Germany certainly has no shortage of historic towns, practically unchanged since the Medieval times. And let’s admit it right now, many of us when traveling to Europe look for that authentic, historic feeling that will transport us back to a time that is long since gone. Many of us want to take a walk through a storybook town, that is beyond anything we have ever known.
But of all the picturesque, fairy tale towns in Germany, there are only three towns left still completely encircled by their Medieval walls all found in Bavaria. Luckily, all three are on the trail through Bavaria known as the “Romantischestrasse” (Romantic Road) which stretches from Würzburg to Füssen.
All relatively close together, they could easily be combined into a long weekend road trip if you’re as obsessed with half-timbered towns as I am.
The question now remains, which one should you visit if you’re short on time? Or which which one is less touristy but offers the same authentic feeling?
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ULTIMATE LIST of Half-Timbered Towns in Germany
If arriving in Munich, then I highly suggest starting with the closest, and working your way towards the best for last!
Located in the Donau-Ries district, Nördlingen has by far one of the most interesting origins. The town is surprisingly built entirely inside of a massive crater, that was created some 14 million years ago when a meteorite struck the Earth! So, that makes it all the more worth visiting! It wasn’t until 1960 that two American scientists discovered that the town was in fact built inside of a crater! Today, it’s called the Nördlinger-Ries, or the Ries Crater or more simply, the Nördlingen Crater. But while walking around inside the town, you can’t tell that the town was built inside of a crater. For that, you would need an aerial view.
All five town gates spread out around the town, merge at Marktplatz, where you’ll find the town’s Gothic-style Saint George’s Church, also known as the Nördlingen Church which I highly recommend climbing the 350 step church tower for a breathtaking panoramic view over the town! You’ll pay a small entrance fee once you nearly reach the top to a gentleman waiting for you! Obviously, not open during the winter.
The best part of the town includes a plethora of colorful half-timbered houses throughout the town, making for absolutely picture perfect photos. I highly suggest taking the time to walk along the town’s Medieval wall as it offers some amazing views around the town. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Germany!
If you’re looking for a less touristy version of Rothenburg o.d Tauber, then this is the place to go. It’s more peaceful here and way less crowded. Plus, it’s even more special for having been filmed at the end of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
The second medieval walled town of three along the Romantic Road, Dinkelsbühl is located in Central Franconia and is definitely worth a visit. Luckily, the entire town escaped the Second World War completely unscathed, which means that it remains just as beautiful today as it did in the Medieval Ages. Although, the town claims it is “the most beautiful town in Germany”, which we feel is definitely ONE of the most beautiful, but far from being the MOST beautiful.
A point of interest in Dinkelsbühl is the St. George’s Minster is a 15th century Gothic style church which dominates the town. The main alter is definitely worth a visit. And when you’re done checking out the inside, climb up the tower for a view over the town.
Other things to do in Dinkelsbühl include strolling around the Weinmarkt, or Wine Market, the loveliest part of the town! Colorful gabled buildings line the market, dating from around 1600. Here you’ll find many restaurants and cafes spilling out along the promenade making for an enjoyable and surprisingly exciting town to visit!
If you’re a fan of the Brothers Grimm, then you’ll enjoy the fact that The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, was filmed on location in Dinkelsbühl, as well in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
If you’re short on time and can only visit two of the three towns, then I would highly suggest visiting Dinkelsbühl and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. The town was absolutely beautiful and full of colorful half-timbered (Fachwerk) houses, the town was quiet and actually more alive than Nördlingen.
Rothenburg ob der Tauber
And finally, the best for last! If you’re short on time and have to chose between visiting Nördlingen, Dinkelsbühl or Rothenburg ob der Tauber, then this is without a doubt you’re best choice, but be forewarned, it’s very touristy!
By far one of the best known towns on the Romantic Road is Rothenburg ob der Tauber for it’s extreme fairy tale-like beauty, but which receives some 2 million visitors per year. Surrounded by its Medieval walls and endless half-timbered houses, it makes strolling through this town feel like a fairy tale come true. This is one town, you do NOT want to miss!
A good portion of the town was destroyed during the Second World War, but it was quickly rebuilt to its former glory from donations around the world. Today, there are still debates as to whether or not its bombing was necessary.
There are many things to do in Rothenburg ob der Tauber and you definitely need a full day to explore the town! Stroll along the Medieval walls and read some of the names of the people who donated to help rebuild the town. When you get to the Röderturm (Röder Tower), climb to the top for an amazing panoramic view over the town! You’ll pay a small entrance fee once you nearly reach the top to a gentleman waiting for you!
Other points of interest in Rothenberg ob der Tauber include snapping a photo of the towns two most iconic houses, the Gerlauchschmiede as well as the Plönlein with Kobolzeller Steige and Spitalgasse. Then when you’re done, find all the towers that were once used to safe guard the town.
Overall, if you have the time and are looking for the most picturesque towns in Bavaria, then I highly suggest you to slow travel and spend a day in at least each town. You could however, spend one day visiting Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl, but you wouldn’t be taking in the romance of each town to the full extent.
As mentioned previously, if you are short on time, then Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the one town you won’t want to miss and you’ll be sorry if you do! However, you’ll have to come to terms that mass tourism is at its finest here. If you have time for two of the towns, then I suggest the former as well as Dinkelsbühl. Nördlingen is definitely cute and less touristy, but doesn’t quite pack the fairy tale punch I was looking for. Plus, the more half-timbered houses, the better!
Either way, these towns all make for the perfect day trip from Munich!
If you’re interested in visiting Germany and are looking for more information, I highly recommend using the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide! Without these guides, I would be lost! This is my travel Bible!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on one and make a purchase, I might make a little extra spending money, at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions are my own and these products/services have been found useful during our travels and come highly recommended to you from yours truly!
Other Picturesque Towns in Bavaria:
The Historic Town of Regensburg
Nuremberg: Partially Surrounded by a Medieval Wall
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Replies to 3 Bavarian Towns Surrounded by Medieval Walls
If I see any more wonderful Bavarian posts from you I’ll have to change my booking for Munchen and extend my stay so I can visit all the cute towns around it:))
Riiight!? Bavaria is beautiful and has soo much to see! There is definitely way more things to do than just Munich! But Munich is a must at least once!
Love Rothenburg – one of my favourite places ever!
Have always wanted to go to Rothenburg. Fascinating about the first town, though, and not having discovered the fact that it’s in a crater until 1960! Crazy!
Rothenburg is beautiful for sure, but it’s actually Nördlingen that was built in a crater. 🙂
Great post! Medieval walls are so fascinating, aren’t they? They give European towns so much charm.
Excellent work. While I have been to Furtwangen and Freiburg, though beautiful, they’re not walled. I’ll make it a point to visit one of the walled cities whenever I get back.
Wow, what incredible cities! It looks like the great place to visit. Truly nice photos.
The towns and half timber buildings are beautiful. The aerial shots are really interesting showing the town layout and the location of the church.
Ooooh my! I’m finally going to make it to Germany for the first time next week, but it’s to Koeln for a few days. A ticket to Muenchen is so expensive, and I’ll need at least a week now that I have these extra places to see. 😀 I absolutely LOVE medieval city walls!
Hope you get the chance to see them! 🙂 Have fun in Cologne!
I love all the half-timbered towns in Germany. It’s part of what attracted me to it in the first place. I’m definitely checking these towns out the next time I’m in Germany. It’ll be an awesome road trip. #wkendtravelinspiration
Those aerial shots really give you the medieval feeling.
Love Bavaria, and want to return. The aerial shot is amazing
it’s impressive how perfectly round the first town is — great aerial shot. I think i might have visited it, but I’m not sure! definitely would or would again though. Quite charming.
We’ve certainly been to most of these town, just not Nordlingen. Got to get there.
Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration! See you again next week!
I haven’t been to Nordlingen, yet. But since it is so close, we’ll have to check it out! Thanks for linking up with #wkendtravelinspiration, see you next week!
Wow! It is all I can say about these towns. I can’t believe how beautiful they are. They are not in the Romantic Road for nothing! #wkendtravelinspiration
There are not very many towns in Europe that still maintain their medieval walls. Most of them just have some traces of the original walls. It’s good to know about these three in Bavaria. I haven’t seen any of them yet.
Hope you can explore them then! They’re absolutely beautiful!
Thanks for sharing this – I’ve never wanted to go to Bavaria so badly!!!!!
Wahoo! Glad I’ve upped your interest!
A town built within a crater – Nördlingen sounds fascinating and the aerial photo looks amazing!
All these towns are so picturesque. I’d love to wander around them photographing the buildings. It would drive my family nuts waiting for me. I wonder what the people of Nordlingen thought when they found out their village was built in a meteorite crater.
Only been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, and never heard of the other two cities – Nördlingen and Dinkelsbühl! Added to my bucket list – Bavaria in general look like a fairytale… can´t wait to visit again and explore more….
Aaaaah, so.pretty! I want to visit them all! What’s the easiest way to get to Rothenburg ob der Tauber without a car? Asking for a friend 😉
Oh you can take the train there without a problem, but it drops you off a tad outside of the city center so you’ll have to walk into the town, which is only about 5-10 minutes.
Wow, I love those aerial shots!
I feel like every time I read one of your posts I add yet another reason why I should visit Rothenburg! It’s just so beautiful!
Medieval German Towns are my weakness! I love Rothenburg and would totally go back one day! And while I’m there, I have two more towns to visit now 🙂
My hometown actually has the circle-shape like Nördlingen too but sadly most of the old walls are gone but the old church in the middle of the old town is still intact, as it should be 😉 Never realised that this is so typically German until I moved abroad 😉
Wow, it really doesn’t get more picturesque than this, does it? I just adore all of the architecture, it’s so pretty. I haven’t been to any of these places so loved visiting through your words and photos!
All the towns look like they come from fairy tales – so beautiful! #wanderfulwednesday
How is it possible that you always find the cutest little fairytale towns?! These are seriously picturesque, especially those pictures from above. I know I’ll be back to the area soon with all of this inspiration!
I’m just so addicted to the small towns and spend a lot of time looking for them! 🙂
I’m dying to visit Rothenberg. It’s been on my list since college… Nuremburg is one of my favorite cities, too!! I recommend it for anyone who loves history and quaint German towns.
Loved Rothenburg and walking around the walls! Germany does small towns pretttttty darn well 🙂
Nice list! Despite generally trying to avoid the touristy places, Nordlingen and Dinkelbühl are high on our must-visit list. And we visited Rothenburg (wow!) a couple of years back and were pleasantly surprised – of course it is touristy, but it was nowhere near as bad as we thought. In particular, we loved getting out early in the morning and later in the evening, when the place was devoid of day trippers (and just about everyone else too). Greetings from fairy-tale Luxembourg 😉 #WanderfulWednesday
All 3 please! I have heard of Rothenburg quite a bit, but the other two are new to me and look just as charming. The half-timbered houses really do look charming and quaint and I can see myself wandering about there for hours easily. More reasons to come to Germany! #wanderfulwednesday
Oh we definitely plan to go back when the weather is warmer and doesn’t get dark at 4 so we can explore more! They’re definitely adorable!