One day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is about how long most travelers dedicate to this lovely little city actually. It’s pretty small but very famous—known for being the most adorable medieval/fairytale town this side of Narnia.
But because this town is known so well for just this one thing and not all of the other truly amazing things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, most people simply stop by on a day trip between bigger cities like Munich or Frankfurt.
While Rothenburg is totally worth more than just a day, I (more than anyone) understand that there are just too many magical places in Germany to see and not enough time. So, I’m here to help you make the most of your quick visit.
A magical Rothenburg day trip
Everyone’s Rothenburg day trip will be different, depending on when you arrive and when you leave, how you get there, and your personal preferences and abilities. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to lay out the contents of a FULL one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. From morning until night. You can adjust accordingly.
I will also include some additional information you’ll need for your Rothenburg day trip to make sure you travel happily ever after.
Is Neuschwanstein Castle also on your Germany road trip bucket list? If so, check out my 10 crucial Neuschwanstein tips and my guide to where to stay near Neuschwanstein Castle.
One day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber: What to do
Though everyone who visits makes a bee-line straight for the city’s famous little square (it is cute), there are actually a lot of great things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Everyone has different priorities, desires, and abilities though. So, what you choose for your one day in Rothenburg is entirely up to you. I’ll do my best to offer suggestions, but take a look at this full list of sights and activities and feel free to fill in other things that pique your interest.
However, there are a few things that you definitely shouldn’t miss while you’re here. Your one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber should include:
Start your day with breakfast at your hotel. Most hotels here include, or at least offer, a great breakfast spread and this will be the best way to fuel up for your magical Rothenburg day trip. (Find your perfect Rothenburg hotel here.)
Grab some schneeballen
From there, head on out to second breakfast. Yes, you’re a hobbit now. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is still technically part of Bavaria, but it’s also proudly part of the Franconian region of Bavaria. What that means for you is all new delicious foods and drinks to try.
Head over to one of Rothenburg’s fabulous bakeries for a coffee and some schneeballen. Schneeballen (German for “snowballs” are a local treat that call Rothenburg home. They are made from fried pastry crust and covered in a variety of sugary toppings. They come in big (softball sized) and small (pool ball sized).
You can find them at bakeries all over Rothenburg, but my favorites are:
- Bäckerei-Café Friedrich Schöbel
- Bäckerei Striffler
- and the Zuckerbäckerei
Check out the Plönlein
The world famous Plönlein—German for “small square with a fountain”—is what this city is known for. It would be weird of you to come all the way here and not see the most famous thing here. It’s quick; it’s free; you’ve got nothing to lose.
Really it’s just a super picturesque little square that looks straight out of a Disney movie. Well, it did inspire Disney’s Pinocchio. And Rothenburg did inspire Walt Disney World’s Germany pavilion at Epcot. So, there you have it.
This is going to be the hottest spot in town all day so get there before the biggest crowds do, or get there before you forget to get there. This is what you came for.
Walk the city walls
You should also make sure to walk the city’s medieval walls. This is such a unique way to explore the city (only three cities in Germany still have intact medieval walls like this one) and get great photos and views.
From the Plönlein, veer left, go through the tower arch, and turn left after the Landwehr-Bräu am Turm (the cute red/yellow building). Look straight ahead and you’ll see a staircase going up the side of the wall.
Take those steps up to the walkway and take a left. You can walk this path all the way around to the other side of town. (It sounds farther than it is.) Along the way, enjoy the views of Rothenburg’s rooftops and uniquely enchanted architecture. Look for cats in backyards and unicorns in alleyways. You never know.
This is another free activity that won’t take up too much of your time (maybe 45 minutes to an hour at most). However, it’s not exactly accessible for all. The steps up and down are steep (but do have handrails). The walking path is fairly uneven (given that it’s been walked on for hundreds and hundreds of years). And the clearance is critically low for anyone taller than me and Lord Farquaad. Just watch your head—s’all I’m saying.
You should definitely spend a good chunk of your one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber not “doing” anything at all. Just walk. This place is so adorable that even just wandering aimlessly around the town will be so aesthetically rewarding.
From the end point of the Tower Trail, walk straight through the parking lot and back into the thick of the Old Town. Stroll the streets at your leisure and just check it all out. It’s impossible to get lost here, so just wander without a map. But definitely have your camera out because this place is CU-UUTE!
You can pop by the Pope’s house, pop into St. James’s Church (if you’re into popping into grand European churches like I am), pop into some shops, sleuth out of some of the city’s hidden Holocaust memorials, and more.
Head over to the Burggarten and check out the great views of Rothenburg from the wall on the left. You can see the Plönlein from here as well as all the way down into the valley. (Check out my post on what to do in Rothenburg odT for all the details and where to find all these places.)
Hang out at the Marktplatz
At some point, make your way over to the Marktplatz, the town’s center. Hang out here, have a beer, and be sure to check out the mayor chugging his wine when the clock strikes the top of the hour. (More on that in this post.)
If the weather is nice, you can head up into the town hall’s tower for amazing views over the city. If you thought Rothenburg already looked like a miniature Christmas village, just wait until you see it from above. The tower climb takes 220 steps up a typically European corkscrew staircase, costs 2.5€, and requires a bit of maneuvering when you get to the top. But WOW, those views.
Time for lunch
Afterwards, head over to the Reichskuchenmeister hotel/restaurant for lunch. This is my favorite spot to eat lunch in Rothenburg. If the weather is nice, opt for seating in the delightful little beer garden. If not, the indoor restaurant is just as nice. Order yourself a flammkuchen and a kellerbier and tell ‘em Ashley sent ya. (It won’t get you anything, but it felt right to say that.)
Some light hiking
If you have nice weather, I highly recommend taking a walk outside the city walls and down into the valley. This short hike will take you about an hour round-trip and isn’t too demanding. You can see many of Rothenburg’s coolest sights in just this one quick excursion.
You can leave from the Burggarten and follow a trail down through the vineyards, to a lovely little church, then the double bridge over the Tauber River, keep going to see Toppler Castle, over the covered bridge, then back up to the Burggarten. All the while you’ll have awesome views of Rothenburg up on the hill.
Or visit a museum
If you aren’t blessed with good weather, skip the valley and pop into one of Rothenburg’s handful of museums. Its most famous museum is definitely the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Museum which is open year-round and offers some great traditional German Christmas ornaments and decorations.
The Medieval Crime and Justice Museum is not far behind. My personal favorite is the Rothenburg Museum for its enormous and very cool collection of artifacts and its historical location.
After your magical afternoon in Rothenburg, have yourself an early-ish dinner in town. My #1 recommendation is Zur Höll (German for “To Hell”). This small restaurant opened over 1,000 years ago and you can still dine its candlelit cave. (No joke.)
The food here is unforgettable and it’s really the best place to eat in Rothenburg. It’s small and popular so reservations are required. Make them as soon as you know you’re going to Rothenburg! They typically have a 5:00pm and an 8:00pm sitting. Opt for the 5:00 dinner so you won’t have to miss…
The Night Watchman tour
Each night, the famous Rothenburg Night Watchman takes brave visitors on a night walk around Rothenburg. He tells stories of Rothenburg’s medieval past and of the importance of night watchmen. You’ll learn all kinds of cool things but don’t think it’s purely educational. This tour is hilarious too (and in English).
Night Watchman tours happen every night at 8:00pm and cost 9€. Meet at the Marktplatz (look for the tall medieval guy with the stick and the lantern), no reservations required, pay him directly after the tour.
Have yourself a merry little nightcap
After the Night Watchman tour, have yourself a few local beers at one of Rothenburg’s cozy taverns. My favorites are:
- Weinstube Löchle (part of the Reichskuchenmeister hotel/restaurant)
- Weinstube zum Pulverer
- Landwehr-Bräu am Turm
Pop by the Plönlein again
I know, I know—you’ve already seen the Plönlein, but trust me. At night, the Plönlein is so much cooler! Now that all the day tourists have left, you can enjoy a people-free Plönlein that looks so much more fairytale-y at night. The entire town is empty and quiet, the moon and stars are out, and it’s just you and the wooden puppets that come to life at night. Actually, pretend I didn’t say that.
One day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber by season
Because your ideal Rothenburg day trip itinerary will vary slightly based on what time of year you visit, I have broken this post down by season. Plan accordingly.
Rothenburg day trip in the fall
If your one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber occurs towards the beginning of the fall season, your taste buds are in for a treat. Every year for just a couple of weeks at the end of September/beginning of October is the season for federweisser and zwiebelkuchen. Say what?
Federweisser (German for “feather white” which says nothing about what it is) is a young, sweet wine distinctive to the Rothenburg area. I’m not necessarily a “wine drinker,” per se, but I love this stuff and look forward to my glass (or two) every year.
Zwiebelkuchen is just as the name implies = onion cake. While not really a “cake,” zwiebelkuchen is more like a quiche that’s heavy on the onions, cream, and bacon. But the best part is that zwiebelkuchen and federweisser are traditionally served together. And you can only get them during this brief period in the fall.
You can find this combination at many of Rothenburg’s restaurants, but my favorites are at Zur Hoell. Be sure to ask for it when you’re there.
And if you’re around at the beginning of September, check out the Imperial City Festival. During this fall weekend the entire city transforms itself into one giant Renaissance festival, basically. The city already feels like a Medieval wonderland, but now imagine it with everyone in costume, playing medieval games, and saying things like Huzzah!
Rothenburg day trip in the winter
If your one day in Rothenburg ob der Taubers falls in the early winter, you’ll be able to take advantage of the lovely little Rothenburg Christmas market.
Known locally as Reiterlesmarkt, this market has all the traditional goodies—glühwein, all kinds of delicious German Christmas market foods, gifts and décor galore, and, of course, schneeballen.
Rothenburg’s Christmas market opens the day after Thanksgiving and ends right before Christmas. If you thought this town already looked like a miniature Christmas village the rest of the year, wait until you see it now.
Rothenburg day trip in the spring
Your one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in the spring will be full of blooming flowers, warmer days, and a couple of great festivals.
Rothenburg’s Spring Awakening Festival is all about bringing the town back to life. Easter traditions, colorful flowers, and the beginning of the hiking season in Rothenburg are all things you can look forward to.
The Master Draught Festival (also known as Meistertrunk) honors the city’s mayor who saved the city from destruction by chugging a 3.5-liter tankard of wine. For real. Get all the details in my what to do in Rothenburg post.
Rothenburg day trip in the summer
Because summer is the peak travel season for just about everywhere in Europe, be prepared for bigger crowds and busier restaurants, museums, tours, and beyond. But, you’ll also see nicer weather.
Make sure to spend some time at a beer garden or relaxing patio in the Marktplatz. Take advantage of the extra sun and make sure to work in a quick hike down to the valley. But also head way up into the town hall tower for awesome views of Rothenburg.
Where to park in Rothenburg ob der Tauber for the day
If you’ll be driving into town for your Rothenburg day trip, rest easy knowing there are a number of day visitor parking lots in Rothenburg. These lots charge a small fee from 9am to 6pm. This page has a great map of where you can find all of these lots – just click on the orange box in the map key.
However, the lot I would personally suggest is the large one at the top of the map called “Schrannenplatz.” This lot is big and, while it’s still “in town,” it’s on the outskirts so it’s easy to get to and out of. From this lot, it’s just a 4-minute walk to the Marktplatz.
Driving to Rothenburg ob der Tauber is definitely the fastest and easiest way to get there. (It is the jewel of Germany’s Romantic Road, after all.) Yes, there are trains and buses, but none of them come directly from the major cities so the trip will take you quite a long time (when it doesn’t have to).
Need a rental car? Check out Germany’s best rental car deals here.
Day trips to Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Another easy way to spend just one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber is by taking an organized tour from one of the larger cities. This is a super popular way to see the city. And while I will always advocate for spending more time here, if you absolutely can only swing one day here, consider a tour. Check out these options:
Full-Day Tour of Rothenburg from Frankfurt
This full day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber includes private luxury transportation from Frankfurt, an expert guide, and admission to the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum. (And great reviews!)
Romantic Road, Harburg, and Rothenburg day trip from Munich
This full day trip from Munich will stop at the medieval castle in Harburg as well as spend an afternoon in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Private transportation and your own guide make this an easy day trip.
From Munich: Rothenburg and Nördlingen Day Trip by Bus
Though Rothenburg is the main destination on this day trip, you'll also get to see other gorgeous cities on the Romantic Road like Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl.
From Frankfurt: Rothenburg ob der Tauber Wine Tour
Ok this may be the winner. This day trip to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Frankfurt includes wine tastings. Check this one out for sure.
Where to stay in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
If you are blessed with enough time to spend the night here, I highly recommend it. This way, you get to take advantage of a great dinner, the Night Watchman tour, and seeing this fairytale town at night after all the day trippers have left. It’s quiet, dark, and magical. Check out these options:
- Akzent Hotel Schranne – Nice hotel with a great breakfast and it’s right next to the big parking lot I just described. The hotel restaurant is fabulous and the location is perfect. You can even hop on the medieval wall right here!
- Burghotel – Very highly-rated hotel that is just too cute. Perfect location, amazing reviews, historical property, nothing bad to say here.
- Hotel Reichskuckenmeister – I’m in love with this hotel’s restaurant, beer garden, and wine bar so… I imagine this is also one of the best places to stay in town as well.
What to pack for Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Don’t forget these few essential items for your trip to Germany and your one day in Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
- European outlet adapter – You’ll need these in order to charge your electronics in Germany
- Germany guidebook – for the rest of your Germany sightseeing
- Germany customs and culture guide – These small guidebooks are worth their weight in schnitzel!
- Packing cubes – Stay organized if you’re going to be living out of a suitcase
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