Bucket List: Rothenburg Germany

Bucket List: Rothenburg Germany

Wandering through the cobbled streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany is like stepping into the pages of an illustrated book of fairy tales.  You could half expect to bump into Snow White just around the corner.  Thankfully, the town has retained its medieval charm despite the fact that it is becoming an ever-popular tourist destination.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Sieberstor(links) und Koboltor (rechts)

This lovely little town was at one time, believe it or not, a thriving city – the second largest in Germany, with a population of 6000.  Nowadays the population is 11,000, and other cities have far surpassed it in size.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, in case you’re wondering, means “Red Fortress Above the Tauber [River].”  Rothenburg Castle was built in 1070, and the city of Rothenburg was founded one hundred years later, when Staufer Castle was built.

St. James Church (Gemeinde St Jakob)

The center of the town featured a marketplace and St James’ Church (Gemeinde St Jakob in German).  The church was built in stages between 1311-1484, and it is still standing today.

St James’ Church, Rothenburg

The town has been an important location in the Thirty Years’ War (1631) and in World War II (1945).  During the latter, bombs killed 37 people and destroyed 306 houses, six public buildings, nine watchtowers, and over 2,000 feet of the medieval wall that surrounds the city.

In the Walt Disney classic animated film, Pinocchio, artists took inspiration from Rothenburg when deciding how to draw Gepetto’s village. In addition, Rothenburg also served as the village in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

It’s worth a visit just to take in the scenery and pretend that you are time traveling.  But there’s quite a lot more to see and do in this charming town.  For instance:

The Rothenburg Town Hall (Rathaus)

The 165 foot, 13th century Town Hall Tower (Rathausturm) offers the best view of the area. It costs €2 per adult (roughly $2.25 at this writing) and takes 241 steps to get to the top. The front part of the Town Hall, a Renaissance building, was built in the 16th century. It is free of charge to enter the Town Hall.

Rothenburg germany town hall rathaus
The Rothenburg Town Hall (Rathaus)

The Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum)

This interesting museum examines the history of European law over the past thousand years or so. The museum’s exhibits on medieval-era punishments are especially popular. Admission is right around $8.

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Shame Masks at the Crime Museum in Rothenburg

German Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum)

A permanent exhibition presents the history of Christmas and Christmas decorations since their beginnings up until the mid-20th century.  Admission is approximately $4.50, and the museum is open year-round.


The Nightwatchman

About 80% of the tourists who visit Rothenburg are there just for the day, leaving the evenings much less crowded.  For a special tour of the town when the crowds have dissipated and it is quieter, take a tour with Hans Georg Baumgartner, AKA The Nightwatchman.  The tour costs about $9 for adults and $4.50 for students.  No reservations required; just meet in the marketplace at 8:00 pm.  (And yes, tours are available in English.)

Be sure to explore other parts of the city as well.  Take a walk into the Tauber Valley, wander the city walls, or enjoy shopping.  Rothenburg has something to offer everyone!


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