On the first weekend of September each year, the Imperial City Festival transports visitors to Rothenburg’s old city to the district’s golden age. The entire old city becomes one huge Medieval camp.
Historical groups from different epochs of Rothenburg’s history come together for the Imperial City Festival. A host of knights camp in tents in front of the Rödertor, while the Meistertrunk troops from the Thirty Years’ War range through the city. In Herrngasse you’ll come across Medieval townsfolk and Schillingsfürst peasants. Dive into the past as a visitor. Entry is free.
27 different historical groups take part in the Imperial City festival. They are found both in the old city and directly outside the city walls, such as on the Festwiese or at Kummereck.
Friday and Saturday evenings are especially atmospheric. On Friday, all the groups make a torchlight* march from the Doppelbrücke in the Tauber valley through the old city to the marketplace, where the evening is crowned with an amazing fireworks display in front of the city hall. On Saturday, the best location to watch the Burning Town fireworks display is from the Tauber valley.
Every September since 1974, Rothenburg celebrates the Imperial City Days.
This weekend-long festival brings you back to Rothenburg’s Medieval golden age as a city-wide Renaissance fair. The events of the weekend are strengthened by the location in one of Europe’s best-preserved Medieval towns and with the help of near 1,000 costumed reenactors who take the village over for 3 days.
From peasant communes to parading nobles and knights on horseback, the Imperial City Days feels like you have stepped back in time to the Middle Ages.
Having gained Free Imperial City Status on May 15th, 1274 by the King of Germany Rudolf I (House Habsburg), Rothenburg grew to be a social and economic powerhouse. Out of 4,000 towns in the Holy Roman Empire, less than 200 gained this status in the Middle Ages and only 50 kept their rights for any real period of time. This helped Rothenburg grow to one of the largest and most important cities in the old empire with a population of 6,000 in the year 1400, but it was eventually frozen in time during the 30 Years War in 1631.
The Imperial City Days was established on the 700th anniversary of Rothenburg imperialization and has become one of the best celebrations in Europe.
During the festival, you can experience historic plays covering the events of 1274, the Peasants Revolt of 1525, the Reformation, the 30 Years War, the Shepards’ Dance, and their annexation into Bavaria in 1802 which ended Rothenburg’s Imperial City status.
There are hands-on demonstrations, dancing, music from every corner of the village, fireworks, and our favorite event known as the Torchlight Procession.
Learn more about the Rothenburg’s Medieval golden age