A Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip: everything you need to know

At 23 metres high and 150 metres wide, the Rhine Falls is Europe’s biggest waterfall. Situated near the picturesque Swiss town of Schaffhausen and along the Rhine River, it’s a popular tourist destination.

It’s a stunning attraction I would recommend for a day out. You can take a boat ride, climb a rock in the middle of the waterfall, wander along a panoramic trail, and stop off for lunch with the sounds of the crashing water in your ears.

The Rhine Falls is really easy to get to from Zurich and surrounding places.

If you’re planning a Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip, this post gives you everything you need to know: including how to get there, what to do, and when to go.

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A Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip: everything you need to know

Where is the Rhine Falls?

The Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) is in northern Switzerland, not far from the German border.

It is just 4 km from the small town of Schaffhausen, around 22 km from the medieval town of Stein am Rhein, and 80 km from St Gallen, just south of Lake Constance. Winterthur, with its plethora of museums, is around 26 km away.

The falls are also close to the city of Zurich.

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and a perfect destination for a short break. Being only around 47 km away, a trip to the Rhine Falls is an easy and quick day out from Zurich.

Why do a Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip?

There are plenty of reasons to choose to do a Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip.

The sound of the water

The Rhine Falls is Europe’s largest waterfall. It is 23 metres high, 150 metres wide, and around 15,000 years old.

It’s estimated that during the summer months, it has a flow of around 600,000 litres of water per second. This reduces to 250,000 litres per second in the winter months.

I went in early September, and judging by the sound of water crashing down, there’s a lot running through it! As someone who loves the sound of water, I immediately knew I’d enjoy my time when I arrived.

It’s a different kind of city break day trip

If you want a different kind of day trip, then this is one to do. I love city sightseeing and exploring other smaller towns when I’m visiting Switzerland (e.g., from Zurich, I’ve been to Lucerne and Rapperswil, as well as Bern, Schaffhausen, and Winterthur).

But I rarely get the chance to go out to a waterfall, ride up to its entrance, feel the spray coming off it, and climb a rock to look out over it.

The two rocks in the middle of the waterfall with people on the top of the larger one and a flag.
The rocks in middle of the waterfall, one of which you can climb

It’s really easy to visit

Swiss efficiency makes it really easy to see this waterfall.

There are several quick and easy ways to get it – and even a tourist bus that rides out to it in the summer. See below for more details.

There’s plenty to do here

Being an easy place to get to can have its drawbacks for some. It does mean that the Rhine Falls can get quite busy – this trip is not a day out into the wilderness to see a waterfall plunging off an isolated rock face.

But it also means it’s an easy day out, and there are lots of other things to do at the same time. There’s enough to keep you occupied for a few hours or the entire day.

How do you get to the Rhine Falls? 

There are several ways to get to the Rhine Falls from Zurich.

By train

Zurich to Schaffhausen

You can catch the train from Zurich to Schaffhausen, a journey of between 40 minutes and an hour, and then connect to the Rhine Falls.

This would be my recommendation, as Schaffhausen is really pretty and has lots of character.

It is also ideal as a stop-off en route. There is a walking route to take you around the town with some beautiful buildings, the 16th century Monut Fortress with fantastic views across the city, and the river.  

Check out the top things to do in Schaffhausen here.

Views of the Rhine River from the Munot Fortress in Schaffhausen
Views of the Rhine River from the Munot Fortress in Schaffhausen
Schaffhausen to the Rhine Falls

From Schaffhausen you can catch a train to the Rhine Falls: to either Neuhausen Rheinfall or Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall. These take less than 10 minutes. 

Or, for something more unique, you can ride the Rhyfall Express. This small tourist train rides out to the falls and back. The time from the first stop by the river in Schaffhausen is 30 minutes.

The return journey ticket price is a bit more expensive than other options, but it’s a nice way to travel.

By organised tour

If you don’t want to drive or take public transportation, you can also catch an organised tour for your Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip. These have the benefit of taking you directly to the falls and giving you the services of a tour guide.

This Zurich to Rhine Falls tour takes you by coach from the city, via Marthalen (a small farming village) and up to the falls. You can spend some time around the waterfall or choose to go on an optional boat ride.​

Alternatively, there is this tour which combines sightseeing in Zurich with a trip to the Rhine Falls.

The tour also goes to Mathalen, and there is also an optional Rhine Falls boat ride for those who want to experience this and the unique views it offers.

At the end of the tour, you can either spend time on your own or take a guided tour of the old town in Zurich and see Lake Zurich.

By car

You can drive from Zurich to the Rhine Falls. This is a 35 to 40 minute drive via the A4 road toward Schaffhausen.

The waterfall’s official website provides the GPS addresses for the two sides of the river here.

On foot

If you’re feeling energetic, you can also walk from Schaffhausen. A footpath along the river bank will take you there in about an hour.

When you arrive at the Rhine Falls

You will arrive at different places at the Rhine Falls, depending on which mode of transport you take. Click here for a map of the area.

The Neuhausen am Rheinfall train station brings you to the northern bank of the river. You go down to the river banks via lifts.

You can take the short walk along the pathway to the Schlossli Worth (Worth Castle) where most of the boat trips depart.

Schlossli Worth with a pedestrian bridge leading to it
Schlossli Worth

The Rhyfall Express also arrives and leaves by Schlossli Worth. Alternatively, you can walk up and over the bridge to Schloss Laufen.

The Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall station arrives on the southern bank of the river by Schloss Laufen, a small medieval castle.

This side of the river has a viewing platform, as well as a boat that will take you over to the northern side to pick up the main trips from Schlossli Wörth Castle (this takes just 5 minutes as it’s only a short stretch of water).

If you are driving, there is a car park on each side. Both sides charge parking fees between 9 am and 6 pm (although this depends on your car’s size for the car park on the southern side). There is an electric filling station on the southern side as well.

What can you do at the Rhine Falls?

Get close to the falls 

If you’ve made the trip to the falls, you’ll probably want to get as close to them as possible. There are several places where you can do this and see both sides.

If you alight from the Neuhausen train station side, you can walk downwards to the water’s edge. However, you will be at a short distance from the waterfall. Instead, you can walk to the left and up a series of winding steps that take you nearer to it and reward you with some great views.

From the Schloss Laufen side, there are viewing platforms. These take you really close to the waterfall and the mist and sound that comes off it.

Note that there is an entrance fee to go onto this platform (however, the fee also includes entrance to the Historama exhibition and a panoramic lift).

However, probably the closest you can get to the falls is by boat. There are several different trips you can choose from which sail near to it.

The one that gets you closest though will be the line 1 boat. This takes you right up to it and allows you to get off and climb the rock in the middle of the falls.

Go on a Rhine Falls boat trip

Taking a boat trip is a highlight of a visit to the Rhine Falls. It’s a chance to get close to the waterfall, see and hear the plunging water (practically at arm’s length), and experience the mist and spray rising up and over you.

On the boiling hot day I visited, this was really welcome.

Boat trips on the Rhine Falls with Schloss Laufen in the background
Boat trips on the Rhine Falls

You can take a range of boat trips, depending on what you want to do, the free time you have available, and your budget.

A popular one is the line 1 boat tour. This is a 30 minute ride right up to the falls.

The boat journey consists of about 5 minutes on the boat from Schlossli Worth to the waterfall. It then docks, and you get off at the rock in the middle and climb the 30 metres to the top.

From here, you get some amazing and unrivalled views from the top of the rocks – you can see the waterfall from all directions.

I did this tour and thoroughly enjoyed it. Note, however, that the staircase up the rock is quite steep, with over 100 steps. So it’s not suitable for anyone with mobility issues.

It’s also relatively narrow, and on a crowded day, it can get quite tight for space – both on the stairs and at the top.

The number 1 boat docking by the rock
The line 1 boat docking by the rock

Other boat trips include a 15-minute trip where you can also go right up to the falls. This is a great option if you want a cheaper and shorter trip that still gives you the experience of getting up close. 

Go to Schloss Laufen and experience all it has to offer

On the southern side of the waterfall is the medieval Laufen Castle. The castle – which dates back over 1,000 years – has a visitor’s centre next to it. So head here if you need any information for your day out.

Schloss Laufen on top of a hill overlooking the Rhine Falls
Schloss Laufen

For a small entry fee, you can wander along the Belvedere trail, go onto the observation platform (the Belvedere Platform), and look over the falls. There are other amazing views and vantage points from the other viewing platforms and the panoramic lift.

You can also browse the information on display in Historama. This exhibition gives you an insight into the history and impact of the falls.

The castle also has a restaurant with an outdoor terrace that is open between Wednesday and Sunday.

Ride the Rhyfall Express

A ride on the Rhyfall Express is a convenient and fun way to travel between Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls. The train is a small tourist train with open-air carriages.

The Rhyfall Express tourist train
The Rhyfall Express

The starting point is near the Guterhof building by the river in Schauffhausen (Schifflande). It then stops by the Munster and Herrenacker Square before leaving the city.

It travels for about 30 minutes through a couple of small towns and over a bridge before reaching the falls.

The train stops by the boat tours’ ticket office by Schlossli Worth. You catch the return journey from here as well.

Try out the largest forest rope course in the country

If you fancy a bit more activity, you might be interested to know that the Rhine Falls has Switzerland’s largest rope park. There are over 1.5 km of ziplines from which you can get amazing views of the falls.  

There is a range of different courses of different durations – you can check these out here.

The adventure park is on the Neuhausen am Rheinfall side and is open every day until the end of October.

See some immersive art

At the Rhine Falls you will find the Rhyality Immersive Art Hall, the country’s first venue for this type of art.

You can buy a ticket to go and see shows that focus on different themes with images projected onto the walls. For example, the ‘Rheinfall in 4 Seasons’ show covers the falls across all seasons: “it immerses the audience in 360 degrees in the floods of the Rhine…the roaring waves, climbing the stony rocks…”.

There is also an immersive fairytale display and images that centre on the theme of eternity.

The Art Hall is open from Easter from 11 am to 5 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

See the falls lit up

If you plan to extend your day trip to the Rhine Falls into the evening, you may see them lit up. The rock in the middle is illuminated after sunset every night (except those that coincide with full moons). This is another great way to see the waterfall.

And if you’re lucky enough to visit on the last day of July, you can witness them lit up with a spectacular firework display.

Opening times of the Rhine Falls 

There are no opening times for the Rhine Falls per se – and the viewing platforms are open year round. However, the activities you might want to do once you are there do have specific hours of operation and tend to be seasonal.

Most things operate between April and October when the weather is warmer and the days are longer.

In April and October, boat trips run between 11 am and 5 pm. May to September they start earlier and end later (9.30 am to 6.30 pm).

Likewise, the Rhyfall Express runs between April and October. There are five outbound trips a day, all in the afternoon. There are also five return trips a day, the last at 5.30 pm.

The Adventure Park is open between April and the end of October (10 am to 7 pm).

The Rhyality Immersive Art Hall opens in April. Its opening hours are 11 am to 5 pm, Wednesday to Sunday.

What is the best time to visit the Rhine Falls?

The best time to visit is probably in the summer.

This is when most things – the boat trips, adventure park, and Rhyfall Express operate – and the water flow in the falls tends to be faster. You’ll therefore be able to take advantage of all the things the area has to offer and will be more likely to get the opportunity to see the waterfall at its most powerful and noisiest.

Having said this, summer is likely to be the time when most people are visiting. So, if you want to visit at a quieter time of year, go in the spring or early autumn and outside of school holidays.

If you go in the winter when boat trips are not running, you’ll still be able to see the waterfall and go onto the viewing platforms. As the days are shorter, this also increases your chance of seeing the falls lit up at night as sunset will be earlier in the day.

Schloss Laufen also hosts winter and Christmas events.

Facilities at the Rhine Falls

There are several eateries on both sides of the falls – places where you can grab a snack or an ice cream, or have a meal looking out over the falls. There are souvenir shops if you want to pick up something to take home.

On the northern side, there is a children’s playground and a picnic area.

There are also public toilets.

Do you have to pay to see the Rhine Falls?

You don’t have to pay to see the Rhine Falls – just going and taking a look is free.

However, there is an entry fee for the viewing platforms on the southern side of the river. You will also need to pay if you want to do any of the boat trips.

There are also entrance fees for the adventure park and Rhyality Immersive Art Hall.

How much time is needed for the Rhine Falls? 

The answer to this really depends on what you want to see and do.

If you just want to  spend time marvelling at the falls, going to an observation point and/or taking a short boat trip, then it would be easy to do this in just two to three hours. You could easily combine a short trip to Schaffhausen in the morning and a visit out the falls in the afternoon.

However, if you want to see everything that both river banks offer, do a boat trip, and go to the adventure park or art hall, I’d set aside most of the day for your visit.

You may also want to stay later to see the waterfall lit up after sunset.

Is a Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip worth it? 

Yes! A Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip is definitely worth it.

When you’re thinking about things to do in Zurich or day trips from Zurich, it might seem a long way to go, being as near as it is to the German border. But it’s really not that far.

It’s easy to get there. And even with a change in Schaffhausen, you can quickly get there and back in a day.

I loved it. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of a big city and gave me the unique experience of standing 30 metres over Europe’s largest waterfall!

A Zurich to Rhine Falls day trip

If you do decide to do a Zurich to Rhine falls day trip, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

And if you’re like me and love Switzerland – or want to explore more of the country – check out some of my other posts:

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