As far as fairytale towns go, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany is among the most magical and picture-worthy. It’s no wonder so many people visit to capture some of the best photos of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
This Franconian city is steeped in rich history, colorful architecture, and medieval wonder. It’s brimming with beautifully preserved timber homes, cradled by old city walls and towers dating back several centuries. Stepping foot inside these walls for the first time, I couldn’t contain my excitement. Where has this place been all my life?!
Ready for a photo guide of one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns? Here are some of my favorite pictures I took in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a bucket-list worthy destination in northern Bavaria.
For more travel inspiration in Germany or Europe in general, check out my guide of the most beautiful cities and hidden gems in Europe. Now, let’s take a peek at Germany’s very own postcard row, aka Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Disclosure: I visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber in partnership with Rothenburg Tourismus. As always, all opinions are my own.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber: a red fortress on a river
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is best recognized by its reddish orange-cladded rooftops. In German, its name means “red fortress above the river Tauber”.
Perched above the Tauber Valley, Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a dense history dating back to the 10th century.
During the Middle Ages, Rothenburg was Germany’s second largest city with 6,000 people. Today, its Old World appeal hasn’t waned a bit, making it a popular tourist destination in the heart of Franconia (northern Bavaria). It’s easily one of the most beautiful places to stay in all of Europe!
Rothenburg’s picture-perfect appeal
Bursting with vibrance, charm, and personality, Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the quintessential German village. There’s a special Old World flair that lures people to this place, something that can’t be put into words or fully captured in a photo or video. Though, here’s a video I’ve put together of this charming town (over 2 million views on TikTok so far):
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a place where you’re better off wandering down its quaint cobbled streets than coming to check off the top sights. Though if there was just one iconic sight that people showed up for, it would be the Plönlein (shown below).
Das Plönlein is the most iconic photo spot in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This half-timbered building is flanked by other cute homes, a small fountain, and a large tower that look like something straight out of a Grimms’ fairytale.
Though the Plönlein is a top sight for visitors, there is much more to see while visiting here. You’ll stumble upon everything from old town walls and squares to main streets lined with fairytale homes and quieter, off-the-beaten-path lanes. Here are some other photogenic spots you should look out for in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
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Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tower Trail
Walking along the Tower Trail was one of my fondest memories in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This 2.5 mile (4 km) path takes you along the 14th-century ramparts that are still remarkably intact today.
From this vantage point, you’ll have sweeping views of the towers, cobbled streets, and half-timbered homes that comprise Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s Altstadt (Old Town).
This old town wall is also covered, making it the perfect walk, rain or shine.
During medieval times, there was a curfew here at night. If you were outside the city wall past a certain time, you’d be locked out until the next morning or have to pay a hefty fine to be let in. Scary, right?! Nobody wanted to be left outside the walls among the thieves and wild animals. Such a different world back then!
Rothenburg’s medieval wall is truly one of a kind, and gives visitors a great glimpse of what life looked like several hundred years ago.
Rothenburg’s Main Square (Marktplatz) is filled with beautiful photo spots
A medieval walled city is nothing without its main market square, or Marktplatz. All roads in Rothenburg ob der Tauber lead here, so you won’t miss this top sight.
Like other main squares in Germany, this one has a Rathaus (town hall) in its center and lots of beautifully painted timber buildings scattered around it. There are lots of nice restaurants, bakeries, and shops nearby, but they aren’t cheap!
In the summer, this square hosts festivals and concerts, while in the winter, it comes alive as a Christmas Market.
Unfortunately, the town hall was covered in scaffolding during my visit, so I’ll have to return someday to get a proper picture of it.
Take the ‘Night Watchman Tour’ to capture some of the best photos of Rothenburg ob der Tauber
At night, Rothenburg ob der Tauber glows and emanates a medieval charm. The Marktplatz is especially stunning, but so is the rest of the medieval town.
Tip: The Night Watchman Tour is an absolute must when you’re visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This walking tour takes you down the city’s cobbled lanes to experience medieval Rothenburg and its historical buildings at night. Hans Georg Baumgartner is an exceptional guide who dresses the part of a medieval night watchman.
Whether you’re visiting here with kids or adults, Hans makes the city’s history fun and interesting to anyone. There were around 100 people on my tour, and nobody talked or interrupted the entire time. He was incredibly captivating and a bit spooky, making the Night Watchman Tour one of the highlights of my visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber!
(NOTE: Per TripAdvisor, the Night Watchman’s tour has a 5.0 rating with 1,285 reviews. I’ve never seen such a high review for a tour. Ever.)
Rothenburg Rathaus (Town Hall)
As beautiful as this city is at ground level, you need to see it from above! Once you get your pastry and coffee fix in the morning, climb 220 steps to the top of the Rathaus (Town Hall). Below is the reward for doing so.
Even if you have a fear of heights, you have to go up here! The views of the town and its vibrant architecture are stunning.
St. Jacob’s Church (St. Jakobskirche)
Dating back to 1471, St. Jacob’s Church is a Catholic-cathedral-turned-Lutheran-church. It dominates Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s skyline, making it a must-see sight and photo spot in the Old Town.
Seeing so many cathedrals and churches across Europe, I’ve developed a knack for recognizing Protestant versus Catholic churches. The moment I stepped inside this church, it was apparent that it used to be Catholic, given the stature and designs left behind. But because it’s so austere for the most part today, you can tell that it’s no longer a Catholic church.
St. Jacob’s Church is one of the best picture spots in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Interestingly, St. Jacob’s Church lies along the Way of St. James pilgrimage route. The church is said to house three drops of Christ’s blood.
The Altar of the Holy Blood is one of the best treasures inside St. Jacob’s Church. It was meticulously carved by Tilman Riemenschneider, considered the Michelangelo of woodcarvers.
Medieval Crime Museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The Medieval Crime and Punishment museum is one of the most popular museums in Rothenburg and Germany as a whole.
Inside its two buildings and six floors, you’ll find a vast collection of medieval torture instruments (referred in the museum as “law enforcement techniques”). There are also law documents and other relics dating back to the 13th century.
Though I love Rothenburg o.d.T today, I wouldn’t choose to live here during medieval times. This museum reinforced that I’m grateful for the architecture left behind, not the torture devices.
Rothenburg Imperial City Museum (Reichstadtmuseum)
The Rothenburg Imperial City Museum is located inside an old convent. The museum covers the history of the city, with a major emphasis on the Thirty Years War.
Dating back to the 12th century, the kitchen below is one of the most interesting exhibits inside the museum. It’s the oldest kitchen in Germany.
One of the most iconic photos of Rothenburg: Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas village and shop
Käthe Wohlfahrt Weihnachtsdorf is a quaint Christmas village where you can celebrate the holiday year-round (even in August, when I visited) You can also buy lots of Christmas gifts (hint hint). There’s a main store, and a couple of smaller ones scattered around town.
With 365 days of Christmas cheer, you can bet that Rothenburg ob der Tauber is especially incredible when the Christmas Markets are open around the holidays.
Plan to spend at least a few days or a weekend in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
The vast majority of visitors who come to Rothenburg ob der Tauber (80% of 2.5 million people annually) just stay for the day. To avoid the masses of day trippers, you should book a hotel or hostel for at least a couple of nights. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy this beautiful Old Town during sunrise and sunset.
As you can see in these photos of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a day trip is not nearly enough time to experience all that this medieval town has to offer.
Other streets, towers, and hidden gems in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Okay, I think I’ve done enough talking for a photo essay on Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Here are some of my other favorite photo spots sprawled around the Old Town that you should discover for yourself. After all, Rothenburg ob der Tauber isn’t very big, so you can easily cover its entirety in a couple of days or less.
From here on out, each of these other best photo spots in Rothenburg ob der Tauber will do the talking.
Photo essay and best picture spots in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
I hope you enjoyed my photo essay of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. I spent three nights here, walking 75,000+ steps and leaving no stone (or street) unturned. You really need at least a couple of nights here to discover all the nooks and crannies.
Thinking of planning a trip to Rothenburg? Check out my Instagram stories for more tips, photos, and inspiration from my visit to Rothenburg ob der Tauber! I recommend pairing your trip here with Wurzburg, Munich, and other places in Bavaria.
Hope you enjoyed these photos of Rothenburg, and best wishes on your adventures to this medieval walled town!
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