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.

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! So, for a first visit in the city here are our tips and places not to miss!

Our visit

Where to stay in Schaffhausen

We visited Schaffhausen 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!
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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).

How to get there

See the location in Google Maps. Schaffhausen is easily accessible by public transport. To find the best travel option for you, as always we recommend using the SBB website or the SBB App that you can also use to check the timetables and operating status of the lines and purchase tickets.

See the location in Google Maps. Schaffhausen can also be reached by car. To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. 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.
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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!

Advertising note: this article contains affiliate links from our partners. Through affiliations, we give you the opportunity to access promotions and offers, often in advance or exclusively, for the purchase of products and services. At the same time, if you choose to buy from one of our partners, you will support our blog and help us to keep it open. Our opinions about the recommended products or our purchase advices are not influenced by the partnerships. If you want to know more about the way we handle advertising on this blog, you can visit this page.

4 thoughts on “Discovering Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls”

  1. I am in Switzerland for only 2 days and was thinking of doing Rhine Falls + Schaffhausen post sunset. This ways I can see Rhine Falls illuminated also. My question is, can one climb the Munot Fortress stairs at night (post 8pm), to see the view of the city?
    Thanks in advance for answering

    1. Hi Eva! The stairs leading up to the fortress are normally accessible at night and allows you to reach a small terrace just before the entrance to the fortress. During the summer Munot closes to visits at eight o’clock, but it often hosts events and an outdoor cinema, so keep in mind that the normal access rules may change due to particular events going on. In any case enjoy your visit, Schaffhausen is amazing!

  2. 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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The small French city of Colmar is a real jewel waiting to be discovered. Many people choose to visit it during Christmastime, when the city hosts one of the most famous and picturesque Christmas markets in Europe. Instead, we chose to visit during a spring weekend, combining the visit with a short tour of the Alsace villages. So here for you all the places not to miss during a weekend in the city and some useful tips.

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Strolling through the historic centre of Colmar

Our tour of Colmar’s old town starts at Place des Unterlinden, a large green and tree-shaded square that takes its name from the famous Unterlinden Museum, which is located right here. For the lazier ones or for rainy days, tourist trains depart from here and propose comfortable guided tours of the old town.
After the ritual photo with the large ‘Colmar’ logo, we move on to the historic city centre by way of the Place des Martyrs de la Résistance, the picturesque Rue des Marchands, the Grand Rue and then the Tanneurs quarter and the famous Quai de la Poissonnerie to the Petit Venise.
Here are the stops we recommend on the itinerary and if you want to follow our route, you can find our route map on Outdooractive:

Church of the Dominicans (Église des Dominicains): in theory, this deconsecrated church is open to the public and can be visited, but opening hours are rather uncertain and variable so much so that during our three-day stay, we never managed to find it open! In front of the side entrance to the church is Place des Dominicains, where the main open-air markets take place, including the famous Spring Market (Marché de Printemps).

Collegiate Church of St Martin (Collégiale St-Martin): it is the city’s cathedral, which can be visited and is open to the public.

Rue des Marchands and the Maison Pfister: built in 1500, this old building owes its current name to the family that renovated and lived in it in 1800. It is undoubtedly interesting: with its exposed wooden beams, frescoes and octagonal turret, it represents the heart of the city, standing on one of the liveliest and busiest streets in the old town, the Rue des Marchands.

Koïfhus: the 15th century Old Customs House building stands at the end of rue des Marchands and is characterised by an elegant loggia and a roof of coloured tiles. The building cannot normally be visited inside, but often hosts exhibitions, events or craft markets.

Marché couvert de Colmar: this mid-1800s building now houses a lively market selling fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and local specialities. It is also a good option for a quick lunch or an afternoon snack, perhaps on one of the small tables on the (small) terrace overlooking the canal. Beware, however: the Covered Market is a real market and, consequently, may be closed on public holidays. Updated opening hours can be found here.

Quai de la Poissonnerie: one of the most characteristic and photographed streets in Colmar, the Quai de la Poissonnerie is certainly charming with its low, colourful half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and the canal that flows placidly just across the street. You won’t be able to stop taking pictures!

Petite Venise: certainly a must for first-time visitors, the Petite Venise is probably the city’s most popular attraction. This canal is really picturesque! But we must warn you: taking a photo with the canal in the background will not be easy at all given the high number of tourists!

Maison des Têtes: this old building dating back to the 1600s owes its name to the presence of no fewer than 106 heads of animals, devils and angels on its façade. The building, located on Rue des Têtes, is now a luxury hotel, so you can only admire its façade…unless you decide to stay the night!

The Unterlinden Museum

Built in a former convent and gathered around a charming Gothic Dominican cloister, the Unterlinden Museum is certainly the jewel in the city’s crown and well worth a visit. Although the building houses a rich collection of sacred and medieval works, not to be underestimated is also the presence of some extraordinary modern art, such as those by Monet, Picasso and Renoir.
The heart of the Museum, however, is the Rétable d’Issenheim (Issenheim Altarpiece), one of the most realistic and intense sacred works ever.
The Museum can be visited every day except Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entrance 5.30 p.m.). The ticket costs € 13 per adult, but our advice is to add € 2.00 per person and hire the audio guide, which helps to better understand the meaning and value of the works on display and the history of the museum. All information can be found at this link.

The villages of Alsace

Alsace is a truly fascinating land and limiting a visit to Colmar alone would not do it justice. This region so rich in history and charm is dotted with small, picturesque medieval towns, imposing castles and attractions to visit. And not to be forgotten are also the excellent wines produced here, which you can get to know through one of the many tastings offered by the local wine cellars. We combined our visit to Colmar with a short walk along the Route des Vins d’Alsace, which can be travelled on foot, by bicycle or by car. We will tell you about our walk from Riquewihr to Ribeauvillé and back, as well as the picturesque villages we visited south and north of Colmar, in a future article. Stay tuned!

How to get there
See the location in Google Maps. Colmar is easily accessible by public transport. To find the best travel option for you, as always we recommend using the SBB website or the SBB App that you can also use to check the timetables and operating status of the lines and purchase tickets.

See the location in Google Maps. Colmar can also be reached by car. To find the best travel option for you, as always we suggest you use Google Maps. The city has many paid parking options. At this link you will find information on parking with a handy map and information on the rates charged.

Tips

1

Colmar is definitely popular and over-visited. Our advice is, if possible, to avoid public holidays and visit it on a weekday. You will be able to make the most of the city and its picturesque sights.

2

If you are looking for guides or official tourist material, the Colmar Tourist Office also provides a good amount of guides and brochures online. You can find them at this link!

3

In addition to the world-famous Christmas market, which takes place this year from 23 November to 29 December, Colmar also hosts a cheerful and colourful spring festival! Every year in April, the city hosts events, exhibitions, concerts and open-air markets to celebrate the beginning of the awakening season!

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Are you planning a trip or a weekend getaway here and have any doubts or questions? Let us know by leaving a comment below and we will get back to you as soon as possible!

Advertising note: this article contains affiliate links from our partners. Through affiliations, we give you the opportunity to access promotions and offers, often in advance or exclusively, for the purchase of products and services. At the same time, if you choose to buy from one of our partners, you will support our blog and help us to keep it open. Our opinions about the recommended products or our purchase advices are not influenced by the partnerships. If you want to know more about the way we handle advertising on this blog, you can visit this page.

4 thoughts on “Discovering Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls”

  1. I am in Switzerland for only 2 days and was thinking of doing Rhine Falls + Schaffhausen post sunset. This ways I can see Rhine Falls illuminated also. My question is, can one climb the Munot Fortress stairs at night (post 8pm), to see the view of the city?
    Thanks in advance for answering

    1. Hi Eva! The stairs leading up to the fortress are normally accessible at night and allows you to reach a small terrace just before the entrance to the fortress. During the summer Munot closes to visits at eight o’clock, but it often hosts events and an outdoor cinema, so keep in mind that the normal access rules may change due to particular events going on. In any case enjoy your visit, Schaffhausen is amazing!

  2. 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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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