. Main courses €10-15.
- Unter den Linden, Kurze Steige 7B, ☎ +49 9861 5909. A cafe-bar on the River Tauber. It is quite the hike down and up but, the beer is nice and cold.
- Zur Höll, Burggasse 8. Inn (Gasthaus) in a 1100 year old building.
- Gasthof Goldener Greifen, Obere Schmiedgasse 5 (just south of Marktplatz), ☎ +49 9861 2281. Former home of mayor (Bürgermeister) Toppler (~1406)
- Hotel Gotisches Haus, Herrngasse 13 (right behind the Market Square and the Christmas shops), ☎ +49 9861 2020, fax: +49 9861 1317.
- Hotel Spitzweg, Paradeisgasse 2 (right near the Rödertor), ☎ +49 9861 942-90. 10 rooms in a 16th century hotel. A hearty German breakfast gets you going in the morning. Herr Hocher is a great source of sight-seeing advice and he is always looking for a worthy chess opponent.
- Pension Gundel, Bockenfelderstr. 1, 91610 Insingen-Lohr (7 km south of Rothenburg in the village of Lohr.), ☎ +49 9861 2716.
- Along the Tauber through the Charming Tauber valley via Bad Mergentheim and Tauberbischofsheim to Wertheim
- Nuremberg - features a delightful castle, old town, and the nazi parade grounds
- Würzburg - a university town with an impressive palace
- Nördlingen - A beautiful medieval town in a meteorite crater surrounded by a 14th century wall. Along the Romantic Road.