I love places that makes me feel I am in one of the pages of a fairy tale book. I love old German inner cities that I have only seen through books, magazines or travel blogs and Rothenburg ob der Tauber could be my favorite. The architecture is very well preserved, you can’t help but ask yourself whether time has stood still.
Rothenburg is named in part after its location on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is translated in English as:”Red fortress above the Tauber”.
WHERE IS ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is situated in Bavaria, halfway between Frankfurt and Munich.
HOW TO GET TO ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER (from Munich)
We were based in Munich, coming from a direct 6 hour flight from Dubai. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is three and a half train ride away from Munich. It’s not near but heck, we were already there so better take this opportunity to visit!
The German railway offers several regional tickets to travel around the country on a budget. We got the Bayern ticket, this ticket is valid for as many journeys as you want in Bavarian region during its period of validity, regardless of the connection indicated. Children/grandchildren (any number) aged 14 and under can travel with you when you buy for one or two people. Discounts are available for up to four people travelling with you, paying only an additional 6 Euros per person. For example, 2 adults would pay only 31 Euros total.
I only paid 25 Euros, my kids aged 13 and 5 travelled for free.
From Mon-Fri, the Bayern ticket is valid from 09:00 to 03:00 of the following day; on Sat, Sun and public holidays, it is valid from midnight to 03:00 of the following day.
TIP: Check timetables and connections using the German public transport app, DB Navigator (Android, iOS).
We left Munich early and arrived three and a half hours later to Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s small train station around 11:30 am. To get to the charming medieval Old Town, we need to walk for about 10 minutes before arriving at this walled village, with thick walls at the entrance. We crossed the wall and this was our first glimpse of Rothenburg.
Now, this is not a theme park with cute houses built for entertainment. These are normal houses where normal people live. Most of the houses had been here for hundreds of years yet when you see these buildings, it seems that it has been untouched by time.
We headed to the Rothenburg Tourism office at Markplatz to take brochures and guides on how to navigate this small town.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is only a day trip in our itinerary. After all, our main destination was Austria but we happen to just have chosen Munich as our landing airport and Rothenburg just happens to be in the same region as Munich and the picture perfect town is worth the long train ride.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER?
We were in Germany on the last week of August when most of Europe is still enjoying the last days of summer. However, the day we were in Rothenburg (August 26), it seems that we have brought the Dubai heat with us. The mid day temps were high, it was actually so hot! Still, it was beautiful and fascinating to wander around. 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.
I can imagine how beautiful this town will be during winter especially on Christmas time.
So in short, I believe this place is beautiful any time of the year!
The views around the town are tremendous, from the main square, to the towers to the alleys. We were only there a day, but would have loved another!!
CLIMBING THE CITY TOWER
Upon the suggestion of the Rothenburg ob der Tauber tourism office, I gathered all the courage to climb up the 65 meter city tower. I have climbed towers and love the views from the top. This tower though is perhaps the most interesting and most treacherous so far! The kids seem to be enthusiastic about it, in fact, I didn’t want to but they insisted! We entered a wide spiral staircase in the Rathaus, just off of the main square. Soon the stairs start to get narrower and steeper. By the time we arrived at the last stairs it’s shocking to see that it is less like stairs and more like a ladder. The inclination is almost 90 degrees!
The viewing platform at the top can only hold only a few visitors at a time. Benjamin was delighted to be at the top but Pristine was scared. She actually froze and cried. Me? I don’t like heights but I had to take pictures.
THE PLONLEIN (“Little Square”)
One of the most famous postcard images from Rothenburg ob der Tauber is definitely the Plonlein. A narrow half-timbered building with a small fountain in front, it is framed by the Kobolzeller tower and the higher Siebers Tower, with lovingly restored townhouses to the right and left, creating a charmingly picturesque effect.
You can say that people who come to Rothenburg come here to take pictures at this very spot. It’s the place that I had specifically searched out because I have seen so many photographs of it and wanted to capture one of my own.
By the way, can you imagine Belle from Beauty and the Beast coming out from one of these houses and belting out the song Provincial Life?
HOW MANY HOURS SHOULD YOU SPEND AT ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER?
We were at Rothenburg for a day trip from Munich and calculating the total of seven hours train journey to and fro, we were at Rothenburg for only four hours tops. It was enough to see the major streets and sights (the ploinlein!) but if I had to do it all over again, I would choose from the list of charming hotels or inns at Rothenburg and I would gladly spend a night or two so I could explore it more/travel slower.
Rothenburg Tourism suggests Hotel Rappen, a hotel located right before you enter the gates to the town. We had lunch at the restaurant’s beer garden and can’t forget the delicious bratwurts, spinach & cheese pancake and of course, German beer that we had!
Now, I have this uncurable addiction of scrolling through booking sites to see prospective hotels and I’d probably choose Romantik Hotel Markusturm or Hotel Reichs Kuchenmeister next time. I see there will definitely be a next time!
We loved, loved, loved our time at Rothenburg ob der Tauber – old, classic, historic, clean, quaint, just lovely. I loved feeling like I had been transported to another time and place, so different than my life back home.
It is definitely worth a stop if you’re in Bavaria region because nowhere else will you find such a wealth of original buildings dating from the Middle Ages. We just roamed around the cobblestone streets, visited the Christmas store (it’s surreal to see vast collections of Christmas decorations in August), checked the Museum of Medieval Torture Instruments (!), climbed the city tower, and peeked through windows of souvenir shops.
Though it could get touristy at peak times during the day when the tour busses arrive, it’s just so lovely to wander around and walk around the wall and the main square is picture perfect. There are lots of lovely little shops, bakeries and restaurants and the atmosphere of this place is just wonderful.
I am glad we went, thankful both my kids weren’t bothered with the long train ride. As for me, I am so happy to be able to fulfil one of my travel dreams with them at my side.
Lastly, there are several “Rothenburgs” in Germany. Make sure you are going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber as it seems that people really do sometimes drive or ride the train to other, nondescript Rothenburgs by accident.