Rothenburg is a walled town located on a plateau overlooking the Tauber River, hence its official name of Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Red Fortress above the Tauber – because a number of roofs here are red). It’s a beautiful town studded with 42 towers and massive stone town walls – a delight to visit any time of the year. Now comes Christmas and the town transforms into a bright sparkling carnival of decorations and festivities. Rothenburg Christmas Market – one of the oldest in Europe, is a 500-year old tradition where not much has changed. This quaint town, one of Europe’s most medieval, looks like a movie set, conveying the aura of a fairy tale.
Located on Romantic Road with red-tiled roof tops; cobbled streets and flower filled window boxes the town is pretty picturesque by itself. So, this makes Rothenburg’s Christmas Market one of the best Christmas markets in Germany.
The nearest airport to the city of Rothenburg is Nuremberg Airport, which is just 115 kms away.
Munich International Airport is two and a half hours by car and about four hours by train.
The Frankfurt Airport is two hours by car and three by train.
500 Years of Tradition: One of the Best German Christmas Markets
Rothenburg Christmas market is a four week long festival with a grand opening on the evening of the first Friday of Advent followed by incessant festivities – music, dancing, food, drinks and shopping! Lending its name to the market is the appearance of the Rothenburg Riders – of historical origin – who brought messages from another world.
Digging in to Delicacies
The famous warm mulled wine (also called gluhwein) infused with spices as well as the White Mulled wine are two of the most sought after drinks. The hot chocolate and non-alcoholic Christmas Punch with souvenir cups can be taken back to ensure the taste and memory remain long after you’ve left for home. The best thing is that the gluhwein is not highly priced. In fact the rate is the lowest in all of Germany or elsewhere. The cups are not fanciest you’d ever see but they are pocket-friendly! It’s about 2 Euros. You can get your deposit back if you wish to return the cup back. It is possible for you to refill the mug at any gluhwein stand.
Try Snowball Pastries covered in powdered sugar which taste like dry cookies and are found in great variations. Besides the food stands, few of the best restaurants like ROMA offer hearty vegetarian and Italian meals. The Christmas Market in Rothenburg consists of various stalls offering baked goods and hot food to the visitors. Hot wine and a strong brandy punch are served against the cold.
Feast Your Eyes
The Christmas Market goes on from 11:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. everyday, which gives one enough to plan out. Visiting the Medieval Crime Museum or the Rothenburg Museum can be covered in a good relaxing walk. Saint James Church with its stunning altars also offers a well-spent leisurely afternoon.
For many, the appearance of Rothenburg Rider is a much-awaited event. Whereas the image of the mythical character invoked fear earlier, for he is known to float through the sky with the souls of the dead – he has now become a beloved ambassador of good news.
Rothenburg Christmas Market Festivities
Join the annual yuletide ceremony at 5:00 p.m on Friday before the first Advent Sunday, when the ‘Reiterle’ marks the beginning of the German Christmas Market. Exploring Rothenburg on your own is definitely a special adventure. The tour guides can tell interesting stories, anecdotes which one will never find in any book. Musical events, choice of themed walking tours, ballooning, hiking etc offer various fun activities. Enjoying various live brass bands, craftsmen in baking demonstrations, Light parade by school children add up to the festivities.
The unparalleled nature, picturesque valley, small streams and the tauber river, the mountain ranges with fantastic views across the country, the mills , the small lakes, forests, and the little Franconian hamlets all characterized the landscape and kindle the desire for exploring around the Rothenburg. Climb up the 220 steps of the Town Hall Tower and enjoy the marvelous view over the Christmas Market.
Get Some Retail Therapy
You can choose from knick-knack souvenirs as well as high quality gifts. Right in the middle of the town the Christmas Store has the largest collection of ornaments in Germany. You can also find Christmas Pyramids, nut crackers, incense smokers and stein drinking glasses. More popular items are Christmas ornaments, knit clothing and cozy winter hats. Rothenburg is the only place one can buy Christmas products at any time of year. One of those shops is open all year round-and world-famous for it. This shop is called Kathe Wohlfahrt and is so big that it is known as the Christmas village. A lot of the products are handmade in its own workshop and are not all cheap. In the Kathe Wohlfahrt museum you can learn about the four hundred-year-old tradition of installing a fur tree.
And thus the Rothenburg ‘Reiterlesmarkt’ is today the symbol of the peaceful Christmas market and the city’s decorations lend it a truly romantic character.
Best Tips to Visit Rothenburg Christmas Market
Dress appropriately –
The most valuable advice to make it through the wintery evenings would be to dress in light weight, water proof, insulated and comfortable woollens. Dress for the weather. The temperatures can be as low as 3 or 4 degrees during the day time and can go further down to 0 degrees. If lucky, you might even witness snow showers during the Rothenburg Christmas Market time. Check weather forecast for a smooth Christmas trip in Rothenburg. Here’s a small packing checklist for your visit:
- Nice winter coat
- Medium gloves
- Comfortable boots
- Woollen socks
- Warm hat
- Woollen gloves
- A compact umbrella
Book your hotel well in advance –
Remember that you are visiting Rothenburg that is one of the most famous German Christmas markets. You need to get your accommodation sorted well in advance as there are limited hotels in Rothenburg. It is best to stay in the centre for at least 2 to 3 days in order to enjoy the festivities. The schedule for the four-week-long festival remains consistent each year but varies from day to day. Rothenburg’s enchantment has prevailed over the past 1,000 years and is continuing to cast its spell onto the international visitors.
If you want the best out of a truly German experience, flock to a town like Rothenburg which comes alive during the Advent. This cozy town brings itself alive to host tourists from the world over when it’s time to bring in the new year. Christmas in Rothenberg is worth the long wait and harsh winter. The town is nothing less than enchanted as it cobble streets and Franconia-Gothic architecture livens up as Christmas rolls in. Rothenburg is a special favourite because it’s narrow winding streets are a reminder of it’s humble origins- and a reminder of the numerous other narrow streets we have traversed. When the Christmas market is lined up, the streets occupied with shops selling traditional German bakes, mulled wines, roasted nuts, and ton of souvenirs to choose from, that is when Rothenburg comes alive.
Interestingly, Rothenburg was inspiration for a village in Disney’s adaptation of Pinnochio, enchanted as it seems. The town was nearly annihilated during the Second World War, when instead, the Allies offered a peacekeeping pact to the town’s mayor, who immediately agreed. Today, Rothenburg remains Germany’s most stunning little hamlet, home to many, and paradise to all.