2 Hours in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

As an archaeologist, I’m more accustomed to slow travel. Spending days, weeks, or even months, in a location is my normal. When I’m travelling as a tourist, I often have to adjust and sometimes that means settling for a couple of hours. Recently, I was on a whirlwind trip through Bavaria with my Mom and friend. On our way back to Frankfurt, we planned to stop at Rothenburg ob der Tauber for the afternoon. Unfortunately, we hit traffic and the leisurely afternoon we planned turned into a quick 2-hour visit. If you happen to end up with only 2 hours in Rothenburg, this post offers advice for making the most of your time.

Background

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is arguably the best preserved fortified Medieval town in Germany. Most of the walls and towers were built in the 13th century, though some of the earliest fortifications date back to the 12th century. As a result of the 30 Years War and the bubonic plague, the town became quite poor in the 17th century. However, this helped preserve the aesthetic that we see today. As early as the 19th century, stringent measures were put into place to prevent construction that would take away from the town’s, now legendary, Medieval charm. Rothenberg ob der Tauber’s architecture didn’t retain significant damage in World War II. Currently, it’s one of the most iconic destinations on the Romantic Road and it’s considered a quintessential fairy-tale town.

The iconic half-timbered buildings in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
The iconic half-timbered buildings in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Getting There

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is situated about 2.5 hours from both Frankfurt and Munich using public transportation. When driving, times can vary due to traffic, but budgeting 2.5 hours is a safe bet. Make sure to navigate to Rothenburg ob der Tauber as there are many Rothenburgs in Germany. If you end up driving in, make sure to park outside the walled part of town. There are five main parking areas and the town’s website maps out their locations. We opted for P5 and there were plenty of spaces.

Just outside the Medieval walls.
Just outside the Medieval walls.

Eating

If you want to maximize your 2 hours in the town, then I would forgo having a sit-down meal; however, after sitting through traffic, we were hungry. My travel companions wanted German food so we opted to go to a restaurant situated in the Market Square. In most towns and cities, these places are a tourist trap; however, I was pleasantly surprised that the food was solid, hearty, and decently priced.

Around the Marktplatz.
Every hour on the hour from 10am-10pm a scene from the legend of the Master Draught is played out above the clock.

If you’ve already eaten, I would still recommend trying the town’s famous Schneeballen (translates to snowballs), which are ribbons of shortcrust pastry dough that are wound into a ball, deep-fried, and, traditionally, dusted with powdered sugar. You can also get different toppings like white chocolate, nutella, almonds, and more. To eat the balls, you smash them with a wooden hammer and enjoy the pieces.

Traditional Schneeballen.
Traditional Schneeballen.

I will be perfectly honest – I didn’t like them. They didn’t taste like much, especially the traditional one. Still, I’m glad I tried them and here are three tips to make the most out of your Schneeball experience:

  1. Choose a topping because the traditionally sugared Schneeball didn’t taste like much.
  2. Buy one (around 3 euros). Try it. If you like it, buy more. If not, keep moving.
  3. One schneeball can easily be shared among 2, even 4, people if all you want is a taste.

Christmas Year-Round

Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a famous Christmas market. If you’re not visiting during the holiday season, do not worry.  You can experience Christmas year-round at Käthe Wohlfahrt. The store also houses a Christmas museum upstairs. If you are short on time like we were, walking through the store is an experience in itself. There is no shortage of festive lights, intricate displays, and endless varieties of ornaments. Photography is forbidden inside so you have to go yourself to experience all the kitschy splendor.

This nutcracker can be seen year-round.
This nutcracker can be seen year-round.

Walking  Around

The best part of visiting Rothenburg ob der Tauber is walking around the city. The half-timbered buildings, stone walls, and the landscape views are absolutely picturesque. It rained throughout our visit and we still thoroughly enjoyed the Medieval architecture and views of the surrounding area. You can actually walk on the walls that fortify the town. I hope to do this during my next visit.

Up close and personal with the half-timbered buildings.
Up close and personal with the half-timbered buildings.
A clock tower.
A clock tower.
Strolling the streets of Rothenburg.
Strolling the streets of Rothenburg.
Old walls and houses.
Old walls and houses.
Look at that green landscape!
Look at that green landscape with parts of the town in the distance!

Final Thoughts

While I (and my Mom and friend) felt Rothenburg ob der Tauber deserves more time than 2 hours, we were still happy to see it. Since the best part of visiting the city is walking around, you can actually visit for less than 2 hours and just spend the whole time exploring the town on foot. Still, if you have more time, it’s worth spending it here.

Have you been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber? What did you think? Are you planning a visit and have questions? Comment below!

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Smiti Nathan

I’m an archaeologist that travels around the world for both work and pleasure. I have a penchant for exploring ancient and modern places and the people, plants, and foods entangled in them. I write about archaeology, travel, and productivity.

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