Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)

Neuhausen am Rheinfall, Schaffhausen Canton, Switzerland

About Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)


Hiking Distance: 3km total
Suggested Time: 1 hour (walking only; not counting boats and buses)

Date first visited: 2010-06-15
Date last visited: 2010-06-15

Waterfall Latitude: 47.67786
Waterfall Longitude: 8.61529

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Rhine Falls (also Rheinfall in German; pronounced “RHAYN-fall”; I’ve also seen it spelled Rhein Falls) has been proclaimed to be Europe’s largest waterfall.

I’m not sure how true that claim is, especially if you count the waterfalls in Iceland, but it is pretty big and powerful nonetheless (though it’s definitely miniscule compared to Niagara Falls).

Rheinfall_458_06152010 - Rhine Falls
Rhine Falls

It’s said to have an average flow of about 700 cubic meters per second as the Rhine River (Rhein River?) rushes over a sloping riverbed spanning 150m while dropping 23m in vertical height.

We noticed there were islands and rocks that split up the waterfall into segments.

One of the islands in the middle of the Rhine Falls (which I’m going to call the “middle island” from now on) had a boat dock as well as stairs leading up to a tight lookout with railings to support visitation via boat tour.

Julie and I also noticed a separate rock or island with a natural arch nearby this middle island.

Rheinfall_037_06152010 - Looking across the Rhine Falls towards the middle island fronted by a smaller island with a natural arch in it
Looking across the Rhine Falls towards the middle island fronted by a smaller island with a natural arch in it

We were able to experience Rhine Falls from a variety of positions and angles, and they were all connected by convenient sidewalks as well as a boat shuttle that goes across the Rhine River at the foot of the waterfall.

We’ve identified three distinct sections, which I’ll refer to as the Schloss Laufen, the Middle Island, and Schlossli Worth or Schlosschen Worth.

And I’ll describe each section in more detail below.

Schloss Laufen

Schloss Laufen was that castle perched above and adjacent to Rhine Falls (i.e. the castle you see in the photo at the top of this page).

Rheinfall_008_06152010 - Looking at the context of a lookout tower belonging to Schloss Laufen perched above the Rhine Falls
Looking at the context of a lookout tower belonging to Schloss Laufen perched above the Rhine Falls

This castle provided the closest and most intimate views of the waterfall as there were numerous overlooks providing both top down views as well as riverside views of the mass of turbulence before us.

Although this side required paid admission (I recalled it was 5 Swiss Francs per person as of our 2010 visit), it definitely had the more interesting viewpoints.

For example, we managed to get satisfying views of that natural arch since it was closer to this side of the river.

We were also able to stand on a platform that protruded from the riverbank out over the turbulence itself!

Rheinfall_121_06152010 - Julie standing on a protruding viewpoint sticking out into the forceful turbulence of the Rhine Falls
Julie standing on a protruding viewpoint sticking out into the forceful turbulence of the Rhine Falls

There were even a couple of viewing platforms that were so close to the waterfall that it seemed like we could touch it (though in reality we couldn’t and we probably shouldn’t even if we could)!

As for logistics, we happened to take bus #634 (I think) from Schaffhausen to Schloss Laufen directly.

We didn’t know if that was the most efficient bus to take since it took us 26 minutes to get there as it pretty much stopped at every conceivable bus stop en route.

In any case, this was one option and I’m pretty sure there must’ve been faster and more direct buses from the train station to Schloss Laufen.

Rheinfall_003_06152010 - Entering the bridge and gate leading into the Schloss Laufen
Entering the bridge and gate leading into the Schloss Laufen

The bus we took was covered in our Swiss Rail Pass.

Once we were at the castle and paid our admission, we then went through parts of the castle’s exterior before getting right onto the walkways and stairs that would stop at several vantage points as the path descended.

We ended up doing this walk only one-way (towards the banks of the river) since there was a boat dock at the bottom.

However, it was possible to forego the boat and head back up the walkway towards the Schloss Laufen entrance to leave this side.

Initially since Schloss Laufen stood mostly above the Rhine Falls, the views were looking down towards the waterfall.

Rheinfall_005_06152010 - Exploring the walkways within the walls of Schloss Laufen as we quickly made our way towards the lookouts of the Rhine Falls
Exploring the walkways within the walls of Schloss Laufen as we quickly made our way towards the lookouts of the Rhine Falls

From these vantage points, we could look across the falls towards other buildings within the town of Neuhausen as well as appreciate some of the context of the falls.

As we went lower on the walkway, we started paying attention to the intriguing natural arch within the waterfall as well as tourists who managed to set foot on the middle island.

As we got to the bottommost sections of the walkway, that was when we experienced a viewing area that was literally right next to the edge of the waterfall.

We also encountered another platform that was protruding directly over the waterfall itself!

Rheinfall_135_06152010 - Context of the viewing platform protruding over part of Rhine Falls on the Schloss Laufen side
Context of the viewing platform protruding over part of Rhine Falls on the Schloss Laufen side

By the time we had our fill of this side, we made it to the end of the walkway where there was a boat dock.

That was where we paid money to ride the boat that ultimately led us to the other side of the river.

By the way, that boat also provided another way to reach Schloss Laufen had we come from the other side of the river.

The Middle Island

The Middle Island was what I was calling that island that sat right in the middle of Rhine Falls.

There was a boat dock as well as a stairway that went right to the top of the rocky island where there were some railings and a Swiss flag perched at the very top.

Rheinfall_254_06152010 - A boat about to dock at the Middle Island in the heart of the Rhine Falls
A boat about to dock at the Middle Island in the heart of the Rhine Falls

And in order to visit it, we had to take a boat from either side of the Rhine River.

I recalled that there were four options for taking the boat.

  1. Cross the Rhine River with a stop at the Middle Island
  2. All-inclusive longer boat ride on the Rhine combined with a stop at the Middle Island
  3. An “Audio Tour” cruise on the Rhine without stopping in the Middle Island
  4. A Simple Shuttle across the Rhine with no stop at the Middle Island

We took the first option, which stopped in the Middle Island before continuing across the river, and I’d imagine this was the most popular option.

Rheinfall_233_06152010 - On the boat traversing the Rhine River while also making a stop at that Middle Island
On the boat traversing the Rhine River while also making a stop at that Middle Island

The boat ride costed extra (not included with the Schloss Laufen admission price), and how much depended on which option we chose.

I think Julie and I paid 10 Swiss Francs per person for our Rhine River traverse combined with a stop at the Middle Island.

Once the boat dropped us off at the dock on the Middle Island, we went up the stairs to the top.

There was limited space up there so it definitely got pretty crowded (which was especially the case if multiple tour groups were dropped here at the same time).

Rheinfall_226_06152010 - Looking down at a line of people waiting their turn to go up the rock for 360 degree views from the heart of the Rhine Falls
Looking down at a line of people waiting their turn to go up the rock for 360 degree views from the heart of the Rhine Falls

So there was an informal system of people queueing up on the stairs waiting their turn to take photos and experience the 360 degree views of being surrounded by Rhine Falls itself.

This hugged the railings on the steps to allow visitors going the other way to squeeze past us and go back down to the boat, thereby making room for the next visitors waiting their turn.

Schlossli Worth of Schlosschen Worth

This was the castle on the other side of the Rhine River opposite the Schloss Laufen.

The castle was a bit more distant to the Rhine Falls than the Schloss Laufen, but at least the views on this side of the river were free.

Rheinfall_262_06152010 - Context of Schlossli Worth and part of the Rhine Falls
Context of Schlossli Worth and part of the Rhine Falls

There was a cafe and restaurant at this “castle,” but there was also another similar cafe closer to the large viewing area by the waterfall’s massive plunge pool yielding a more direct view of the Rhine Falls while eating.

From Schaffhausen, we had a couple of options.

We could walk the 3km from the station at Schaffhausen to the town of Neuhausen (the closest town to the Rhine Falls).

Or, we could take one of a handful of buses that frequently went back and forth between the towns.

Rheinfall_424_06152010 - Sign indicating that there were two ways to experience the Rhine Falls from either side of the Rhein River
Sign indicating that there were two ways to experience the Rhine Falls from either side of the Rhein River

We noticed that buses #1 and #6 seemed to be the most suitable for this purpose as the transit time was less than 15 minutes when we went from Neuhausen back to the Schaffhausen Train Station.

The buses were covered by our Swiss Rail Pass.

A well-established walk all along the bank of the river from this castle to the edge of the Rhine Falls yielded plenty of opportunities to photograph the waterfall.

Given the extensiveness of this walkway, we were able to view the falls from almost every angle imaginable.

Rheinfall_451_06152010 - Context of Schlossli Worth from an elevated viewing position along the Rhine River
Context of Schlossli Worth from an elevated viewing position along the Rhine River

There were a couple of junctions on the walkway that ascended towards higher vantage points.

The ultimate reward for going up these “Upper Paths” was the view of the Rhine Falls that you see pictured at the top of this web page.

While we were checking out the falls from the “Upper Paths”, we did notice a bridge that was shared with a railway spanning the river above the waterfall thereby connecting Neuhausen and Schloss Laufen.

I suppose it was possible to make the walk if spending money for the boat ride across the river wasn’t attractive.

Rheinfall_293_06152010 - Looking back across the Rhine River at the Rhine Falls from near the Schlossli Worth
Looking back across the Rhine River at the Rhine Falls from near the Schlossli Worth

Back on the main lower walkway, there was a little exhibit where a cylinder of water resisted a propeller attached to a crank that we could manually turn.

The point was that it was possible to measure how much energy we could manually generate since turning the crank would light up some bulbs indicating how much power was just generated.

I recalled the bulb representing the maximum power that could be generated in this contraption could be 80W.

And while the crank was turned, it also generated a little vortex in the cylinder of water.

Rheinfall_310_06152010 - The dynamo by Rhine Falls where we turned the crank to generate electricity to light up a bulb while also creating a vortex
The dynamo by Rhine Falls where we turned the crank to generate electricity to light up a bulb while also creating a vortex

The more energy we put into turning the crank, the larger and longer lasting the vortex.

Needless to say, this exhibit demonstrated the potential for harnessing water power, which seems to be a common dilemma when it comes to letting a waterfall be for tourism or to impact and harness it for energy.

Finally, due to the stagnation of the plunge pool on this side of the Rhine River, we noticed that some spots did tend to get a little smelly.

That was probably an indication that the water might be polluted or at least harbor some microbes common in sewage.

I’m sure that would at least keep any sane person from wanting to go for a swim.

Rheinfall_346_06152010 - The extensive walking and viewing area on the side of the river shared by Schlossli Worth
The extensive walking and viewing area on the side of the river shared by Schlossli Worth

Even if the microbes don’t get into you, there would be at least the threat of hidden undertows and whirlpools from the turbulence of the Rhine Falls that would also conspire to make swimming unsafe.

As the walkway eventually gave way to stairs at the edge of Rhine Falls (connecting to the Upper Paths), it also connected back to Neuhausen.

Authorities

Rhine Falls resides near the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall, which sits within the district and canton of Schaffhausen. I can’t find an official governmental authority administering this waterfall. So for information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you may try visiting the Schaffhausen website.

Rheinfall_002_06152010 - The entrance to Schloss Laufen when we got started with our self-tour of the Rhine Falls from this side of the river
Rheinfall_006_06152010 - Looking down across the Rhine Falls at the Middle Island and the natural arch fronting it as seen from Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_015_06152010 - Broader look down across Rhine Falls at the middle island and rock arch from Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_021_06152010 - Julie descending stairs on the Schloss Laufen side towards overlooks that were lower and closer to the Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_026_06152010 - Looking across Rhine Falls from the Schloss Laufen side with one of the handful of lookout platforms below us
Rheinfall_033_06152010 - Another contextual look at the walkways on the Schloss Laufen side as Julie and I intended to get the full experience while it was still pretty quiet in the morning
Rheinfall_073_06152010 - Julie looking across the big white mess of Rhine Falls as seen from the Schloss Laufen side of the Rhein
Rheinfall_075_06152010 - Looking down at the context of the protruding viewing platform on the Schloss Laufen side of the Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_094_06152010 - Looking upstream at the protruding viewing platform on the Schloss Laufen side of the Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_109_06152010 - Closer look at the turbulence of Rhine Falls giving us an appreciation of just how powerful this waterfall is
Rheinfall_114_06152010 - A crowd gathers at the top of the Middle Island in the heart of the Rhine Falls as seen from Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_138_06152010 - Looking back at the context of the protruding viewing platform sticking out into the base of the Rhine Falls from the Schloss Laufen side
Rheinfall_155_06152010 - The Rhine Falls as seen from the boat as we started to leave Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_156_06152010 - Context of Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen as seen from the boat across the Rhein
Rheinfall_229_06152010 - Julie on the dock on the Middle Island after the boat dropped us off here
Rheinfall_162_06152010 - Looking across part of the Rhine Falls towards Schloss Laufen as seen from the Middle Island
Rheinfall_167_06152010 - Looking towards the other side of the Rhine Falls as seen from the boat dock in the Middle Island
Rheinfall_178_06152010 - Looking towards Schloss Laufen from the Middle Island as the Rhine Falls shoots right across the foreground
Rheinfall_232_06152010 - Steps leading up to the apex of the Middle Island
Rheinfall_187_06152010 - Looking back down at the twisting steps leading up to the apex of the Middle Island at Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_204_06152010 - Partial view across Rhine Falls towards Neuhausen from the top of the Middle Island
Rheinfall_215_06152010 - Looking over the brink of Rhine Falls from the apex of the Middle Island towards the rainway bridge and the Schloss Laufen perched above
Rheinfall_219_06152010 - Looking across a large chunk of Rhine Falls towards Schloss Laufen from the Middle Island
Rheinfall_259_06152010 - Flowers blooming before the Rhine Falls as seen from Schlossli Worth
Rheinfall_270_06152010 - Looking back towards the Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen after having made it to the other side at the Schlossli Worth
Rheinfall_298_06152010 - Looking across the Rhine River towards the Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen with a boat docked at the Middle Island as seen from Schlossli Worth
Rheinfall_303_06152010 - Closer look at the boat parked at the Middle Island backed by the Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_322_06152010 - More angled look towards Schloss Laufen and Rheinfall from the Schlossli Worth side closer to the edge of the Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_362_06152010 - Another contextual look across the profile of Rhine Falls and the Schloss Laufen
Rheinfall_369_06152010 - Julie checking out the profile of Rhine Falls from a lookout right by its edge
Rheinfall_371_06152010 - Looking back towards the Schlossli Worth and the profile of Rhine Falls from the lookout at the waterfall's edge
Rheinfall_386_06152010 - Looking back at Rhine Falls from above its brink on the ascending walk back up towards Neuhausen
Rheinfall_394_06152010 - Looking towards one of the uppermost lookouts right upstream of the turbulence of the Rhine Falls
Rheinfall_401_06152010 - More contextual look back at the Rhine Falls brink as we took the trail climbing higher towards the town of Neuhausen
Rheinfall_421_06152010 - Contextual look across the whole context of Rhine Falls and Schloss Laufen from higher up the walkways essentially in the town of Neuhausen
Rheinfall_452_06152010 - Looking back down towards Schlossli Worth and the Rhine River from the walkways in Neuhausen
Rheinfall_471_06152010 - One last look at the middle island within Rhine Falls before walking to the center of Neuhausen

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As for getting to at least the town of Schaffhausen (the town with the rail connection nearest to the Rhine Falls), this was how we managed to get there from Zürich.

From the central rail station in Zürich, we took one of the fairly frequent trains (once every 15 or 30 minutes, I think) from Zürich to Schaffhausen.

It took around an hour to get there with all the stops, but it took as little as 40 minutes on the return (when there were fewer stops).

As the train got close to Schaffhausen, we peered out the window for a very brief glimpse of Rhine Falls out the right side of the train.

Given the speed of the train and the fleeting opportunity to see the falls (especially with the blocking foliage), it was not feasible to photograph it from the moving train unless we knew in advance when to start taking photos.

Once we were at the rail station at Schaffhausen, there were options on how to continue onto at least the town of Neuhausen or Rhine Falls.

These were described in detail for each of the options mentioned further up this page.

Right to left sweep of the falls from Schloss Laufen


Fixated on the Rhine Falls surrounding islands in the middle of it, including a natural arch!


Close right to left sweep of the falls from the Schloss Laufen side starting with the top of the falls and ending with a distant view of Schlossli Worth


Fixated on the platform protruding out onto the turbulent waters near the base of the falls


Right to left sweep from directly in front of the falls on the Schloss Laufen side


View of the falls from the boat as it's moving to the other side of the river


Left to right sweep from the island in the middle of the falls


Broad right to left sweep from the top of the island in the middle of the falls; beginning from the bridge upstream of the falls and ending at Schlosschen Worth


Left to right sweep from the crowded top of the island in the middle of the falls


Fixated on the falls from the free side of the river with a boat looking like it's drifting in the turbulance


Left to right sweep of the falls from the uppermost viewing area on the free side


View of the entire falls with Schloss Laufen, rail bridge, and the Rhine River from an elevated perspective

Tagged with: schaffhausen, neuhausen, switzerland, zurich, waterfall, stein am rhein, rheinfall, rhine, europe



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