Rothenburg ob der Tauber might just be the most medieval city in Germany. Located in the Franconia region of Bavaria, it’s named for it’s location overlooking the Tauber River, meaning “red fortress over the Tauber”.
World War 2 and the Sparing of Rothenburg
Rothenburg was seen by the Nazi’s as a quintessential German city. In fact, it was dubbed “the most German of German towns”. Most impressive is how it was essentially saved during World War Two. While much of Germany (and Europe) saw devastation beyond belief, this little town got a rather lucky break. In the spring of 1945, a small air raid dropped bombs on the city, causing minor damage. However, a U.S. Assistant Secretary of War knew how charming and special this town was, and ordered the U.S. Army to avoid using artillery in taking the city. A group of soldiers marched into Rothenburg and spoke with a German officer, pleading with him to hold-fire. If the German’s agreed to hold their fire, the U.S. promised they wouldn’t bomb the city. Major Thömmes, a German commander, disregarding Hitler’s order to “fight to the end”, agreed to spare the fighting, thus saving Rothenburg from further damage during the war!
When to Go
You can’t go wrong when booking a trip to Rothenburg. It’s especially charming during winter, when it’s filled with traditional Christmas markets. However, the fall and summer months are equally stunning!
While the old city is fairly small, there is plenty to do and see. Walk along the old town wall, which still has 46 of its original towers. It will take approximately two hours to complete the walk, as the perimeter is around 2.5 miles.
Enjoy the medieval architecture, the old town is full of traditional half-timbered buildings. A few of my favorites include the Baumeisterhaus, the Plönlein, and the Marienapotheke.
Wander through the many squares throughout the city, with a stop in the main Marktplatz. While in the main square, climb to the top of the Rathaus (or Town Hall) if you dare! The 220 steps to the top open up to a small viewing platform with 360 views of the old city!
Rothenburg is fairly centrally located in southern Germany. It is almost straight west of Nuremberg and only a few hours drive from Munich. While there are trains that will take you there, the quickest option would be to rent a car. In fact, if you plan to rent a car, I highly recommend stopping in Heidelberg, Germany, as it’s just under a 2-hour drive between the two cities.
Germany is full of amazing places. The seemingly endless number of charming towns & villages means there is no shortage of options when traveling through this beautiful country. Rothenburg is a special town with an interesting past and loads of picture-perfect streets.
Have you been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber?