When tourists visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber, they'll explore around the Town Square, shop in one of many Christmas stores, and enjoy a meal and German beer. Tourists might see one or even two of the towers of Rothenburg, but unfortunately miss seeing the big picture with sweeping scenic views of the historic houses and the surrounding countryside of the town. The town wall is a workout with a total walkable length of 1.5 miles of its original 2.1 miles. Best of all: free!
Rothenburg's surrounding town wall even has a covered walkway, which allows you to walk the walls when it is raining, and provides shade during the summer's heat. To walk the entire length of the accessible part of the wall will take you about an hour, depending on how many times you stop to take pictures of the hidden alleyways you can spot from this vantage point. You will find that most streets and alleys are not perfectly straight, but bend and weave into each other at interesting angles. It feels very intimate to walk next to these houses, because some of them are built right onto the wall itself. On a dozen houses I could have touched the roof shingles, since the wall is at about 30 feet off the ground on its highest parts.
The town wall was built in the 14th century and has a total of 42 gatehouses and towers to protect the now historic Altstadt (old town) part of Rothenburg. During World War II Rothenburg was heavily damaged by Allied forces and about 45% of the whole town was destroyed, including 2,000 feet of the wall itself. After the war was over, the mayor of Rothenburg, Friedrich Hörner, asked for donations from visitors and citizens in order to rebuild the town wall as it was originally. Anyone who donated $1,200 or more to this effort received a commemorative brick on the wall, many of which you will pass when you walk along the wall.
Hop On Hop Off
Even with the walkway around the wall being 1.5 miles long, you do not have to walk the entire distance. Along the walkway are several exit points from where you can step back down into the town center. We walked about half the distance, stepping off the walkway at the opposite end of where we entered and enjoyed a stroll through the less crowded streets of Rothenburg, ending up on the market square again.
When you walk along the town wall of Rothenburg, remember to watch your step, as some of the walkway can be uneven or has wooden planks that need to be replaced soon. Parts of the walkway have covered sides, making it a bit dark on a gloomy day. Nevertheless, this is one part of Rothenburg you should not miss out on.
Here is a map of the city center surrounded by the wall, courtesy of Rothenburg's Tourism Service.
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