Rothenburg Free Walking Tour:
Walking Tour Location: Old Town Rothenburg
Cost: Free, Self-Guided (Museum and funicular/lift costs below)
Style: Do-It-Yourself Walking Tour (Self Guided)
Start: Market Square (Marktplatz)
End: Market Square (Marktplatz)
Walking Distance: 1.7 miles (2.3 Miles with Infirmary Quarter)
Time: 90 Minutes for Walk (+5 Hours with museums, +45 minutes for Toppler’s Water Palace and 90 minutes For the Southern River Hike)
Fun Scale: 10 out of 10
Overview of Old Town Rothenburg:
Spending a day in Old Town Rothenburg is like stepping 400 years into the past. This time capsule of a village is packed with colorful half-timber homes, old world sights, cobblestone lanes, and surrounded by a Medieval City Wall. The sure beauty of Old Town is Rothenburg’s main attraction. When you mix in the Night Watchman tour, Christmas village and great shopping you have the makings for an unbelievable visit.
We highly suggest spending at least one night in Rothenburg as it feels truly magical in the evening after the tour buses have left. Our self-guided walking tour starts covers all the must see attractions with plenty of opportunities to get away from the mid-day crowds. Rothenburg is definitely a place to take your time, relax, and enjoy. Hope you enjoy our Old Town Rothenburg walking tour!
*Any tour of Rothenburg has to start at the lively…
1. Market Square (Marktplatz): Shortly after King Conrad III built his castle in Rothenberg in 1142, traders already started selling their goods and produce in Market Square. The square quickly became the center the center of both trade and social life in town. Since Rothenburg sat on two major Medieval trade routes, it quickly grew to be the 2nd largest city in Germany in the year 1400, and Market Square blossomed. The square became home not only to the town’s biggest festivals, but also to some of the best colorful mansions and half-timber homes. If you are looking for a bite to eat, we recommend the Ratstube who’s tables spill out onto the square during nice weather.
In 1474, Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III had a huge feast in Rothenburg’s Market Square, where he symbolically gave King Christian of Denmark the German state of Holstein to pledge an alliance. A more gruesome event happened in the square in 1525 when Count Casimir von Ansbach had 17 leaders of the recently defeated Peasants’ Revolt publicly beheaded here and left to lay in the street all day. During the 30 Years War in the 1600s, Market Square harbored enemy troops each of the 7 times the city was occupied. During one of the occupations in 1632, King of Sweden Gustav-Adolf himself stayed here and slept in the Town Hall.
*Circling around Market Square the first place to notice is the…
2. Council Drinking Hall (Ratstrinkstube): Built in 1446, the huge hall was once a very exclusive tavern that could only be entered by city council members. Today, all the action happens on the outside of the building’s beautiful facade. The large central clock was installed in 1638 and a sun dial was added above the Rothenburg coat of arms in 1768. Flanking the clock is the real attraction with mechanical figures reenacting scences from the legendary Master Draught every hour from 10am-10pm. Folklore says that in 1631 Mayor Nusch saved the Protestant town from destruction at the hands of the troops of Catholic General Tilly by winning a wager by drinking over 3 liters of Franconian wine in one gulp. The truth of the story is that General Tilly and his 40,000 troops stayed the entire Winter before leaving, badly depleting Rothenburg of its food reserves. Today the building holds the local tourism office.
*The building that dominated Market Square the most is the large…
3. Town Hall & Tower (Rathaus & Turm): After the Old Town Hall burned in 1240, a new huge Gothic-style Town Hall was built here in 1250. The new building was in designed in the double fronted-style with two wings and a central entrance facing Market Square. In 1408, beloved Mayor Toppler died in the dungeon below the Gothic Town Hall while being imprisoned. After a long run, the Gothic Town Hall also had a brush with fire in 1501 when the front half of the building facing Market Square burned down. Luckily, the back half of the building and the vaults survived the fire.
Since it had been 250 years since the Gothic Town Hall was built, they decided to redo the damaged front in the more modern Renaissance-style instead. The new yellow front of Town Hall was so impressive for its day, that when it was finished in 1572, it was the most imposing example of Renaissance architecture North of the Alps for almost a decade. In 1632, during the 30 Years War, King of Sweden Gustav-Adolf stayed the front of the Town Hall while his army occupied the city. The baroque-style street level arcade was added to the front in 1681 and the coat of arms for the seven Electoral Princes decorate the arches. Notice how the left side of the gallery has 13 steps, but as you look to the right the steps gradually disappear into the pavement? This is because Market Square is actually quite slopped and the new stairs needed to account for the angle.
The surviving back part of the Gothic Town Hall remained white, but got a Renaissance upgrade to it’s bell tower. The 170 foot tall tower provided better communication with the city watch towers, and today you can still climb the 222 steps for the best views in Rothenburg. The entrance for the bell tower is on the front of the building. You can also visit 8 of the vaults of the historic dungeons (website) to get an idea of the prison conditions of the day. Exhibits in the dungeons cover the 30 Years War plus torture cambers from the 1500-1600s. The entrance is inside the city hall atrium and is accessible on the side of the building.
Town Hall Tower Hours: January-March & November Saturday & Sunday Noon-3pm; April-October Daily 9:30am-12:30pm & 1-5pm; During the Christmas Market 10:30am-2pm & 2-6pm (8pm Friday & Saturday). Royal Dungeon Hours: May-October Daily 9:30am-5:30pm; November-April Open Daily with times posts on a board at the entrance. Royal Dungeon Cost: Adults 3€; Kids 1.50€.
4. Fountain of Saint George (St. Georgsbrunnen): Sitting over the 8-foot-deep Herterich’s Well is the beautiful Fountain of Saint George. Water wasn’t always easy to come by in Rothenburg, even though it is by the Tauber River because it sits up on a rocky ridge. A underground canal system was built in 1418 to keep the Rothenburg’s various wells stocked with outside water in case of drought or war. The new stable water table system provided allowed 300 of Rothenburg’s roughly 800 homes to get their own private well and also enhanced the capacity of the public wells. By 1446, a free flowing fountain was added over Herterich’s Well to give some elegance to Market Square’s main communal water source. The Renaissance-style central column, added to the fountain in 1608, is capped by a figure of an armored Saint George on horseback famously slaying a dragon. The addition of Saint George ultimately changed the name as the fountain was officially dedicated to him. This image of the victorious knight defeating darkness is a very common scene in Medieval art.
5. Meat & Dance House (Fleisch und Tanzhaus): This was the location of Rothenburg’s original town hall which burned down in 1240. Using the foundation from the Old Town Hall, the magnificent half-timbered building you see today was built in 1270. With tall vaulted ceilings, the upper level was used as a dance hall for parties and celebrations. The first floor was an open shop for local butchers to sell their meats. Today, the upper level of the house is used to store colorful costumes that the city uses in annual festivals and historic reenactments. The lower level is now home to the Artist Union which sets up various art galleries.
6. Mayor Jagstheimer’s House (Jagstheimerhaus): As one of the most beautiful historic homes you’ll see in Europe, this huge half-timber mansion was built in 1448 by the Mayor Jagstheimer. One of the coolest features is the detailed 2nd story bay window sticking out of the corner of the mansion. In 1531, Emperor Maximilian I stayed here, and famous Mayor Nusch also lived here for a while. The 1st floor of the building has been home to the Marian Pharmacy (Marienapotheke) since 1812.
7. Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store & Museum (Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum): In a town famous for its Christmas Markets, Käthe Wohlfahrt makes the holiday season last all year long. While they have 5 stores in Rothenburg, it is their headquarters that is the most impressive. Käthe Wohlfahrt is world-renowned for the the quality of their ornaments and Christmas wears. The multi-level store is a full-on Christmas village with a teddy bear town and the largest collection of ornaments in Germany. Visiting really is special and will have you in the Christmas spirit the second you enter. The 2,700 square foot German Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum) sits above the store and covers hundreds of years of holiday history. The interesting exhibits have everything from Christmas trees, ornaments, holiday pyramids, Christmas cards and more.
Käthe Wohlfahrt Website: (HERE). Christmas Museum Website: (HERE).
8. Lord Alley & Fountain (Herrngasse & brunnen): Connecting the Market Square to the former royal castle is the prestigious street called Lord’s Alley (Herrngasse). It is still home of some of Rothenburg’s most stately homes and fancy shops. Right in the middle of the street was the old cattle market which is marked by the Lord Alley Fountain (Herrnbrunnen). Added in 1595, the fountain’s column got a Renaissance makeover with a merman that has two fish tails, a golden crown on his head, and golden scepter in his hand. The base of the column has blonde pig-tailed maiden spitting the water back into the fountain.
9. Staudt House & Courtyard (Staudtsche Haus): The original home and large inner courtyard were laid out in the 1100s. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and Ferdinand I both visited here. The Czech Staudt family has lived here since 1644. The beautiful courtyard is not open to the public, but has former servants’ apartments and a beautiful garden. The hedge in the garden was planted in 1678. Outside the home, make sure to check out the wide door which is big enough for a carriage to fit through. We also love the old chain door bells hanging out front with 4 different chains to ring different parts of the home. The baroque window bars are from the year 1772. You can get a glimpse of courtyard life at the neighboring Kleines Cafe which is part of the Herrnschlösschen Hotel Restaurant Garden.
10. Vine Mansion: One of our favorite homes in Rothenburg is the huge vine-covered mansion on the corner of Burggasse and Heringbronnengasschen. The vines not only cover most of the property’s large inner courtyard, but also spill out over the outer wall.
11. Castle Alley (Burggasse): As you hit Castle Alley you get your first view of the Tauber River Valley over the city wall. While we are turning right, check out the former castle grounds you’ll see the other end of Castle Alley later in this tour. A large part of the alley in the Middle Ages was part of the Saint John’s Monastery, which was established in 1200. Since the monks wanted to be separated from general public to avoid temptation, a large part of the alley was covered with a wooden roof and was closed to non-monks. The roof made the alley very dark, so it gained the nickname Hell Alley. Playing off the nickname, our favorite restaurant in Rothenburg is To Hell Tavern (Zur Höll). The restaurant sits in the oldest home in Rothenburg with a foundation dating back to 970. While small, the tavern has an authentic Medieval feel and the widest selection of Franconian Wines in town. Restaurant Hours: Daily after 6pm.
12. Castle Hohenstaufen Ruins (Burggarten): Because the land in Rothenburg was fertile and cheap, King Conrad III decided to build Castle Hohenstaufen here in 1142 sparking the true beginning of Rothenburg. Conard had already been the King of Italy when before becoming the King of Germany. King Conrad was headed toward the title Holy Roman Emperor, but unfortunately died before he could be crowned. After the death of Castle Hohenstaufen’s next resident, Friedrich the Duke of Rothenburg, it sat vacant in disrepair, but the village around the castle continued to grow. Rothenburg sat on the crossroads of two major trade routes, and was further elevated to a Free Imperial City in 1274 by King Rudolf of the Habsburg Dynasty.
In 1356, Castle Hohenstaufen was ruined by by a large earthquake which also damaged sections of the city wall. Much of the stone from the castle was used as a quarry to repair and bolster Rothenburg’s fortifications. With the city at its peak of 6,000 residents in 1400AD, Mayor Toppler decided to rebuild the castle’s Upper Ducal House into what is now the Chapel of St. Blaise. Originally the castle didn’t have chapel and the Ducal House was actually where the king received his guests. At the time of Toppler’s work, Rothenburg was the 2nd largest city in Germany and one of the 10 largest in the Holy Roman Empire. In more recent time, a memorial was added inside the chapel for German soldiers who died in WW1 & WW2. As you leave the chapel keep and eye out of sections of the castle’s original foundation and for the Jewish Memorial. The memorial stone is for the half of Rothenburg’s 500 Jews killed in 1298 for religious reasons. The Jews were often forced to live outside of the city walls and were officially banned in 1520.
Roaming further down the the rest of the castle grounds you will see the Castle Garden (Burggarten) which was added in the 1700s and was not originally part of the complex. The garden has beautiful geometric flower beds with 8 sandstone statues representing the 4 seasons and 4 elements. It is one of the best places in Rotheburg to relax, offering great views of the Tauber River Valley below.
13. Castle Gate & Tower (Burgtor & Turm): After Castle Hohenstaufen was destroyed in the earthquake of 1356, they needed to enhance their defense on the West side of town. They decided to super-size the Castle Gate, adding a tower and other protective measures. Two small gate houses where built in front of the Castle Gate to help funnel in traffic. Just inside the gate houses you’ll see a decorative mask which has a mouth hole the guards would use to pour hot tar on attackers. On the sides of the mask you’ll see two large slots where chains were fastened to raise the gate’s drawbridge. In Medieval times, all of the city gates were locked at sundown so you would have to pay a fine at the gate house to get in after dark. You would also have to enter a special side door with a small opening only big enough for one person at a time, known as the man hole. The current wooden man hole door dates back to 1555.
14. Former Dominican Convent Garden (Klostergarten): The Imperial Kitchen Master, Lupold von Nordenberg, funded a move to bring the order of Dominican nuns here from the nearby village of Neusitz in 1258. The Convent had a large garden, a modest church, and dormitories. The convent gained wealth through donations and from the wedding dowry money for they received from women who joined. Although the Convent was dissolved in 1544 and the church was tore down in 1813, the rest of the grounds are now part of the Imperial City Museum. The gardens are free to visit, have 50 types of herbs and a section of well-marked poisonous plants. Hours: April-October Daily 8am-7pm.
15. Imperial City Museum (Reichsstadtmuseum): Inside of the dormitory building of the former Dominican Convent, The Imperial City Museum covers the history of Rothenburg from 1247 through 1802 when is served as a Free Imperial City. The enjoyable museum, which opened in 1936, centers its attention around the Convent (started in 1258 and dissolved in 1544), but it also covers much more. Other exhibits in the museum display Medieval weapons, paintings, local Jewish history, and the impressive convent kitchen. The kitchen, dating back to the late-1200s, is considered the oldest kitchen in Germany. One of the coolest parts of the kitchen is the Lazy Susan the nuns would use to give food to the poor outside the convent without being seen. The Medieval Crime Museum, which we cover later in this walking tour, is our favorite in town, but the Imperial City Museum is a very close second. Museum Hours: April-October Daily 9:30am-5.30pm; November-March Daily 1-4pm. Museum Website: (HERE). Museum Cost: Adults 4.50€; Kids Free.
16. Feuerlein’s Oriel Window: (Feuerleinserker): This picture-perfect home built in the 1600s is featured on many of Rothenburgs postcards. The main draw is the 2nd story corner bay window with a pointy roof protruding out of the house. It is considered to be an Oriel-style window because it is not supported by the ground below and sticks out like a balcony. If you stand just up the road from the house and look back toward the city center, you’ll get the same view you see printed on plates and postcards around town. If you look closely at the window, you’ll see a religious inscription in German that translates to “For food for the body, eat the bread from this house, but for food for the Soul God’s word is the choice“.
17. Saint Jacob’s Church (St. Jakobs Kirche): Saint Jacob’s Church is the most important church in Rothenburg and was finished in 1485 after 170 years of building. The church is dedicated to Saint James who was the one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus and considered the first apostle. After James are buried in Spain, pilgrims started traveling to his grave from as far away as Jerusalem and created numerous pilgrim routes across Medieval Europe. Because the growing Rothenburg already sat on two important trade routes, the impressive church gave the city a new avenue to also attract hoards for pilgrims in route to Spain from the North and East. The vaulted ceiling church was originally Catholic, but converted to Lutheran during the Reformation in 1544.
The top attraction at Saint Jacob’s is the wooden Altar of the Holy Blood, also called the Franciscan Altar, which sits upstairs on the West side of the church. Carved by Tilman Riemenschneider from 1499-1505, the alter is considered one of the master artist’s best works. The center panel of the altar shows a scene from the Last Supper, while the panel on the left shows Jesus entering Jerusalem, and the panel of the right side shows Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Above the 3 panels is the Relic of the Holy Blood which is crystal said to hold a drop of Jesus’s blood that was set into a wooden cross in 1270. The entire Altar of the Holy Blood was originally housed in the Franciscan Church, Rothenburg’s oldest church, before being moved here. Riemschneider was a Würzburg based artists considered one of the best wood carvers of his day. One of the artist’s other works from 1490 called the Altar of Louis de Toulose also resided in Saint Jacob’s Church. On the North side of the Church is an altar carved by of one of Riemenschneider’s in 1520 which is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Virgin Mary Altar was first housed at the Holy Ghost Chapel in the Infirmary Quarter before being moved to Saint Jacob’s Church.
Carved by Swabian master artists in 1446, the High Altar on the East side of Saint Jacob’s Church is dedicated to the Twelve Apostles. The central panel show 6 Saints under a crucified Jesus who is surrounded by 4 angels in incredible detail. The scene and side panels were brilliantly painted by Friedrich Herlin and the carving on the back of the alter is the oldest known representation of Rothenburg. On the left side of the High Altar is a beautifully carved stone panel with a wooden tabernacle where the Communion wine jug is stored outside of services. The stone panel was also painted by Friedrich Herlin in 1448 at the same time he worked on the High Altar. We love the huge Medieval stained glass windows above the High Altar which let amazing colored light in against the nave’s pale interior. The oldest stained glass window is the center one dating back to 1350 while other were finished about 40 years later. For the best light go early in the morning. Hidden nearby is Toppler’s Chapel which holds the gave of former Mayor Toppler who died in 1408. The stone panel in the chapel shows hands hold up dice because the name Toppler in German means a cubed game.
18. Imperial Kitchen Master Restaurant (Reichs Küchenmeister): We love the amazing tree-lined patio at the restaurant overlooking Saint Jacob’s Church. The restaurant is named after the Imperial Kitchen Master Lupold von Nordenberg, who was very influential in early day Rothenburg. The beer is cold and food is very tasty. They also have more formal dinning inside, but we prefer the laid back patio.
19. The Builder’s House (Baumeisterhaus): Considered the town’s most beautiful mansion, the Builder’s House was built by a local builder as is own home in 1596. The facade is highlighted with statues of the seven virtues supporting the seven vices. The original sandstone statues are on display at the Imperial City Museum and were replaced by replicas for preservation. The mansion is now home to a restaurant and cafe. The green mansion next to the Builder’s House was built by Mayor Toppler around the year 1400.
20. Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalterliches Kriminalmuseum): Sitting in the former monastery complex of the Monks of Saint John is the only law museum in Europe! The Medieval Crime Museum covers over 1000 years Medieval law history, sensational criminal cases, including the persecution of witches and witchcraft in Bavaria. Our favorite items are the the instruments used for torture, shaming, and punishment. The devices were use for everything from stealing, people who cheated on their spouses and even those who gossiped too much. It is by far one of the coolest things to do in Rothenburg and helps get you into the Medieval spirit. Museum Website: (HERE).
21. Saint John’s Church (St. Johannis Kirche): Built from 1390-1410 as part of Saint John’s Monastery, the church replaced the monks’ former headquarters built here in 1200. The church changed denominations a couple times over the centuries and is Rothenburg’s only Catholic church. The interior is one of the more bland in town, but it is still an important place to take note of.
22. Saint John’s Fountain & Fish Pond (Johannisbrunnen): The large fountain well next to the church is the biggest in town, able to hold over 25,000 gallons of water. It was built in 1608, remodeled in 1716, and is decorated with a beautiful column capped with Aquarius, the water bearing zodiac sign. Sitting right behind the fountain is a large stone fish pond that we find to be really cool, but is often overlooked. The tank was the holding pond was the perfect way to make sure they always had plenty of fish on hand at the monastery. The ponds were remodeled in 1856 and have held up great since then.
23. Baroque Garden & Vineyard: Sitting right below the former Saint John’s Monastery, is a small baroque garden. If you are popping down to the garden, it is also a nice place to stop and check out the vineyard that covers most of the neighboring slope.
24. Plönlein Corner: The postcard perfect shot you were looking for, Plönlein Corner is the most iconic image of Rothenburg. The bright yellow half-timbered house is almost jaw dropping. Get there before or after the the tour buses roll in to get great photos with the square free of tourists. Also make sure to check out the cool flower bed made out of a former well fountain in front of the home. Plönlein means small level area,but its the change in elevation in the split of the road that makes it cool.
Down the hill to the right of Plönlein Corner is Kobolzeller Tower & Gate. Leading up from the Tauber River Valley, thid checkpoint was a series of 4 gates built to kennel visitors in for extra layers of protection. Following the 1356 earthquake the tower near the gate was built. If you take the steep path down to the River you can get an excellent photo back up the hill of the Kobolzeller Tower through the trees. Up the hill to the left of Plönlein Corner Sieve Maker’s Tower (Siebersturm) which was added in 1385 as part of the new fortifications. The tower was originally called the Inner Gebsattler Tower but was renamed for the Association of Flour Sieve Makers.
25. Infirmary Quarter: While originally centered on the Parish of Detwang on the Tauber River, in 1080 the village of Rothenburg started to move up the hill. One of the first buildings up the hill was a small fortress for the Counts of Komburg on the so-called “Vinegar Jug” near the Infirmary. When the first city walls were built in the early-1200s, the neighborhood was left outside of the walls. In 1280, a religious order called the Knights of the Hinterland established a hospital to help the sick and poor called the Holy Ghost Infirmary. The Infirmary was eventually enclosed by the city wall in 1370, but a large fire in the 1500s required most of the hospital complex except the Holy Ghost Church be rebuilt.
26. Old Ross Corn Mill (Rossmühle): Built in 1516 as a corn mill the Rossmuhle was powered by 16 horses instead of with water power like other area mills. The large mill is one of the best buildings in Rothenburg to photograph and we love the curved port windows in the roof. The mill now serves as a youth hostel and is one of the most reasonably priced hotels in town. If you are looking for an affordable place to stay, don’t be scared off by the location, it is still only a short walk to the core of Old Town Rothenburg. Hotel Website: (HERE).
27. Little Flushing Tower & Outdoor Theater: (Stöberleinsturm): Originally outside the city walls the tower and building served as a hospital and center for the poor. The section of multilevel wall behind the theater bowl is our favorite section to go walking on in the entire city. Outside of the unique terraced design, the wall also stands out as the section with the least amount of tourists. We have not seen any live performances in the outdoor theater during any of our visits, but it is a great place to site, relax, and reflect on the day.
28. Hegereiter House: This funky looking yellow building is the former Infirmary Hospital kitchen. Built in 1591, the loft area of the Hegereiter House doubled as the home of the manager who was in charge of multiple Infirmary properties. To us the kitchen looks straight our of a story book with its uniquely shaped wooden roof which actually follows the curves of the home’s original canvas tent roof. We can’t imagine there was very much square footage upstairs for the manager, but he did get a really cool tower to hang out it.
29. Hospital Tower & Bastion (Spitalturm): When the Infirmary was incorporated by the city wall in 1370, a gate to be built here to serve as the new Southern entrance into Rothenburg. The defenses of the gate were greatly enhanced in 1586 when the tall gate tower and figure 8 shaped bastion were added on. The Bastion has 2 inner courtyards, has 7 gates, an upper walkway, and is surrounded by a dry moat you can walk in. We could spend a solid hour wondering through the figure 8 just admiring the exposed beams and covered bridge. The Latin inscription over the outside of the gate says: “Peace to those who enter; Farewell to those who leave.”
30. City Wall Walk: With roughly 2.5 miles of Medieval ramparts and 70 towers surrounding Rothenburg, a stroll on top of the 20 foot tall wall is one of the joys of any visit. While we do have a complete walking tour available for anyone wanting to to the complete circuit, the shorter version from Ruckesser Tower to Röder Tower will at least give you a taste. Working your way up the steps and into the covered walkway on top of the wall is magical. The ceiling only about 6 feet tall, and the path is single file, but you’ll really get the Medieval feel. Slits in the wall provided lookouts and ave owmen vantage points for incoming attacks.
During WW2 Allied planes dropped bombs on the North side of Rothenburg, killing 37 people, destroying 306 houses, 6 public buildings, 9 watchtowers, and damaging over 2000 feet of the wall. Luckily trough generous donations the damage was able to be restored close to its original state. Many of the donations came from people sponsoring 1 meter long sections of wall by buying plaques with their family names on them. When is started in 1950, each sponsorship cost $40 per meter and are now over $2000 a meter. As you walk the wall make note of the various plaques from sponsors by local and foreign. Full City Wall Walking Tour: Available HERE.
31. Blacksmith Shop (Gerlachschmiede): This uniquely shaped, half-timber Blacksmith Shop was built on a triangle corner lot in 1469. The colorful home has an excellent coat of arms between the front windows made up of blacksmith tools and a large green snake. In 1945 , the shop damaged in a fire but was quickly repaired. The property remained an active blacksmith shop until 1967 when it was bought as a private home. It is cool to admire the shop from the wall, but make a mental note of its location if you want to see it up close.
If the workmanship behind the Blacksmith Shop is interesting to you, then make sure to stop Old House of Crafts (website) located near stop #33. Built in 1270, the active museum has housed tons of artists over the centuries and gives you glimpse into how they worked and lived. It traces the everyday story of the barrel makers, shoemakers and weavers who lived in this house over 500 years. The shop remained very well reserved because a hermit lived here for decades while most of the Rothenburg’s houses modernized and never added electricity or modern plumbing.
32. Röder Tower & Gate (Röderturm & Tor): Known locally as the Red Tower, Röder is the only true observation tower on the city walls. It was built in the late-1100s and later worked into the outer ring wall as the city expanded. Every night a city watchman in Röder Tower would signal back to the city center letting everyone know either that all was well or that danger was on the way. This is the only tower on the city wall that you can still go to the very top of and if you are making good time, is well worth the climb required. If you only have time to climb one of Rothenburg’s observation towers, we recommend the one at Town Hall over this one as the view is better. Röder Tower is, however, the easier of the two to climb and more peaceful.
Sitting in front of the tower is the Röder Gate, also known as the Red Gate. The gate is awesome as it perfectly frames up the mighty tower as you enter the Rotheburg from the Train Station. It is made up of two twin huts with pointed roofs which were used as a tool booth and customs house along with an elevated gatekeepers cottage. Working your way back toward Rothenburg through the gate you will pass over the city moat and the former draw bridge. Rothenburg used a double moat with the outer part with with water and the inner part dry. The moat, also called the Graben (meaning ditch), was just as important to the defense of the Rothenburg as the walls and towers were. Observation Tower Hours: Daily March-November 10am-5pm; weather permitting; Closed December-February. Observation Tower Cost: 1.50 Euros.
33. Röder’s Arch Gate (Röderbogentor): With beautiful half-timber homes lining the way to an elegant archway, the Röder’s Arch Gate is one of the most picturesque spots in Rothenburg. The gateway and clock tower was built in the late-1100s as part of the city’s first wall. The best vantage point for the Arch is near the flower laden Röder’s Well (Röderbrunnen) which is surrounded by colorful homes and shops. Because of how wide the well is, it once served as a birthing fountain (Tränkbrunnen) in Medieval times.
Directly in front of Röder’s Arch is one of the best hotels in town, Romantik Hotel Markusturm (website) which is housed in the former toll house built in 1264. As you pass through the gate path turns into Hafengasse (Potter’s Lane), which was the city’s original artisan street. Directly behind the gateway is Marcus Tower (Markusturm) which was built in 1204 to add extra protection. The tower was part of a larger project that also brought the White Tower, Blue Tower, and Red Tower as Rotheburg’s 4 original watch towers. Over the centuries the city wall was expanded outward all the way to the Red Tower and Rothenburg grew to have 70 towers. Make sure to inspect Marcus Tower more closely as you pass by. Also make sure to check out the Bailiff’s House (Büttelhaus) at the base of the tower which was built in 1250. After serving as a makeshift prison, real jail cells were added in 1510 and remained active through the 1700s. Although it was badly damaged in WW2, the home has been restored and now houses Rothenburg’s City Archives.