Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the well-known medieval, walled city on Germany’s Romantic Road, is one of Germany’s top ten tourist destinations for more than 60 years, e.g. rank 5 among Germany’s Top 100 sights 2016 and 2017 as stated by German National Tourist Office.
Rothenburg is about 40 minutes south of Würzburg, an hour north of Ulm and an hour west of Nürnberg. It is just inside the Bavarian border with Baden-Württemberg. Frankfurt is only a 90-minute drive and Munich is about two-and-a-half hours by autobahn.
Rothenburg’s prominence as a market town dates back almost a thousand years. Located in the geographic heart of the Holy Roman Empire, its towers and parapets, fortifications, walls and bridges are the same today as they were almost 500 years ago when Emperor Charles V. entered the city with his retinue in 1536. Many world-famous German artists like the Holbeins, Albrecht Duerer and others’ masterpieces were created then for neighborhood churches, wealthy patrons and nearby castles and palaces.
Back then the townspeople made a huge effort to make the city presentable for their most important guest. And today Rothenburg has again gussied itself up so that even frequent (and recent) visitors will be pleasantly surprised. A major renovation concluded in May 2014. More than 1.5 million Euros were spent to rebuild, renovate and restore Rothenburg’s most prominent structures — including the Rathaus pub, Fleischhaus adjacent the Marien-apotheke, and the Rathaus balustrade in the very heart of town.
Rothenburg is not a museum but a living, vibrant community. About 12,000 Rothenburgers actually live in the town both within and beyond the walls; the “Insiders” number just about 3,500 citizens.
Information in English as well as German provides detailed information about Rothenburg’s history and the functions, as well as details about its towers and defenses. Just ask for the Rothenburg Tower Trail as recommended by Rick Steves in the local Tourist Information. The Tower Trail depicts in film and print Rothenburg’s fortifications’ rich history along its defenses. These include forty defensive towers that contribute to the imposing town panorama that can be seen from afar when approaching Rothenburg from Autobahn 7. The bulwarks and other fortifications are now totally restored.
Outside of Rothenburg’s walls, ample parking is available for cars, buses, bikes and motorcycles. The best way to get the most out of a Rothenburg visit is on foot. Motorized travel within the confines of the ancient city is limited for environmental as well as preservation reasons. Medieval cities were not designed for automotive transportation. Only those citizens who live within the walls are entitled to parking. The rest of the residents, about 8,500 who live in the modern city beyond the walls surrounding the town, must, like all visitors, park outside the town walls.
The majority of Rothenburg’s restaurants, pubs and taverns and many of its numerous hotels, guesthouses and pensions are in the Old City. The others right on the periphery. The wide range of culinary offerings reflects the cosmopolitan nature of Rothenburg’s guests. These include hearty German, Franconian and Swabian foods, tasty Bavarian beers and high quality red and white wines from nearby vineyards. There is international and ethnic cuisine as well. Prices are favorable to every pocketbook and offer quality and value that would astonish Emperor Charles V. were he to return to this Imperial city.
Given the repairs and refurbishments of many buildings, structures and facades, repeat visitors to Rothenburg will experience the city in its bright, new, sparkling colors as never before. With its ancient history and contemporary calendar of events and concerts, Rothenburg welcomes first-timers and veteran visitors with open arms, just as it did Germany’s Emperor way back when.