Just an hour north of Zurich, the lively medieval town of Schaffhausen is best known as the gateway to one of Switzerland’s most famous tourist attractions: Rhine Falls. The mighty waterfall is Europe’s largest, stretching 450 feet (137 meters) across the Rhine River and cascading from heights of up to 75 feet (23 meters).
Schaffhausen is a popular choice for a day trip from Zurich, and half- or full-day tours are often combined with a stop at nearby Stein am Rhein or a Zurich city tour. Most visitors to Schaffhausen make a beeline for Rhine Falls, and there are various options for admiring the cascades. Take in the views from Laufen Castle, enjoy a thrilling boat ride beneath the falls, or climb to the viewing platforms above them.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Most of Schaffhausen’s historic center is pedestrianized and it’s easy to walk to all the main attractions.
- It’s possible to walk or cycle the 2 miles (3 kilometers) to Rhine Falls from Schaffhausen.
- Wear comfortable shoes; many of the streets are cobbled and uneven.
How to Get There
Schaffhausen is located along the Rhine River, around 28 miles (45 kilometers) north of Zurich. S-Bahn trains run from Zurich Central Station to Schaffhausen, and take around 40 minutes.
When to Get There
The busiest time to visit Schaffhausen is in the summer months of July and August, when an early morning or evening visit offers the best chance of avoiding the crowds. By far, the most atmospheric time to experience Rhine Falls is Swiss National Day on August 1, when the falls provide a backdrop for Switzerland’s largest fireworks display.
Schaffhausen Walking Tour
Schaffhausen is easy to explore on foot, and strolling around the medieval Old Town unveils an array of baroque architecture, richly decorated with hand-painted frescos and elaborate oriel windows. Climb the hill to the 16th-century Munot fortress for the best views over the town, visit the surrounding Klettgau vineyards for wine tasting, browse the stalls at the local markets, and admire landmarks, such as the High Gothic St. Johann church and the All Saints Cathedral.