The Rhine falls
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The Rhine falls : Click to enlarge picture
Rhine falls
© Cécile Hugenin

Schaffhausen’s best excursion is the short trip westwards to the Rhine falls, Europe’s largest waterfall. They are truly magnificent, not so much for their height (a mere 23m) as for their impressive breadth (150m) and the sheer drama of the place, with the spray rising in a cloud of rainbows above the forested banks. The turreted castle Schloss Laufen on a cliff directly above the falls to the south completes the spectacle. August 1 – the Swiss National Day – is particularly impressive, with a huge fireworks display mounted on the riverside.

Getting to the falls is simplicity itself: the 3km riverside walk from Schaffhausen to the suburban town of Neuhausen, where the falls are located, takes about 45 minutes; or you could take city bus #1 or #6 to Neuhausen Zentrum, from where the well-signposted falls are five minutes’ walk away. Schloss Laufen even has a train station (April–Oct only), served by hourly trains on the line between Schaffhausen and Winterthur. (Neuhausen’s own station is awkwardly far from the falls.)

Once you’re within sight of the falls, though, you’re inevitably brought down to earth with a bump by the hordes of tourists crowding both banks in search of the best camera angle, and by the circus of souvenir stalls and dismal restaurants all around. The worst of it is on the north bank; crossing by the arched footbridge over to the south bank – which can still get unpleasantly overrun – at least means you can experience the power of the falls at close quarters. Damp steps (Fr.1) lead from the souvenir shop at Schloss Laufen down to various platforms at the very edge, from where the roaring waters tumble inches from your nose.

The best way to see the falls is from one of the daredevil boats which scurry around in the spray; Rhyfall-Mändli (052/672 48 11) is the best-known operator, running a host of very popular trips continuously throughout the day (June–Aug 10am–6pm; May & Sept 11am–5pm; Fr.5–6.50). Boats depart from easy-to-spot jetties on both banks.

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