Discovering Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls

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Discovering Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls

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Located in the northeastern part of Switzerland, just a stone's throw from the German border, Schaffhausen has preserved over the centuries its most ancient heart, which still gives it an immense charm. You will love to get lost among the streets of its historic center, following the itinerary that goes to the discovery of the historic buildings with their elegantly decorated facades and, sometimes, shamelessly colorful. But Schaffhausen is also famous for the presence, a few steps from the city, of the imposing Rhine Falls, which, with their 150 meters wide, are the largest waterfalls in Europe. That's why Schaffhausen is certainly a perfect destination for a city weekend or a day trip. We were here on a weekend in mid-April and in this article we give you some useful tips for your visit.

Schaffhausen

Rhine Falls

We love... Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls!

Located in the northeastern part of Switzerland, just a stone’s throw from the German border, Schaffhausen is certainly one of the most charming Swiss cities. The city is perfect for a weekend or a day trip, especially during spring and summer when the green surrounding it becomes intense and the Rhine Falls are stronger and more spectacular than ever. Over the centuries, the city has preserved its valuable old town like few other major cities have, by restoring historic buildings and preserving their charm. You will love to get lost among the streets of its historic center, following the itinerary that goes to the discovery of the most interesting buildings and the main city monuments! But if you are visiting Schaffhausen, you can’t miss a visit to the nearby Rhine Falls, which, with their 150 meters wide, are the largest waterfalls in Europe! We stayed here during a weekend in April, choosing to stay in the heart of the city, at the Hotel Kronenhof*, just a short walk from the train station and the path leading to the falls. The hotel, which is clean and has a friendly and helpful staff, also has a great restaurant for dinner. We absolutely recommend it! And for a first visit in the city, here are our tips and places not to miss!

How to get there

Arriving by public transport

Schaffhausen Train Station

arriving-train

Schaffhausen is easily accessible by public transport from the main cities in Switzerland. From Zurich, the city can be reached via one of the many direct train connections. The journey takes about 40 minutes and if you opt for one of the trains of the lines “S” you can decide to get off directly in the city or just before, near the waterfalls, at the stop Neuhausen Rheinfall. Travelers coming from other major Swiss cities will have to reach Zurich and from there continue as described above. Train tickets can be purchased through the SBB website or through the SBB App and, as always, we suggest to check in advance the updated timetables and the different travel options.

Arriving by car

Schaffhausen

arriving-car

Schaffhausen is easily reachable from the main cities of Switzerland also by car. From Zurich, the city can be reached in about 45 minutes on the A4. From Basel, driving on the A3, you will reach Schaffhausen in about an hour and a half. From Bern you will have to travel for about two hours along the A1. Finally, from Lugano the journey takes about three hours and fifteen minutes, first on the A2 and then on the A4 near Zurich. For those arriving by car, the city offers many parking options for a fee. At this link (only in German) you can find some more information on the three main city parking lots.

The Munot Fortress

The Munot Fortress is the true landmark of Schaffhausen and probably the first thing you’ll see when you get here. From the top of its hill, the building has dominated the city since 1500, when Schaffhausen joined the Confederation and, after the Reformation of 1529, felt the need to reinforce the city’s fortifications. But the fortress was not intended to be only a defensive structure, but also an imposing and representative building and, even today, it fascinates and impresses visitors with its unusual circular shape, the high tower and the two arms of walls that start from it and plunge into the city. The fortress is accessible on foot from the city center through a long staircase which climbs on the side of the hill, among vineyards. Once at the top, you can visit the casemate with its mighty vault and have a look at the surrounding landscape from the narrow slits of its walls. Next, we suggest you to take the spiral staircase and climb up to the courtyard of the fortress, from where you can observe a wonderful view of the city and the river. The Munot Fortress can normally be visited from May to September from 8 am to 8 pm and from October to April from 9 am to 5 pm. A curiosity: did you know that the keeper of the Munot lives in the tower and, as a tradition since 1589, rings the fortress bell by hand every evening at 21.00 for 5 minutes?

The historical city center

The historical city center is a real gem! With its old buildings, bay windows and painted facades, the pedestrian city is certainly one of the most picturesque in Switzerland. To start your tour, we suggest you to go to the Tourist Information Center at Vordergasse 73. Here you can pick up a brochure like this one that will help you follow the touristic itinerary of the old town without missing any of the main attractions. From the Tourist Information Center, the tour continues a few meters along the Oberstadt and then turns back at Fronwagplatz and continues along the Vorstadt almost until the old city tower Schwabentor. Then, walking through the streets of the city center, let’s return to Vordergasse and, if you haven’t already done so, visit the Munot fortress. Finally, once you’ve finished visiting the fortress, walk to the Münster (the city’s cathedral), one of the few Romanesque religious buildings in Switzerland. Built starting in 1100, the historic building is now a must-see and also includes the largest cloister in Switzerland – built between the 12th and 13th centuries – and the romantic spice garden.

The Rhine Falls

Located about three kilometers from the city center, the Rhine Falls are a must-see for those visiting the city for the first time. With their 150 meters of width, they are considered the largest waterfalls in Europe! From the city center, you can easily reach them by car, train or on foot, through a pleasant walk of about 5 km (10 if you include the return route) on a well-marked path that runs along both sides of the river. The impressive mass of water can be admired from both the north side – from Schlössli Wörth – and the south side – from Schloss Laufen. While the north bank is accessible free of charge, access to the viewing platforms and the panorama elevator on the south bank requires an admission ticket of CHF 5.00 per adult. The ticket can be pre-purchased online at this link or, alternatively, at the vending machines located just before the entrance gates. Before our visit, we were unsure whether to buy tickets for the viewing platforms but, looking back, we suggest you buy them because – although perhaps too busy – it is exactly from there that you can really get close to the water and appreciate its power. The entrance ticket also allows you to take the panorama elevator from the waterfalls up to Schloss Laufen, for a view from above and to visit the short exhibition inside the castle. Both Schlössli Wörth and Schloss Laufen offer plenty of dining options and public toilets.

Boat trips to the waterfalls

From Schlössli Wörth leave boat trips provided by the Werner Mändli boat company that allow you to get quite close to the waterfalls (and often get a little wet too!). We chose the “Felsenfahrt” with the yellow line no. 1 (CHF 20.00 / adult), which takes visitors to the Mittelfelsen, a rocky outcrop that rises right in the middle of the waterfalls. The boat will leave you here for about 20 minutes and you can, by climbing about 100 steep steps, reach the viewing platform at the top of the rock and admire a unique 360-degree view of the Rhine Falls. However, it should be mentioned that the space on the rock, the steps and the viewing platform is really small and the boat normally travels with a full load. Therefore, the visit may be less pleasant and more chaotic than expected. Moreover, the excursion is not recommended for those who have mobility problems and for those who suffer from vertigo. In these cases – or if you simply do not like crowds and cramped spaces – the suggestion is to opt for a different tour among those proposed at this link*. Finally, if you do not intend to take advantage of one of the proposed excursions but only intend to cross the river from north to south or the opposite way, you can simply take the red line (CHF 5.00 / adult).

Tips

1

Every evening after sunset, the Rhine Falls are beautifully illuminated! But beware: the lights remain off on the evenings of the full moon and on the following day.

2

If you are planning to take one of boat trips, we recommend that you pre-purchase your tickets online at this link*! This way you can skip the queue at the box office and take your place directly at the pier.

3

If you are thinking of taking the “Felsenfahrt” with the yellow line no. 1, here is a useful tip for you! The boat only loads and unloads passengers from the bow, so if you are able to take your seat in the bow, you will be one of the first to disembark and therefore one of the first to reach the viewing platform on the rock!

4

Are you planning a visit to Schaffhausen and you have doubts or concerns? Leave us a comment below and we will give you a feedback as soon as possible!

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2 thoughts on “Discovering Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls”

  1. I was there Nov. 2021. The colors of autumn behind the falls was breathtaking & made for some spectacular photographs. It really was one of the highlights of my trip. Don’t let autumn scare you off. It was a fabulous time to go.

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