Rhine Falls Switzerland: An Epic Day Trip For All

The Rhine Falls, Switzerland is one of the country’s most iconic attractions, so much so that it receives over one million visitors, both local and international, every year.

If you are planning on visiting Switzerland, then visiting the Rhine Falls while you are there is a must. But, what’s the best way to visit Rhine Falls? That is what I am here to tell you.

In this travel guide, I will run through everything you need to know about the Rhine Falls and visiting the Rhine Falls. We’ll discuss why the Rhine falls are so popular, where they are, how to get there, where to stay, and how best to see the Rhine Falls, Switzerland too!

Rhine Falls Facts

Rhine Falls Schaffhausen
Rhine Falls

The Rhine Falls, Switzerland is the largest waterfall in Europe and the most powerful waterfall too.

As you would expect, the Rhine Falls was created by the Rhine River, Switzerland’s longest river, and the second longest river in Europe.

The Rhine Falls are thought to be around 14000 – 17000 years old. You might think this is quite an old age for a Swiss waterfall, but geological terms are actually quite new.

The Rhine Falls formed when the river eroded softer rocks around a limestone cliff face which created the Rhine Falls you see today. You can easily see a result of the erosion in the form of the Rheinfallfelsen, an iconic large central rock formation in the middle of the Rhine Falls.

The section of the mighty river Rhine where you will find the Rhine Falls is known as the High Rhine. This is where the river drops from a higher level to a lower one, to create the Rhine Falls.

The Rhine Falls consists of just a single drop the waters cascade down but the volume of water flowing down the Rhine Falls is mind-blowing.

Being 23 meters high and 150 meters wide, the Rhine Falls drops around 600,000 liters of water per second during the summer. It slows down in winter due to the water freezing in the mountains but still has a flow rate of 250,000 liters per second.

You can only imagine the power of the Rhine Falls and with so much water passing through it, why it is the biggest waterfall in Europe.

You might expect the Rhine Falls Basin (the part beneath the waterfalls that collects the water) to be very deep. The Rhine Falls Basin is around 13 meters deep at its deepest part which is quite deep, and it is expected to get deeper as the Rhine Falls erode it more and more.

Where Are the Rhine Falls Located?

The Rhine Falls, Switzerland is located in northern Switzerland about 25 km south of the German border.

The Rhine Falls sits between the Swiss cities of Schaffhausen and Zürich, and its closest village is Neuhausen am Rheinfall, which is about 1 km away from the waterfalls.

If you follow the Rhine River upstream for 20 km or so you will reach Lake Constance, one of the most beautiful lakes in Switzerland. Nearby, a small way up the Rhine River is the famous town of Stein am Rhein, known to be one of the best-preserved medieval towns in the country.

The landscapes surrounding this area and the Rhine Falls are stunning, so there is a lot to see and do in this part of Switzerland, after your visit the Rhine Falls, of course.

rhine falls switzerland
Image courtesy of See-ming Lee

How to Get to the Rhine Falls?

Once you have made your way to Switzerland, Rhine Falls is accessed in one of two ways: by car or by train. After all, Switzerland’s public transport can take you anywhere!

Switzerland’s transportation infrastructure is as good as it gets! The roads are fantastic and the trains run as efficiently as possible, plus you are blessed with stunning views along the way too!

Rhine Falls By Car

If you have rented a car or have your own, then driving to the falls is very easy. You have two parking options to choose from, one on the northern river bank, and one on the southern river bank.

The Schlössli Wörth car park is located on the northern bank and costs CHF 5 for the first hour and CHF 2 per hour on top. The Laufen Castle car park on the southern bank is free of charge. But, which is the best one to park at?

While the southern bank car park is free, the northern bank car park offers better access to Rhine Falls. You will find a wheelchair lift to the Rhine Falls Basin and a ramp that takes you to the Rhine Falls boat rides.

There is also a lift to the Rheinfall viewing platform. This all makes the northern bank car park far easier! There is no boat access from the southern bank car park, but there is a viewing platform there.

Here are the drive times from all the major Swiss cities:

  • From Schaffhausen: 10 minutes
  • From Zurich: 40 minutes
  • From Lucerne: 1.25 hours
  • From Basel: 1.5 hours
  • From Interlaken: 2.25 hours
  • From Geneva: 3.5 hours

Rhine Falls By Train

By Swiss design, there is, of course, a Rhine Falls train station, in fact, there are two. You can either get the train to the northern bank train station Neuhausen am Rheinfall or Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall on the southern bank.

No matter which train station you choose to arrive at, you can walk to the Rhine Falls in under 10 minutes. I would, however, suggest arriving on the northern side if you are planning on going on a Rhine Falls Boat Ride, for the same reasons as the north car park is best.

Here are the train journey times from all the major Swiss cities:

  • From Schaffhausen: 10 minutes
  • From Zurich: 1 hour
  • From Lucerne: 2 hours
  • From Basel: 2 hours
  • From Interlaken: 3.25 hours
  • From Geneva: 4 hours

If you are staying in Zurich, you can also join a half-day tour that includes transport to and from the Rhine Falls from your accommodation in Zurich.

Best Way to Experience the Rhine Falls

Boat trip on the Rhine Falls
Boat Trip at the Rhine Falls (Image from Wikimedia)

You have two choices when it comes to experiencing the Rhine Falls. You can either hop on a Rhine Falls boat ride or view the falls from the viewing platforms. I would recommend doing it all, but here are your options.

Boat Trips

Boat trips are only available between the months of April and November, and are the most popular way of seeing Rhine Falls. There are quite a few different ones to choose from:

The Rock Tour

The best boat trip in my eyes is the Rock Tour. This is a 30-minute boat ride that takes you to the central rock formation, Rheinfallfelsen from the north bank.

You will get to see Rhine Falls from the basin and climb to the top of the rock via a staircase. The views from the rock are unbeatable as they provide a 360-degree panorama of the falls on both sides.

This is one of the more expensive cruises and costs CHF 20 per adult and CHF 10 per child.

The Rhine Crossing

This is the most affordable of all the boats and costs just CHF 3 one way or CHF 5 return for adults or CHF 2 one way and CHF 3 return for kids.

The boat ride consists of taking you from one side of the river to the other, and back again if you buy a return. You will see the falls in all its glory from every river angle possible.

Short Round Trip

This Rhine Falls boat ride lasts about 15 minutes and gives you views of the falls from a range of different spots. It is quite affordable too, costing CHF 7 per adult and CHF 4 per child. 0

Audio Tour

This Rhine Falls Boat tour only operates in the months of June, July, and August. It lasts around 30 minutes and takes you all around the river to give you fantastic views of the falls. Plus, it comes with audio commentary so you can learn about the falls too! It costs CHF 11 per adult and CHF 7 per child

Rhine Falls and Rhine River Cruise

This Rhine Falls Boat Ride is about as comprehensive as it gets. It lasts either 30 mins or over an hour and takes you via the falls, down the Rhine River to the German border, and back again.

It is a great way to see the falls and the surrounding area and costs CHF 9 per adult and CHF 4.50 per child.

Viewing Platforms

View of Rhine Falls
View of Rhine Falls

There are two viewing platforms to choose from if you don’t want to take a boat ride, one on each side.

The northern Rhine Falls viewing platform is free to enter and reaches out quite close to the falls. Expect to get a little wet and have an amazing view.

The southern Rhine Falls viewing platform called Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall costs CHF 5 per adult and CHF 3 per child to enter. This is the best of the two viewing platforms as it is right over the falls and gives you an awesome view.

You will also find the Historama exhibit explaining the history of the falls which is great to visit before or after the viewing platforms.

You can also cross the river by using the rail bridge upstream of the falls. This gives you a whole new view of the falls and you don’t have to pay either.

When Is the Best Time to Visit the Rhine Falls?

You can visit Rhine Falls all year round; no matter what time of year you go, you will not be disappointed.

The best time to see the Rhine Falls is in the months of June and September though. This is when the falls will be at their most powerful but with fewer visitors compared to the very busy months of July and August.

The falls are also beautiful in winter when surrounded by snow-covered scenery but the flow rate is considerably lower and less impressive.

Where to Eat Around the Rhine Falls?

There are quite a few different restaurant options very close to the Rhine Falls and some of them even look over the falls!

If you are looking for something fancy, Laufen Castle on the south side offers fine dining with views of the falls, and Schlössli Wörth offers something similar but on the north side.

Mühlerad Bistro is a solid affordable option close to the northern viewpoint platform or you can head to Restaurant Park am Rheinfall for pizza and pasta overlooking the falls.

If you are in a rush you can stop off at Spice Bistro outside the boat area and grab some great food to go.

Where to Stay Near the Rhine Falls?

Booking.com

If you want to stay close to the Rhine Falls, then you have to choose between staying in either the small village of Neuhausen Am Rheinfall or in the larger city of Schaffhausen.

The closest Rhine Falls hotels are in Neuhausen Am Rheinfall and would recommend staying at

Zak Neuhausen Hotel. Schaffhausen has a lot more options and you will find a better hotel there too. I would recommend Vienna House zur Bleiche Hotel.

Zürich is just 40 minutes away by car so you could also choose to stay there if you prefer a big city to a smaller one in the countryside.

Other Attractions and Activities Around the Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls
Rhine Falls

There is a lot more to do around the Rhine Falls than just looking at the view. The area surrounding the falls and the river are stunning. Here is what I recommend.

  • Spending a day at Lake Constance is a must. This stunning lake with views into the alps is lined with beaches and forests. Make a picnic, take your towels and park up on a beach if you are there in summer and enjoy a refreshing swim with the best views possible. You can also enjoy paddle boarding, sailing and more
  • Stein am Rhein is also a must-see. This little town sits on the banks of the Rhine river and is one of the most preserved medieval towns in Switzerland. Spend half a day exploring this stunning town and seeing the ancient architecture.
  • Going on a canoe tour on the Rhine is a stunning way to see the surrounding countryside, the falls, and have loads of fun on the water too. These only operate between April and October though.
  • There are plenty of hiking and biking trails all around the Rhine Falls area, this is Switzerland after all. You can choose to incorporate the falls into your hike or not, that is up to you.
  • If you are traveling with kids, head to Adventure Park. It is open between April and October and is a load of fun. You and/or your kids can enjoy the biggest forest rope course in Switzerland while overlooking the Rhine Falls.
  • Make sure to go and see the Rhine Falls at night as well as during the day. At night, the falls are lit up in lots of different colors and are somehow even more impressive in a different way. The lights are turned off for the full moon though, which is just as good to see!
  • If you are visiting the falls over the 31st of July, head to the falls at 9:30 pm to see the Rhine Falls in Flames. You will experience an amazing fireworks display that takes place above the falls, it is quite a spectacular thing to see!

Tips for Visiting the Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls
Rhine Falls

Here are some useful tips that will ensure your Rhine Falls trip goes as smoothly as possible!

  • You can pay in Euros everywhere around the Rhine Falls so there is no need to change money into Swiss Francs if coming from other Euro countries
  • Make sure you have some grippy shoes to wear as the rocks surrounding the falls a very slippery due to the constant spray of the waterfall
  • If you don’t want to get wet while viewing the falls then make sure you have a light rain jacket to protect you from the spray and keep you dry
  • If you want to save some money while visiting the Rhine Falls, bring water, snacks, and a homemade picnic with you. Nothing is cheap in Switzerland and food and drink prices are even more expensive close to the falls

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Rhine Falls Worth Visiting?

Yes, the Rhine Falls are certainly worth visiting because seeing Europe’s most powerful waterfall in action is an amazing experience you will never forget. Be sure to experience it all with a boat tour, viewing it from both platforms, and the rail bridge, and then go back to the free viewing platform on the north side to see it again at night.

What is special about Rhine Falls?

The Rhine Falls are quite specialy because they are the largest waterfalls in Europe with a flow rate of 600 m3/s in summer and 250 m3/s in winter. The falls are 150 meters wide and 23 meters high, making for an impressive sight.

Which is the best time to visit the Rhine Falls?

The best time to visit the Rhine Falls is during summer when the flow is at its peak rate of 600 m3/s (600,000 liters) making for an amazing spectacle from whichever angle you view it from.

Is Rhine Falls in Germany or Switzerland?

The Rhine Falls are located in Neuhausen am Rheinfall, just 3.5km from Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. The falls are close to the German border, but not inside Germany itself.

Header image courtesy of See-ming Lee

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