Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the medieval jewel of Bavaria

November 28, 2014

Rothenburg (or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, to distinguish it from the Swiss city of the same name) is a beautiful medieval town located along the Romantische Strasse, up on a hill overlooking the river Tauber, in Bavaria. It only has 11,000 inhabitants, but every year it hosts more than two million tourists, including hundreds of thousands coming from Japan alone, attracted by the old town full of narrow streets, palaces, and by the well-preserved city walls surrounding the town, about 3.5 km long.

The most important place in Rothenburg, where daily life and tourism converge, is the Marktplatz, meaning the market square; it is characterized by the presence of the Rathaus, the large building housing the City Hall, which has two different architectural styles, Gothic and Renaissance. Also worth seeing are the church of St. Jakob, with an extraordinary altar by Tilman Riemenschneider, the City Museum or Reichsstadtmuseum, mainly dedicated to the history of the city, and Burggarten, the castle gardens where you can enjoy a wonderful view on the river Tauber. Herrngasse, a road characterized by many shops and elegant houses with facades made of different styles and colors, connects the Marktplatz and Burggarten. Here stands the famous and well-stocked shop of Christmas decorations, nativity scenens and toys founded by the Wohlfahrt family, very well known in the whole Germany.

However, what characterizes Rothenburg the most is the great medieval wall that surrounds the old city center. The walls are walkable and equipped with towers, ramparts and gates like the Roeder Tor, the Wurzburger Tor and the Klingen Tor. Another one is Burgtor, which is fortified and surmounted by a tower taller than all the others. A mighty watchtower dominates the door also called Kobolzeller Tor, of the thirteenth century.

Finally, a curious attraction of Rothenburg is the Kriminal und Foltermuseum, the museum of criminology and torture, which displays more than 10,000 items and original findings: ever since this museum was open, it has become a must for all tourists to be photographed with their head stuck in the pillory at the entrance.

The easiest way to get to Rothenburg is by driving along the Romantische Strasse; this is the famous tourist route 366 km long, going from Wurzburg to Fussen through the west Franconia, Swabia, Upper Bavaria and the German Alps. Rothenburg is also accessible by train from the Wurzburg station and the travel takes about 50 minutes. From April to October is also active a daily coach service along the Romantische Strasse.

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