The Plönlein or "Little Square" on a beautiful summer day!
Turrets? Towers? Taverns? Rothenberg, Germany, has it all. This impeccably preserved medieval town on the River Tauber is for anyone with a penchant for history, culture, ancient architecture and the timeless tastes of good food and wine.
Within the old Bavarian Imperial city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, you’ll find the 13th-century Town Hall, the 14th-century Council Tavern and buildings that appear as they did in the 16th century, both inside and out. Stroll along serpentine cobblestone streets past half-timbered homes that look like they leapt from the pages of a storybook. Pop into museums that reveal the town’s interesting history and marvel at ancient churches. Here are my favorite highlights in Rothenburg.
Start in history itself, feeling as if you’ve stepped into a Germany postcard. Rothenburg is located on the country’s famed Romantic Road, after all, and definitely plays the part with its charming gingerbread homes and facades, many of which have been converted into Old Town’s beguiling shops and pubs. If you visit the area around the holidays, you’ll find one of the best Christmas markets in Germany located here.
While you’re in Old Town, spend about 30 minutes walking the ancient walls. Start from the 16th-century Spitaltor (gatehouse) and stroll toward the Rödertor, the Klingentor (climb this tower for a great view of the Tauber Valley) and the 15th-century St. Wolfgang’s Church. Take longer if you need so you can fully appreciate the views and the 42 gatehouses and towers located along the walls.
Town Hall (Rathaus)
Photograph the imposing exterior of the Town Hall, which was built in the 13th century and faces Herrngasse in the Marktplatz. A newer (if you can call the 16th century newer) tower juts out of the building and allows for fine views of Old Town. The Imperial Hall section is still used for theater and musical performances. Notice, too, the former Council Tavern that was added to the complex in 1466 and its historic mechanical clock.
St. James's Church is absolutely gorgeous!
St. James’s Church
Continue your walk from Town Hall to St. James’s Church (also known as St. Jacobs because in German, the church is called Kirchengemeinde St. Jakob). Whatever you call it, this gorgeous church, completed in 1485, is a site to behold for its exquisitely carved, wooden Altar of the Holy Blood, which depicts the Last Supper, and the 700-year-old stained-glass window in the East Choir area.
Not to be outdone by Old Town’s fairytale ambiance, Plönlein (or “Little Square”) may be a small section of town, but it’s a decidedly perfect one. Two streets are divided by a stand of tall, skinny, colorful buildings - to one end is the Siebers Tower, to the other Koblozeller Tower, both from the early 13th century.
This medieval dunking cage was used during the witch trials in the Middle Ages.
Medieval Crime Museum
For those whose interest is piqued by (sometimes gruesome) medieval history, this fascinating museum is a must. Learn about more than 1,000 years of crime and the resulting punishment, and see artifacts that were intended to garner confessions (and read about how the logic behind the use of such instruments was often misguided). Discover the witch-hunts of Bavaria and other famous criminal cases, which are exhibited in woodcuts and copper etchings.
Round out your Rothenburg sightseeing with a visit to the Rothenburg Museum, located in a former Dominican convent. Learn about life in the convent and see the historic living quarters, peek at a well-preserved, 13th-century kitchen, marvel at 14th-century panels of the Rothenburg Passion, discover the town’s Jewish heritage in the Judaica Department and see weaponry spanning the years from the Stone Age all the way to the 19th century.
Rothenburg will woo you with its pretty-as-a-picture book appeal, its medieval history and its mix of Bavarian and Franconian cuisine. Click the button below and let’s chat about how to include a visit on your Europe river cruise.
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Travel Advisor Specializing in River Cruising