Located in northeastern Switzerland, the impressive Rhine Falls are a must-see for anyone visiting this region. With their 150 meters width, this natural wonder is easily accessible by public transport, by car and even on foot, through an easy walk that starts from Schaffhausen and, running along the banks of the Rhine River, reaches the falls in just over an hour and then returns along the opposite bank. We were here on a weekend in mid-April and in this article we give you some useful tips for your visit.
We love... the Rhine Falls!
The very first warm days of spring make us want to get outdoors and immerse ourselves in nature again. That’s why we decided to take advantage of the long Easter weekend to plan a visit to the city of Schaffhausen and the impressive Rhine Falls. Most visitors arrive here by car or train, getting off at the Neuhausen Rheinfall station. However, to make sure we didn’t miss a few hours outdoors, we decided to walk the easy trail that starts in Schaffhausen and runs along the banks of the river, reaching the falls in just over an hour and then returning along the opposite bank. Along the way you will find small beaches on the river bank, villages with typical half-timbered houses and small refreshment areas with gardens that are not to be missed. So here is our itinerary and some useful tips!
Arriving by public transport
The starting point of this excursion – the city of Schaffhausen – is easily accessible by public transport from the main cities of 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
The starting point of this excursion – the city of Schaffhausen – is also easily accessible from the main cities of Switzerland 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.
Hike overview & map
The walking route we propose is a circular route that starts in the center of Schaffhausen and, following a well-marked footpath that runs along the banks of the river, reaches the waterfalls in just over an hour and then returns to the city along the opposite bank. Around halfway through, you can visit the waterfall area, enjoy one of the many boat tours, or visit Schloss Laufen on the south side for an up-close view of the impressive body of water. The entire route is about 10 km long, is easy and pleasant and can be covered in about two and a half hours (not including the time spent visiting the waterfalls). Several dining options are available along the route, or alternatively, a couple of picnic areas and many benches are located along the river for having your picnic lunch. Toilets are available in the waterfalls area on both the north and south sides.
From the old town of Schaffhausen to the Rhine Falls
Our excursion starts from the train station of Schaffhausen. The day, unfortunately, is not as sunny as we expected but we don’t mind and, on the opposite, we can’t wait to discover the famous Rhine Falls, the widest in Europe! To reach the official trail, which runs along the river, we walk through the quiet old town, enjoying a brief preview of what we will see in the afternoon, during our city tour. From the station, we reach Vordergasse, which we walk along for about 500 meters to the intersection with Bachstrasse. Here, we cross the road and continue along the Unterstadt to Freierplatz, near the ferry terminal. This is where the hiking trail to the waterfalls starts, a well-marked path that is easy to find but in some sections shared with bikers, so be careful. Our walk continues from here along the north bank of the river for about three kilometers, crossing first some picturesque residential areas and then some public parks. Another 500 meters later we reach a picnic area with barbecue, small but well equipped and ideal for a relaxing break or to have a packed lunch. From here, the waterfalls are just 800 meters away. We are directed to the Schlössli Wörth – on the north side – which offers a restaurant, a bistro serf-service, toilets and several stalls for the purchase of food and ice cream. The Werner Mändli boat company also runs boat trips from here.
The Rhine Falls
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.
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.
From the waterfalls to the city
We take the Werner Mändli Red Line boat (CHF 5.00/adult) to Schloss Laufen. Here, after a visit to the viewing platforms and the brief exhibition of the castle, we take the path back to the city. The route on the south bank is probably the most surprising part of the hike. The trail, which at the beginning runs almost entirely along wooded areas and parks, also crosses the town of Flurlingen and the Lächenstrasse, with its red and white half-timbered houses, public fountains and well-kept, colorful gardens. Here we also discover a little gem: the river terrace of the Carcajou, a bar-restaurant with a garden under the trees that, in a relaxed and Mediterranean atmosphere offers Flammkuchen, salads, snacks and, of course, excellent drinks. It’s ideal for an afternoon aperitif and, of course, we couldn’t resist to the call of the Spritz!
From Carcajou, Schaffhausen is about two and a half kilometers away. The last section of the trail runs along a busy green area, and once in the city, you’ ve just to cross the Rheinbrücke Feuerthalen to reach Freierplatz again. If you have some time available, we suggest you don’t miss a visit to the historic center of Schaffhausen. In this article you will find some useful tips and attractions not to be missed!
If you don’t have enough time or if you don’t feel like walking that much, you can cut the length of the hike by avoiding the route to the waterfalls or the route back to the city. We suggest that you don’t miss the return trip from the falls to the city, which is probably the most interesting of the two. If you decide to opt for this solution, you can reach the falls by train from Schaffhausen station, getting off at “Neuhausen Rheinfall” or directly on the south bank at the stop “Neuhausen, Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall”. In this case you will avoid to cross the river, but this way you will also miss the opportunity to enjoy the boat trips.
If you are planning to take one of Werner Mändli’s 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.
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!