This past weekend we took a quick overnight getaway to the famous German town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is probably one of the most popular and quaint German towns you will ever see, and for good reason. This small walled city is oozing with medieval charm. From the half timbered houses, to the uneven cobbled stone streets, to the ancient walls that surround this city, there is so much to explore. Around every corner is a new sight or alley to explore, but I think the best way to experience Rothenburg is to spend the night there. Once all the day tours leave, the city is much more pleasant and MUCH less crowded.
Here, we have compiled 6 things to do if you are in this historic city. All of these can easily be accomplished in a day, if that's all you have time for. Or you could spend the night and spend more time exploring. In any case, this city is a beautiful place to stop for a couple hours.
1. Admire the Quaint Half Timbered Houses
After the 30 Years War that engulfed most of Europe, the city practically fell asleep. Once the crossroads of two major trade networks, the routes had changed and people no longer regularly came to the town looking for a hot meal and a place to sleep on their journey. The economy of the city slowed and the poverty that followed meant that there was no money to invest in the city. In the late 1800s, tourists re-discovered this city and it once again became the hub of much actvity. This means that the town is incredibly well preserved and many of the buildings are hundreds of years old. It is not uncommon to see dates on the buildings from the 1500s.
2. Go on the Night Watchman's Tour
This was by far, probably one of the best tours we have ever had. Each night from April through December, a crowd gathers at 8 PM in the main square to follow one of the city watchmen on his walk of the city. The watchman hilariously gives the fascinating history of the city, all the way from when the city was first founded sometime in the 1000s, up through World War II, when the city was saved from certain destruction by a US general who remembered his parents' fondness for the city. The tour lasts about an hour, costs 7 Euro per person, and is offered in English. We highly recommend the tour if you are spending the night here.
3. Walk the Ancient Walls
The old fortifications are still standing and visitors are welcome to enjoy them. There are a number of places around the city, mainly at the towers, where one can climb up on to the walls, and then walk along them. For those who would like to, you could even walk around the entire city! We walked probably a quarter of them when we took some souvenirs back to the car for safe keeping. I love exploring old ruins and these were great, and bonus - they're free!
4. Stop at a Cafe for Kaffee und Kuchen
Coffee and Cake is a favorite German pastime and Rothenburg, with its beautiful scenery and abundance of cafes, is a great spot to partake in this tradition. Grab a seat at one of the many cafes with outdoor seating and enjoy the views. If you really want to try a Rothenburg specialty, opt for a Schneeball. It is a woven ball of fried pastry dough, often dusted with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, or dipped in chocolate. I just thought they were ok, but we noticed many people eating them throughout the day. Maybe they know something I don't about them!
5. Climb the Rathaus Tower
We are no stranger to climbing towers and love the views that they usually offer. This tower though had perhaps the most interesting, and most treacherous, climbs we've ever done. You enter up a wide spiral staircase in the Rathaus, just off of the main square. You then cross from one building to the next to continue the climb. Here is where the stairs start to get narrower and steeper. By the time you are at the top, the last set of stairs is less like stairs and more like a ladder. The platform at the top is wide enough for only one person, but the view of the city is completely worth it. From here, you can really see the winding layout of the small alleys, the red tiled roofs of the half timbered buildings, and the city walls encompassing it all. Entrance to the tower is 2 Euro per person and totally worth it.
6. Have a Drink (or Lunch or Dinner) at an 1100 Year Old Restaurant
Zur Hölle is the oldest restaurant in Rothenburg. The foundations of the building date from the 900s, but the rest of the building dates from the 1100s. Hundreds of years ago, the street used to be covered and the dark, gloomy atmosphere reminded the city inhabitants of Hell, thus the name. It has been a restaurant/tavern since 1100 making it the oldest operating restaurant in the city. I can't vouch for the food, but the atmosphere is pretty awesome. I mean, how many people can say that they've been in a 900 year old restaurant?!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most picturesque towns I think we have ever visited. Click through the gallery below to see some other amazing sites from this walled city. Do you have any tips on things to do in Rothenburg?
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