I just booked a very short trip to Munich the week before Christmas. I've been to Munich and Salzburg before but am looking forward to being back and seeing the Christmas hoopla. I will probably do a night or two in either Nuremberg or Rothenburg. I have a fairly good idea what they are like from reading about them and am leaning toward Nuremberg because there are more historical sites there. But I'm curious how those of you who know these places would distinguish between them. Is there much appeal to Rothenburg aside from the medieval walled element (which, granted, is appealing, but I've been to quite a few places like that anyway)?
I haven't been to Rothenburg but I love Nuremburg! I would go back in a minute. Apparently a big Christmas market, too.
I don't think you can go wrong either way. If you are looking for a Christmas Market, I think Nürnberg has the best, but I believe Rothenburg has one too. To me, Nürnberg is too much of a big city; I'm a small town guy. Rothenburg, in my opinion, is magical.
We went there a couple years ago (Rothenburg ob der Tauber - as it is called) when driving around Bavaria and stayed and a nice guest house just inside one of the gates (and there was parking).
It is an easy town. The main Christmas store is set up like an Ikea - that is you enter one door and have to walk all the way through - and it's cool enough but a lot of junk. We stayed 3 nights and that was one too many. There are great bakeries. Restaurant selection is not really that great if you like to dine out towards 9pm - in fact it was thin. 6 PM no problem. 9 PM, well we had decent Italian.
We did something REALLY COOL there. It was the Puppet Theater - a puppet play about Heinrich Toppler, circa 1300 or thereabouts. All in German (won't matter a bit - you will most of it understand it). Located in a small place at the end of a lane. We took our then 7 year old, however it is more an adult show as the topic is the rise and fall of the Mayor of Rothenburg. Really great way to spend a couple hours. You have to search it out. It's really cool.
At the distinct risk of incurring the wrath of an army of Ricnics, I believe Rothenburg exists for tourists, period. Oh. I know, many "regular German people" live and work there, but still the main - dominant - industry of the town is the care, feeding and entertaining of tourists (and the separating of said tourists and their euros). And I haven't even mentioned the joys of mixing it up with the hordes of the tour bus crowds during the day ... Nuremburg, on the other hand is a major south Germany city which has a great selection of world class sites and activities that both tourists and residents can enjoy - and their Christmas market is considered one of Germany's very best!
Be prepared for massive crowds in Nuremburg. So crowded, you can barely enjoy it.
Have you thought about some of the other towns like Regensburg perhaps? Lots of medieval buildings here, a gorgeous church, the Thurn & Taxis palace and loads of Roman ruins too.
But I'm curious how those of you who know these places would distinguish between them<
Rothenburg has preserved its medieval face because the town was already in decline before the Thirty Years War and sank into total oblivion after it, till it was discovered by north German literats and travellers like Tieck and Wackenroder, who, as it were, »invented« the German Romanticism there. This role in the intellectual history makes ist stand out of the number of other old world towns in central Europe. Nürnberg, on the other hand, has been an active European trade and industrial city since the 13th century, which always was changing its face according to new economical and political needs and wich finally was destroyed almost completely by the bombing of 2nd January 1945. So, you will find a rather modern town, 50 times bigger than Rothenburg, with two handful of fine historical buildings rebuild, which give the inner city a medieval flavour. In terms of museums it has much more to offer than Rothenburg. As for the concerns of pre-chrismas crowds
Be prepared for massive crowds in Nuremburg. So crowded, you can barely enjoy it.
as a native of Nürnberg I can tell that this may happen on weekends (when I avoid the city myself), but not on weekdays. So plan your visit accordingly.
I repeat here below an itinerary that i have put together for somebody else; may be it can be of use to you:
This itinerary is doable in two hours (without visits) and leads to the main points of interest along the main south nord axis:
Start at the main entrance to the medieval city, Frauentor (»Mary's Gate«) / Königstraße, just opposite the main station. It is discernible easily by its mighty round tower. Pick up a map at »Nürnberg Info«, Königsstrasse 93, opposite the tower.
Follow Königssstrasse northwards to St. Lawrence church (continental gothic, hosting the famous »angelic salutation« by Veit Stoss: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Lorenz,_Nuremberg)
Follow Königsstraße down to River Pegnitz (right, build into the river, the medieval hospital, »Heilg Geist«, a possible place for lunch or dinner). When the road splits follow the left branch, leading to the main market (»Hauptmarkt«). Right: Frauenkirche (Our Lady), once the host of the Imperial Regalia (now in Vienna). In the Tympanum a mechanical clockwork dating from the early 16th century (playing every noon): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frauenkirche,_Nuremberg. North west corner: market fountain in the form of a gothic spire.
From the fountain proceeding north, after a few steps you arrive at (right) the renaissance city hall and (left) St. Sebald (continental gothic), hosting the sepulchre of St. Sebaldus by Peter Vischer (entrance is at west side under the north tower: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Sebaldus_Church,_Nuremberg).
From the place adjacent north to St. Sebald (»Sebalder Platz«) take the Bergstrasse (not: Burgstrasse!) uphill in NW direction (at no. 1 is the small shop of the Frauenholz bakery, one of the best ginger bread bakers in the city). You will end up at Tiergärtnertorplatz (»Gate to ...«: help for translation needed) with Albrecht Duerer's house to your left. Nothing of the original furnishings is preserved (it was sold after Duerer's death), but it has an interesting exhibition putting Duerer in the horizont of the european history of art (http://www.museums.nuremberg.de/duerer-house/index.html).
Time for a beer? Right to the Tiergärtner gate leaning against the city wall there is a funny combination of a coffe shop (Cafe Wanderer, left) and the »Bieramt« (»beer office«, right), the latter offering a selection of beers from small rural breweries throughout Franconia.
6 From the north east corner of the Tiergärtnertorplatz a small corridor will lead you up to the castle via »Am Ölberg« and a final U-turn left. The western part is the romanesque imperial palace, the eastern one the Burgrave's castle. If you are interested in romanesque architecture you can find a fine example of a romanesque double chapel in the imperial palace (http://www.kaiserburg-nuernberg.de/englisch/castle/index.htm); the exhibition is, at least from the perspective of an historian, hmm, unexciting. Otherwise you can proceed to the belvedere (U-turn right) which gives you an overwiev of the city.
7 At this point, if you are fed up, you can go straight down the Burgstrasse and return after 10 minutes to the main market. Else, you go back to Tiergärtnertorplatz and follow the city wall (»Neutormauer«) in SW direction. After 10 min. or so, you will arrive at the river Pegnitz with its small wooden roofed bridge. Crossing that (or the nearby modern bridge) and going uphill through a couple of small alleys you will arrive at Weissser Turm (»white tower«), a relic of the first walling preceeding the present one. From here turnig east (»karonlinenstrasse«) you can go back to St. Lawcrence. But wait:
What is the local, home-cooking, traditional restaurant you would recommend?
A fews steps from the Weisser Turm there is my favorite restaurant in the city: Weinhaus Steichele, Knorrstrasse 2, offering traditional franconian cooking in unbeatable quality. Moreover, they have vineyards of their own and offer an excellent selection of franconian and Baden wines. Book your table in advance (closed sundays): http://www.steichele.de/index.php?lang=en Alternatives: (1) »Heilig Geist Spital« (see above, large restaurant, non pre-booking necessary), (2) »Zur Baumwolle«, Adlerstrasse 18, (3) »Posthorn«, Sebalder Platz (see above). If you prefer the cheap way: Gasthof Schwänlein, Hintere Sterngasse, run by a Czech family, who is determined to feed up you to the point where you cannot move anymore, for 10 E. and even less. What I not would recommend are some of the restaurants suggested by travel guides, i.e. the beer halls at Königsstrasse and the »Bratwurst-somethings« around the city hall, which in my view all give poor value for your money.
Enjoy your visit!
Thank you for the excellent suggestions. I can't wait to go back to Nürnberg and try them out.
Abby: Nuremberg is a vibrant, living/breathing German city with a handsome old town section. Rothenburg is all "old town" but also a place where tourism is the only real industry. Note that nearly half of Rothenburg was destroyed in WW II - so some of it is well-preserved, the rest rebuilt.
Bamberg is only a short train trip from Nuremberg. It's smaller and more old-world - its old town zone has been conferred UNESCO World Heritage status - and it too has a Christmas market. You might wish to stay there and make a day trip into Nuremberg for sightseeing:
I personally liked Rothenburg better because, although Nuernberg's Christmas market is much larger, it was, IMO, too large and too crowded to enjoy. We went in the evening on a week-day and it was completely packed with people. And while Rothenburg may be considered more 'touristy' to some, it's a charming small town and beautifully decorated during Christmas. Very walkable too.
The last time I visited Rothenburg was in 1994 and it was ofcourse already touristy, but still could feel it`s own character, especially in the evening. Doubt if you can still do so, as being the symbol of German Romanticism (together with Neuschwanstein ofcourse) and with that marketing too, guess it is completely overrun nowadays. I am afraid to get disappointed next time.
You will find more "original" Christmas markets in the nearby villages and towns like Ansbach halfway between Rothenburg and Nürnberg if you ask me.
One museum I really want to go back to visit is the Verkehrsmuseum in Nürnberg. Everything about railways, from old to new and small to big, well displayed, absolutely lovely.
We stayed for 4 days in Rothenburg in May and fell in love with this town.. so much to see and do. Loved the Kriminal Musuem, The Nightwatchman Tour, Kathe Wohlfarte Christmas Village, Annalies Friese Store, The Market Plaze, Zur Holle and Alter Kellar awesome food and the people made us feel so welcome. So magical and charming. Highlight of my time in Germany
I agree with Ross, Bamberg is also a great place to visit. They also have 7 breweries with some great beer. Have never made it for the Christmas Market (yet). You can easily travel to Nurnberg by train, as the train station faces the entrance to the old town. You can also walk on the wall like Rothenburg. I don't believe you can take a train to Rothenburg from Munich so you might need a car. Nurnberg is well connected to Munich by train. Fares used to be reduced for travel after 9:00 AM. You can also go thru Regensburg on the Danube on the way north which is probably smaller than any of these other towns.