One of the most visited towns along Bavaria’s Romantic Road (Romantische Strasse), Rothenburg ob der Tauber has photo opportunities at every turn. This perfectly preserved medieval town, with its half-timbered houses and stone watchtowers, has featured in numerous movies, including some of the Harry Potter films.
The best way to explore Rothenburg is on foot, and highlights of a walking tour include the Renaissance-style Town Hall (Rathaus), 14th-century St. Jacob’s Church (Stadtkirche St. Jakob), and the fascinating Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum). For the best views, climb one of the watchtowers and walk along the medieval walls, looking down over the town below.
Many travelers visit as part of a day or multi-day tour from Munich or Frankfurt, often combined with nearby cities such as Heidelberg, Nuremberg, or Harburg. The most rewarding route follows the scenic Romantic Road, stopping at towns like Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen, and Donauwörth, or magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle (Schloss Neuschwanstein).
Things to Know Before You Go
Plan 1–2 hours to explore the town on foot, more if you want to browse the shops or enjoy lunch at one of the many cafés and restaurants.
Be sure to sample the local specialty, schneeballen—balls of pastry rolled in sugar or cinnamon.
Wear comfortable shoes—the mazelike streets, hills, and cobblestones mean lots of walking, even though the town itself is small.
Although many hotels and attractions are wheelchair accessible, the medieval streets and buildings can mean that access is limited.
How to Get There
Rothenburg is about halfway between Frankfurt and Munich, due west of Nuremberg, in the Franconia region of Bavaria. Tourist buses ply the Romantic Road between Frankfurt and Füssen throughout the summer. Alternatively, take the train from Frankfurt or Munich to Rothenburg train station, about a 10-minute walk from the walled town. Much easier is to arrive by private transport or as part of a guided tour; parking lots are located just outside the walled center.
When to Get There
The swell of summer visitors can make Rothenburg unbearably crowded during July and August. Make an early start to arrive before the throngs, or stay until early evening when the day-trippers have left. The most atmospheric time of year to visit is in December, when a lively Christmas market is held on Marktplatz (Market Square), along with carol concerts, torchlight walks, and festive entertainment throughout the town.
The Romantic Road
The 220-mile (355-kilometer) Romantic Road is one of Germany’s most popular tourist routes, starting in Füssen, close to the Austrian border, and winding its way through the Bavarian Alps, past medieval towns and fairy-tale castles, to Würzburg in the north. In addition to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, highlights of the Romantic Road include King Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein Castle; the UNESCO-listed Würzburg Residence; the medieval villages of Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl, and Bad Mergentheim; and Oberammergau, known for its stunning house murals.