We need to talk about waterfalls and why they are inherently amazing.
I mean, is there a better place to feel the immense forces of nature? Wherever streams are interrupted in their flow and made to drop off a cliff, I cannot help but gaze at the spectacle.
During this summer with its various travel restrictions, we needed an escape. We wanted to be reminded of the kind of amazement we once felt at Iguazu Falls in Argentina. Or at Niagara Falls in the US.
We can count ourselves lucky because we have Europe’s biggest waterfall right here in Switzerland: the Rhine Falls in Neuhausen. We do not want to get splashed from the sky, so we check the forecast and find an afternoon without rain.
RailAway offers lots of different escape bundles
After arriving by train, I knew that we would want to ride a boat to the small island at the center of the Rhine Falls. Among many attractive bundles for leisure activities, RailAway has an offer for a day-trip to the Rhine Falls.
Included in the package is the train ride to Neuhausen, discounted boat tickets to get across the river and onto the rock (20% off), as well as a discounted admission to the Laufen Castle with its museum (10% off). Before hopping on the train to Neuhausen, we buy this bundle offer at the counter of our local train station.
The train ride between Zürich and Neuhausen turns more scenic as we leave Winterthur. We zip past wheat fields and forests, always on the lookout for the River Rhine. At one point, our train crosses the river, but we are too slow to snap a picture!
Once in Neuhausen, we first head to the official ticket office. The RailAway bundle comes with vouchers that need to be exchanged for barcoded admission tickets. Here, you should also reserve a seat on boat line #1 headed for the rock.
Getting close to the Rhine Falls on the Neuhausen side
Due to this summer’s heavy rain, the falls are spouting more than ever. Think 3600 bathtubs worth of water - every single second! There are several must-visit spots on the Neuhausen side which allow you to grasp the falls.
The Belvedere viewing platform is accessible by scanning your museum ticket. (Otherwise, it's an extra five francs.) Located just below the castle, this spot will give you the best overview of the falls. From the train viaduct on the far right-hand side to the narrowing river on the left, the panoramic vistas are worth the admission price.
Then, we descend on the zig-zag trail to the river bank where we find a concrete platform overhanging the river. No worries, we’ve tested the “Känzeli” on your behalf… It is perfectly safe to step on and have your picture taken.
Before turning around, we continue on the trail through the opening in the cliff. On the other side, there is a covered lookout point within an arm’s reach of the water masses. You can’t get any closer to the falls than this! Or can you?
Onto the rock in the center of the falls!
Our RailAway combo includes tickets for two boat lines. The red shuttle ferry goes back and forth across the river. We take this one first to get to the Schaffhausen side.
The yellow boat line #1 departs about every 30 minutes, and we already have reserved our slots. We get in line way ahead of our departure in order to claim seats towards the front. This decision was spot on: after the 10-minute transfer, we are among the first to get onto the rock!
While other passengers set up their selfie sticks on the first viewing platform, we continue to climb the steep stairs to the very top. Our efforts pay off because we enjoy a few minutes of unobstructed views before the rest of the boat makes it there.
Lunch on the Schaffhausen side of the River Rhine
We spend about twenty minutes in the center of the falls. Like clockwork, the yellow boat returns to pick us up. At this point, our light rain jackets are still dry. But the captain has other plans and takes us straight into the mist of the falls… So much for staying dry, but what an exhilarating adventure.
From the vantage point of the Neuhausen shoreline, we have pristine views of the Rhine Falls. We select some postcards and order lunch to go. By moving one of the tables up close to the river bank we now have first-row views of the falls and the Laufen Castle above. Those bratwursts are well deserved!
The Historama museum at Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall
As you head to the courtyard of the castle, make sure to take the glass elevator. The short ride is a highlight in its own right with panoramic views to spare.
At the museum entrance, we scan the barcode on our tickets in order to unlock the heavy entrance door. The last attraction included in the RailAway combo is housed inside the 1000-year old Laufen Castle.
Historama is an exhibit about the history of the Rhine Falls. There is information about the geological formation of the falls over time, about the first tourists, and even about serious attempts to destroy this natural spectacle.
While there is quite a lot of written information (in German only), the museum also showcases some historic artifacts. For instance, there is a collection of chairs that were used through the centuries. And one hallway was turned into a historic train, with moving windows and all.
Sitting on these hard seats reminds us that it is almost time to catch our train home. It is perfect that we end our afternoon here at the museum: the “Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall” train station is just a couple of minutes away.
(Disclaimer: this post is in collaboration with RailAway. In order to test this escape, we have been fully reimbursed.)