Rothenburg ob der Tauber – A medieval milestone of history
With its splendid location and charming medieval atmosphere, hardly any other town is able to captivate its visitors in quite the same way as Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
A walk through this small town with a population of ca. 11.ooo people is an unforgettable encounter with bygone centuries. The imposing building of the Town Hall, stately towers, massive fortifications, churches and patrician houses are witnesses to a mighty imperial past. An imperial castle dating back to 1142 represents the beginning of the town.
Elevated to a Free Imperial City in 1274, Rothenburg became one of the most important city states of the middle ages. In 1631, during the Thirty Years War, Rothenburg was taken by imperial troops. Ex-Mayor Nusch saved the town by drinking 3 litres of wine in a single gulp, the so-called “Master draught”.
Loosing its importance in the following centuries, Rothenburgs medieval center remained untouched. In the Romantic era, the town was discovered by painters and poets and became a symbol of the middle ages in Germany.
Nowadays Rothenburg – situated in Western Franconia, passed by the Autobahn (motorway) A 7 – is one of the most visited towns in Europe.
St. Jakobskirche (Church of St. Jacob)
Location: Klostergasse 15
It is the largest church in the city and the most interesting one: it has impressive towers and don’t miss the interior with two altars created by the famous wood carver Tilman Riemenschneider. The high altar is made by Friedrich Herlin.
Open: April – October: 09.00 a.m. – 05.15 p.m.
November, January – March: 10.00 a.m. – 12.00 a.m., 02.00 p.m. – 04.00 p.m.
December: 10.00 a.m. – 04.45 p.m.
Fee: ca. 2,00 Euro; reduced rates for groups and students.
Guided tours: every Saturday at 03:00 p.m.
The Tower of the Town Hall
Location: Rathaus, Marktplatz.
The highest tower in the town hall commands an excellent view on the historic district and can be reached through the main entrance of the Town Hall on the market square.
Reiterlesmarkt, the famous Christmas Market
Every year Rothenburg is transformed from a summer’s dream into a winter wonderland. Experience this enchanting atmosphere at the Christmas Market, the so-called “Reiterlesmarkt”. This market dates back to the 15th century and is therefore one of the oldest in Germany.
It’s name refers to an old teutonic legend. In pre-christian time, the Teutons believed in a rider who took care of the souls of the death. Whereas the Teutons were afraid of this mystic figure, the behavior towards this rider changed in the middle ages. Now, everyone was expecting him, because – following to the legend – he was transmitted from a wild, rude man into a friendly messenger, who brings gifts to all men on earth. A painting of this famous rider can be seen on the facade of the town hall.
But on several occasions he becomes alive. For example, when the market will be opened of when the children of the town do their candle-light procession. Loudness is out of place on this market, where citizens and tourists meet, drinking the traditional hot wine.
As the old year comes to an end and the new one begins, there is little time to be bored: every day there are several cultural events ranging from organ concerts to puppet theatre.
Museums in Rothenburg o. d. Tauber
Doll & Toy Museum (Puppen & Spielzeugmuseum Rothenburg)
An enchanting world is to be seen at the Dolls and Toy Museum, the biggest private collection of its kind in Germany.
German Christmas Museum (Dt. Weihnachtsmuseum)
Discover the history of this family celebration on more than 2750 square feet.
The era of the Thirty Years War is brought back to life in the Historical Vaults of the Town Hall. The dark dungeons are where Rothenburg’s most powerful Lord Mayor, Heinrich Toppler, met his death in 1408.
Imperial City Museum (Reichsstadtmuseum)
The former Dominican nunnery convent houses the collections of Rothenburg’s arts and culture.
Medieval Crime Museum (Kriminalmuseum)
The most important museum of legal history in Germany, the Medieval Crime Museum offers an impressive insight into the legal conditions governing the lives of our forefathers.
Rothenburg Handicrafts Museum (Alt-Rothenburger Handwerkermuseum)
With original artifacts, the Rothenburg Handicrafts House presents the working and social world of an ordinary citizen.
Annual major events
The Master Draugh
Historical festival and the events of the year 1631. Weekends between June and October. See website for details.
The Imperial City Festival
Early September. The Imperial City Festival represents a highlight of the annual calendar of events. The torchlight procession of all participants and the fireworks with music along the façade of the impressive town hall.
Reiterlesmarkt (City of Rothenburg)
Christmas market End of November until Christmas.
The town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber provides a romantic backdrop for the annual Rothenburg illuminated run, early November. The event caters for running enthusiasts of all ages and abilities with an 8km main running route and an 800m run for kids. The event is also a real spectacle for onlookers with the old quarter lit up by flickering torches and fantastic lighting effects.
Climate & Temperatures
Juli/August: up to around 30C / 86 F.
Winter: around freezing point
Best time to travel / Season
In general year-round, however, most tourists prefer the time between and including Spring and Fall. Christmas fans will prefer December and visit Rothenburg’s Christmas Market.
History of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The Imperial City Days of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The Imperial City Days should remind the citizens of Rothenburg and their guests of more than 700 years urban history of glory.
On May 15, 1274, King Rudolf of Habsburg granted to Rothenburg the right of being a “Free Imperial City”. This special status brought political power and economical progress to the town. A “Free Imperial City” was nearly an independent state, with its own measuring system, own currency and the right for self-administration. During the period of glory at the end of the 14th century, Rothenburg numbered more than 6000 inhabitants, a big town during these days.
As a result of the Napoleon Wars Rothenburg lost its status in 1802. But when the 700th anniversary delivery of the status arrived in 1974, the inhabitants took the chance and decided to celebrate this important date in history. Thousands of Rothenburgers organized themselves into historical groups. Each group represents a certain period or a special profession of past days. Therefore one will meet the Knights of 1274 as well as the riflemen’s guild or the Town Pipers of the Renaissance.
It’s now a lot of years since the Imperial City Festival happened for the first time. And because of the great success, the Rothenburgers decided to celebrate it every year. Beyond the performances of the historical groups, there are other highlights like the Historical Festival Play or the Shepherds Dance – and, of course, the great fireworks display on Saturday evening in the Tauber valley.