In the winter, Rothenburg ob der Tauber takes on a unique character. The chilly air underlines the medieval charm of this well-preserved city, with its timber-framed houses and cobblestone streets providing the perfect backdrop for the festive season.
The Christmas market, or “Reiterlesmarkt”, further amplifies the seasonal joy, presenting a traditional German holiday experience replete with decorative lights, cosy stalls and the scents of mulled wine and gingerbread.
In this guide, I share all the essentials you’ll need for a visit to Rothenburg Christmas Market, including dates, opening hours, locations and local specialties to savour in 2023.
In Rothenburg, the Christmas season accentuates the city’s enchanting aura. The typically crisp winter air interacts with the glow from the timber-framed houses and the mellow light from street lamps to create a special atmosphere.
Walking along the cobblestone streets, you’ll feel as though you’ve entered a time capsule, making the festive season an ideal time to explore this historic city.
Rothenburg Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas market in Rothenburg, known as the Reiterlesmarkt, is steeped in a rich history that dates back to the 15th century.
It’s named after the ‘Reiterle’, a character from local legends that have transitioned from a feared spectre to a beloved symbol of the holiday season.
As you wander through the market, you’ll find a wide array of handcrafted items, from traditional German Christmas decorations to delicate glass ornaments. Delight in local delicacies like the ‘Schneeballen’, a unique, snowball-shaped pastry.
The market’s setting in the charming medieval town square, flanked by half-timbered houses, only adds to its charm and allure. It is an experience that aptly encapsulates the spirit of Christmas in Rothenburg.
Dates and Location
Rothenburg Christmas Market dates: 1st to 23rd December 2023.
Location: Marktplatz, Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Opening times: 11am to 7pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Admission: Free, no tickets required.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, plenty of options.
Gluten-free: Yes, but limited.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport to help limit congestion. Most of the city centre is car-free but there are several large car parks just outside of the city walls.
Reason to visit: Authentic medieval ambience juxtaposed with vibrant festivities. Handcrafted items exude old-world charm, yet it’s the distinctive Rothenburg ‘schneeballen’ that’s irresistible.
Recommended tour: Old Town private walking tour.
Specialities: Traditional Rothenburg ‘schneeballen’. Warming glühwein. Flaky apple strudel. Festive Christmas stollen.
Where to stay: Hotel Herrnschloesschen is a popular hotel, 2-minutes from Marktplatz.
Hotels near Rothenburg Christmas Market
Staying in the vicinity of Marktplatz is the ideal location for easy access to the Christmas market. This is the town centre and where you’ll find many famous historic sights, half-timbered houses and cute shops.
As for accommodation, I recommend Hotel Herrnschloesschen; its superb location and exceptional ratings make it a brilliant choice for your stay.
Location of Rothenburg Christmas Market
City and Christmas Tours
Exploring Rothenburg through a walking city tour is a great opportunity to delve into its rich heritage and culture.
Even in winter, the allure of Rothenburg, with its charming old town, vibrant fronts and striking architecture, is something to behold.
This Rothenburg city tour is an excellent choice, as it enables you to see many of the city’s highlights with a local guide.
On such a tour, you’re introduced to Rothenburg’s iconic landmarks and attractions, which include the historic town walls, the striking Rathaus (Town Hall) and the towering St. Jakob’s Church.
If you’re looking to visit elsewhere this winter, I recommend you check out my German Christmas Markets 2023 guide. Here you can discover the specialties at each of these markets, along with dates for 2023.
Christmas in Rothenburg
Christmas Specialties in Rothenburg
Schneeballen: A unique Rothenburg pastry that draws its name from its snowball-like shape. Made by cutting rolled-out dough into strips, shaping it into a ball, and then deep-frying it until golden, it’s often dusted with powdered sugar or coated with chocolate.
Stollen: A dense, aromatic fruit bread that is a classic in German Christmas cuisine. Bursting with dried fruit, nuts, and spices, it’s covered with a dusting of icing sugar that gives it the appearance of a snow-covered log. It’s a great vegetarian-friendly option.
Lebkuchen: Hailing from the nearby city of Nuremberg but popular throughout Germany, these are akin to gingerbread cookies. Lebkuchen are sweet, slightly nutty and imbued with a variety of spices, making them a staple of the holiday season.
Kartoffelpuffer: These are savoury potato pancakes, grated and fried to a crisp. Traditionally served with apple sauce, they make for a comforting, vegetarian-friendly snack on cold winter days.
Bratwurst: Although not exclusive to the Christmas season, Bratwurst sausages are a popular choice at German markets. Typically grilled and served in a bread roll, they’re a hearty meat option for those looking to sample traditional German fare.
Glühwein: A heartwarming drink that’s essentially mulled wine, it’s a blend of red wine, spices, citrus peel and sugar. Consumed hot, Glühwein is a staple at Christmas markets and is perfect for keeping the winter chill at bay.
Food at the Christmas Market
Pretzels: A German market without these twisted bread treats wouldn’t be complete. Usually sprinkled with coarse salt, they’re crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Warm pretzels provide a delicious snack while exploring the market.
Maronen: Known in English as roasted chestnuts, these are a quintessential Christmas market snack. The toasty, sweet flavour adds a comforting touch to the chilly winter atmosphere.
Reibekuchen: Also known as potato fritters, reibekuchen is a crowd-pleaser at any German market. Served hot with a dollop of apple sauce, they’re a crisp and savoury street food favourite.
Feuerzangenbowle is a dramatic and festive drink usually found at German Christmas markets. A rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine, creating a fiery spectacle and a warm, potent punch.
Waffles: A familiar treat worldwide, but they hold a special place at Christmas markets. Made fresh, often with a dusting of icing sugar and a variety of toppings, they are a sweet indulgence.
Bratkartoffeln: These are German-style fried potatoes, usually cooked with onions and bacon. A popular hot dish at the market, they provide a filling, savoury snack as you stroll among the stalls.
Flammkuchen: This Alsatian ‘fire cake’ is akin to a thin-crust pizza. Topped with crème fraîche, onions and lardons, it’s a popular choice for those seeking something more substantial than snacks. Vegetarian versions are also available.
Schokofrüchte: Perfect for sweet-toothed visitors, schokofrüchte are fresh fruits such as strawberries or bananas, dipped in melted chocolate and left to harden. These provide a somewhat healthier dessert option at the market.
What to Buy
Käthe Wohlfahrt Ornaments: This well-known German brand specialises in Christmas ornaments and decorations. Its flagship store in Rothenburg is open all year round, but at Christmas, the market also carries an array of beautifully crafted pieces, from traditional nutcrackers to intricate glass baubles.
Handcrafted Wooden Items: The stalls at the Rothenburg market often display a selection of locally crafted wooden items. Whether it’s charming toy figurines, decorative wall hangings, or intricately carved kitchen utensils, these make for authentic, long-lasting gifts.
Cuckoo Clocks: A symbol of German craftsmanship, these intricate clocks are a distinctive gift option. Ranging from simple designs to detailed carvings depicting scenes from nature or local life, a cuckoo clock brings a piece of the Black Forest into your home.
Handmade Pottery: Rothenburg is known for its quality ceramics, and the Christmas market is an ideal place to find a variety of handmade pottery. Bowls, mugs, plates, and decorative pieces are excellent gifts, all crafted with local clay and decorated with beautiful designs.
Gingerbread Cookie Moulds: A nod to the popularity of lebkuchen, these wooden cookie moulds come in all shapes and sizes. Whether used in baking or simply displayed as a decoration, they serve as a charming reminder of the Rothenburg Christmas Market.
Local Wines and Spirits: Rothenburg and the surrounding region produce some excellent wines, and a bottle or two would make a fantastic gift for any wine connoisseur. Also available are local spirits, such as the distinctive Franconian schnapps.
Rothenburg Snow Globes: One of the more whimsical options, these snow globes depict iconic scenes of Rothenburg. Shake one up, and let the snowflakes transport you back to the magical atmosphere of the market.
Handblown Glass Ornaments: The Christmas market features a variety of these delicate and vibrant ornaments. Handcrafted by skilled artisans, they add a touch of German Christmas tradition to any tree.
You’ll find a wealth of additional information for your visit to Rothenburg at the local tourist office. For example, this list of the top 10 sights is a great place to get started on planning where to go.
Sustainable Christmas Tips
Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Rothenburg at Christmas.
Renewable Energy: A number of hotels and guesthouses in Rothenburg use renewable energy sources. By choosing to stay at such places, you’re supporting sustainable practices.
Reducing Food Waste: The Christmas market in Rothenburg is famous for its food stalls, but be mindful of over-ordering. Enjoy what you can, and remember, leftover pretzels and gingerbread make great snacks for later!
Ethical Consumption: Numerous vendors at the Rothenburg Christmas Market sell locally-made goods. By purchasing from them, you’re supporting the local economy and artisans who often use sustainable practices.
Sustainable Diets: Many food vendors at the market offer vegetarian and vegan options. Opting for these plant-based foods is a simple yet effective way to reduce your carbon footprint.
Sustainable Transport: Rothenburg is a compact town, and walking is the best way to get around. Not only is it a zero-emission option, but it also gives you a chance to discover hidden corners of the town. If you’re travelling to Rothenburg from further away, consider train travel instead of driving or flying. Germany has an extensive, efficient railway network that can bring you right to the town’s doorstep.
The Rothenburg Christmas Market dates are from 1st to 23rd December 2023.
The Christmas market is located in the picturesque Marktplatz in the heart of Rothenburg.
The Rothenburg Christmas markets open at 11am until 7pm during the week, with extended hours on weekends.
Absolutely. While it might be chilly, Rothenburg’s winter charm is undeniable. Snow-covered rooftops and twinkling Christmas lights create a magical atmosphere that’s hard to resist.
Temperatures in Rothenburg in winter can vary but typically range from -3°C to 4°C. Snowfall is common, making for a picturesque Christmas setting.
You can savour traditional treats like schneeballen, a local Rothenburg speciality, as well as bratwurst, pretzels and glühwein made with locally produced wine.
From handcrafted wooden items and cuckoo clocks to locally made pottery and handblown glass ornaments, there’s a vast range of unique and traditional German gifts to choose from.
With its scenic beauty and traditional charm, Rothenburg ob der Tauber truly shines in winter. The Christmas market is a standout, enhancing the appeal of the town with Christmas stalls bursting with delicious foods and artisanal crafts. A winter trip to Rothenburg will provide you with a warm, genuine German Christmas experience.
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Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Rothenberg, Germany. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.