Step into the enchanting embrace of Christmas in Rothenburg ob der Tauber as this captivating German country town transforms into a winter wonderland, seamlessly blending centuries-old customs with the magic of the holiday season.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber, with its medieval charm, becomes a festive haven where time-honoured traditions meet contemporary holiday delights.
Join us on a journey through the warmth of Rothenburg's Reiterlesmarkt, explore the treasures of Käthe Wohlfahrt's Christmas shop, and delve into the rich historical tapestry of the season at the German Christmas Museum.
As the cobbled streets and historic marketplaces illuminate with twinkling lights, uncover the enchantment that makes Christmas in Rothenburg a truly extraordinary and magical experience during the most wonderful time of the year.
🎦 Watch our short video on Christmas in Germany, which will inspire you to explore this beautiful country in Europe for the holidays ⤵
Discover Christmas in Rothenburg
Rothenburg ob der Tauber emerges as a winter wonderland, seamlessly intertwining with the magic of Christmas. This enchanting fusion owes its existence to Rothenburg's year-round Christmas village and the exclusive German Christmas Museum, transforming the town into a quintessential destination for the holiday season.
At the forefront of this festive tapestry stands the Rothenburg Reiterlesmarkt, a cherished highlight of the Advent season that draws visitors from both near and far.
About the Rothenburg Christmas Market
The German name for the Rothenburg Christmas Market is Alt-Rothenburger Reiterlesmarkt or Weihnachtsmarkt in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
The Alt-Rothenburger Reiterlesmarkt stands as the epitome of Christmas markets in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, securing its place among Germany's most beloved Advent markets.
Featuring 54 stalls, this market welcomes visitors from the Friday before the 1st Advent until December 23rd.
The stage at Grüner Markt comes alive with daily performances by brass bands from the region, adding a melodic backdrop to the festive atmosphere.
A short history of the Rothenburg Christmas Market
As the years roll by, the medieval town of Rothenburg undergoes a captivating transformation into a winter fairy tale.
Since the 15th century, the festive Advent season has been inseparable from the wondrous Rothenburg Reiterlesmarkt.
Boasting over 500 years of lived tradition, this market has gracefully retained much of its historical origins. The market is not merely a collection of stalls but a cultural journey enriched by various events.
The legend of the Rothenburg Reiterle
The true stars of the market remain the appearances of the "Rothenburg Reiterle," the figure that lends its name to the festivities.
With historical roots tracing back to ancient times, the Reiterle was once perceived as a messenger from another world, gliding through the winter skies with the souls of the departed.
Over the centuries, the image of this mythical figure has transformed. Once a source of fear, the Reiterle is now eagerly anticipated, evolving from a wild companion to a friendly messenger.
The grand opening of the Christmas market
The grand opening of the Reiterlesmarkt, a tradition upheld on the Friday before the 1st Advent on the marketplace, features the Reiterle arriving on horseback, delivering a heartfelt greeting to the eagerly waiting crowd.
The ceremony culminates with the illumination of the central Christmas tree, a radiant spectacle following the Mayor's welcoming words.
The giant Advent calendar
A closer look at the Rathaus (town hall) during Advent proves rewarding, as each evening unveils a self-decorated Advent window on the second floor.
Crafted by school classes and youth groups from the region, these windows add a touch of community spirit to the festivities.
Käthe Wohlfahrt: the Christmas shop
Käthe Wohlfahrt is an enchanting Christmas store which boasts the world's largest selection of traditional German Christmas decorations and a plethora of unique gift ideas available throughout the year.
Within approximately 1,000 square meters of retail space, you'll find nearly everything essential for a traditional Christmas celebration. From pyramids, nutcrackers, and smoking men to candle arches, tree decorations crafted from glass, wood, and tin, as well as festive table linens - the Weihnachtsdorf has it all.
Beyond its extensive product range, the Christmas village offers even more enchantment.
An enchanting store
At the entrance, visitors are welcomed by a towering nutcracker, warmly greeting guests from near and far. Step inside, and you'll encounter a replica of a snowy Franconian marketplace.
Guarding over the Weihnachtsdorf is Christian II, a Nutcracker King with an impressive height of 3.80 meters. A truly unique spectacle awaits with a 5.50-metre-tall Christmas pyramid weighing an impressive two tons. The decoration extravaganza includes 2,000 metres of fir garlands and over 122,000 Christmas tree lights.
Käthe Wohlfahrt beyond Rothenburg
However, the enchantment of Käthe Wohlfahrt's Christmas wonderland extends beyond Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
With stores in iconic German cities such as Nuremberg, Berlin, Bamberg, and Heidelberg, as well as reaching into the charming town of Riquewihr in Alsace, France, Käthe Wohlfahrt continues to spread the magic of Christmas throughout Europe.
Each location adds its unique touch to the festive experience, offering a diverse array of traditional German Christmas treasures and captivating visitors with the warmth of holiday spirit year-round.
The German Christmas Museum
Step into the enchanting world of the Deutsches Weihnachtsmuseum, for a captivating journey of traditions, decorations, and the festive spirit.
The permanent exhibition showcases an array of exquisite and rare Christmas decorations from the 19th and early 20th centuries alongside timeless classics that have retained their popularity through the ages.
A Nostalgic Tribute to Christmases Past
The inception of the idea for a Christmas museum traces back to Harald Wohlfahrt's contemplation of a traditional Christmas "in grandmother's time", shortly after the opening of Käthe Wohlfahrt's renowned Christmas village in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in 1981.
Recognising the historical significance of the various facets of this beloved festival, the desire arose to create a museum dedicated to preserving and presenting the beautiful historical Christmas decorations from Germany to visitors worldwide.
A Growing Christmas Collection since 1991
In 1991, Harald Wohlfahrt acquired the first piece of his private collection - a 1.25-metre-tall Weihnachtsmann (Germany's equivalent of Santa Claus). With a sternly raised rod, this Christmas figure served as a daily reminder of the commitment to realizing the dream of the Christmas museum.
Finally, on September 29, 2000, the long-cherished dream became a reality as the first permanent exhibition in Germany focusing on the history of German Christmas traditions, with a spotlight on Christmas decorations, was unveiled. Since then, the spaces of the German Christmas Museum have offered visitors a glimpse into the Christmas worlds of bygone eras.
A Year-Round Celebration of Yuletide History
Spanning 250 square meters of exhibition space, the museum continues to present the history of the Christmas festival and, notably, its decorative forms from its inception to the mid-20th century in a year-round permanent exhibition.
Concise information in various languages facilitates individual exploration, while group tours are available in German and English.
A Christmas stroll in the old town
A visit to the historic old town is a must, as well as the Reiterlesmarkt Christmas market, the Käthe Wohlfahrt store and the German Christmas Museum.
Here, you will find many beautiful half-timbered houses, most dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.
Stroll through the old streets of the former imperial town, and you'll soon see why Rothenburg is one of Europe's most beautiful medieval towns.
The most photographed spot in Rothenburg is undoubtedly the Plönlein (Little Square) at the end of Schmiedgasse. When the town is covered in snow, this place is reminiscent of a fairytale.
What to do in Rothenburg at Christmas
Here's a list of inspiring activities in Rothenburg:
Christmas in Rothenburg: What you need to know
Here are some practical info to plan your visit during Christmas in Rothenburg.
Where is the Rothenburg Christmas Market located?
The Reiterlesmarkt in Rothenburg ob der Tauber traditionally extends between the Marktplatz, Grüner Markt, Kirchplatz, and the Lichthof at the Rathaus (town hall). Furthermore, the entire old town dons a radiant light cloak during Advent!
For more information about Christmas in Rothenburg, check out the event's official website.
How to get to the Rothenburg Christmas Market?
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is located in central Germany, in Bavaria and not far from Baden-Württemberg, in a triangle between Stuttgart, Wurzburg and Nuremberg.
🚄 By train:
The train is an excellent option for those seeking a leisurely and scenic route.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is well-connected to the German rail network, with the Rothenburg station serving as the primary railway hub.
Travellers can catch trains from major cities like Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Würzburg.
The picturesque train journey offers glimpses of the German countryside, building anticipation for the enchanting experience in Rothenburg.
✈️ By air:
While Rothenburg ob der Tauber doesn't have an airport, visitors can seamlessly reach the town by flying into nearby airports.
Nuremberg Airport (NUE) and Frankfurt Airport (FRA) are the most convenient options.
From these international airports, travellers can rent a car for a scenic drive or opt for train connections to Rothenburg.
The journey from the airports to Rothenburg is a seamless transition from the bustling skies to the tranquil charm of this medieval Christmas haven.
🚗 By car:
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is very well connected to the road network, providing a picturesque journey for those travelling by car.
The town is conveniently situated along the A7 and A6 motorways, making it easily accessible from major cities like Frankfurt, Nuremberg, and Munich.
Rothenburg is :
- 65 km from Wurzburg
- 80 km from Nuremberg
- 140 km from Stuttgart
- 180 km from Frankfurt
- 250 km from Munich
- 255 km from Strasbourg (France)
- 350 km from Zurich (Switzerland)
- 365 km from Cologne
- 530 km from Berlin
Where to park your car?
If you're coming to the Rothenburg Christmas Market by car, the best option is to park your car in one of the five large car parks outside the old town:
- P1 Friedrich-Hörner-Weg (cars, motorbikes, buses, lorries)
- P2 Nördlinger Straße (cars, motorbikes, camper vans, buses, lorries up to 7.5 t)
- P3 Schweinsdorfer Straße (cars, motorbikes, camper vans, buses, lorries)
- P4 Galgentor (cars, motorbikes)
- P5 Bezoldweg (cars, motorbikes)
Where to stay in Rothenburg at Christmas?
Immerse yourself in the magical atmosphere of the Rothenburg Christmas market by opting for comfortable and convenient accommodation!
When visiting the Rothenburg Christmas market, selecting suitable accommodation is key to fully enjoying this enchanting season. Fortunately, the city offers a range of lodging options right for every taste and budget.
You can choose from elegant hotels in the heart of the old town, cosy hostels, or charming apartments that provide an authentic home-away-from-home experience.
To streamline your search, you can check out this list of accommodations, featuring a variety of options for your stay.
Remember to look at our interactive map to locate lodgings close to the Christmas market and select the one that best suits your needs.
About the illustrations in the article
Most of the photos are ours (© French Moments). However, I have selected some photos (including the Featured Image of this article) from Depositphotos, a commercial platform that brings authors of high-quality licensed stock photos, graphics, vectors and videos together with appreciative buyers.