Switzerland is full of lovely, picturesque towns and cities, one of which is Schaffhausen which is on the Rhine River. This important waterway delineates the border with Germany in the northernmost corner of Switzerland.
Schaffhausen is a medieval city that has a car-free centre in its cobble-streeted Old Town. Many visitors are attracted to the town because of its close proximity to the Rheinfall waterfall, which is the largest waterfall in Europe when measured by the amount of water which flows over the falls, especially during peak flow in summer.
The town also carries the distinction of being the only Swiss town to be bombed by US planes. This occurred during World War II during a supposed raid on Germany when the American navigator made a slight mistake with his coordinates.
Despite US attempts, the town remains pretty much intact. The Old Town is really quite a treat to wander through. Many of the fine guild houses and merchant’s houses date from Gothic and Baroque times. There was a tradition do display one’s wealth by installing Oriel windows, which are a type of hanging bay window. They are quite impressive to see, and the town has about 140 of these attached to buildings throughout the Old Town.
One of the best places from which to enjoy panoramic views of Schaffhausen is from Munot Fortress. This is a circular-shaped fortress where there is a tradition of ringing a bell at 9pm. In medieval days, this bell was the signal to shut the town gates and close all inns.
The main purpose for visiting Schaffhausen these days is to visit the Rheinfall, or Rhine Falls as we call them in English.
The falls are located on the Upper Rhine between the municipalities of Neuhausen am Rheinfall and Laufen-Uhwiesen, between the cantons of Schaffhausen and Zürich. The falls are quite imposing being 150 m (450 ft.) wide and 23 m (75 ft.) high. For most nights of the year, the falls are now also illuminated after dark in order to give visitors another perspective of these powerful falls.
There are a number of ways to view the falls, including via a boat trip which takes you to the base of the falls. There are also several viewing platforms on both sides of the falls, particularly from Schloss Laufen (Laufen Castle), where there are steep, narrow stairways which allow you to view the falls from many levels.
The easiest way to reach the Rhine Falls by public transport from Schaffhausen is via the scenic Rheinfall Railway, which takes you from the town to a station below Schloss Laufen.