People Say This European Town Is A Tourist Trap, But It's One Of Rick Steves' Favorites

Germany has several dreamy medieval towns that enchant visitors. Perhaps one of the most well-known is Rothenburg ob der Tauber, located about two hours from Frankfurt and an hour from Nuremberg. However, this fairytale-esque destination has earned a reputation for being overrun with tourists. Some Redditors even refer to it as a cliche. Nevertheless, Rothenburg has a famous admirer: European travel maestro Rick Steves. Although Steves typically opts for hidden gems over tourist traps, Rothenburg has a special place in his heart.


Steves has highlighted the destination on his show "Rick Steves' Europe," where he emphasized its historical significance related to European trade and the Thirty Years War, as well as its role in the German Romanticism movement. He also featured Rothenburg in his book "For the Love of Europe." All that said, Steves acknowledges Rothenburg's touristic ambiance on his website but notes that he adores it as it is. 

In an article written for The Denver Post, he explained, "Even with crowds, overpriced souvenirs and a nearly inedible pastry specialty (the over-promoted, fried ball of pie crust called a Schneeball), Rothenburg is still the best." If you want to explore the town through Steves' eyes, add his recommended must-dos to your Rothenburg itinerary.


Rick Steves' top Rothenburg attractions

The Night Watchman walking tour is essential on a Rothenburg visit. Rick Steves praised this excursion in the Denver Post and in "For the Love of Europe." Highly rated on Tripadvisor, the Night Watchman delves into the history of this former medieval occupation. The one-hour tour, which meets at Rothenburg's Market Square is in English and runs from April 1 to December 30. Admission is paid upon arrival. 


Another morbid attraction mentioned by Steves in The Denver Post is the Medieval Crime and Justice Museum. He wrote, "Rothenburg's fascinating Medieval Crime Museum, all unusually well-explained in English, is full of diabolical instruments of punishment and torture. Some visitors react with horror, others wish for a gift shop." In "Rick Steves' Europe," the PBS star explained that these instruments were used to penalize everything from theft to gossip. 

For architecture and art buffs, there's St. Jakobskirche. This centuries-old Gothic structure is also known as Jacob's Church or the Church of St. James. Steves suggests visiting to view the Holy Blood Altar. The intricate piece was created by Tilman Riemenschneider, a renowned German woodcarver who died in the 16th century. 


Nature lovers can head to the Castle Gardens or Burggarten. From there, Steves noted in the Denver Post that visitors can reach Toppler Castle, built in the late 1300s, via a scenic walk.

Stay and dine in Rothenburg

Rothenburg's accommodation options are as quirky as its attractions. On his website, Rick Steves states that many locals provide visitors with lodging. This includes Pension Elke Rothenburg. The bed & breakfast is owned by a grocer and is located only a few minutes away from Market Square. Steves also mentions Hotel Raidel run by a man named Norry. Tripadvisor reviewers rave about Norry and Hotel Raidel's kitschy ambiance and affordability. In the Denver Post, Steves suggests Hotel Klosterstueble which offers charming rooms and a stunning onsite restaurant.


As for where to eat in Rothenburg, head to Gasthof Goldener Greifen. The eatery (pictured) serves traditional dishes like bratwurst with potatoes, schnitzel, and more. There's also Altfraenkische Weinstube. One reviewer on Tripadvisor wrote, "The restaurant has such a fantastic atmosphere. It is almost exclusively lit by candles and the decor is all old world. You could almost believe you have been transported back to the middle ages when sitting here."

If you're ready to embark on a trip to Rothenburg and are wondering how to get there in the first place, know that visitors can easily take a train from Frankfurt, Munich, or Nuremberg. Tickets can be purchased on Rail Europe. Keep in mind that Steves says in a different post on his website that the perfect time to visit this must-see European country is spring and fall. Looking for other German destinations? Check out where you can experience white sand beaches on a lesser-known island.