If you are thinking of getting out of town for the holidays, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the place to be.
This stop on the German Romantic Mile is a well-preserved medieval town. In fact, it is one of only three German towns with city walls that are completely intact. It is located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River hence the translation of its name ‘Red Castle above Tauber’. The red color may come from the red roofs of the houses that overlook the river.
The city’s medieval history and famous Christmas market make it a terrific place to visit during the holidays. Here are some things you can check out during your trip.
Christmas Market Rothenburg
The Christmas Market in Rothenburg starts at the end of November and ends right before Christmas. It has been around over 500 years and is one of the oldest Christmas markets in existence. The booths are lovingly decorated and stand out against a medieval backdrop.
Guests can walk down the narrow winding streets, take in the snow-covered roofs and sip on a cup of white Franconian mulled wine as they shop around for unique gift items.
The Rothenburger Reiterle
Reiterle is another word for horseman. The Rothenburger Reiterle was once a feared figure but now people look forward to his appearance. His origin goes back in time to when people believed he was a descendent from another world who traveled through the skies with the souls of the dead. However, his image has changed over time and he is now a well-loved ambassador of the Christmas Season.
Every year, the city hosts a yuletide ceremony that occurs at 5 PM on the Friday before the first Advent Sunday. This marks the beginning of the Christmas market. It is a time of much celebration as people enjoy the mulled wine and view the season’s wares for the first time.
Climb the Town Hall Tower
The Town Hall was rebuilt in the 16th century and now features a merging of old and new structures. It is a Gothic landmark that represents the city’s turbulent past.
The hall hosts a Historic Festival called ‘Der Meistertrunk’ which takes place in several performances. After you sign up, the wine cellar master will call your group to the legendary Master Draught inside the hall. Here you are dared to empty the tankard that contains 3 ¼ liters of wine.
You can also climb the tower to the observation platform which provides terrific views of Tauber Valley.
Visit Town Hall
Town Hall is an impressive site to see. It sits in the Marktplatz and it’s a giant building that features grand stairs and a Renaissance façade. It is surrounded by timber framed buildings and looks more like a castle than a town hall. It also houses an impressive tavern called the Ratstrinkstube.
Hang out in the Market Square
Rothenburg’s medieval charm attracts tourists from around the world and the marketplace is the center of it all. People from diverse backgrounds gather to sit on the Town Hall steps and enjoy the cafés.
During the summer, it is not uncommon to see plays and performances in the square. In the winter, it is occupied by the Christmas Market.
Kathe Wohlfahrts Christmas Village
The Christmas Village is set up in the middle of town and is made to bring the atmosphere and joy of a Franconian village. It features snow covered roofs year-round. Come by any advent weekend to get personalized Christmas ornaments.
كنيسة سانت جيمس
St. James Church is just a short walk from Town Hall. It was completed in 1485 and is considered to be one of the finest pilgrimage churches in Germany.
Highlights of the church include the Alter of the Holy Blood, a wood carving created in 1505 that depicts the Last Supper. The stained glass in the East Choir is also pretty impressive. The Twelve Apostles Alter illustrates the oldest known representation of the city.
English guided and audio tours are available throughout the year.
Medieval Crime Museum
It may not be the most festive way to enjoy the holiday, but a trip to the Medieval Crime Museum will certainly satisfy your darker urges.
The museum exhibits the history of 1000 years of crime and punishment in Europe with a focus on the medieval period. Highlights include weapons used to extract confessions and inflict pain. There is also documentation on the flawed logic behind their uses.
Woodcuts and copper etchings show notorious criminal cases as well as the witch hunts that once took place in Bavaria.
The Old Town Walls
Rothenburg is fortunate to be one of the few medieval cities to have its original walls still intact. You can spend a good half hour just walking around the walls. For best results, start off at the Spitaltor, a huge gatehouse that dates back to the 1500’s. Then head over to the impressive Rodentor taking in the views along the way.
From there, you will want to make your way to Klingentor and the 15th century St. Wolfgang’s church.
The entire trip encompasses 42 gatehouses so plan enough time in your busy schedule to check out each one. Guided tours are available at the town’s visitor center.
Plonlein translates as “Little Square”, and it is no more than an intersection located in Rothenburg but it is one of the most scenic views in the city.
As you stand facing the half-timbered building dividing the two streets, you’ll see that one roadway heads up to Siebers Tower while the other slopes down to Kobolzeller tower. Both date back to the 13th century making for stunning architectural scenery.
Rothenburg is one of the most magical cities in Europe. Its medieval history and vibrant marketplace make the holiday season an ideal time to visit. Which of these activities will you be prioritizing during your trip?