Germany’s Romantic Road is one of the country’s most beautiful areas in which to travel. Beginning in Würzburg, it roughly follows the route taken by the Roman road Via Claudia Augusta, passing the walled mediaeval towns of Bad Mergentheim, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbuehl and Noerdlingen before reaching the southern town of Füssen, jumping off point for Neuschwanstein Castle.
If you haven’t the time to drive the whole route, focus on Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It’s the perfect place to wander, so time your visit to miss the busy summer season when crowds throng the tiny cobbled streets and instead, come in autumn. The leaves on the trees in the Tauber Valley turn gold, complementing the browns of the wooden city gates and the reds of the roof tiles perching on impossibly steep gables.
Here’s a simple Rothenburg ob der Tauber travel guide to help you make the most out of your visit.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Travel Guide
Old Town Walls
It’s best not to have too much of a plan for Rothenburg, though a good starting point is to walk the walls enclosing the Rothenburg old town. Beginning at Klingentor, the walls skirt the northern edge of town; peepholes offer a glimpse out into the surroundings while the old town is in full view from the stone walkways at rooftop level. Built in the fourteenth century to contain urban sprawl, there are forty two towers in all, one which can be climbed. At Rödertor, a series of wooden staircases takes you up to the top for an incredible view over Rothenburg and the surrounding countryside, well worth the effort.
Back at street level, make for Plonlein, said to be the most photographed spot in the country, where two cobbled lanes converge at the foot of another tower. The street is as quaint as they come, lined with shops and cafes and hotels marked with intricate wrought-iron signs that extend out across the road: grapes, ivy, animals all highlighted with gold paint. The windows themselves are dressed exquisitely, drawing the eye to heaps of sausage and piles of Schneebälle, the round balls of dough that are common in this part of Germany. Around the corner in Herrngasse is the Christmas museum, its ground floor devoted to ornaments of all kinds. Even out of season, it’s impossible not to be filled with the ho ho ho of festive spirit.
At the top of Herrngasse is the market square, dominated by the Town Hall and the pretty tourist office housed in a whitewashed building tiered like a wedding cake. It features a red clock and on the hour, two windows open to reveal figurines drinking wine. As animated clocks go, it’s a little underwhelming, but the story behind the clock is more interesting. In the seventeenth century, the Protestant town came under attack from a Catholic army. Its general set down a challenge: if anyone could drink a three-litre mug of wine, the town would be spared. The old mayor stepped up and saved the day. Thanks to him, you get to admire Rothenburg in all its mediaeval splendour.