About Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)
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.
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.
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 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).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
- Cross the Rhine River with a stop at the Middle Island
- All-inclusive longer boat ride on the Rhine combined with a stop at the Middle Island
- An “Audio Tour” cruise on the Rhine without stopping in the Middle Island
- 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These were described in detail for each of the options mentioned further up this page.
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