We need to talk about waterfalls and why they are inherently amazing.
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.
We needed an escape during summer 2021 with its various travel restrictions. We wanted to be reminded of the 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 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.
The package usually includes the train ride to Neuhausen, discounted boat tickets to the river and onto the rock, and a discounted admission to the Laufen Castle with its museum. 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 looking for the River Rhine. Our train crosses the river at one point, 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 must be exchanged for barcoded admission tickets. Here, you should 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! Several must-visit spots on the Neuhausen side allow you to grasp the falls.
The Belvedere viewing platform is accessible by scanning your museum ticket. (Otherwise, it's an extra five francs.) This spot will give you the best overview of the falls, located just below the castle. The panoramic vistas are worth the admission price from the train viaduct on the far right-hand side to the narrowing river on the left.
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, a covered lookout point is 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 plenty of time before departure to claim seats towards the front. This decision was spot on: after the 10-minute transfer, we were 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. Moving one of the tables up close to the river bank lets us 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.
We scan the barcode on our tickets at the museum entrance 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 much written information (in German only), the museum also showcases some historical artifacts. For instance, a collection of chairs was used through the centuries. And one hallway was turned into a historic train with moving windows.
Sitting on these hard seats reminds us it is almost time to catch our train home. Perfectly, we end our afternoon at the museum: the “Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall” train station is just a few minutes away.