It’s not difficult to see why the fairytales of Grimm Brothers come from Germany. German towns provide the perfect setting – with half-timbered houses, dense forests, quiet lakes, winding lanes, and snow-capped peaks. But if there is one town that brings alive all the fairytales, it is the medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (henceforth referred to as simply Rothenburg!). A charming and beautiful town in Bavaria, overlooking the Tauber River, Rothenburg is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Germany. The origin of this town dates way back to the 12th century. During the War, the town also sustained some damage, but was spared from a major bombing in World War II and today remains the best preserved walled town.
Soon as you enter the town through a large gate; it feels you have stepped into fairytale. And right there, standing at the gate, on a cobbled street, you know it is love at first sight. As I stood at the gate admiring the houses and the quite street, as if by magic, a horse carriage appeared right at that moment! Ofcourse, you could take a ride in the horse carriage, but do that perhaps after you have tired your feet from all the walking! Rothenburg is best explored on foot, for then you get the opportunity to sneak into the long and winding lanes and alleys and soak in the town’s charm.
The town walls are still in perfect condition and are surrounded with towers and gateways. As you walk through town, you will be acquainted with its 42 gate houses and towers, the most important being the Galgentor, Klingentor, Rathausturm, Röder Gate, and the famous Markus tower. These are punctuated with hotels and tiny shops, all photogenic in their own right.
Exploring Rothenburg doesn’t really need a guide. All you need to do is lose yourself in the city and wander at your own pace. Do check out the Rathausturm and brave the 200 plus steps to reach the top of the 165 foot tower, because you will be awarded with fantastic views of the city. For architectural enthusiasts, Rothenburg’s churches offer plenty of awe-inspiring opportunities. The most famous of them is the St. Jacob church, whose tall spires dominate the city’s skyline.
Rothenburg is also home to some interesting museums, such as the Museum of Medieval Crime, which can be rather spine-chilling experience! The Imperial Town Museum also ranks high on the ‘to-do list’ of tourists, for its beautiful insight into the town’s history. But if you are travelling with kids, or are like me fascinated with everything Christmas, then you can’t leave Rothenburg without visiting the Christmas Museum, which brings alive the magic of Christmas all year round.
In Rothenburg, the buildings and public squares are no less than a sightseeing landmark in their own right! Here you will find charming little houses that date back to hundreds of years, done up in wall art and colourful red flowers adorning the buildings. The Baumeisterhaus (Master-Builder's House) is definitely the prettiest of them all! It is where the famous Rothenburg master-builder Leonard Weidmann lives and worked, and the house is often referred to as the ‘loveliest renaissance house in Rothenburg.’ Admire the building and check out some delicious culinary treats, at this house that has been now converted to a cafe. The Marktplatz, or the Market Square is the heartbeat of the town’s centre where all the action takes place. You will find markets, guided tours, local musicians, and more happening at this part of Rothenburg.
But if there’s one square that reminds everyone of Rothenburg, it is the Plönlein. You might have seen this famous image more than once, appearing in calendars and postcards. Plönlein is one of the most photographed images from Germany – a half-timbered building with a small fountain in front and townhouses on either side, on a cobbled road. You might have to wait your turn in the sea of tourists, to find the perfect moment to click this square, but it’s worth it to just stand there for a few minutes and admire the charm of the place.
For families with kids, Rothenburg is a delight! It is known for its wooden toy stores and the largest teddybear shop in Germany.
Aimless wanderer, or a tourist with a Mission, Rothenburg is definitely worth a visit, throwing you back to the life in a typical medieval town in Bavaria. And when you drive out of Rothenburg, it feels like a ride back to the future, but that calming sight will remain well within you, stirring a sweet nostalgia and wanderlust feeling for a long, long time!