So have you ever been to a place that completely takes your breath away, that leaves you feeling all tingling and happy on the inside, and makes it impossible to wipe that goofy smile off your face? Well if you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing that magical feeling than I could not urge you enough to visit the charming town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber on the eastern edge of the Bavarian region of Germany. Rothenburg truly encapsulates that quintessential European small town feel down to the Gothic cathedral and half-timbered houses. But that is not what makes Rothenburg truly special. This charming town is like a Christmas book come to life, all year round they celebrate this festive season with entire stores dedicated to the happiest holiday, offering ornaments, table decorations, and everything Christmas, and there is even a Christmas museum that is a visitor favourite! Now of course Rothenburg is enchanting all year round, but with this much holiday spirit the best time to visit is during the winter months, when the Christmas markets are opening up and the snow is almost certain to fall and cover the town in a blanket of white, only adding to the magical illusion. Just make sure to research when the markets are starting, because you may wind up missing them by only two days like me and be left just slightly disappointed.
Past the seasonal excitement there is plenty of reasons to visit this medieval town any time of the year. Being one of the few cities in Germany to still be completely fortified you cannot leave without walking the exterior walls surrounding the town. Here you’ll get some of the loveliest views of the buildings below as well as some of the absolutely beautiful landscapes that border Rothenburg. The walls also offer an interesting detail that is often overlooked by visitors. Along the walk make sure to take note of the names and places that are engraved onto the walls. These are the people that have also fallen completely in love with Rothenburg and have donated to the preservation of the city throughout the years. Although you could easily wander the entire fortifications within half an hour I would highly recommend taking your time and really experience every aspect of the historical remains.
Outside of the walls awaits what could possibly be the most incredible valley I have ever seen. With a few trails scattered around you have your options on which one to take to explore this beautiful area of Germany. My favourite trail lead down from the main Castle Gate along a leaf strewn path down into an open field with the cutest wooden bridge that looked like something straight out of Sleeping Beauty. Across the bridge a road follows around to the Kobolzell Church that dates back to the 15th century, and the Tauber Bridge before winding back up through the vineyards to return into the town. At the top of this path lies the Castle Gardens, where once stood the castle of Rothenburg that was destroyed in an earthquake in the 14th century and was never rebuilt. Falling crisp autumn leaves and gushing winds whooshing them into spiralling columns is what you’ll find in this enchanting park. Having visited in the late months of Fall, I got to experience the garden as a warm and earthy oasis completely covered in orange, red, and yellow foliage. But I can only imagine how wonderful it would be in all other seasons, covered in snow in winter, blossoming in a rainbow of flowers during the spring, and sunshine making the green flora glow in summer.
Another unique reason to visit this fairy tale town (as if you need another reason), is the Nights Watchman’s Tour. Held every night all throughout the year, this tour will take you on a journey back to medieval times, when people were extremely superstitious and afraid of the dark, so the night’s watchmen would police the streets after the sun set, patrolling for any danger, and this gives you the opportunity to go along with the only remaining nights’ watchman as you hear tales from centuries ago and the history of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Though there are other tours during the day if you only have limited time here.
However, if you are lucky enough to have a bit of time to immerse yourself in Rothenburg’s delightful atmosphere, and I would highly suggest at least one night and two full days to really get to experience everything, there are plenty of options for accommodation. I stayed at Hotel Reichs-Kuchenmeister and I couldn’t recommend it higher. Located in the heart of the town, it is in the perfect spot to begin your meanderings through this preserved city straight out of the Middle Ages. With an on-site sauna, beer garden, and restaurant serving an included buffet breakfast, you may find it hard to actually leave the hotel!
Rothenburg has been frozen in time, it radiates charm and allows you to discover the secrets of the cobbled streets from medieval times, and I’m not the only one to be spellbound by it. Although bombed and damaged during the Second World War, it was spared complete devastation because of a commanding American officer who was entranced and fascinated by this captivating place. Although he himself had never visited Rothenburg he had paintings and pictures of it and treasured them so much that he couldn’t stand the idea of it sitting in ruins. Thanks to his persistence we have what in my opinion is the cutest town in not only Germany, but in all of Europe. I’m already planning my next trip back!!!