Rothenburg ob der Tauber is situated in Bavaria, Germany in the Franconia region. Its name, in German, means “Red fortress above the Tauber”. Located above the Tauber River, the city’s name is fitting for its location.
Famous for its unspoiled medieval old town, the city is a tourist hotspot and a part of the Romantic Road that runs through the southern region of the country. Stepping foot in the city is like taking a step back in time. You’d be hard pressed to find another European city with more impressive medieval architecture. But it’s not just the history and charm that attracts tourists to Rothenburg ob der Tauber each year. True, the city is home to a number of great attractions, but for tourists traveling during the holiday season, it’s the Rothenburg Christmas Market that’s the main attraction.
The beautiful town of Rothenburg as seen from the surrounding hills
The Rothenburg Christmas Market
Christmas markets are one of Germany’s most famous and beloved holiday traditions, and the Rothenburg market (known as “Reiterlesmarkt”) should top your list of things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Each year, this medieval city transforms into a winter wonderland. The Christmas market tradition in this town is one that dates back more than 500 years, and little has changed since its early days. The Market-Square is still lined with stalls with vendors selling everything your heart and taste buds desire from handcrafted gifts, souvenirs, food and drink. Although Rothenburg is a relatively small town, you’ll find plenty of things to see and do at the market.
What to See at the Rothenburg Christmas Market
While you’ll find shopping opportunities at the market, you’ll also find numerous cultural events to participate in. For most tourists, the highlight of the event is the opening ceremony where “Rothenburger Reiterle” makes an appearance.
This mystical figure is a part of a Teutonic legend and is who the market is named after. In the pre-Christian times, this legend tells the tale of a terrifying rider who carried the souls of the dead with him. Once Christianity swept through the country, the legend changed and transformed Reiterle into a gentle, kind man who gives gifts to children all over the world.
If you’re not too busy with the market’s festive activities, be sure to stop by the German Christmas Museum in town. Inside, you’ll take a trip back in time to Christmas past. The museum is filled with Santas, nutcrackers, glass balls and even pyramids.
Stop by the Käthe Wohlfahrt Christmas Store, which has a dizzying array of more than 30,000 items for sale. This Christmas mega-shop has everything from nutcrackers to Christmas ornaments, decorations and so much more. If you’re unsure of what to buy or what some of the stuff even is, you can get more information at various Christmas blogs and shops. For a real treat, climb to the top of the Town Hall Tower to take in a spectacular view of the entire market. The tower is open to visitors until 8PM every Friday and Saturday.
Other daily events at the market:
- 2PM – English guided tour
- 4:30PM – Santa Clause makes an appearance
- 5PM – Illumination of the new advent window (runs from December 1st – December 23rd)
- 5:30PM – Brass band concert
- 8PM – A special guided tour with the infamous Night Watchman
During the 8PM guided tour, the Night Watchman shares stories about what life was like during the medieval era. In between the festivities, be sure to make time for the market’s food and drink.
What to Eat at the Reiterlesmarkt
No trip to the Reiterlesmarkt would be complete without sampling the many foods and drinks available. Try a glass of white mulled wine (Glühwein) or the market’s famous “Schneebälle” (snowball) which is made from sweet fried dough strips covered in either chocolate or powdered sugar. Before you leave, don’t forget to try the roasted chestnuts or grilled sausage. The charm and romanticism of Rothemburg are what make this market so special. Strolling the winding cobblestone streets while sipping a cup of Glühwein with your friends or loved ones is a one-of-a-kind experience. If you have the pleasure of traveling to Germany during the Advent season, make it a point to visit the historic medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
A famous Rothenburg snowball pastry
Before you Leave Rothenburg
The Rothenburg Christmas Market is open every day from November 28 – December 23. Sunday through Thursday, the market is open from 11AM – 7PM. On Friday and Saturday, the market is open from 11AM – 8PM.