I’ve visited Rothenburg a few times now but it never fails to impress – it’s quite simply magical! The town really comes alive in the festive season (it’s quite literally “Christmas Town”) which makes it a perfect weekend getaway for December.
I should start by flagging that Rothenburg is not the only Rothenburg in Germany! So here I’m visiting Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber in Bavaria, southern Germany.
Rothenburg is a perfectly preserved medieval town with beautiful buildings, it’s like walking into a fairytale – not surprising really as the town is often used as a film location. The most well known is probably Chitty Chitty Bang Bang where the rat catcher is in the main square. There’s also a tiny glimpse of Rothenburg in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.
In the middle of Rothenburg is the old town, the “altstadt”, marked out by the well preserved medieval walls, gates and towers which you can walk round. We stayed at the Cafe Gerberhaus a 16th century hotel inside the old town and I was actually at this same hotel when we found out that Princess Diana had died back in 1997. The hotel is a traditional German hotel with an INCREDIBLE breakfast – bucks fizz is always a good idea on holiday, right?
Here’s how you can spend three festive days in Rothenburg.
Four Days in Rothenburg:
We drove from the UK across to Rothenburg which as you can imagine is quite a long journey but when we arrived, we dropped off our bags at the hotel and headed straight out. Rothenburg is a tourist hotspot and is filled with day trippers, particularly on the weekends. The best time is around 5pm when all of the coaches have left.
Walking into Rothenburg for the first time is like nothing else, through the arches and lookout towers, up the hill to the Marktplatz (town square) where the Christmas Market is held. The first thing we did is head to the market and grabbed some gluhwein (mulled wine). Gluhwein in Germany is usually served in ceramic mugs (much better than the paper cups they serve mulled wine in in England) which keeps it lovely and warm. Most German towns and cities usually have a bespoke mug with a slightly different design each year. This makes them great collectibles and at home I’ve got lots of different mugs from various towns and years.
For dinner, we’d prebooked a table at the restaurant of the Hotel Reichskuchenmeister in the centre of Rothenburg which is always delicious (again, I’ve visited this restaurant many times). We ordered a selection of dishes including the Schaufele (a giant portion of roast pork with crispy crackling) and the Schmankerlpfanne (pork tenderloin with mushrooms) which were SO GOOD.
Walking back down to our hotel through the town is indescribable, it’s called Christmas Town because there are Christmas trees everywhere and all of the shops leave the lights on their window displays and have garlands outside every archway. At this time of night there were no tourists so it was simply magical.
On Sundays, all the shops in Germany are closed so we took a day trip to the nearby Nuremberg to visit some family friends which is just over an hour away by car. Last year we spent a fantastic four days in the city of Nuremberg which has the best Christmas market in Germany (open on Sundays) so I really recommended a visit.
To start our third and final day in Rothenburg, we began by walking round the wall of the Altstadt which goes around the whole town. There are steps next to most towers where you can access the walls and the walls are covered which makes this a good activity for all weather. The Tower Trail has boards next to all of the towers and you can even scan QR codes to watch videos about the history of each tower.
As part of our walk, we visited the castle gardens at the south of the town which offer incredible views across the Tauber valley. The castle hasn’t stood since the 12th century but its worth a visit and I imagine its beautiful in summer time.
For the photographers out there, the Plonen timber house in the middle of two cobbled streets is probably one of the most iconic shots of Rothenburg but this can be quite busy during the middle of the day but definitely worth a quick snap. It looks fantastic both during the day and lit up at night time too.
A visit to the Kathe Wolfhardt- shop is a MUST for Rothenburg. This is the best Christmas shop I’ve ever been to (a bold statement, I know) and it originates in Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber although there are several stores across continental Europe and just one in England (York). I can’t go inside without buying something and we bought a selection of trinkets, baubles and Christmas presents for family too. Even the shopping bags are gorgeous, I always keep them and get them out every Christmas. We visited six stores across the town but the flagship store just down from the Marktplatz is the best one and its not uncommon to queue outside before being able to enter.
Inside the store, theres the Christmas museum which admittedly I’ve never been, it’s only four euros per adult but you don’t really need to visit as the shop is festive enough TRUST ME. You’re not allowed to take pictures but I managed to snap a few while I was inside. You can’t miss the flagship store – it has a Kathe Wolfhardt car parked outside and there’s another store directly opposite it.
For lunch we grabbed some food from the Christmas Market in the Marktplatz which is always good value for money and delicious too. Last year I wrote all about the delicious food at German Christmas Markets – my favourite in Nuremberg was “Drei am Weckler” which literally means three Nuremberg sausages in a roll but I found “Vier Rothenburgerwurst” so it felt like Rothenburg was trying to outdo Nuremberg by adding an extra sausage!
In the afternoon, we visited the Reichstadt Museum (Imperial Town Museum) which is based in an old convent with fascinating history. Another good wet weather activity which cost only six euros per person.
At this point we were getting cold so stopped off at a cafe for hot chocolate and Schneeballen, a traditional Rothenburg specialty which are definitely worth a try while you’re visiting. These little pastry delights come in all sorts of flavours covered in chocolate. I’ve tried Champagne, Cointreau and Baileys schneeballen which are all delicious! I have to admit, I wouldn’t recommend the classic schneeballen which is simply covered in icing sugar – they’re much tastier with flavoured fillings and chocolate. All of the local cafes and bakeries will sell them. There are often little windows in the front of the shops where you can watch them being made.
For dinner, we’d booked a table at the Gasthof Glocke which is just opposite the Plonen timber house, where we ordered the classic German dish, Wiener schnitzel which is breaded veal steak served with chips. This has got to be one of my absolute favourite German meals.
We finished up with another glass of gluhwein before heading back to our hotel before our long journey back to the UK.
Have you visited Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber before?