Day Trip from Munich to Rothenburg: 7 Things Not to Miss (+Map)

Spending my summer’s days in Munich lazing beside the Isar and sipping on Pauliner in the Englischer Garten had its charm, but I would be a fool if I did not take full advantage of Deutsche Bahn and get my fill of day trips.

Tegernsee, Saltsburg, and Neuschwanstein are all popular day trips from Munich, but one tiny town piqued my interest and shot to the top of my to-do list.

The medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, or just Rothenburg for short, oozes charm and nostalgia and is the quintessential German village. The train ride takes around 3 hours one way and the easiest is to catch the train to Nuremberg from Munich and then change over to the regional trains going west.

The route is scenic and comfortable and before you know it you will be walking on ancient city walls.

Stroll Through History in the Old Town

Old Town

Upon arriving in Rothenburg, your first order of business will be to simply stroll through the Old Town and fling yourself into its 13th-century allure. The entry gates of Rothenburg, such as the iconic Plönlein, present a grand welcome to the town.

Passing through these gates feels like stepping into a living postcard, framed by centuries-old towers and fortified walls. These gateways, adorned with medieval architecture, serve as portals to an enchanting world where every corner holds a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.

Wander through cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered houses, visit the Marktplatz, and marvel at the town’s iconic landmarks, including the Rathaus and the imposing St. Jakob’s Church.

The fountains, scattered throughout the Old Town, are more than mere embellishments; they are symbolic wellsprings of local history. Adorned with statues depicting folklore characters or historical figures, these fountains stand as tributes to the past. If you are a film buff, you might even recognize many of the town’s corners from scenes from the 60s classic, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Rothenburg’s ornate clocks, displayed on the facades of age-old buildings, invite you to lose yourself in the passage of time. Make sure to gather outside the Ratstrinkstube before the hour to see the adorable story of Mayor Georg Nusch who won back the town by taking on a 3.5 L drink-off challenge. You’ve got to love Germany!

Guard the Perimeters Along the City Walls

City Walls

Once you have gotten a lay of the land, take to the city walls to walk all around the Old Town and get a bird’s eye view. This 2-mile-long walkway dates back to the 14th century and allows you to see the town from every angle and truly appreciate its longevity.

As you ascend the stone steps to access the walls, a panoramic view unfolds before you—red-tiled roofs, timber-framed houses, and the meandering Tauber River create a picturesque scene.

The walls themselves reveal the craftsmanship of bygone centuries, with weathered stones and archer’s towers punctuating the walk. Peering through the crenellations, you’ll feel like a medieval watchman surveying the landscape for potential threats. The gentle breeze atop the walls carries whispers of history, as if the stones themselves hold the tales of the countless generations that have walked these ramparts.

Walking around the city on the medieval walls offers a serene and contemplative experience and I can highly recommend walking around if you decide to spend the night in the city. The faint twinkling of street lights is straight out of a fairytale.

Uncover The Dark Past

wooden chair

When we think of medieval times, some barbaric torture devices quickly jump to mind. While historians would like to remind you of some more remarkable inventions, like glasses and paper money, we are all a bit morbidly curious about the dark devices from the time.

Stepping into Rothenburg’s Medieval Crime and Justice Museum will show you just that. It is housed within the former town prison and this museum offers an immersive and thought-provoking exploration of the legal and punitive practices of the past.

The exhibits within the museum unveil an array of medieval torture devices, punishment methods, and insights into the legal systems that prevailed during those times.

Gruesome yet captivating, the collection paints a vivid picture of the harsh realities faced by individuals accused of crimes in medieval Rothenburg. From shackles and iron maidens to instruments designed for public humiliation, the artifacts tell stories of a society grappling with justice in unconventional ways.

The museum also serves as a window into the social dynamics of the era, shedding light on the perceptions of crime, punishment, and morality. Interactive displays allow visitors to engage with the exhibits, offering a visceral understanding of the challenges faced by both the accused and the enforcers of justice.

Sink Your Teeth Into Rothenburg’s Culinary Specialty


Embarking on a culinary exploration of Rothenburg begins with a must-try local delicacy—the Schneeballen. Translating to “snowball” in English, these pastry delights are a visual and gastronomic spectacle. Crafted from strips of shortcrust pastry, the Schneeballen is shaped into a ball and deep-fried to golden perfection. The result is a crispy outer layer that cradles a tender and flaky interior.

Schneeballen comes in an array of flavors and toppings, ranging from classic powdered sugar to decadent chocolate drizzles and nuts. Bakeries and confectioneries across Rothenburg offer a delightful variety of these sweet treats.

As you stroll through the cobbled streets, indulging in a Schneeballen is not just a culinary experience but a sensory journey through the town’s delectable traditions. But beware, stay away from bakeries on the main streets with mountains of these pastries filling the windows. Rather seek out smaller bakeries where they are prepared fresh to get the best experience.

Step into a Fairytale at Plönlein


If you are anything like me, Plönlein is probably what drew you to Rothenburg in the first place. The image of a quaint yellow corner house with a timber frame and flowers draped on the window sills graces the pages of many tour guides (and for good reason).

Plönlein, a picturesque square tucked away in the heart of the Old Town is a visual masterpiece that encapsulates the town’s enchanting allure. The name “Plönlein” translates to “Little Square,” but its significance far surpasses its size.

The most notable towers at Plönlein are the Siebers Tower and Kobolzell Gate Tower, both standing proudly as symbols of Rothenburg’s historical fortifications. The quaint building nestled between them adds a touch of vibrancy to the scene. The cobblestone streets converging at Plönlein create a crossroads that makes for the perfectly framed photo.

Whether bathed in the warm glow of sunlight or adorned with a dusting of snow in winter, Plönlein remains a captivating destination that embodies the essence of Rothenburg’s medieval splendor. You can also get great photos of this square at night when the streets are empty and the streetlights illuminate the dusty yellow façade.

Climb the Town Hall Tower

Town Hall Tower

If city wall views don’t satisfy your appetite and you want to embark on an even tighter squeeze to get to the top of the town, take on the dizzying spiral stairs of the town hall tower.

Your claustrophobic climb is not just a vertical ascent but a passage through layers of history, with the sturdy stone walls whispering tales of council meetings, medieval ceremonies, and the passage of time. Upon reaching the top, the reward is a breathtaking 360-degree view of Rothenburg ob der Tauber and its picturesque surroundings.

There are around 220 stone steps to the top but you need to hoist yourself up a ladder and through a small wooden door to make it to the outside. This is medieval adventure tourism at its finest and the view is worth every step.

Find the Perfect Medieval Treasure to Take Home

cuckoo clocks

Although I usually believe the best souvenir is a memory (or sometimes a slice of cake), Rothenburg might have convinced me otherwise. Here you can shop for two of the most iconic German souvenirs to highlight your time in this adorable town.

The iconic cuckoo clocks, intricately crafted and adorned with traditional motifs, enchant visitors with their rhythmic ticking and cheerful melodies. Clock shops such as Römerhaus Uhr offer an array of these timeless timepieces, allowing visitors to take home a piece of Rothenburg’s craftsmanship.

It is also believed that the town served as the location inspiration for Disney’s Pinocchio along with all the whimsical cuckoo clocks that Gipetto crafted. Although I didn’t see any wooden boys running around, I could spend hours looking at these intricate works of art. If you want to take one home, you can ask the shops to have it shipped anywhere in the world!

A visit to Rothenburg is incomplete without stepping into its enchanting Christmas shops, such as Käthe Wohlfahrt. Immersed in yuletide magic year-round, these havens showcase handcrafted ornaments, nutcrackers, and nativity scenes. The aroma of cinnamon and twinkling lights create an atmosphere of perpetual festivity.

Whether selecting a delicate glass bauble or a whimsical wooden decoration, the Christmas shop experience allows visitors to capture the spirit of Rothenburg’s festive traditions in a tangible keepsake.

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