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Rothenburg is considered THE German Christmas Village. It just oozes holiday cheer and is decorated to the nines that even
my husband Scrooge himself wouldn’t be able to stay grumpy wandering from Gluhwein stand to stand. And while I’m a sucker for this particular village any time of year, The Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market helps to make the city one of the best German Christmas towns out there.
Now, can I be totally cliche and “basic” for a minute?
When I travel, I love discovering off the beaten path locations where I can really get a taste of local life and culture.
ROTHENBURG IS NOT THAT. ROTHENBURG IS INSANELY TOURISTY!
This famous Christmas village in Germany is exploding with tourists any month of the year, but in December, it is close to insane.
So, at this point, you may be saying in your most basic voice, “Ugh, that sounds horrible! I want a small, Christmas town in Germany feel where I can take the most Insta-worthy photos of me sipping on Gluhwein in my little white stocking hat looking all warm and cozy in front of adorable half-timbered houses- not some overly touristy zoo full of people!”
Well, Rothenburg has to be one of the few places that I will accept the “Wow, this is ridiculously touristy” facts and still say,
YOU MUST GO!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s best-preserved, medieval walled towns.
It is something plucked straight from a fairytale and you get to experience it all yourself (with hundreds of other people, of course)
But despite it being impossible to get a good photo of the cobblestoned lanes lined by pastel-colored houses without other camera jockeys in the way, it somehow doesn’t matter. The allure and magic that this town gives off seem to remain.
Sure, everything is overpriced and targeted towards tourists today, but if you try hard enough, it’s actually incredibly easy to feel transported back in time with this gorgeous little town.
And to be there for the famous Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber??
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market At a Glance
Name of Market: “Rothenburger Reiterlesmarkt” (Rider’s Market)
Rothenburg Christmas Market Address: Throughout town, but the main market is at:
91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Tourist Information Office:
Tel: (0049 9861) 404800
Fax: (049 9861) 404529
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market 2021 Dates: November 28th- December 23rd
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market 2021 Hours:
Monday to Thursday: 11.00 am– 7.00 pm
Friday to Sunday: 11.00 am– 8.00 pm
Time Needed: To be honest, if you are JUST seeing the Christmas Market, then you really only need a few hours to half a day. However, you can easily spend the whole day in the town (itinerary below) to really get the full magic of Rothenburg in Winter. Alternatively, if your itinerary allows (and you have never been to Rothenburg) then I suggest staying 2 days. This will allow you to not feel rushed, you’ll be able to do all of the extras (like the Medieval Torture Chamber and a City Wall Walk), and you’ll be able to see the markets in all their glory in the evening.
Important Things To Know
It will close on the 23rd
Like most things in Germany, almost everything shuts down, yes, even one of its most famous Christmas Markets on December 23rd.
Almost everything in town will be closed from December 24th-26th
Even if it is a touristy town, most of it will be closed on Christmas Eve (day), on Christmas Day, AS WELL AS on December 26th! This means if you are staying at a hotel, a “Ferienwohnung” (holiday apartment), or a Guest House that you will need to plan for meals accordingly, as most restaurants and definitely all grocery stores will be closed.
Tip: Reach out to your accommodation to ask if they do any Christmas meal specials for their guests. Since this is THE “Christmas city in Germany” some may have a nice Christmas Eve dinner, but I definitely would NOT assume this.
Head down to the bottom of this page to see what hotels have a Christmas Meal for their guests so that you can plan accordingly.
There are some magnificent German Christmas traditions that I think everyone visiting should try to experience on their trip. Read more about how to plan for Germany in December here (including other dates to know where things will be closed due to holidays).
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Parking
As this is a medieval walled city, most of the tourist parking is going to be outside the walls, with a short walk into the Altstadt.
If you follow signs to P3 and P4, those are good, close parking lots to the walled city. However, if you are not arriving in the morning, do expect them to fill up. These will cost about 5 Euro/ Day
Train Station Parking
Another option if you are ok with walking just a little bit is to go to the Kaufland (store) near the train station, which is about a 10-minute walk to the walls.
Tip: If you are staying at a hotel in the city, many of them will offer parking, so check on this.
Where is Rothenburg Germany Located?
Aha. Good question. Because FUN FACT: There is more than one Rothenburg in Germany! Therefore, if you are driving, or even taking a train, be sure you are going to Rothenburg OB DER TAUBER!
Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber is located in central, southern Germany in the state of Bavaria and is just a few hours from Munich, Nuremberg, as well as Frankfurt, making it quite easy to get to. I’ll detail below the itinerary different modes of transport on getting to Rothenburg (train vs car vs bus) as well as some hotel options if you plan on spending the night.
Getting to Rothenburg
|From||By Train||By Car|
|Frankfurt||3.25 (With at least 3 connections)||2 Hours|
|Munich||2.5-3.5 Hours (with 2-3 connections)||2.75 Hours|
|Nuremberg||1.25 -2 Hours (with 2 connections)||1.25 Hours|
Tips for Enjoying The Rothenburg Christmas Markets
1. Go in the mornings and on weekdays.
I know I’ve already said this, but it is just that important to set your expectations realistically: It will be packed!
I get really frustrated when I read other articles that talk about how this market is “the perfect small, medieval Christmas market” because that alludes that it’s a bit off the beaten path. It’s Not!
While you will never have Rothenburg to yourself, if you try to go to the markets first thing in the morning and on the weekdays then there might be fewer people than say, at noon or even 6pm on a Saturday. Alternatively, while many people say that staying in Rothenburg after the day trippers leave is a great time to be in the city, the Christmas Markets are an exception because they can really pick up at night, as the magic of the illuminated lights and stalls envelops the town.
Now, there really is something magical about the markets at night, and I do recommend wandering in the evenings, but just know that it could be very busy as the sunsets.
2. Pace Yourself
And no, I don’t just mean with the Gluhweins (well, that too!). If you have never been to Rothenburg and are trying to see the town AND do the Christmas markets all in a day (or 2), then just know you’ll have a very full, long, but wonderful day ahead of yourself.
I’ve basically created a Christmas Market/ Town DIY walking tour below that will take you at least 5 hours (that includes time to slowly wander the market and see the top sites of the town) but I’m always a fan of dipping into a cafe for a hot cappuccino and foot rest as well to slow down a bit.
3. Book Accommodation Early
See point #1. If you like to travel in the “reasonably priced” range of hotels, then you’ll want to book early for Rothenburg, as those fill fast. I have some top selections of Rothenburg Hotels with varying price points below.
4. There’s No Bad Weather, Only Bad Clothing
That’s a popular saying here in Germany and for good reason. We get A LOT of rain here, and no, it is not guaranteed to be enchanting snow drifting down on your simmering Gluhwein by December.
But, if we are blessed with a white Christmas, then that also means a whole other bag of weather-ready clothing!
So, what is one to pack or wear for the Christmas Markets?
Layers Layers Layers. Have a wind/weatherproof outer layer (coat) and then plenty of inner layers both on top and bottom and you’ll actually be shocked at how toasty you can stay. And of course, don’t forget weatherproof, comfy, sturdy, walking shoes!
5. Check the Daily Schedule of Events
Be sure to check the official daily schedule for the exact day you are there (link above or stop into the TI office on Marktplatz for one.) There are often little mini-concerts at hotels that you can dip into, music in the churches, and even chocolate figurine making! There is something every day, so plan accordingly and I promise, getting to add these little touches in are going to make your Magical Christmas experience overflow into a Fairytale Christmas experience!
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Weihnachtsmarkt 1 Day Itinerary and Walking Tour of the Markets and Top Sites
How many days for Rothenburg? As stated earlier, while it is a charming little town that you’ll want to bottle up into your own personal snowglobe to bring home as a souvenir, even with the Christmas Markets, 1-2 days is more than enough time to see the whole city and still enjoy the Rothenburg Christmas Market.
Therefore, I’ve planned just a 1 day itinerary, but if you are staying 2 days, all that means is that you can go a bit slower, drink some more Gluhwein, and go back for another concert!
- You’ll want to get a head start on your day. But this isn’t some secret tip. Everyone else has been told to “Arrive as early as possible” so don’t think you are going to get the town to yourself. However, if you are driving, this probably will mean that you have better parking options at least.
- Note that I said 10am but that the Rothenburg Christmas Market hours actually start at 11am. If you arrive at 10, that is going to give you plenty of time to get parked, walk up into town and get a head start on your day.
- If you want to arrive before 10am and readjust the schedule below, that is actually a really great idea. For example, you can do the entire suggested itinerary backward, which basically will have you ending at the markets (right on time for them to open) rather than starting at them.
- I’ve given a rough estimate of how much time you might expect to spend at each part of town. However, if you are a real Christmas Market Lover, you might find yourself getting caught up in time looking at every single knick-knack and trinket, so these are just mere suggestions.
- I’ve also been a bit generous with the times to allow for walking times in between suggested locations. Therefore, you might find that you breezed through this itinerary if you are a fast walker or don’t dilly dally at the stalls.
Market Square Christmas Market
Time Needed: Approximately 1- 1.5 hours (generously)
Start your day at the Market Square. This is the main square in town in any season, but it really comes to life for Christmas.
This is where a good chunk of the stalls, vendors, and huts are going to be.
I know it’s only 11am, but nobody is going to judge you if you start your day with a sausage and a Gluhwein right now. In fact, that’s actually not a bad idea to grab an early lunch here as we’ve got a full day of exploring ahead of us. I give my favorite suggestions of what to eat at the Rothenburg Christmas market down below.
Walk around the whole square, both for the market, but also just the beautiful Rothenburg gems, like the St. Georgsbrunnen Fountain, the beautiful, old mansions of the rich lining the square, and you can go to the Tourist Information office on the square if you need some further help from the TI for your day. And don’t forget to look at all the facades of the buildings. It is so beautiful here!
Town Hall (Rathaus)
You can’t miss the towering Town Hall in the Marketplatz. Take in the beauty, but also go inside to see the Christmas Nativity Scene.
Loop Around Town Hall (Herrengasse and Grüner Markt)
Surrounding the Rathaus are the roads of Herrengasse and Grüner Markt where you are going to find all your Christmas Delights.
This is where I got my mom a gorgeous, hand made Christmas table runner and Grüner Markt is also where you’ll find a lot of the food stands in this area.
St. Jakob’s Church
Time Needed: 30-45 minutes
After doing a good circle around the Town Hall, make your way to St. Jacob’s Church.
This church’s patron saint is St. James. So why is it called St. Jakob? Well, apparently, Jakob is the German version of James??? Anyway…
Take some time to just soak in the architecture and designs of the exterior before going inside. It’s really quite beautiful both in and outside.
The Altar: Inside St. Jakob’s is a popular altar that many people like to come in and appreciate. It’s almost more of a piece of artwork rather than a typical altarpiece.
Pipe Organ: There is a beautiful organ and every Saturday at 6pm during the Christmas Market, you can find a Christmas Organ Concert here! So, circle back around in the evening if you are there on a Saturday!
Altar of the Holy Blood: Take the stairs that are behind the organ and you’ll find another chapel-like room. There is a carved, wooden altarpiece up here and is often renowned as one of the most impressive wooden carvings in all of Germany. But what makes it more “popular” is that in the center of the piece is what people claim is a drop of Jesus’ blood. Obviously, Christians and Catholics love coming to this holy shrine.
Cost: €2.50 for Church Admission
Tip: If it is Saturday, you can come here at 3:30pm for a free, English guided tour. If you are there on other days, inquire about renting the audio guide on your own.
Outside of the church, find the passageway of “Klingengasse” and head into it until you get to Klosterhof and then turn left to go towards the
Imperial City Museum
Time Needed: Roughly 1 hour
This former convent, now a museum is great if you are interested in the history of Rothenburg. If you have a full day in Rothenburg, this is a great place to come to in the afternoon, when crowds around town in the Christmas Markets start to get really packed. Surprisingly, the museum doesn’t get TOO crowded (since everyone is at that markets).
Walk Through the Convent Garden
Time Needed: 15- 30 Minutes
Instead of taking the road, see if you can dip into the Convent Garden. It is a nice little area to just walkthrough on the way to the next stop.
Next, you’ll walk through the Burg Tor (Castle Tower). After you walk under the tower, be sure to turn around and look at it from the angle from within the garden. This is a classic Rothenburg Photo Op.
Time Needed: 30 Minutes
While there is no castle anymore (RotenBURG- Rot= “Red” and Burg is “Castle” in German), the beautiful gardens still remain.
Many people claim that this has some of Rothenburg’s most beautiful viewpoints. You can look out over the beautiful Bavarian countryside as well as get a glance at those classic German red rooftops. If you are lucky enough to be here when it is snowing, the red roofs frosted with white snow is simply enchanting.
Take some time to just meander for a bit here, look into the little chapel, and take in the views.
Follow the path around the garden and come out on Herrngasse
This street is worth a slow saunter down, if for nothing else to gape at the beautiful homes along the way and there are often a few vendors out selling their Christmas goodies as well.
Time Needed: Approx 30 minutes
As you walk down Hernngasse, you’ll see another alley/road on your left, Kirchgasse. This street is typically lined with some great stalls and vendors for the Christmas Market. I like to make my way up the alley on one side and then turn around and come back down on the other side, making sure I’ve seen every last hut!
Come back out onto Herngasse again and then stop into…
Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Shop
Time Needed: Will Vary depending on if you want to actually shop
Next up is the famous, Rothenburg Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store. As flooded with tourists as it may be (ESPECIALLY in December!) it is just one of those “musts” even if you stop in just for a few minutes.
In this Rothenburg Christmas store, it is Christmas every single day of the year (Which is why it’s called “The Christmas Village., or Weihnachtsdorf”) It is as if Santa himself vomited his joy and magic all over the shop to create a fantasy Christmas experience that we all can frolic through.
If you look hard enough, you can find a few reasonably priced items, but most people would argue that the majority of products are quite expensive. If you were here in, say, July, I would maybe suggest you get a souvenir from THE “Rothenburg Christmas Shop.” But, considering you are here for the actual Rothenburg Germany Christmas market, then I would argue to go find something from a stall outside for your souvenir instead.
Rothenburg Christmas Museum
Time Needed: 30 minutes- 1 hour
This German Christmas Museum is all things well, Christmas in Germany, of course! It is directly above the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store. You’ll find German traditions mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries, beautiful decorations, and more. There is information in plenty of languages, including English.
Note: It is free to go to the Christmas STORE, but the museum does have an admission.
Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Village Museum Costs:
Children (6-11 years): €2
Family Ticket (2 adults with children under 14 years old): €11 per family
After the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store we are going to be heading right back up to where we started our day. Finish seeing any parts of the Christmas Markets around here that you might have missed before moving on to one of the most famous streets in all of Germany.
Go past the St. George Fountain and head down
Time Needed: 15-30 minutes (longer if you want to shop at any of the storefronts)
This street is another popular one for tourists, but you simply must walk down it!
On this road, you’ll find the beautiful “Baumeister Haus” right at the beginning. Continue walking down and you’ll find plenty of souvenir shops, wood carvings galore, delicious meet counters, and the famous Schneeballin! (We’ll talk more about that further below in what foods you need to eat while in Rothenburg)
Finally, you’ll make it to
Time Needed: 15-30 minutes
This just might be one of the most photographed spots in all of Germany. It just SCREAMS picture perfect Germany!!! Believe it or not, you can manage to take some halfway decent photos on this corner if you are patient enough. Otherwise, just be prepared for plenty of others to be in your pictures. If you are desperate for some stunning photos here, the best times are basically right at day break and again, in the evening after a lot of the day trippers have left.
Other Things to Do in Rothenburg
If you have done all of the above, you are looking at roughly about 5 hours of non stop Rothenburg Site seeing. That does include, of course, meandering around the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas markets.
If you’ve still got gas left in you, there are still a few other things that I personally Iove doing in Rothenburg. Alternatively, if you are staying for more than one day, I recommend spacing these out.
Daily Advent Calendar Lighting
Depending on your timing of the day, it might be well into the late afternoon or even the evening by now. If you can time it, then head to the main Marketplatz at 5pm. The Advent Calendar is just one of many wonderful German Christmas traditions. There is some fun musical fanfare and then a window of the Town Hall is lit up to create a life size advent calendar on the town square.
Climb the City Wall
Time Needed: 30 minutes-3 hours
Remember, you are in one of Germany’s best preserved medieval towns! That means that there is a fantastic city wall still intact that you can even walk up and around. You can either do the full circuit, but that could take you 2-3 hours, or do a shortened 30 minute loop. No matter how much time you have, I do think it is worth finding a set of stairs and climbing up at some point on your trip, even if just for a few minutes.
Medieval Crime Museum
Time Needed: Approx 1 hour
The “Rothenburg Torture Chamber” is an absolute must stop if you have time during your trip to Rothenburg. Again, this is a good place to go during the afternoon when the markets are bustling (note that it is only open from 1pm-4pm in December though, so plan your time accordingly).
This quirky, strange, and possibly terrifying (to think about what some of the tools were used for) museum is fascinating to see how life really was once like, particularly during the middle ages.
Winter Hours: 1pm – 4pm Address: Burggasse 3-5, 91541 Rothenburg ob der Tauber
Night Watchman’s Tour
If you are staying the night in town, I highly recommend taking the famous Rothenburg Nightwatchmen’s Tour. Taking this 45 minute tour (starting at 8pm at the Martetplatz) will have you stepping back into the medieval times and is both educational and fun for all ages.
Night Watchman’s Tour Cost:
Adults: €9 Euro
Students: €4.50 Euro
Kids 12/Under: Free
No reservations required but you can email them with further questions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note: There is no Night Watchman’s Tour on December 24th
Food to Eat At the Rothenburg Market
I’m not going to lie, one of my favorite parts about Christmas markets is all the delicious food. It just never gets old!
Make sure you find some Lebkuchen, chow down on some delicious wursts, and don’t forget about the Gluhwein! Here are a few of my other top Christmas Market foods:
- Gebrannte Mandeln (Candied Almonds)
- Kase Spaetzle (uuhmazing German cheesy noodles)
- Baumstriezel (Roasted dough covered in sugar and cinnamon)
- Kartoffel Puffer (Potato Pancakes)
- Champignons (Mushrooms)
- Flammkuchen (a fire roasted “pizza” made with creme fraise and bacon)
However, while in Rothenburg, there are also a few other items to be on the lookout in particular for:
Quite literally, “Snow Ball,” this almost pie crust tasting dough is formed into a ball and then lightly coated with powdered sugar. But if that seems too boring for you, why not try a different flavor, like a strawberry jam filled Schneeball, chocolate covered, or a nutty snowball.
Remember, Germans don’t do sweets the way Americans do. These aren’t going to be overly sugary, so many Americans say they are actually quite bland tasting. However, can you say you’ve been to Rothenburg without having a Schneeballen!?
You probably aren’t going to find these at the markets themselves, but if you find yourself sitting down at a local restaurant, keep your eyes peeled for these ravioli styled pockets of deliciousness. Traditionally, Mautaschen are made from a noodle that is rolled out and then filled with an amazing savory pork blend and some spinach. My favorite is the kind that is then lightly fried in a little butter and then topped with caramelized onions. YUM!!!
These are just one of the many recommended foods to eat in Germany, and since Rothenburg is right by Swabia, the region of Germany where Maultauschen are from, you are sure to find a few good ones here.
Other Important Rothenburg Information
Getting Into Rothenburg
Depending on what else is on your itinerary or where you are coming from, Rothenburg will not be your first stop. Most likely you’ll fly into:
Nuremberg, Munich, or Frankfurt. From there you can drive or take the train
While I absolutely LOVE the trains in Germany, despite Rothenburg ob der Tauber being one of the most touristy towns in the country, it is still not the easiest to get to by rail and typically contains at least a few transfers. That’s why I just suggest having a car to get into town.
Driving in Germany is actually really easy, despite many misconceptions, and this way you can even create a really wonderful Germany road trip, like doing the Romantic Road from Rothenburg down to Neuschwanstein Castle. (Neuschwanstein in December can be absolutely magical!)
Parking: Use my parking tips from the beginning of this article to help you plan where you park your car, as it is a nightmare to try to actually drive within the city walls.
Depending on where you are coming from, you can absolutely take the train to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, albeit with just a bit of planning and understanding of the German trains/ connections.
If you are coming from within Bavaria, then I highly recommend saving some money with the Bayern Train Pass.
Most likely, if you are coming from one of the cities I mentioned above, then you’ll transfer (at least) in Steinach (Rothenburg ob der Tauber). For example, if coming in from Munich, you would transfer at both Nuremberg (why not stop there for a day to do its famous Christmas Market as well!?) and Steinach before arriving at Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Once you get to the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Train Station, it’s a 10 minute walk to the city walls.
Take a Tour
A popular way of seeing the German Christmas markets is by hiring or taking a tour. These range from big group buses to more personalized or small group (or private) events. Some tours will simply shuttle you from one market to the next so that you don’t have to worry about transportation, others give you walking guides of the cities, and some are even multi-day events where part of your fee also covers food and even lodging.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber Hotels: Where to Stay in Rothenburg
This just might be Rothenburg’s most famous Christmas Hotel! Instead of spending time with their own families, the Hotel Eisenhut puts on an elaborate and festive evening for their guests!
As part of the festivities on Christmas Eve, you get a 6 course Christmas Eve Dinner, complete with beautiful piano music and a real Christmas ambiance you won’t soon forget.
Romantik Hotel Markusturm
The name “Romantic” is for good reason. If you are looking for an insanely wonderful ambiance to cap off your Christmas Market stay, the Romantik Hotel Marusturm is sure to fit the bill! This hotel typically sells out early though because of its pure charm.
I just love how this hotel screams “Bavaria” with its wood workings and cozy Gemütlichkeit feel in the common area and dining room. They also have a really great restaurant on-site as well.
Pension Elke Rothenburg
While not as posh and “fancy” as some of the other Christmas suggestions, Pension Elke Rothenburg is not only a great budget option but has a fantastic breakfast and comfy rooms.
Glocke Weingut und Hotel
Another fantastic budget friendly stay is at the Glocke Weingut und Hotel. It has a fantastic location, really big rooms, and they even have their OWN local wine you can drink!