Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The quaint little town in the Middle Franconia region of Bavaria has been a staple on the itineriaries of foreign tourists for many years. Thanks to its preserved medieval character, its small and narrow side streets and the overall picturesque scenery along the Tauber river, nestled between vineyards and rolling hills, Rothenburg is a popular destination for visitors from all over the world and is often cited as a prime example for romantic, medieval German towns. With a population of slightly more than 10,000, Rothenburg is a small city that nevertheless boasts a large number of restaurants and accommodation options.   

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The city is located about 60 kilometers west of Nuremberg and can easily be reached via Autobahn A7. There are spacious parking lots with acceptable fees right in front of the medieval town wall, which is one of the town’s main attractions. In fact, there are parts of two town walls circling the city, the inner one dating from the 12th and the outer wall from the 14th century. Two kilometers of the wall are accessible for visitors, allowing for great insights into the architecture of the historic town as well as for some nice views. While following the protective wall, one encounters a series of towers and gates that also served the purpose of protecting the town. The local tourism association has created a themed tour guiding visitors to the most notable buildings. The round trip through Old Town is 4 kilometers in length and usually takes about two hours to complete. As it covers all sights of Rothenburg and also allows travelers to experience the historic structure of the town, this trip is the recommended option for first-time visitors.    

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The central location in town is the market square with the town hall, which has a viewing platform 52 meters above ground, from where a sweeping view of the Tauber valley can be had. In addition to the historic trade buildings around market square and the fortification structures, Rothenburg boasts several notable churches. Most notably, Lutheran St. James Church stands out. The church was built from 1311 on and contains the famous “Holy Blood” sculpture by woodcarver Tilman Riemenschneider. Also worth seeing is the former Franciscan Friary, which today serves as a Lutheran church.

According to town lore, the Catholic Count of Tilly was on the verge of capturing Rothenburg in the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century, threatening to burn it down entirely, The city leaders then offered the commander a large bottle of wine, containing more than three liters. The gift softened Tilly and he offered to save the town from destruction if anyone could empty the bottle in one draw. Rothenburg’s former mayor volunteered, mastered the bottle and thus saved the city. This episode is replayed by figurines at the Councillor’s Tavern (Ratstrinkstube) at the full hour between 10 am and 10 pm. 

In addition to all the historic buildings, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a number of museums including the Medieval Crime Museum, documenting a thousand years of criminal history and the History Museum which preserves the town’s storied past. Most visitors however are magically drawn to the Christmas Museum, open year round, located in the annex of a large Christmas-themed store which is a main draw for many overseas tourists (Herrngasse 1).  

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